Skilled forwards and steady defensemen featured in Detroit Red Wings prospect awards

By Adam Schnepp

Andreas Athanasiou - Barrie Colts

Photo: Speedy winger Andreas Athanasiou had a breakout season for the Barrie Colts, leading the team all the way to the OHL finals (courtesy of Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

Detroit's run through the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs was surprising to many. Perhaps more surprising is depth of talent they have in their pipeline. The Detroit Red Wings boast some exceptional prospects who have the potential to be future stars in the NHL. The following awards feature the Red Wings prospects who stood out above the rest. The fact that no player won multiple awards is indicative of the depth of Detroit's talent pool.

Hardest Worker: Calle Jarnkrok, C, Brynas (SEL)

Calle Jarnkrok gets consistently compared to current Red Wings captain and fellow countryman Henrik Zetterberg for a reason, and it is one that Red Wings fans are going to appreciate over the next few seasons. Jarnkrok grinds out every shift, and his game is so much more than just scoring. He is great in the faceoff circle, adept at two-way play, and is working to add to his slender frame so he can play more physically. Jarnkrok recorded a career-high 42 points in the SEL in 2012-13 before coming to North America to further accelerate his progression. In what could be the only nine games he plays in the AHL, Jarnkrok recorded three points. He will get the opportunity to make the NHL club out of training camp in September.

Hardest Shot: Martin Frk, RW, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)

In a close contest, Martin Frk edged out Ryan Sproul as the Red Wings' prospect with the hardest shot. Frk boasts an incredibly heavy, hard shot, so much so that it may be his best asset. Frk's menacing slapshot made him a natural fit to run the point on Halifax's powerplay, and he parlayed his shot into 35 goals in 2012-13.

Best Defensive Prospect: Ryan Sproul, D, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)

A player does not win the Max Kaminsky Trophy as the OHL's best defenseman by accident. While Ryan Sproul's defensive game is sufficient, it is likely that his incredible offensive capabilities are what allowed him to capture the award. Despite the fact that he missed six weeks of the season with a broken forearm, Sproul recorded 20 goals and 46 assists in 50 games. Sproul could very likely be a star in the NHL, and almost certainly will one day be a top-four defenseman.

Fastest Skater: Andreas Athanasiou, LW,  Barrie Colts (OHL)

The Red Wings selected Andreas Athanasiou 110th overall in 2012, and a case can be made that he was taken almost exclusively for his incredible skating ability. Athanasiou has rewarded Detroit's faith by translating his speed into point scoring ability, recording 67 points in 66 games in 2012-13 and continuing his torrid pact with 25 points in 22 playoff games. His points total is a testament to Athanasiou's ability to use his speed to create favorable scoring opportunities for himself and especially for his teammates; after being traded from London to Barrie, Athanasiou saw his assists total go from 15 in 2011-12 to 38 in 2012-13.

Prospect of the Year: Petr Mrazek, G, Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL)

Prospects take time to develop, and it is quite possible that no organization in the NHL likes to season their prospects more than Detroit. This is why Mrazek's journey from the OHL to the ECHL to the AHL to the NHL in the span of a year, and looking somewhere between good and exceptional at each of those levels, is particularly amazing. Mrazek is making his mark on the AHL, where he had a regular season goals against average of 2.33 and save percentage of.916. Mrazek has raised his game in the AHL playoffs, recording a 6-3 record with two shutouts, a goals against average of 1.90, and a save percentage of .920. Even though Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard recently signed a long-term deal, it is hard not to imagine Mrazek consistently between the pipes for Detroit one day.

Breakout Player for 2013-14: Dan DeKeyser, D, Detroit Red Wings (NHL)

Dan DeKeyser, like many other college students who just wrapped up their school year, took some time to decide where he might want to start his career. The difference between DeKeyser's experience and your typical college student is that DeKeyser's first job was not in a cubicle but rather a trial-by-fire position along the Red Wings' blue line. DeKeyser brought stability and defensive prowess to a defense corps that struggled with consistency in 2012-13, and were it not for a broken hand in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, DeKeyser would still be playing at the time of writing. Expect DeKeyser to log big minutes in all situations, from the powerplay to the penalty kill, for Detroit in 2013-14.

Most Improved Prospect: Mattias Backman, D, Linkoping (SEL)

Mattias Backman went from a prospect with the potential to produce to one of the top 10 point-getting defensemen in the SEL. In 42 SEL games in 2011-12 Backman had eight points, while in 52 SEL games in 2012-13 he had 26 points and logged 20 minutes per game. Backman is a tall, talented defenseman who is particularly adept at starting the rush. A good passer who has a penchant for getting teammates involved, Backman fits Detroit's puck possession system nicely. He is still a few years away from contending for an NHL spot, but his quick adaptation to the SEL bodes well for Backman's future.

Overachiever: Alan Quine, C, Belleville Bulls (OHL)

Players drafted 85th overall are not expected to be offensive dynamos, and those who miss a significant portion of the season due to illness can be forgiven for having a lackluster season. Alan Quine apparently did not get the memo. After missing six weeks with mononucleosis Quine returned to the Peterborough Petes lineup and scored at a point-per-game pace. He was traded to the Belleville Bulls mid-season, and his point totals ballooned. Quine played 28 games for the Bulls, scoring 14 goals and 27 assists to go with 15 points in 17 playoff games. Quine was initially projected as a checker, but if he maintains his incredible offensive statistics that may change.

Underachiever: Louis-Marc Aubry, C, Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL)

Though he was not drafted exclusively for his offensively capabilities, Louis-Marc Aubry's decreasing point totals year after year do not bode well. He has an offensive skill set but it has yet to develop. Aubry had 16 points as an AHL rookie in 2011-12 but recorded only 12 points this season, including zero so far in the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs. Perhaps Aubry can turn things around with another AHL season in 2013-14, but his play has not yet matched his draft position.

Highest Risk/Reward Prospect: Alexei Marchenko, D, CSKA Moscow (KHL)

Alexei Marchenko was taken 205th overall by Detroit in 2011, but his play in 2012-13 was indicative of another draft day steal by the Red Wings. If Marchenko continues to develop he could be a future NHL player due to his puck possession and distribution skills, but if he does not work on adding bulk and improving his defensive game he may never find his way to the big club. Marchenko, much like Backman, is a good fit for Detroit's puck possession game but only found himself playing a touch under 13 minutes per game for CSKA Moscow. Marchenko's transition to the AHL will be an indicator of whether he will reach his potential, as he has yet to log big minutes at any point in his career.