The Detroit Red Wings 2013 NHL Draft position should pique the interest of even the most jaded Wings fan. Detroit holds the 18th overall selection, their highest pick since the organization took Martin Lapointe with the 10th overall in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft. Considering that the Red Wings did not have a first round selection in the 2009, 2011, and 2012 NHL Drafts, having the 18th overall pick in a year that features what is generally considered to be a very deep draft class is cause for excitement.
Detroit's gradual accumulation of high-end prospects was finally seen by fans of the NHL club during the 2012-13 season, in which Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, and Brendan Smith among others made their case to stay with the big club for the foreseeable future. The lower salary cap of the 2013-14 season could lead to the Red Wings relying more heavily on talent from Grand Rapids, which makes Detroit's high draft selection all the more important for the long-term health of the franchise.
Top 10 Prospects:
Much of the 2013-14 Detroit Red Wings roster will resemble the 2012-13 incarnation. While the team will likely be unable to meet the financial demands of unrestricted free agent winger Valtteri Filppula, the Red Wings will re-sign their two restricted free agent forwards, Nyquist and Andersson. Other unrestricted free agents of note include Damien Brunner and Dan Cleary, two forwards that the organization plans on using some of its $10 million in cap space to re-sign.
Detroit has six defensemen under contract for the 2013-14 season. Their two restricted free agents, Brendan Smith and Jakub Kindl, will be re-signed. The only player likely to depart the organization is unrestricted free agent defenseman Ian White, who was a healthy scratch throughout Detroit's playoff run. The Red Wings would like to add another veteran defenseman to the NHL roster instead of rushing promising young defensemen Ryan Sproul and Xavier Ouellet from the Grand Rapids Griffins to the NHL before they have had a chance to acclimate their game to the AHL.
Goaltending depth will not be an issue for the Red Wings at the NHL level in 2013-14, though it may be during the 2014 offseason. Jimmy Howard's recent contract extension will see him donning the winged wheel through the 2018-19 season, but back-up Jonas Gustavsson's contract only runs through the 2013-14 season. The Red Wings will likely make a decision during the 2014 offseason regarding Petr Mrazek and whether he should be brought up to serve as Howard's back-up or whether he is a bona fide NHL starter in his own right.
Detroit's forward depth at the NHL level is a strength of the club. Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Andersson proved that they are ready for full-time NHL duty, and though most of Detroit's forwards at the AHL level are still in need of seasoning, Tomas Tatar could be ready to stay with the Red Wings for the majority of the season in 2013-14 as well. Tatar has been Grand Rapids' leading scorer throughout the Calder Cup Playoffs and was second in regular season scoring, behind only Gustav Nyquist.
The Grand Rapids Griffins are going to have to hope that many of their defensemen understand the virtuousness of patience, as there is going to be something of a logjam at the position in 2013-14. With the likes of Sproul, Ouellet, Nick Jensen, and Mattias Backman patrolling the blue line the Griffins will have no fewer than four prospects who will likely see NHL ice time someday. Mix in prospects that will already be in the NHL when 2013-14 begins such as Dan DeKeyser and Brian Lashoff and it becomes abundantly clear that one of the organizational focuses of the past few seasons has been to stockpile defensemen.
Goaltending depth remains an issue for the Red Wings, though they have made strides to address this by signing NCAA free agent netminder Jared Coreau in April. The signing of Coreau meant not only that he would likely be the back-up in Grand Rapids, but also that the writing was essentially on the wall for Thomas McCollum. A restricted free agent, McCollum failed to develop the way that Detroit had hoped when they drafted him 30th overall in 2008. Petr Mrazek has emerged and is one of the brightest stars in the Detroit pipeline, though he will remain in Grand Rapids for the foreseeable future in order to gain additional experience. This leaves only one goaltender in the Detroit system refining their game at the CHL level, that being 2012 draftee Jake Paterson of the Saginaw Spirit.
Another weakness of Detroit's prospect pool is the lack of prospects that are long-term projects, players who are still a number of years away from being ready for NHL hockey. There are a number of talented prospects who will play for the Grand Rapids Griffins in 2013-14 who are very close to NHL-ready, but there simply are not many prospects currently in the Wings system who are farther down the pipeline. For example, there are currently only two players in the organization who will be playing NCAA hockey in 2013-14 and two who will be playing CHL hockey in 2013-14.
Detroit has taken a decidedly less European path to prospects since the locked-out season of 2004-05. Over the past three years, the Red Wings have selected only five European players who were playing in a European league at the time they were drafted. Compare that number to the twelve players selected by Detroit over the past three drafts from the CHL and the newly emerging trend in where prospects come from begins to gain clarity.
Trading draft picks is nothing new for the Red Wings, who traded their first round pick for a second and later round pick in both 2009 and 2011. Though the allure of having the highest pick the organization has had in 22 years is strong, do not be surprised if the Wings trade the pick in order to move down and add depth to the prospect pool.
Though Detroit typically takes a forward with its first pick (they have done so for each of the past four drafts), the depth of the 2013 defensemen class does not preclude the selection of a defender with the 18th overall pick. One thing that you can, however, bet on not happening is the Red Wings drafting a goaltender. They have selected a netminder every other season since the 2006 NHL Draft, and the Wings drafted Jake Paterson in 2012.
The Red Wings have seven picks in the 2013 NHL Draft: 1st round (18), 2nd round (48), 3rd round (79), 4th round (109), 5th round (139), 6th round (169), and 7th round (199).
Hockey's Future Staff Mock Draft Results:
The Red Wings' system is fairly well-stocked with defensemen, but it is hard to pass when a talent like Pulock falls. Scouts seem to love his shot, and he plays the sort of two-way game with an offensive tint to it that Detroit loves. He also possesses a high hockey IQ, which is also looked upon fondly by Detroit's management. Although the Red Wings do not have any positions of great need at the draft, the team would relish the opportunity to add to their deep defensive group by drafting a player with excellent hockey sense and the puck skills to contribute to the team's possession numbers.