Building a world-class organization such as the Detroit Red Wings is a never-ending job. While the team closes in on the start of training camp for the upcoming season, many in the organization are looking several years ahead in order to maintain the team’s success for years to come.
They have long had one of the better international scouting departments in the league and are well known for finding steals late in the draft. They are also known for allowing players to remain in the minors for a long time in order to be fully ready. While it is sometimes frustrating, it is hard to argue with the results over the past 20 seasons.
Their talent pool throughout their organization is one of the best in the league. This was evident this past season when the Grand Rapids Griffins won the Calder Cup. With so many talented players, who are the best? Who are the Red Wings of the future?
Here are their best prospects at each position.
It seems like we have been hearing about Tomas Tatar being the next big thing for forever. He made the jump to the AHL as an 18-year-old and has spent four seasons there.
The Slovakian native has been a proven scorer through his career. While playing on various Slovakian teams, he was a point-per-game player. Once he moved to North America, he has been just below the that point-per-game pace, which is impressive because he is playing playing against tougher competition.
He really exploded in the playoffs this year for the Griffins. In 24 games, he had 16 goals and 21 points to lead the way on their championship run.
He has had two short stints with the Red Wings. In the 2010-11 season, he played nine games and scored one goal. This past season, he was able to play 18 games, racking up four goals and seven points.
Tatar has very good stick-handling and skating ability to go along with a quick shot and a high hockey IQ. He’s not the biggest guy on the ice but always seems to be in the right spot. Although the roster is crowded, he should get a full-time shot with the Wings this year.
Other players to watch: Calle Jarnkrok, Anthony Mantha, Luke Glendening, Landon Ferraro, Tomas Jurco, Teemu Pulkkinen and Riley Sheahan
This was a difficult choice. By many standards, Danny DeKeyser and Brian Lashoff can still be considered prospects. However, due to their play last season, the impact it had and the expectations on their roles with the Wings this upcoming season, they were not included.
Instead, the pick here will be Xavier Ouellet. Ouellet has a special combination of skills, as he is a very good scorer but still plays good defense. He has twice been named QMJHL All-Star.
He also is very good at quarterbacking the power play. He is likely to make the jump to the AHL this season with the Griffins.
Over his past three seasons in the QMJHL, he has 39 goals and 105 assists (144 points) in more than 180 games. He has been a total of plus-57 over those seasons as well. Over the past two seasons, he has upped his game in the playoffs, where he has been a point-per-game player.
Other players to watch: Adam Almquist, Ryan Sproul, Mike McKee and Mattias Backman
Admittedly, the goaltending depth in the organization is weak, but do not let that discredit the talent Petr Mrazek has. Not only did he make the jump to the AHL last season, but he also ended up taking over the starting goaltender job.
His play led the team to the Calder Cup and earned him a two-game stint with the Red Wings. He went 1-1 with the Wings, with a 2.02 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage. Although that is a small sample of work to go with, it was still an impressive debut.
With the Griffins, he had a 2.33 GAA and a .916 save percentage. In the playoffs, he lowered that to a 2.20 GAA with four shutouts and a .922 save percentage.
During the 2012 World Junior Championships, he was named the best goaltender after carrying his team to a surprise quarterfinal finish.
His future in Detroit looks uneasy. With the recent contract that Jimmy Howard signed, there really is no room for Mrazek. At this point, he would be a better option at backup than Jonas Gustavsson. However, it would likely be better for him to be a starter in the minors for another season rather than sitting on the bench in Detroit. Unless, of course, the team plans on resting Howard more this season, which seems highly unlikely.
His best value to the team may likely be as trade bait.
Hopefully over the next couple of seasons, several of these players will be making their way into the Red Wings' lineup.