Photo: Tomas Tatar finally broke into the Red Wings roster for good in 2013-14, including an appearance in the NHL Winter Classic in Detroit (courtesy of Steven King/Icon SMI)
The old axiom says, "to the victor go the spoils," but that is not always the case. The Detroit Red Wings lost a heart-wrenching Game 7 to the Pittsburgh Penguins on home ice in the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals, but the organization suffered no Cup hangover (or in this case near-Cup hangover) when it came to the 2009 NHL Draft.
Photo: Tomas Jurco, playing in his second professional season, earned his first call-up to the NHL on December 15th (courtesy of Tony Ding/Icon SMI)
The drive from Grand Rapids to Detroit is rather unremarkable. Flat land and clusters of trees pockmark the edge of the highway.
Photo: Calle Jarnkrok, playing in his first AHL season out of Sweden, joined a deep and talented pool of forwards developing with Detroit’s AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins (courtesy of Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI)
It has been a gradual change, but most things associated with the Detroit Red Wings work that way. In a salary-cap constrained hockey landscape, Detroit can no longer simply outspend other franchises; Detroit knew this eight seasons ago and began to stockpile talent through the NHL Draft.
Photo: The Detroit Red Wings have several minor league prospects who are likely to crack the NHL lineup out of training camp, including Slovakian winger Tomas Tatar. (courtesy of Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI)
The beginning of the 2012-13 AHL season was not kind to the Grand Rapids Griffins. On November 2nd they were 2-4-1-1 and languishing, lacking strong defensive play and goaltending. Enter Petr Mrazek, who ripped off six consecutive wins and seemed to right the ship for the Griffins. As of January 7th, Grand Rapids was 20-10-1-2 and atop the Midwest division.
Photo: Swedish forward Calle Jarnkrok, currently playing with Brynas in the SEL, is the cream of the crop at center for the Detroit Red Wings prospect pool. (courtesy of Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
A paradigm shift occurred for the Detroit Red Wings after the 2004-05 NHL lockout. Gone were the days where Detroit would readily hand out early-round draft picks in exchange for veteran NHL talent. Instead, Detroit decided that they would need to hold on to their draft choices in order to build a prospect pool with skill and size that would help them compete in the new-look NHL.