The Detroit Red Wings are nearly close to the halfway stage of the NHL season. Some of the Wings' star players—notably Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg—have struggled on the ice earlier this season. While Detroit has managed to find their winning ways, there are still players that the Wings can use to help strengthen their team.
Detroit is known for letting the players they want perfect their skills and grow experience in the minors before they are to play for the team. Most minor league players that Detroit waits for to build up experience end up performing well in the pros. Jimmy Howard, Zetterberg and Datsyuk are great examples.
Here are the top 10 minor league players and when they should be arriving to play for the city of Detroit.
Teemu Pulkkinen was drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 draft by the Red Wings. He currently plays for Jokerit Helsinski.
Pulkkinen has a great forward shot. He played for Jokerit's junior club during the 2007-08 season where he scored 36 goals in 32 games. His team won the Finnish championship that year and Pulkkinen finished with 17 points in six playoff games.
He is still young but holds a lot of promise. With experience, Pulkkinen might find himself playing with a red and white jersey on in a few years.
Xavier Ouellet was drafted by the Wings in 2011. Before he was drafted, Ouellet played two years with the Montreal Juniors. The Wings wanted him because he was trusted well enough to play a big role on a veteran team. He plays a mature game.
While he isn't as quick on the ice, he is a master at power-play kills and will get stronger with experience. He currently plays with Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. He has yet to have a chance to show his talent on the ice with the Wings, but he is a future prospect for them
Brendan Smith currently plays for the Grand Rapids Griffins, Detroit's AHL affiliate and was drafted by the Wings in the 2007 entry draft.
He made his NHL debut on November 11th, 2011 against the San Jose Sharks. He played remarkably well. He is a great defensive player and it remains a question as to why he is not permanently on the team as of yet.
He should be able to join the team next season if any of the defensive players leave. While he does have issues with penalty minutes, his skills on the ice make up for it.
Fabian Brunnstrom played two years on and off in the NHL and AHL in Texas before signing on with the Detroit Red Wings for the 2011-12 season. He signed a pro tryout contract and is now currently playing for the Griffins.
It seems like Detroit really wants their players to be the best they can be before playing for the Wings. He is a strong, offensive and well-rounded player. General manager Ken Holland likes him and says he believes Brunnstrom is improving.
Brunnstrom might find himself playing for the Wings within the next year or two.
Jordan Pearce might be in line to be the next backup or starting goaltender for the Red Wings within the next few years. He has signed a two-year contract with the Griffins, but the Wings have been keeping an eye on him.
He is a calm goaltender who has great rebound control. The goalie coach of the Red Wings believes Pearce will work his way up to be a strong goaltender. He might be the perfect backup they've been looking for.
Andrej Nestrasil was drafted by the Wings in the 2009 draft and is currently playing for the Toledo Walleye.
He had a solid year with the P.E.I. Rockets, putting up 19 goals and 51 assists in 58 games. He has a high speed that allows him to surprise his opponents. He is a great prospect for the Wings in the speed department. If he can build up his physical strength for the NHL, he'll be a top six player for the Wings.
He won't be arriving any time soon to play for them, but he'll be playing for Detroit someday.
Tomas Tatar was taken on by Detroit in the 2009 draft. Last year, he was called up by Detroit to play in nine games where he scored one goal and had six shots.
He was projected to have a solid third year with the Griffins. So far in 29 games, he has eight goals and 16 assists. He is a quick player and a creative skater. His main problem is that he is too small, but if Jiri Hudler can make it, Tatar can make it with Detroit.
Thomas McCollum was drafted by Detroit in the first round of the 2008 draft. He struggled at the pro level last year but greatly improved as he split his time between the Griffins and the Toledo Walleye.
He helped the Wings by serving as a backup last year for a brief time. He made an impression. He has shown to have great focus and be truly competitive. If he can be consistent, he will be a great prospect for Detroit.
Andersson is a strong defensive forward that the Red Wings will need in the future. He goes in hard and plays hard. His aggressiveness is perfect for the Wings and the NHL.
He currently plays for the Griffins but he was quickly recalled by the Wings on December 27th to replace Tomas Holmstrom, who was out for a week to 10 days with a groin injury. His NHL debut was a memorable one.
Andersson is eager to play but knows he has to be patient to join the team. With his big size, he may be making a permanent position in the NHL possibly next season.
Gustav Nyquist is a rookie for the Grand Rapids Griffins. He is one of the 10 top scorers of the American Hockey League.
The Wings struggled earlier this season with scoring and if they should hit another scoring drought, Nyquist would be a good addition to the team. In 29 games, he has a record of nine goals and 21 assists.
He played a few preseason and regular-season games with the Red Wings. Coach Babcock is impressed by him and believes he can score.
Detroit already has a strong offense, but they are watching him. Don't be surprised if the Wings pick him up for next season.