Back in the 1992, the Detroit Red Wings managed to go through the entire entry draft without selecting a single player from Europe. They haven’t done that since. This year they had only one European draft pick in Columbus.
“We had only five picks in this year’s draft, which leads to less Europeans drafted,” said Håkan Andersson, Red Wings Director of European Scouting.
This year’s only European pick came in the third round, with center Joakim Andersson from Frölunda.
“I’m very happy with Joakim in the late third round. We had him ranked somewhere in the 30’s,” said Andersson.
But the first player selected was defenseman, Brendan Smith from the St. Michael’s Buzzers of the OPJHL. Andersson said that the Red Wings were very high on him and were happy to see him still available at the 27th spot.
“We had Smith ranked 13th overall on our list. If he wasn’t available at the 27th pick, we would have tried to trade down and get two second-round picks instead,” said Andersson.
Brendan Smith, D — St. Michael’s (OHL)
1st round – 27th overall
The Toronto, Ontario native was somewhat of a surprise pick in the late first round. Not only for the hockey world but even himself.
“When they announced my name, I was in shock. I didn’t think that I was the one that was going to be chosen there,” said Smith at the draft.
Smith said that he didn’t have that much contact with the Red Wings prior to the draft. But nonetheless, the 18-year-old was very happy with the selection. “I didn’t think it, but it came true,” added Smith.
Smith, who is regarded as a high-end offensive defenseman, is a silky smooth skater who moves effortlessly. He also has very good vision and soft hands which complement his overall mobility very well.
He has good size, but he has to add a lot more bulk and play an even more physical game in his own end. He doesn’t mind throwing his body every now and then, but he has to learn to use it on a more consistent basis. His defensive zone coverage is also in development mode.
He will be attending the University of Wisconsin next season, where he will get plenty of time to develop in front of a coach that he admires a lot, in Mike Eaves.
“I need that help and inside of the game from great guys like that to help my game in order to become an NHL defenseman,” said Smith.
His overall package is very intriguing and down the road he could prove to be the best defenseman taken in this year’s draft. His style compares to the last Red Wings first-round draft pick, Jakub Kindl.
Joakim Andersson, C – Frölunda (Sweden)
3rd round – 88th overall
Joakim Andersson, a native of Munkedal, Sweden. had probably a longer wait to hear his name at the draft than what was expected. Most analysts had him pegged somewhere in the late first or second round of the draft, but he fell to the third round.
But Andersson didn’t complain when he heard that it was the Red Wings that had selected him. “Actually, Detroit is my favorite team. And Henrik Zetterberg is my favorite player, so I’m very happy to be picked by them,” said Andersson.
Prior to the draft the Red Wings were among those teams that expressed the most interest in him. Andersson said, “I think I talked three times with them, and I enjoyed it. I also talked with their Swedish scout (Håkan Andersson) a few times.”
Andersson who is one of the most consistent young prospects to have played in the Swedish junior league during the past few years. He always comes to work and always delivers a rock-solid effort.
He has good size and is using his body well all over the ice, either by throwing a hit or by protecting the puck. He plays with intensity and thereby overcomes his average skating ability.
Andersson is well aware of his biggest weakness. “I need to work on my first-step quickness. I need to be faster. Overall, I need to work on everything, but especially on my skating.”
Andersson’s work ethic, size and fine hockey sense label him as a good supporting, third line center or left wing with some offensive production for down the road. But for next season, he will try to crack the Frolunda roster.
“Yeah, I have signed a one-year contract with Frölunda, and I will try out for the men’s team. If I don’t make it, then I will play with Borås in Allsvenskan (2nd-division).”
Randy Cameron, C – Moncton (QMJHL)
5th round – 148th overall
With their fifth-round pick, the Red Wings turned the attention to the QMJHL and the Moncton Wildcats by selecting center Randy Cameron.
The Cornwall, P.E.I. native is a good skater who works hard and isn’t afraid of using his body. He plays the game with a lot of intensity and that is what caught the eye of Red Wings scouts.
He fits the Red Wings mold of previous draft picks like Ryan Oulahan, Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader, whom are all fast, high-intensity checkers.
During the previous season, his first in the QMJHL, he was able to collect 17 goals and 39 points in 70 games. Those numbers are expected to increase for next season, although the Red Wings brass isn’t expecting Cameron to turn into an offensive player down the road.
He will have to add more bulk to his 5’11 frame and continue to work on his defensive game as he prepares for the pro game. As of now, he stands as a long shot of making it to the NHL.
Zach Torquato, C – Erie (OHL)
6th round – 178th overall
Sault Ste Marie, Ontario native Zach Torquato also waited a bit longer than what was expected to hear his name called by an NHL team.
Being listed anywhere from late first to the middle rounds, Torquato could take a breather in the sixth round as the Red Wings ended his long wait.
After having a pretty solid season on the ice with Saginaw and Erie of the OHL, by producing 30 goals and 69 points in 65 games Torquato was selected to play with the Canadian U-18 National team at the WJC.
Playing in a limited role, Torquato didn’t manage to impress the scouts after only posting 3 assists in 6 games. But the biggest issue is his questionable skating. He will have two more years in the OHL to improve that aspect of the game in order to secure a contract with the Red Wings.
On a positive note, his offensive game is well developed as he has good vision and hockey sense. He reads the game well and seems to have a good nose around the net.
Torquato was definitely worth the gamble in the late sixth round and he could prove to be a home-run pick that every team tries to hit in every draft.
Bryan Rufenach, D – Lindsay (OPJRA)
7th round – 208th overall
With their last pick in the 2007 draft, the Red Wings turned their attention yet again to the OPJRA, selecting defenseman Bryan Rufenach.
The 6’1, 195-pounder spent the past season playing with the Lindsay Muskies, where he was the fourth leading scorer on his team with 11 goals and 32 points in 31 games.
His game is based on good mobility and puck poise. He is another gamble by the Red Wings brass in their hunt for an offensive defenseman. As the game has changed in the NHL, so has their scouting evaluation. And Rufenach fits the new bill for defensemen — a mobile puck-mover. But he has a lot of hard work ahead o him if he’s about to make it to the pro level.
He will be attending Clarkson next season where he will get plenty of time to develop. He’s expected to spend at least three years in college before being thought of as a contract candidate.
Holly Gunning contributed to this article. Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.