Projecting Top-End Potential for Detroit Red Wings' Best Prospects
The Detroit Red Wings franchise has built a reputation on winning through the drafting of under-the-radar players over the past two decades.
The current crop of prospects has as much, if not more potential than any group of prospects over those past two decades.
Potential can be smoke and mirrors, but if Detroit's top prospects reach their full potential, the Red Wings will remain relevant in the NHL for a long time.
Detroit has a lot of premier prospects, but only the best of the best make this list.
Here are the top Red Wings prospects, and projections for best-case scenarios for each of them.
To say Anthony Mantha is having a fantastic season in the QMJHL would be understating what he has done thus far.
The 19-year-old has 54 points in just 23 games. He is currently leading the league in scoring by 15 points and seems like an unstoppable force.
While it is just the QMJHL, Mantha's domination by such a wide margin projects very well for a Red Wings squad that arguably hasn't had a bonafide sniper in their lineup since Marian Hossa left in the 2009 offseason.
If Mantha gets the right players around him and continues developing in either the AHL or NHL next season, he could be a bonafide 40-goal scorer within five years in the NHL.
Either way, the Red Wings have a special player on their hands and he will be fun to watch when he goes professional.
Nyquist leads the Grand Rapids Griffins in scoring with 21 points in 15 games. His point total so far this season has keyed the Griffins to eight wins in their last 10 contests.
Nyquist would likely be on the Detroit Red Wings if they had a roster spot, salary cap space and if he would not lose his waiver exemption by playing two more NHL games.
Despite the fact that he is not on the Red Wings just yet, Nyquist will likely have a permanent role as a top-six forward next season. Whether he can excel in that role or not will depend on how quickly he can adjust to his linemates.
While putting a point total on next season seems foolhardy at best, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Nyquist hit 50 points in a season in his time with Detroit, given what he has done in Grand Rapids over the past couple of seasons.
Petr Mrazek has shown that he can win at any level of hockey.
Mrazek has played in three career NHL games, posting a 2-1 record with a shutout in his only appearance in 2013-14.
While it would be wrong to think of Mrazek as the Red Wings' goaltender of the immediate future, he could actually challenge for a roster spot in a couple of seasons.
Mrazek held down the fort last season for the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins, and they won the Calder Cup behind his goaltending.
This season, Mrazek has been splitting time with Tom McCollum, but that is because Mrazek has been up to the Red Wings to sit in as the backup goaltender after Jimmy Howard and Jonas Gustavsson went down with injuries.
The top-end potential for Mrazek is that he ends up starting some time down the road. Howard is locked up as a Red Wing for the next five seasons, and there is limited possibility that he gets traded elsewhere if he keeps up his solid play.
However, Mrazek is a solid option for a No. 1 goaltender of the future.
Whether that is in Detroit or elsewhere is still up for discussion.
What has Ryan Sproul done in the past year and why is he on this list over other defensemen who have played NHL games this season, such as Adam Almquist and Xavier Ouellet?
The fact of the matter is that Sproul actually has better offensive upside than either Almquist or Ouellet.
Sproul was named the CHL's "Defenseman of the Year" in 2012-13, and has transitioned well to the AHL this season with five goals and 12 points in 16 contests.
Hockey's Future also writes that Sproul is "no longer...knocked for his skating ability or defensive skills," having "vastly improved" in those areas since being drafted.
It is unrealistic to say when he could make an appearance on the Detroit blue line due to the backup in young defensemen. However, it is very realistic to say that Sproul will get some serious looks by the Red Wings' brass to see if he can be an everyday, top-four defenseman that can quarterback a power play.
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