Detroit Red Wings: 5 Prospects Who Will Lead the Next Stanley Cup Charge
The Red Wings' prospect pool, although not exceptionally deep with defensemen, is ranked 10th by hockeysfuture.com for best talent pool by team.
Since there's no hockey season just yet, take a look at the next wave of Red Wings talent that is poised to bring Detroit back to being perennial Stanley Cup contenders.
1. Brendan Smith
If there is one prospect in the Detroit Red Wings organization that is ready to take the jump to the next level it is Brendan Smith.
There's no denying that Smith is the Red Wings' most talented prospect on defense (and might also be the most talented overall as well), and he likely has a starting role all but secured, as he is clearly more offensively talented than Jakub Kindl and Carlo Colaiacovo (the other two players vying for bottom-pairing ice time).
Smith may not just compete for a third-line pairing role, but he could possibly be moved up to a top-four position or even a top pairing on the power play eventually.
Out of the seven Red Wings defensemen (Kronwall, Ericsson, Quincey, Kindl, White and Smith), Smith is the youngest by about four years.
This age difference could manifest itself in obvious ways, as Smith will have to learn the ins and outs of playing at the NHL level, but he has the talent and is smart enough to compete at an NHL level as he has shown with his 14-game stint last season.
2. Gustav Nyquist
Like Brendan Smith, Nyquist also has a bright future at the NHL level.
Nyquist played in 18 NHL games last year and averaged 10:35 of ice time per contest.
Despite just over 10 minutes of ice time, Nyquist still found a way to contribute seven points in those 18 games—pretty good for a rookie.
Nyquist (Detroit's former fourth-round pick of the 2008 draft) isn't necessarily a shoo-in to becoming an immediate starter, but he should get the nod over players like Jan Mursak or Cory Emmerton because of his ability to produce offense in limited minutes.
Another thing that one has to like about Nyquist is that he averaged just over a shot a game (19 shots in 18 games) with the Red Wings. With limited playing time, Red Wings fans should be almost salivating over what he could do in terms of points with a full season and more playing time.
3. Tomas Jurco
Now clearly, there's more to playing hockey than being a gifted puck-handler, as demonstrated in the video above, but Tomas Jurco can turn that magic into points quite easily.
Just look at his point totals from the QMJHL (68 points in 48 games).
Jurco is still a ways from competing for an NHL job (possibly two seasons or more), but he will be competing in the AHL this year for the first time.
Since the NHL lockout shows no signs of ceasing any time soon, more eyes will be on other hockey leagues this season, and the AHL is no exception.
If Jurco puts in a solid or exceptional output this season with the Grand Rapids Griffins, there could be an outside chance that he would be considered for a roster spot the following season once the NHL actually resumes play.
While this is all hypothetical, it is clear for the moment that Jurco is in the right place in the AHL to truly show what he can do with the NHL being locked out.
The eyes of the Red Wings' brass will be watching and if they like what they see this season, Jurco could find his way into a Red Wings lineup sooner rather than later.
4. Teemu Pulkkinen
When was the last time the Red Wings had a true sniper?
I'm serious here.
When you look at the current roster, there's Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Franzen, Filppula and the list goes on.
But there isn't really a true sniper in the lineup.
In fact, I would argue that there hasn't really been one since Marian Hossa wore a Red Wings uniform and possibly Brendan Shanahan or Brett Hull before Hossa.
Of course I'll get some disagreement when I say this, but the Red Wings need a true sniper, and if you haven't seen "The Holy Slapper" yet (video above), you're missing out on the potential of Teemu Pulkkinen.
Pulkkinen has a flat-out laser shot, and he puts it on display in this video and others.
If the Red Wings are a puck-possession team and everyone is a gifted (or semi-gifted) passer, then there has to be someone to put the puck in the net and do so on a regular basis.
Pulkkinen could be that player for the Red Wings in three years, when he has a couple years of AHL experience under his belt.
This season and last, "Pulk" has seen a drop-off in his point production, so that also could be cause for concern for Detroit's management.
Although it would help if he spent less time in the penalty box (29 PIMs in six games this season with just one assist) and more time on the ice, one has to be confident that Pulkkinen will soon return to his old offensive juggernaut self.
If the Red Wings make another Stanley Cup run in five years or so, Pulkkinen could and likely would be the dynamic goal scorer behind their run if he was playing for the Red Wings at that point.
5. Petr Mrazek
When a goalie is compared to Dominik Hasek, it is a great honor as a goaltender.
Petr Mrazek is a very competitive goalie and he put in his best season as a goaltender last year when he burst onto the scene at the World Junior Championships as the best goaltender in the tournament, including a 52-save win against Team USA.
Despite being ousted in the semifinals, Mrazek showed that he can win when it counts: in the playoffs.
Having that driving force as a potential backup goalie in a couple years is all the re-assurance that most Red Wings fans need, as there hasn't been a competent backup goaltender since Chris Osgood retired after his play faltered near the end of his career.
Mrazek is a future building block and competent backup goalie for Detroit.
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