Detroit Red Wings: 4 Wings Prospects Who Will Break into the NHL in 2012-13
The Detroit Red Wings organization has had the luxury of great scouting over the past 30 years. The notion that a team can draft a player in the sixth or seventh round of the draft and have that player become a superstar player is a result that not many teams have achieved.
The Red Wings have been fortunate enough to be one such team, and it has helped them re-establish Detroit as "Hockeytown" over the past two decades.
Over that time span, Detroit has been fortunate enough to be able to give its top prospects time to develop before bringing them into the NHL ranks.
Since the drafting of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, one could argue that Detroit is going downhill because of its lack of quality prospects and its inability to sign top free agents.
With free agency on hold until July 1, Detroit does have some fairly good prospects waiting in the wings (no pun intended), and there will be some that crack the NHL roster on a part-time or full-time basis this season.
Here are four prospects you can expect to see playing time next season.
1. Brendan Smith
Expect Brendan Smith to play full time this season on the third pairing. He's too good to continue to "develop" in the AHL.
Smith had a goal and six assists in 14 games last season with Detroit, and he stepped in admirably for some injuries that Detroit had on its blue line in late February and March.
Smith put up 13 shots on goal, 17 hits and eight blocked shots in those games, leading to thoughts that he could be a future top-pairing defenseman.
Smith does have to keep NHL rules in mind when making a hit, as he did receive a hefty suspension for his hit on Ben Smith in a preseason game last year.
This is a contract year for Smith, and he will be an RFA after this season. In order to receive a permanent spot in the Red Wings defense corps, bet that Smith will attempt to impress early and often this season.
2. Gustav Nyquist
Love it or hate it, Gustav Nyquist is still a "prospect."
Nyquist played just 18 games last year, putting up a goal and six assists, averaging about 10-and-a-half minutes of ice time per game.
The thing about Nyquist is that he can play on just about any line for Detroit, but if Detroit is looking to bring back a "physical presence" on its fourth line, then Nyquist will be restricted to just the top three lines.
Nyquist is listed as a center on NHL.com, but actually plays better as a left wing.
As it is a contract year for Nyquist as well, it will be interesting to see if he rises to the challenge and puts up 30 or more points as a full-timer, or if he will still be a "work in progress" heading into next offseason.
Either way you slice it, Nyquist should, and probably will, be playing full time next season. If he does not play full time, expect Nyquist to get at least 40 to 50 games as a starter.
3. Jan Mursak
I understand if you don't want to call Jan Mursak a "prospect" anymore, but one must realize that he still has not played more than 25 games in a season, despite having only four points in 44 career NHL games.
Mursak was slated to be a starter for the season opener last year, but an ankle injury derailed any of those thoughts.
Now Mursak must once again fight his way onto the Red Wings roster.
But Mursak still has a distinct advantage over almost all of the other Red Wings forwards.
Mursak is a right-handed shooter—the only right-handed shooting forward who is not on injured reserve (Patrick Eaves).
It will be interesting to see if Mursak is even in Detroit's plans come training camp, as he is one of 11 forwards already signed for this upcoming season.
But Mursak's cap hit is only $550,000, so he could be very useful to have on the roster if Detroit spends a lot via free agency.
4. Tomas Tatar
Tomas Tatar really showed what he could do at this year's world championships in hockey.
With two goals and three assists, Tatar helped Slovakia capture the silver medal.
In nine NHL regular-season games, Tatar has one goal and no assists, but he has been fairly productive in his last two seasons at Detroit's AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, putting up 115 points in 146 games over the past two seasons.
According to hockeysfuture.com, Tatar "projects as a top six sniper at the NHL level."
He will likely spend another season in Grand Rapids and possibly bulk up a bit more. Tatar is a very gifted player and should be the first player called up if a forward is needed in Detroit's lineup this season.
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