2002 Detroit Red Wings Draft Review

By Brad Rose
Detroit entered this year’s draft without a 1st round, but had two 2nd rounders plus a full slate of picks in other rounds. This is something Detroit fans have been somewhat unaccustomed to as the Wings generally seem to enter the draft with only 6 or 7 picks. My hopes going into the weekend were to increase the prospect depth at D and possibly acquire some salvagable forwards who at least had 3rd or 4th line potential. I feel like, for the most part, this was accomplished and the Detroit scouts did a very good job with the picks they had.

1st Pick – Round 2/58th overall
Name: Jiri Hudler
Position: Center
Ht/Wt: 5’9 / 176 lbs
Team: Liberec

Going into day one, I never once considered Hudler as a possibility for the Wings. Most “experts” projected him in the top 15 and I thought he’d be a top 10 pick for sure. Well, that didn’t happen and the reasons why seem unclear. Whatever they were, I’m quite happy about it. Hudler is a player with top line talent. He has great vision and dynamic offensive skills. However, his size is a question and his defensive coverage isn’t great, but Detroit has plenty of small centers that have been successful at the NHL level. One Hudler adds a few pounds and learns to play better in traffic (the same concerns voiced over Datsyuk before the season), I see no reason that he can’t be successful. Hudler put up a point-per-game in the highest league in the Czech Republic as a 17/18-year-old, which is quite an impressive feat. Best case scenario, Hudler could be a top line center down the road.

2nd pick – Round 2/63rd overall

Name: Tomas Fleischmann
Position: Wing
Ht/Wt: 6’1/172 lbs
Team: Vitkovice Jr.

Fleischmann was a player I was not too familiar with before the draft, but looking back this seems like a solid pick. Once he bulks up, he will definitely have NHL size. Fleischmann is somewhat of a sniper whose best asset is his hands. He has great hands, which allow him to be a great stickhandler. He also has a very good shot, which makes him a real offensive threat. He’s not overly physical and defense seems to be little more than afterthought, but his offensive skill alone makes this a good pick as Detroit lacks prospects with a scoring touch in the system. He has scoring line potential if he works hard and adds weight.

3rd pick – Round 3/95th overall

Name: Valtteri Filppula
Position: Center
Ht/Wt: 5’11/174 lbs
Team: Jokerit Jr.

Detroit traded their 3rd round pick in next year’s draft to Nashville so they could move up and take Filppula at the end of the 3rd round. When I learned that Detroit had traded for this pick, my hope was that they would use it to take Swedish defenseman, Daniel Fernholm. This obviously was not the case as Filppula was taken. He is another player with solid offensive skills and was considered by some to be a better prospect than first round picks Jesse Niinimaki and Sean Bergenheim. He is very agile and has good balance, although he does lack some size. Filppula does not play very good defense either. This is one area of his game he must improve because he seems to project as a grinder more than a scorer at the NHL level. The first step, however, will be to earn a spot with Jokerit’s senior club and go from there. If he remains at the junior level, this will raise more questions about his development. Not a bad pick, though I’d have rather seen Fernholm.

4th pick – Round 4/131st overall

Name: Johan Berggren
Position: Defense
Ht/Wt: 6’3/176 lbs
Team: Sunne

It took four picks and four rounds, but Detroit eventually reached into their bread and butter and picked a player from Sweden. The Wings have had great success with drafting Swedish players in the past (Lidstrom, Holmstrom, Zetterberg, etc), so I expected they would take a chance on a few Swedes. Berggren isn’t a very well known prospect. He was not ranked by CSS or Red Line and was probably a stretch at this position as he would have likely been available much later. He has a large frame (he’s reportedly closer to 6’4), but needs to bulk up (I think just about every draft pick needs to bulk up). He is considered to be an intelligent defensemen who is sound in his own end. Again, he is a bit of a mystery and a bit of a reach, but this reads like a prototypical Hakan Andersson pick (Andersson is Detroit’s director of European scouting who has been responsible for picks like Zetterberg & Datsyuk in recent history).

5th pick – Round 5/166 overall

Name: Logan Koopmans
Position: Goaltender
Ht/Wt: 6’2/182 lbs
Team: Lethbridge

Going into the draft, I expected Detroit to take a goaltender, though I figured it would be an overager to play in Grand Rapids next season. With the two goaltenders picked last year by Detroit (Drew MacIntyre & Nick Pannoni) not showing much improvement this season, taking another young goaltender was not a bad choice. Koopmans, in my opinion, is a better prospect than both of the aforementioned picks. He’s got good size at 6’2, has great reflexes, and moves very well. He needs to improve his position and learn to play angles better, but the raw tools are definitely there.

6th pick – Round 6/188th overall

Name: Jimmy Cuddihy
Position: Center
Ht/Wt: 6’3/188 lbs
Team: Shawinigan

Going into day two, Cuddihy was a player I had targeted. Cuddihy’s main assets are his size and his work ethic. At 6’3, he definitely has the frame to develop into an NHL player. He also is a hard worker who is not afraid to go into traffic or stand in front of the net. He doesn’t have breakaway speed, but is also not exactly slow either. While he’s not overly bulky at 188 lbs, he is very strong and uses his strength well when digging pucks out along the boards. Another solid aspect of his game is his ability on faceoff. The biggest questions with Cuddihy are with his on-ice vision and his injury history. Cuddihy has suffered through a number of concussions through his career, which likely caused his stock to drop. Hopefully he will see his icetime increased next year in the QMJHL with Shawinigan and will be able to post better numbers at this level.

7th pick – Round 7/229th overall

Name: Derek Meech
Position: Defensemen
Ht/Wt: 5’11/185 lbs
Team: Red Deer

The last thing I believe Detroit needs is another undersized, offensive-minded defenseman. This is exactly what Meech is. He moves the puck well, but his ability in his own end is questionable at best. He doesn’t have great size for an NHL defensemen, although is likely to still grow a bit. With Niklas Kronwall and Miroslav Blatak already in the pipeline, this, to me, is somewhat of a wasted pick. There were definitely other players on the board that I would have taken ahead of Meech. He projects as a possible 6th or 7th defensemen who can log some time on a PP, though I would be surprised if he ever saw NHL ice.

8th pick – Round 8/260th overall

Name: Pierre-Olivier Beaulieu
Position: Defensemen
Ht/Wt: 6’4/180 lbs
Team: Quebec

Beaulieu is not a flashy player by any means, but is a quiet, solid, stay-at-home defenseman. Another player who was unranked in the final CSS rankings, Beaulieu compares in some respects to another Detroit prospect, Paul Ballantyne. His huge frame is an obvious asset and he is adequate physically at this time. He has no problems clearing players from in front of the net and is good at marking his man. His skill on the offensive side of the puck is severely limited and he tends to make questionable decisions in that regard. However, because of his size, he definitely has the potential to provide a depth role one day at the NHL level.

9th pick – Round 9/262nd overall

Name: Christian Soderstrom
Position: Left Wing
Ht/Wt: 6’1/180 lbs
Team: Timra

A teammate of Wings’ blue chipper Henrik Zetterberg, it is believed Soderstrom will likely be offered a roster spot in Grand Rapids next season. He is an overager (his D.O.B. is 10/13/1980) that is known for his offensive skills. He is sometimes considered a floater and is not very strong physically. However, it is said that he drew positive reviews from teammate Zetterberg. He has good on-ice vision and hockey sense and, when he puts his mind to it, can thrive offensively. Defense, however, seems to be a foreign language to Soderstrom. Hopefully Detroit will be able to bring him over to Grand Rapids next year to play on one of the scoring lines. If that happens, I would consider this pick a success.

10th pick – Round 9/291st overall

Name: Jonathan Ericsson
Position: Defensemen
Ht/Wt: 6’4/189 lbs
Team: Hasten Jr.

Even more of a mystery than Berggren, Ericsson is said to be a smart, puck moving defenseman. The only thing I really know about him is what is listed above. He was unranked by CSS and said to be virtually unscouted by every other team. Seeing as he was the last player chosen in the draft, it’s hard to really complain. Hopefully more will be learned about Ericsson in the coming weeks.

Overall, I consider this to be a successful draft. After Hudler fell to #58, I considered pretty much every other pick gravy. There are definitely a few players with real NHL potential in this group and it will be interesting to see what develops with regard to the two Swedish defensemen who seem to be unknown quantities at this time.