Red Wings CHL prospects season review

By Matthew Spence

The Detroit Red Wings CHL prospects, few though they were, fared well in 2005-06. Darren Helm and Evan McGrath led their respective teams in scoring while Tyler Haskins posted career numbers. Jakub Kindl, Detroit’s top pick in 2005, regained his form and established himself as an essential part of the Kitchener Rangers blue line. 

Toughness and strength is a concern for Detroit, which has looked to skilled European skaters to fill its roster in the past few drafts. With North American prospects in short supply in the Wings system, Detroit chose three hard-hitting skaters from the WHL in the late rounds of the 2005 draft. Bretton Stamler, Darren Helm and Jeff May are a few years from the pros, but promise to fill the role if they can develop into NHL caliber players.

Size is not the only concern, as the Wings possess not even one goalie prospect at the major junior level. Though Detroit boasts several goalies near NHL quality at the
pro level, they will be looking to add netminders in the coming draft.

Evan McGrath, C, 6’0 192lbs, Kitchener Rangers, OHL

McGrath finished the 2005-06 regular season with 37 goals and 77 for 114 points, the highest point total
on his team. Finishing the season third overall, the Rangers placed in the Midwest Division behind
the high-flying London Knights. McGrath represented the OHL in the Canada-Russia
Challenge and the Rangers in the OHL All-Star game, but failed to land a spot on Canada’s national team.

McGrath is talented playmaker with an elite vision for the game. Along with great acceleration and mobility, his high-end puck skills make him an offensive threat. Despite a commitment to
offense, he is not a defensive liability and has shown he can contribute in all situations. McGrath was a steal for the Wings in the 2004 draft. The fourth-round pick has grown stronger and more confident each season.

McGrath can opt to play an overaged year in the OHL but will likely seek a professional contract. He plays a mature game and possesses the overall skill to be successful at the next level. McGrath will need a year or two in the AHL, but is on track to realize his potential as second line forward in the NHL.

Tyler Haskins, C, 6’1 185lbs, Toronto St. Michaels
Majors, OHL

Haskins found the offense he had been lacking, contributing 24 goals 51 assists for 75 points in 56 games and was among the OHL scoring leaders for much of the season. Though he slowed offensively in the second half of the regular season, his improvement has not gone unnoticed. He was recognized in three categories in the Eastern
Conference coaches poll: second in hardest worker and faceoff categories, and third in best defensive forward. Posting 24 points in 34 playoff games at the major junior level, Haskins is earning a big-game reputation.

Haskins is known for a gritty style and can agitate opponents and create room for scoring chances. He will win battles along the boards and plays well through traffic. Haskin’s 112 penalty minutes on the season (up from 64 in 2004-05) is evidence of his raised intensity level. Haskins’ stock will continue to rise if he is able to take the same physical style to the pros.

His increased offense is a good sign that Detroit’s fifth round pick in 2004 is developing. His strength is still a concern. The lanky center will need to gain strength if he is to engage the same aggressive style at the next level. Haskins has a limited offensive upside as a pro, but his commitment to defense has shown he has good potential as a two-way

Jakub Kindl, D, 6’3 202lbs, Kitchener Rangers, OHL

Kindl finished the season sixth overall for defensemen in scoring, posting 12 goals and 46 assists for 58 points in 60 games. This season, Kindl has found the confidence to play his
offensive style and proved to his critics that he can play in North America. Kindl’s rookie season with the Rangers, his first in North America, was less than memorable. He scored only 12 points in 60 games and was
inconsistent throughout the 2005-06 season.

Offensively, Kindl can do it all. He is a great skater with excellent speed and vision. His point shot makes him an asset on the power play and his passing ability allows him to hit teammates in transition to create scoring
chances, though Kindl is primarily an offensive defenseman and takes good care of his own zone.

In the Red Wings system, the lack of quality defensive prospects has made Kindl a valuable commodity. Look for Kindl to remain on the Rangers in 2006-07 and be among the
defensive scoring leaders in the OHL. Though he is at least a year from the professional ranks, Kindl has the skill and size to make the jump to the NHL.

Darren Helm, C, 6’0 181lbs, Medicine Hat Tigers, WHL

Helm finished the season with 41 goals and 38 assists for 79 points in 70 games. The Tigers scoring leader
led them to their first Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy as WHL Regular Season Champions since 1985-86. Ninth overall in scoring,
he was awarded the Tigers MVP award for the regular season.

Helm was drafted in 2005, 132nd overall. He was considered by some scouts to be a risky pick, yet this season, he has shown to be more valuable than many skaters chosen in earlier rounds. Helm is an aggressive foreword. He doesn’t shy away from physical contact and is capable of playing through traffic. His work ethic has made him a fan favorite in Medicine Hat and a leader on the ice.

Helm is projected as a two-way forward. He is regarded as a future role player in the NHL but has surprised
scouts with his offense. At 181 lbs, he is undersized and needs to add strength. Helm will play another
year at the major junior level and will benefit greatly from increased confidence. Look for Helm to continue to produce top-line offense for the Tigers in 2006-07.

Jeff May, D, 6’2 190 lbs, Prince Albert Raiders, WHL

May is a good steady defenseman who plays a mature and dependable game. Though he does not possess the offensive
flair of some defensemen, his mobility and passing kills give him the ability to
set up teammates in transition. May is reliable all situations and has become a vital component to the Raiders defense unit. He will never be a superstar in the NHL, but Detroit’s seventh round pick has a solid skill-set and level head that make him safer late-round choice than most.

This season, May posted 28 assists for 30 points in 70 regular season games for the low-scoring Raiders –
good enough for sixth on the team in points. He had the second highest number of
points among Raider defensemen behind Minnesota first round pick A.J.

If May continues to add strength, his physical contribution will compensate for his lack of offense. He is willing to use his strength to punish opposing
forwards and has the potential to develop into a quality role player. May will return to the
Raiders in 2006-07, and will likely top ice time in all situations and play a key role on the Raiders
blue line.

Bretton Stamler, D, 6’1 202 lbs, Seattle Thunderbirds, WHL

Detroit’s ninth pick in 2005 (214th overall) posted 15 points in 56 games with 102 penalty minutes. He had a +8 rating on the year. The Thunderbirds recognized Stamler as the most improved and most dedicated player for the regular season. Though Stamler will never contribute much offense, he is very capable in the defensive zone and has been called on to protect a lead in nearly every situation.

Stamler is a stay-at-home style defenseman who is careful but tough in his own zone. He is mobile on his skates, but needs to improve his speed. Stamler does not shy away from physical contact and is always ready and able to stick up for his teammates. He has continually developed strength and has played more physical role in his third year, yet he needs to use his size with more confidence and work on executing breakout chances.

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