The Detroit Red Wings entered the 2013 NHL Draft with the 18th overall selection, their earliest first round pick since the beginning of the 1990s. This understandably led to high expectations in the Motor City and the Red Wings did not disappoint, dealing their first round pick to San Jose for the 20th and 58th overall picks. Detroit then wasted no time in selecting the draft's lone 50 goal-scorer in Anthony Mantha before bolstering the system with gritty, skilled two-way forwards and hulking defensemen.
Many of Detroit's prospects are ready to make the jump from major junior to the AHL or even NHL, and with this comes the necessity of replenishing the prospect pipeline. The 2013 draft class serves to restock the Red Wings system well, as there are no players eligible for the AHL. Instead, all of the prospects selected will return to one of the CHL's leagues, the BCHL, or a league in Sweden. The players will be brought along slowly and given plenty of time to refine their game, which is precisely the way Detroit prefers to operate.
Anthony Mantha, LW, Val-d'Or Foreurs (QMJHL)
1st Round, 20th Overall
Height: 6'4 Weight: 190
Few prospects eligible for the 2013 NHL Draft have as much potential to be a breakout star as Anthony Mantha. Then again, few prospects eligible for the draft also have as much potential to be a disappointment. Mantha possess uncanny scoring abilities, as is evidenced by his scoring totals of 50 goals and 39 assists in just 67 games. At the same time, Mantha is knocked for displaying an inconsistent effort from shift to shift and even game to game.
Mantha acknowledges that he has heard the criticism and is ready to address his weaknesses. "It's really to bring my compete level to every game," Mantha told Hockey's Future at the draft. "That's what I've been working on the last year, and I think that next year is going to be top notch and I need to be able to bring it there also and I'm pretty sure I'll be ready next year.”
Despite his flaws, Mantha does posses a potent offensive game. His shot is outstanding, and he discussed why he is able to find the back of the net so frequently with Hockey's Future. When asked how he was able to score 50 goals Mantha replied, "I think it's really the precision that I put in my shot. It's not necessarily the force that you put but the precision."
As the year progressed so too did Zach Nastasiuk's game. Nastasiuk saw his draft stock rise over the course of the season, in no small part because of his improved defensive play and ability to play in all situations. Nastasiuk has a high hockey IQ and uses it to great effect on the penalty kill.
Though his intelligent, physical play is what initially captured scouts' attention, that does not mean that Nastasiuk is bereft of offensive abilities. He netted 20 goals last season, but there is a chance that Nastasiuk's soft hands could lead to a better offensive stat line during the 2013-14 season.
Nastasiuk, however, feels that his strength lies in his ability to play both sides of the puck. "I'd say I'm a two-way forward," said Nastasiuk. "I take pride in my defense, keep pucks in, chip pucks out, keep it simple out there, out-battle against the guy that I'm lining up against and just coming to the rink everyday with a purpose."
Hockey's Future shot video of Mantha and Nastasiuk at the 2013 NHL Draft. You can view their extended remarks in this HF video.
Tyler Bertuzzi, LW, Guelph Storm (OHL)
2nd Round, 58th Overall
Height: 6'0 Weight: 178
Detroit is not know for reaching down in the draft pool to select someone, but the organization saw something it could not pass up in Tyler Bertuzzi. Ranked 270th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, conventional wisdom dictated that Bertuzzi would be a late round draft pick. Instead, Detroit used the second round selection they gained in their draft day swap of first round picks with San Jose to select Bertuzzi.
The Red Wings believe that he has the potential to turn into a player in the mold of his uncle, current Red Wing Todd Bertuzzi. Tyler is known for his gritty, agitating style of play. Though he still has a slender frame that he will need to add weight to, that does not mean that he shies away from the physical side of the game. Bertuzzi racked up 68 penalty minutes in 2012-13 and 117 penalty minutes in 2011-12, both with the Guelph Storm. Bertuzzi is a classic agitator in the mold of Kirk Maltby, a player who is not the most physically imposing player on his team but is particularly gifted at getting under the skin of opponents.
Mattias Janmark-Nylen, C, AIK (SHL)
3rd Round, 79th Overall
Height: 6'1 Weight: 189
Mattias Janmark-Nylen is very similar to other players the Red Wings have taken from Sweden, particularly Calle Jarnkrok. Like Jarnkrok, Janmark-Nylen is an intelligent center with offensive potential who plays a good defensive game despite a lack of physicality.
Janmark-Nylen is good on the forecheck and is especially adept at puck retrieval. He had 14 goals and 17 assists in 55 SHL games, demonstrating an ability to both score and get teammates involved. Like Jarnkrok, the 20-year-old Janmark-Nylen will need to add weight to his frame in order to withstand the rigors of hockey on a smaller rink. Additionally, he needs to work on his faceoff skills. Despite his flaws, Detroit sees a player that could be a top-six center with a few more seasons of international, and then AHL, experience.
David Pope, LW, West Kelowna Warriors (BCHL)
4th Round, 109th Overall
Height: 6'2 Weight: 187
Detroit selected David Pope with the understanding that he is anything but a finished product. Pope's greatest skill is his quick, heavy shot, which many believe is NHL-caliber. He also has an innate offensive intelligence that allows him to get open and find areas of the ice that he can score from.
Pope plays tenaciously on both sides of the puck but his slender frame holds him back. He is easily out-muscled, though he will have plenty of time to work on this. Pope will return to the BCHL for one more season before playing NCAA hockey with Nebraska-Omaha in 2014-15.
Despite his impressive stature, "physical" is not the word that best describes Mitchell Wheaton. "Intelligent" is a better summation of Wheaton's game. Wheaton is a fundamentally sound defender who can play the body as well as close gaps and take away good angles. His game is very much suited to that of a future shutdown defenseman; intelligent passing and good positioning could lead him to an NHL roster spot some day, especially if he adds just a bit more physicality to his game and improves his skating.
Marc McNulty, D, Prince George Cougars (WHL)
6th Round, 169th Overall
Height: 6'6 Weight: 185
The Red Wings added another behemoth defenseman in the sixth round with the selection of Marc McNulty. Though McNulty boasts basketball-esque height at 6'6, he is going to need to add significant weight to his frame to play at a higher level.
McNulty has an active stick that he uses well to break up plays in the defensive zone, and this helps compensate for his lack of physical play. Like Mantha, scouts knocked McNulty for his inconsistent effort. McNulty is a good skater and has even quarterbacked the power play at the junior level, though he projects as more of a defensive-defenseman in the future with some offensive upside.
Hampus Melen, C, Tingsryds AIF J18 (Swedish J18 Elit)
7th Round, 199th Overall
Height: 6'2 Weight: 165
Hampus Melen is a player reminiscent of Detroit prospect Rasmus Bodin, echoing a theme that pervaded throughout Detroit's 2013 draft class. Like Bodin, Melen is a big-bodied forward with good offensive skills and a scoring touch. On the downside, Melen is similar to Bodin in that he needs to both add weight and learn to play a more physical game if he wishes to progress. The good news is that Melen will have at least four years to prove himself, as he will return to Tingsryds AIF's J20 team before likely attempting a move to the SHL.