Red Wings 2006 draft preview

By Matthew Spence

Red Wings Top 10 Prospects

1. Niklas Kronwall, D
2. Igor Grigorenko, RW
3. Jimmy Howard, G
4. Valtteri Filppula, C
5. Jakub Kindl, D
6. Jiri Hudler, C
7. Tomas Kopecky, C
8. Evan McGrath, C
9. Miroslav Blatak, D
10. Johan Ryno, RW

Teem Needs

With the most potent power play and a league-best 124 points in the regular season, the Detroit Red Wings are one of the most talented teams in the league. Yet, a postseason elimination in the first round left the Red Wings searching for ways to improve. The most obvious need is goaltending. Both Manny Legace and Chris Osgood are unrestricted free agents and despite Legace’s strong start in 2005-06, Detroit wants a proven postseason goalie on its roster.

The Red Wings lack size and grit on defense. Though the return of Chris Chelios gives Detroit’s blue line experience and intensity –if Jiri Fischer is unable to return to the line-up in 2006-07 — only Andreas Lilja will give Detroit a strong physical element among its top six defensemen.

Organizational Strengths

Detroit has strong forwards in the system. Career seasons from Jiri Hudler, Valtteri Filppula, and Tomas Kopecky have given Detroit several forwards ready to compete for roster spot with the parent club. Hudler has the top-line offensive skills while Filppula and Kopecky possess the grit the Wings are desperate for. Both Filppula and Kopecky have impressed Red Wing coach Mike Babcock and both may be ready for duty in the NHL.

Two-way center Ryan Oulahan had decent first year as a pro and OHL prospect Evan McGrath posted career number in his last year in the CHL and is ready to enter the pro ranks in 2006-07.

Organizational Weaknesses

Though Brett Lebda’s success earned him a roster spot in 2005-06, Detroit does not have another NHL-ready defenseman in the system. Kyle Quincey enjoyed a great rookie campaign with the Red Wings AHL affiliate, Grand Rapids Griffins, but remains several seasons from a regular position on the roster. Beyond 2005 first round pick Jakub Kindl, Detroit lacks a developing top-pairing defensive prospect.

In goal, the question remains whether veteran goalies Joey MacDonald and Stefan Liv will be able to assume a role in Detroit. And beyond top goalie prospect Jimmy Howard, the Wings lack a solid starting netminder for long-term consideration.

Draft Tendencies

General Manager Ken Holland is known to facilitate trades to land high-end talent for a post season run for the cup. During his nine-year reign, Detroit has chosen only three players in the first round: Fischer, Niklas Kronwall, and Kindl. To compensate for their lack of first round picks, Detroit has relied heavily on European talent and fortunately, Detroit’s exceptional European Scouting Director, Hakan Andersson, has been able to identify top talent in the later rounds, including Herrick Zetterberg (210th overall), and Pavel Datsyuk (171st overall).

New CBA rules, however, put heavy transfer fees on European players chosen after the second round and force NHL teams to sign European draft picks with two years of their draft date. Consequently, look for the Red Wings to reprioritize the draft and lessen their emphasis on European talent.

Hockey’s Future’s staff mock draft result: Nick Foligno, LW, Sudbury


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