Red Wings junior prospects update

By Zoran Manojlovic

For many years, the Detroit Red Wings didn’t have a very exciting CHL crop of draftees, but this year has proved to be interesting. There are several prospects who show signs of being future contenders for NHL jobs. Four players reside in the WHL and four are in the OHL.

So far this season there haven’t been any real disappointments, while on the other hand several prospects have started to make noise with their improved play.

Cory Emmerton, LW
41st overall, 2006

The team’s first pick at the last draft has continued to score in a big way in the OHL. After scoring 90 points in 66 games last year, Emmerton had a tough task to match those numbers this season.

But he has started the season in a very good fashion, scoring 36 points in the first 20 games. He’s playing on the top line with two other high-scoring prospects — Chris Stewart (COL) and Bobby Hughes (CAR). They are getting a ton of minutes and are counted on to put up offensive numbers. So far they have done just that.

Emmerton will have to put on some bulk and improve his physical play in order to successfully translate his offensive game to the pro ranks. As the season looks right now, he should finish yet again amongst the top scorers in the OHL.

Darren Helm, C
132nd overall, 2005

After having a solid camp with the Red Wings, Helm returned to Medicine Hat where he was expected to take on a huge role as the top forward on the team. Having signed his first pro contract, he can play with less pressure.

His start to the season hasn’t been as productive as one could hope, based on last season when he scored impressive 41 goals and 79 points in 71 games. So far this season he has scored just 8 goals and 26 points in 24 games.

But with Helm, numbers aren’t the whole story. He provides strong two-way play and is a great character player with good leadership skills. He does also excel as a penalty killer and has the makeup of a future forechecking third liner.

This is most likely his last season in the WHL before turning pro.

Shawn Matthias, C
47th overall, 2006

Matthias had a so-so Wings training camp, expected of a first-year attendee. But he made the most of his time there to get ready for his third year in the OHL with the Belleville Bulls.

Since returning, Matthias has put up decent numbers (8 goals and 8 assists in 20 games) and seems to be doing just fine. He’s not getting top-line minutes, but is being used as a checking center against the opposition’s top line. He’s also a key player on the penalty-killing unit thanks to his work ethic and great skating ability.

That is most likely the role that he’ll play at the pro level, third-line checking center who can chip in occasionally on offense. He’ll probably spend another season in junior before turning pro.

Jan Mursak, LW
182nd overall, 2006

The 18-year-old Slovenian has been the biggest surprise and the most impressive Wings prospect in the CHL this season. Not only has he made a smooth transition to North America, he has become an impact player in no time.

He has been a scoring machine for the Saginaw Spirit, scoring points in each of his first 21 games in the OHL and racking up a total of 38 points (13 goals and 25 assists). He’s getting a lot of ice time for a rookie and he has responded in a very good way to the coach’s trust.

Mursak will have to try to continue his torrid scoring pace during the long OHL season. So far he has exceeded all expectation of a sixth round pick, and he looks like he could be a prospect to watch down the road as a legitimate NHL player.

Mursak’s biggest downside is his lack of strength, but as with all youngsters that will come with time. Once he gets stronger he’ll be able to use his speed and skill in an even better way.

Jakub Kindl, D
19th overall, 2005

Kindl returned to the Kitchener Rangers after a very strong training camp with the Red Wings. After playing in a couple of preseason games, the Wings decided that it would be best for his development to spend another year in the OHL.

Since his return, Kindl has continued his rock-solid play by scoring 21 points in the first 20 games and being amongst the best offensive defensemen in the league.

The coach is relying on him a lot and he’s getting a ton of ice time in all kinds of situations, ending games with some 30 minutes of play. This is a great situation for the 19-year-old defenseman to hone his game before attempting to crack the Red Wings lineup for the next season.

If he keeps up his pace he’ll end the season with career numbers in the OHL, which should also be his final year in the junior ranks.

Jeff May, D
151st overall, 2005

The 19-year-old defenseman is on his way to a career year in the WHL. After having a solid training camp with the Red Wings, May returned to Prince Albert to anchor the defense.

He has already surpassed his goal-scoring total from the previous season (3 goals and 13 in 21 games so far) and looks to be on his way to a pro contract with the Red Wings.

He’s a good-sized defenseman who can do little bit of everything on the ice, with his size, mobility and sound passing. He’s playing big minutes in the WHL and is the top defenseman on his team.

In order to secure a pro contract, he’ll have to continue his solid play and add some more strength and start using his size even more.

Bretton Stamler, D
214th overall, 2005

Selected with the team’s last pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Stamler has come a long way in search of a pro contract. This season seems to be a career year for him offensively, with 5 goals and 10 points in his first 17 games including a career-first hat trick.

But offense is not what is going to take him to the pro level. He’s a stay-at-home defenseman with solid size, mobility and rugged play. He won’t be making any breath-taking plays and be a highlight machine, but he proved he can play steady defense and be a shut-down guy.

This is a crucial season for him as he has to be signed by June 1. There is no guarantee that even a career year in the WHL will be enough, but he’s sure doing his best to make the Red Wings brass think twice.

Logan Pyett, D
212th overall, 2006

The last Red Wings pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft is continuing his solid offensive contribution in the WHL.

Drafted as a crafty, puck-moving defenseman, Pyett enjoyed a very good training camp with the Red Wings and started his third season in the WHL with hopes of continued development.

So far this season, his play has been solid but unspectacular. He’s currently tied for the seventh place in defensemen scoring with 2 goals and 18 points in the first 20 games. More importantly he has improved his plus/minus rating, from -14 last season to a +1 this season.

Pyett has some tools to make it to the pro ranks (hockey sense, passing, mobility), but he’ll need to add strength and improve his play in his own end. His physical play and positioning need development.

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