2007 Draft yielded two top prospects for Detroit Red Wings

By Brandon Peleshok
Photo: The Red Wings first round pick of 2007, Brendan Smith has gradually developed into a quality puck-moving defenseman. (Photo courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)

With all the successful drafting the Detroit Red Wings have done over the years, it is easy to forget they have off-years too. The 2007 draft, at least by Red Wings standards, can be considered a bit of a bust. The team only had five selections in the draft, with just two of the players looking as if they will become NHL caliber players.

While the draft lacked the quantity and late-round gems Detroit usually collects, they did select their best defensive prospect in 2007. Brendan Smith was taken 27th overall by the Red Wings in that draft, and remains the top ranked prospect in Detroit's system.

Brendan Smith, D, St. Michael's Buzzers (OPJHL) – 1st round, 27th overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 3

Electing to go the college route, Brendan Smith's freshman year at Wisconsin started off very well, as he played at a near point-per-game pace before being sidelined with a back injury. While he returned late in the year, he could not find his early season form. The 2008-09 season did not fare much better for Smith, as off-ice incidents and a wrist injury affected his play. He wound up scoring 23 points through 31 games, but would not show his true potential until his next season. Smith blew up during his junior year, scoring 15 goals and 37 assists for 52 points through 42 games. That was good enough to lead all NCAA defensemen and earn him a spot as a top 10 finalist for the Hobey Baker award.

Passing on a fourth year of college hockey, Smith made the jump to the AHL in the 2010-11 season. It was a rather successful campaign, as he was able to put up 32 points through 63 games with the Griffins. He was impressive enough to be named to the AHL's all-rookie team, and would have played in the All-Star game if not for a shoulder injury he sustained.

This season he started the season off with a five game suspension for a hit he threw during a pre-season game against the Chicago Blackhawks. After putting the incident past him, Smith was able to refocus and get back to playing his game. He currently leads all Griffins defenders with 23 points through 37 games, often playing alongside AHL veteran Doug Janik.

During a three game call-up with the Red Wings, Smith looked comfortable and not out of place in the slightest. He put up two assists playing next to Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall, while playing a simple and error-free game. Smith could become a regular on Detroit's blue line as soon as next season, projecting as a top four defender for the team sometime in the future.

Joakim Andersson, C, Frolunda HC (SEL) – 3rd round, 88th overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 4

During his four seasons in Sweden, Joakim Andersson's offensive numbers never really jumped off the page. He was often loaned to teams in lower-tier leagues, where he was able to find some offensive success there. What likely kept the Red Wings hopeful was his play during WJC tournaments. In his last two years playing in the U-20, Andersson had two goals and 10 assists for 12 points in 12 games. He finished out his career in the SEL with Frolunda, scoring just 18 points through 55 games.

Making the jump over to the AHL has been a mostly positive move for Andersson. The 2010-11 season, his rookie campaign, was a bit of an adjustment period for him. While he only amassed 22 points through 79 games with the team, he also showed that he could be counted on in high-pressure defensive situations.

Currently, Andersson has brought his game to the next level. In addition to being the team's best defensive player and top penalty killer, he has found his scoring touch on a line with Gustav Nyquist. In just 40 games with Grand Rapids he has already surpassed his previous point total (25) and received a four game call-up from the Red Wings. All signs lead to Andersson shoring up Detroit's center depth in the near future, possibly competing for a roster spot as soon as next season.

Randy Cameron, C, Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL) – 5th round, 148th overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

When selected in the fifth round of the 2007 draft, Cameron was projected as a two-way player with an above average hockey IQ. The hope was that he could add to his 5'11, 175lbs frame and that his numbers would improve as a result of his strong all-around play.

Cameron played his entire junior career as a member of the Moncton Wildcats. His first two seasons of junior hockey were nothing to write home about, as he posted back-to-back 39 point campaigns on a struggling Moncton team. The team lacked depth and Cameron was thrown into a role as the team's first line center. In 2008-09 he followed up his sophomore season by putting up 19 goals and 32 assists for 51 points through 56 games. While it was a career year for Cameron, it was not enough to earn him a contract with the Red Wings. He finished his final season of junior as a point-per-game player, scoring 68 points through 68 games.

Unfortunately, Cameron's game never translated to the pro level of hockey. Without a single NHL or AHL game under his belt, it is a safe bet to consider him a bust.

Zack Torquato, C, Erie Otters (OHL) – 6th round, 178th overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Drafting Torquato in the sixth round had all the makings of a Red Wings prototypical late-round gem. Possessing good hockey vision and a nose for the net, Torquato also boasted a solid 6'0, 195lbs frame. He was expected to be taken in the mid-rounds of the draft, but was pushed back because of questions regarding his skating ability.

In the 2006-07 season, he played at a point-per-game pace with the Erie Otters, scoring 46 points through 43 games. He kept up his scoring pace in his next season, amidst the struggles of the Erie Otters. He posted 67 points in 66 games with the team, and was a member of Canada's U-18 team at the WJC that season. He also finished the season playing 11 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins, where he only managed to score one goal. In his fourth season for the Otters, Torquato was unable to find that next gear to earn himself a contract with the Red Wings, as his production regressed a bit, finishing the season with 63 points through 68 games.

Since going unsigned by the Red Wings, Torquato finished his OHL career on a high note, scoring 93 points in 68 games. He has also bounced around the ECHL/AHL level, playing for the Toledo Walleye, Rockford Ice Hogs and most recently the Wheeling Nailers.

Bryan Rufenach, D, Lindsay Muskies (OPJHL) – 7th round, 208th overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

The Red Wings knew they were taking a bit of a gamble with Rufenach, as the 6'1, 195lbs blueliner needed some serious work on his defensive game. Going the college route, Rufenach would be allotted some extra time to hone his craft.

In his draft season, Rufenach put up 32 points through 31 game with the Lindsay Muskies, but it would remain to be seen how or if his game would translate to the college level. It would turn out to be a tough freshman campaign for him, as he put up just three goals and three assists for six points in 35 games with Clarkson. His next two seasons, Rufenach showed some solid improvements playing in 34 games each year, scoring 18 points and 20 points, respectively. Unfortunately, his 2010-11 season at Clarkson was a disappointment, as he was only able to amass 11 points through 33 games.

At this point, Rufenach can probably be considered a bust. While he was unable to earn a contract with the Red Wings, he was able to earn an AHL-level contract with Grand Rapids, a sign that the team may want to still keep a close eye on him.