Red Wings 2005 draft preview

By Ryan Garner

Red Wings Top 10 Prospects

1.Niklas Kronwall, D
2.Jiri Hudler, C
3.Igor Grigorenko, RW
4.James Howard, G
5.Valtteri Filppula, C
6.Evan McGrath, C
7.Andreas Jamtin, RW
8.Kyle Quincey, D
9.Stefan Liv, G
10.Miroslav Blatak, D

Team Needs

Holes in the lineup have been a rarity for the Detroit Red Wings over the past decade. Constantly beefing up their roster through free agency or trades, the team has rarely relied on youth to fill roster spots. However, the NHL’s new salary cap is sure to change that. Lacking the cap room to keep three superstar goaltenders, Dominik Hasek has relocated to Ottawa, and Curtis Joseph is an unrestricted free agent.

One priority for the Wings will be a backup netminder for Manny Legace. The recent buyout of Derian Hatcher leaves a big hole along the Wings aging blueline, and an injection of youth and speed will be needed to help the club compete against speedier teams in the Western Conference.

Organizational Strengths

You don’t need high picks to find draft success when you have European scout Hakan Andersson working for you. Andersson helped the Wings uncover late-round gems such as Tomas Holmstrom, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, who should all take on expanded roles this season. Talented forwards Jiri Hudler and Igor Grigorenko could make the jump to the NHL level soon, while young centers Valtteri Filppula and Evan McGrath each showed dramatic improvement last season. This drafting success should ensure that the Wings remain competitive, while fitting into the NHL’s new financial landscape.

Detroit possesses a blue-chip defenseman Niklas Kronwall who can immediately step into an NHL role. Another Andersson find, Kronwall took home hardware as the AHL outstanding defenseman of the year with the Grand Rapids Griffins last season. He’s expected to fill a roster spot, and should benefit from playing with perennial all-star Nicklas Lidstrom.

In goal, James Howard is the Wings’ netminder of the future. After putting up spectacular numbers with the University of Maine, Howard should continue his development in the AHL next year.

Organizational Weaknesses

The Wings have only had two first round selections in the past eight years, and haven’t had a pick in the first two rounds the past two years. This has directly resulted in a lack of high-caliber prospects. Detroit’s prospect system doesn’t feature much skill on left wing, and both the defense and goaltending are lacking depth.

Most of Detroit’s top prospects have no North American professional experience, spending the past season playing with European, American college, or Canadian junior teams. With so many prospects stationed in Europe, the entry-level restrictions included in the new collective bargaining agreement could see fewer European players coming over to play. Detroit could be one of the clubs impacted the most by the new rule changes.

Despite the occasional drafting homerun, the Wings haven’t had much success developing young talent. The emphasis has clearly been on winning Stanley Cups, rather than filling up and incubating the prospect system. The new CBA should change that mindset, turning the focus towards building through the draft, rather than free agency.

Draft Tendencies

Gunning for a Stanley Cup ever year, the Red Wings have consistently traded away first round picks at the trade deadline in favor of established NHL talent. The majority of the club’s draft picks have come from Europe each year, partially because of the excellent work done by the European scouting staff. Speedy, undersized forwards have been a regular occurrence in the Wings system, with selections based solely on talent and future potential rather than size or strength.

Player most likely to be taken with the first selection: (Hockey’s Future staff mock draft result): Carey Price, G, WHL Tri-City Americans

Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.