The Off Wing

Opinion and Fact…From the Off Wing

Archive for the tag “Red Wings”

Reflections on the NHL Draft…

It’s Saturday, June 24th around 7:00 o’clock at night. Today may be just another day on the calendar for the huddled masses either enjoying time with family or completing chores around the house, but for the avid hockey fan it is so much more. You see, today is the completion of yet another year that the now 31 NHL teams add to their crop of young talent. Today is the culmination of another season of NHL hockey. That’s right, the NHL Entry Draft is now complete, and 217 young men have been selected to continue their childhood dreams of following in the footsteps of Orr, Gretzky, Lemieux, Messier and the newer crop of superstars. Here are some reflections on the NHL draft…

Let’s first look at the newest NHL team, the Las Vegas Golden Knights. While they just completed the expansion draft, where they were allowed to select one player from each current NHL team, this was their chance to build on their future as well and add to what should be an interesting farm team.  After choosing what should be their cornerstone goaltender in Marc-Andre Fleury as well as 29 other players, they started this weekend with 12 picks in the 7 rounds that encompassed Friday night and Saturday.  The Knights started with a young center, Cody Glass, who in the next two years or so should be their top line center.  He has talent to spare, excellent hands, but more so a top notch hockey IQ.  He doesn’t make many mistakes and when he does, he learns from them in an attempt to not repeat them.  It is reported that he is dangerous on the attack and he should be an electric player that puts people in the seats.  Las Vegas had 3 picks in the first round alone, and all 3 are expected to be impact players at some point in the very near future.

Other teams that had an extensive amount of picks are the Detroit Red Wings and Los Angeles Kings.  The Red Wings had a total of 11 picks throughout the 7 rounds of excitement, stocking up on big, beefy defensemen such as Gustav Lindstrom, Kasper Kotkansalo and Malte Setkov.  In all they took five d-men, all are 6 feet 2 inches or taller.  They also took a projcect goaltender in Keith Petruzzelli, a 6’5″ body who could someday be a serviceable NHL goalie.  In all, only one of the 11 picks is listed under six feet tall, Brady Gilmour (I don’t believe his nickname is Happy).  He is 5’10” and 170 pounds. He is certainly a project, but if he can put on a little weight and work on his fundamentals there may just be something there.  He is considered a “high character” kid and he was one of the best players on a bad team.

There were 23 Finnish players taken in this year’s draft.  This has led some of the talking heads to question whether the country is just getting better or if the rest of the European countries are getting worse.  To me, this is all cyclical, just as it is here in North America.  I would love to make the blanket statement that American born players are better than Canadian born ones, but I would be ignorant of the fact that it took 20 plus years for an American to win the Conn Smythe trophy (as playoff MVP).  the Fins have been slowly improving their talent pool over the last many years, Players such as Patrik Laine and Sebastian Aho show us just how good they have become.  So it is no surprise that the Fins increased their number of draftees from 7.1% in 2016 to 10.6% in this past draft.  As a trend, I would say this will increase again next year as well.

One of those previously mentioned Finnish players was selected 18th overall by the Boston Bruins.  Urho Vaakanainen, a left shooting defenseman will be calling Boston his home in the NHL at some point in his future.  The biggest buzz however was over their second round pick, Jack Studnicka.  A six foot, 172 pound forward, Jack has played the last two seasons as a center with the Oshawa Generals.  His numbers are not good, not bad, just middle of the road is the best way to put it.  He did double his point production from years one to two, and he had 15 points in 11 playoff games this past season, which could be the start of the excitement.  Overall, it wasn’t a very enthralling draft from a fan’s perspective with three defensemen, two forwards and a goaltender, its almost as though they were following some formula for a team that needs a goal scorer but most likely won’t find one in free agency.  They drafted for the future, or depth, or both.  I’ll have a better feel for the youngsters drafted after this year’s development camp.

Until then, keep listening to the Two Man Forecheck…the sage and I wax poetic from week to week about everything hockey!

L.W.L.

 

Wings Seeing Red

When the Red Wings drafted Steve Yzerman back in 1983 (in the 4th round no less), I don’t think anyone really expected what he brought to the Joe and the city of Detroit.  (Author’s Note:  When this piece was first written, I did research the picks for the players named in this post.  It would appear that I have misread the information I saw, and incorrectly identified Stevie Y as a fourth round pick, when in fact he was a first round pick, fourth overall.  My apologies to Steve and to you, the reader, for posting incorrect information.)  The talent the Red Wings have acquired and developed over the years since then has been nothing if not spectacular.  Especially in 1989, where the Wings drafted the likes of Nicklas Lidstrom in the 3rd round, Sergei Fedorov in the 4th round, and Vladimir Konstantinov in the 11th round, the boys in the Motor City made the Red Wings relevant again, igniting the fan faithful and inspiring the tradition of the octopus.

So how is it that we now talk of blowing up the Wings?  It’s not loud, but if you listen in the dark corners of the Joe, you can probably hear the whispers.  Should we blow it up?  What do we have to look forward to after Henrik and Pavel?  Datsyuk is arguably one of the best two way players the game has seen.  It cannot be argued, however, that Pavel is on the back nine at age 34.  His production has gone down every year since 2008-09 when he had 97 points.  That production is not the issue here, however.  Pavel can be a great example to a young team such as Colorado (Oh, no I didn’t suggest that did I?) or Edmonton.  His two way play and classic, above board style should rub off on the youngsters.  Pavel has one year remaining after this season, and his 6.7 million would easily fit under both teams” caps.  The interesting bit is what would The Wings want in return?  First and a second round pick?  High level prospects?  Another issue is his no trade clause.  Would he be willing to waive it?  The issue here is that Detroit needs to get younger and maintain their talent level to keep the butts in the seats.

The next aging yet still extremely viable option to send away in a deal is Henrik Zetterberg.  At 32 years of age, he is still somewhat in his prime, and I don’t foresee the Wings dealing away their newly named captain (only the third captain they’ve named since 1986 – can you guess the other two?).  He is the new heart and soul of this team and needs to stick around for some of the same reasons the Av’s should acquire Pavel.  Another reason they’ll keep him around is his current contract (it runs through 2021).

Mikael Samuelsson is 36 years old and sucking up salary without production.  He has one more year on his current deal but also has a no trade clause so would probably only be willing to move to a team that has the potential to go deep into the playoffs.  Question here…What would a team that was going deep into the playoffs want with an aging winger that doesn’t appear to be producing at the level he once was.  His contract is somewhat attractive at $3 million, but how much push would he require to produce?  Bertuzzi fits into this mold as well.  He is the senior member of the Wings at 38, with one more year on his deal and a no trade clause to boot.  He hasn’t played much at all this season, and his toughness could be attractive along with his slightly over $2 million dollar contract balance, but again, who would bring in a player with one skate in retirement.

The remainder of the team is young…except for Danny Cleary, who at 34 will be an unrestricted free agent.  The Wings will probably not tender him another offer, what with Filpula’s contract expiring, ownership will need the funds to pay him.  Damien Brunner will command a few million a year as well.  Youth will serve the Red Wings well, but they need to shore up their prospects.  Most of the good youth has been called up due to injuries so they are thin in the minors.  Dealing someone like Datsyuk could bring them the young gun and/or draft picks to beef up the minors and bring about the rebound to success that the original six team in Detroit so deserves.

Only covered the forwards here, the goaltending and defensive corps are both young and talented, with Kronwall taking on the mantle of “number one defenseman”.  The go-to guy on the blueline appears to understand his role and with his current deal, will be around for many years.  The only other d-man over 30 is Kent Huskins, and as a UFA will probably be looking at other teams come the end of the year.

The goaltending is young and good.  Not great, mind you, but Mrazek has shown flashes.  Jimmy Howard will most assuredly be offered a deal at the end of the year, and at 28 still has many years ahead of him.

L.W.L.

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