Detroit Red Wings: 10 Prospects Most Vital to Detroit's Future Success
The Detroit Red Wings seem like they can't go wrong with their draft picks over the past two or more decades.
Great names like Lidstrom ('89), Osgood ('91), Holmstrom in the 10th round ('94), Datsyuk ('98), Zetterberg ('99), Filppula ('02) and Franzen ('04) were all drafted in the third round or later.
But Detroit, being an "old" team for the last decade, got younger last year with the retirement of Chris Osgood, Brian Rafalski and Kris Draper.
This off-season Nick Lidstrom, 42, and Tomas Holmstrom, 39, could retire, leaving spaces for tomorrow's Red Wings to step forward and claim a full-time roster spot.
But who would these Red Wings be?
Here are the 10 prospects that will be most vital to Detroit's future success.
1. Brendan Smith
Brendan Smith is still a prospect despite playing 14 games this year.
Outside of Smith's 8-game suspension for his hit on Ben Smith, Brendan Smith had seven points in his 14 games and looked good offensively.
Smith is the Red Wings top defensive prospect and could potentially have a spot on the Detroit Red Wings next year pending which players Detroit retains (Nick Lidstrom and Brad Stuart) or signs in free agency.
While Smith's roster spot is all but secure for next season, he will need to put in the effort necessary to keep it.
2. Gustav Nyquist
Gustav Nyquist could be the Red Wings most NHL-ready forward next season.
That being said, Nyquist weighs only 169-pounds and stands just 5'10". Nyquist played over 10 minutes a game in 18 games this season, putting up seven points.
He will need to bulk up a bit more if he hopes to be effective as a bottom-six forward.
Nyquist is listed as a fourth line center by NHL.com, but strangely did not end up taking any face-offs this season. Although his line mates varied, Nyquist had points in four straight games and six of seven games overall in a stretch during the season.
Nyquist's playing time and roster spot could ultimately be decided by who the Red Wings sign in free agency, although if he plays fourth-line center he will likely have a better chance at earning a roster spot than if he tries to as a winger.
3. Tomas Tatar
When I said Gustav Nyquist was the most NHL-ready forward that the Red Wings have, I may have misspoken.
Tomas Tatar wowed spectators with his performance at the Men's Hockey World Championships with two goals and three assists in 10 games.
Slovakia won the silver medal, knocking off Canada in the quarter-finals and Czech Republic in the semi-finals before losing to Russia 6-2 in the gold medal game.
Tatar also scored the only goal in a 1-0 lead over Switzerland in qualifying, and he has clearly shown his value as a top Red Wings prospect, battling for a spot next season.
At left-wing, Tatar may struggle to crack the roster this season, but he will definitely be a prime candidate to make the roster after putting up 58 points in 76 games this season in the AHL.
4. Tomas Jurco
Tomas Jurco can do it all.
Okay maybe not, but Jurco is a scoring machine.
The second round, 2011 draft pick put up 68 points this past season in just 48 games this season and added 29 points in just 16 playoff games despite losing 7-4 to Shawinigan in the Memorial Cup semi-finals this season.
Built solidly at 6'2" and 193 pounds, Jurco will likely make a one year stint in Grand Rapids (the Red Wings' AHL team) before joining the Detroit Red Wings possibly in 2013-14.
5. Teemu Pulkkinen
Teemu Pulkkinen has a heck of a shot.
Despite knowing how and when to unleash it, Pulkkinen is not a one-dimensional goal scorer.
His 36 assists in 2010-11 broke Teemu Selanne's rookie assist record for SM-liiga.
But 2011-12 saw a significant drop off from points as he went from 54 points in 2010-11 to 37 in 2011-12.
Pulkkinen is one of the Red Wings most prized right-wing prospects and might have the best shot out of anyone in the Red Wings prospect pool.
6. Calle Jarnkrok
Calle Jarnkrok is the Red Wings best prospect at the center position according to hockeysfuture.com.
The 2010 second round draft pick of the Red Wings has been increasing his production each year with Brynas of the Swedish Elite League.
Jarnkrok finished with 16 goals and 39 points this season with Brynas, but if he hopes to be a center and play in North America, he will have to get heavier as he is just 170 pounds right now.
7. Petr Mrazek
Petr Mrazek gives Red Wings fans a lot to be excited about for the future in the Red Wings' crease.
The Red Wings already have Jimmy Howard who was selected to the All-Star Game this season before injuries shut down a promising year.
Mrazek had an equally as good year.
Playing for the Ottawa 67s of the OHL, Mrazek had a 32-13-6 record this season as well as a 91.7 save percentage and a 2.84 GAA, bringing the 67s to the semi-finals of the OHL playoffs before losing in five games to the Niagara Ice Dogs.
Where Mrazek really stole the show however was at the World Junior Championships earlier in 2012.
Mrazek came up huge for the Czech Republic as they knocked off the USA in the round robin 5-2 behind Mrazek's 52 saves.
His WJC run ended a little bit sooner than he would have liked however because his team could not help him out offensively.
Mrazek made 43 saves, but ended up losing 2-1 to Russia in the quarterfinals.
His performances and saves like this one (as well as his celebrations) raised some eye brows and did not go unnoticed as he was named "top goaltender" of the tournament.
8. Riley Sheahan
Riley Sheahan was Detroit's 2010 first round selection.
Sheahan has modest point totals playing at Notre Dame.
17, 22 and 25 respectively in three seasons.
But Sheahan signed to play for the Red Wings this season and got in seven games of AHL experience (picking up two points along the way) as well as an NHL game under his belt.
Sheahan seems to understand the game very well and that's great news if he wants to some day be a full-time NHL player for the Red Wings.
Sheahan is also something that the Red Wings value: a two-way center.
This could find him a way on the Red Wings fourth line in a season or two.
9. Joakim Andersson
Joakim Andersson might be the biggest project in Detroit right now.
But he is coming together as a more complete hockey player.
In 2010-11, Andersson made the jump from Vastra Frolunda in the Swedish Elite League to the Grand Rapids Griffins in the AHL.
He put up just seven goals and 22 points.
This season, Andersson took monumental strides offensively: mustering 21 goals and 51 points in six fewer games with the Griffins.
Because of the aforementioned prospect depth at center for the Red Wings (Jarnkrok and Sheahan), Andersson will have to compete vigorously for a roster position.
But Andersson did play five games with the Red Wings this season when their team was injury riddled in March, so he can hang his hat on that.
If he hopes to get more consistent playing time however, he will need to continue to develop and excel in the AHL.
10. Adam Almquist
Adam Almquist (or Almqvist depending on which site you're looking at) is a rising defenseman in the Red Wings prospect pool and will look to compete for full-time playing time on the Griffins after playing three games with them this year.
Almquist had 11 points and went plus-16 with HV71 Jonkoping this season before joining the Griffins.
Almquist has shown signs of promise with the HV71 junior team with 36 and 34 points respectively in the two previous seasons.
What's incredible is that in 2009-10, when Almquist scored his 34 points with HV71 Junior team, he did it in just 15 games.
Did someone say offensive defenseman?
Keep an eye on Almquist as he could be a huge contributor in a few years.
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