The Detroit Red Wings have been successful in their attempts to reload rather than rebuild.
While the Detroit Red Wings are hoping to win now, there is also a significant amount of attention dedicated to securing their future.
When Detroit hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2001-02, it was thought they were facing trouble with aging veterans like Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan, Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille. The youth of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg helped bridge the gap that allowed the team to reload, rather than rebuild.
Detroit won the Stanley Cup in 2008 with the leadership of that talent and looks to do the same with their current pool of budding young stars. Here’s a look at the five most important prospects to the future of Hockeytown.
Anthony Mantha was taken by Detroit with the 20th pick in the 2013 NHL draft.
A brand new member to the organization, Anthony Mantha is currently playing with Val-d’Or of the QMJHL.
Mantha was taken in the first round (20th overall) in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft and was the only player in this year’s draft to score 50 goals. He currently leads the QMJHL in scoring with a whopping 19 goals and 39 points in 15 games—12 points ahead of second place.
The Red Wings were eyeing Mantha even when they traded with San Jose and moved down two spots. They also acquired a second round pick (58th overall) in the deal.
Mantha is listed at 6’5” 204 pounds and brings deadly accuracy along with great skating ability. He can provide the type of natural scoring ability that this writer compares to Sergei Fedorov. A tremendous combination of this size and skill is certainly an asset worth coveting.
Ryan Sproul is one of Detroit's top defensive prospects.
Ryan Sproul is the No. 6 overall prospect according to redwingscentral.com, but is their top-rated defenseman.
Currently playing for the Grand Rapids Griffins, Sproul has three goals and six points in nine games. The 20-year-old Mississauga native was taken with a second-round pick (55th overall) in the 2011 NHL draft. At 6’4” 205 pounds he provides good size and speed with tremendous offensive instincts as expressed by Detroit’s director of player development, Jiri Fischer, back in 2012:
He’s a dominant go-to offensive power-play guy who I think is offensively as good as anyone in major junior hockey. He still has a lot of work to do in the D-zone and all-around game and how to be a little harder to play against.
Detroit currently boasts one of the youngest defensive corps they’ve had in recent memory, but they're certainly high on Sproul’s future.
Petr Mrazek is Detroit's goalie of the future.
Petr Mrazek is already a familiar name with Red Wings fans. He had two starts during the 2012-13 season when injuries plagued Detroit’s regular goaltenders.
He finished with a record of 1-1-0 with 2.02 goals-against average and .922 save percentage and wowed Hockeytown at just 21 years old. He went on to backstop the Grand Rapids Griffins to their first Calder Cup title in the AHL that season.
The Ostrava, Czech Republic native is fundamentally sound and shows excellent athletic prowess. In 2012 he spent time at all three levels of the organization, playing three games for the Toledo Walleye (ECHL), two games with Detroit and ultimately 42 with the Griffins.
After seeing his level of success in just one season the Wings are certainly excited for what’s in store for Mrazek down the road. Since Jimmy Howard is firmly entrenched as the starter, Mrazek can bide his time until his opportunity comes along.
Tomas Jurco showed much improvement in last year's Calder Cup playoffs.
Tomas Jurco can turn heads with his tricks but is beginning to put up the numbers that prove he’s no flash in the pan.
Jurco was taken in the second round (35th overall) in the 2011 NHL draft, just 20 spots ahead of Ryan Sproul. Redwingscentral.com ranks Jurco as the fourth-highest prospect and top right wing. In his first season with Grand Rapids, Jurco put up a modest 28 points in 74 games and contributed 14 points in 24 playoff games.
The Kosice, Slovakia native is known for his stick-handling prowess, but is off to a hot start this year with a team-best 10 points in their first nine games. His seven assists are also a team-high as he looks to improve upon his breakout postseason performance. His head coach Jeff Blashill sees his talent as well:
When you see some of the goals he’s scored, you say to yourself, ‘OK, this guy has a chance (to play in the NHL), because other people just can’t do that.
He’s a unique talent that this team can use as both a complementary player as well as a featured scorer when his time on the big stage finally arrives.
Calle Jarnkrok could be a big piece for Detroit down the road.
Calle Jarnkrok is a prized possession for the Red Wings’ farm system and is another scouting product of Detroit’s “master” of European scouting, Hakan Andersson.
Andersson has scouted many European stars, including current Wings Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson and Johan Franzen. Jarnkrok is another player that Andersson is rather high on:
Jarnkrok really gives it everything he has, every shift, which is something that obviously can be taught, but it’s really nice when a player has it from the beginning … He’s got all the other stuff, like the hockey sense, the hands, and very good work ethic.
Jarnkrok came over from Sweden late last season and played nine games with the Griffins, recording three assists. This being his first full season in the AHL, Jarnkrok has posted two goals and four points in the first nine games.
He’s a driven center with a high motor and quick hands in full flight. Red Wings scout Ari Vuori likened him to Henrik Zetterberg in his drive and ability with the puck. That's quite the compliment and something for Detroit fans to look forward to.