The Red Wings have an abundance of young talent that could force their way into the NHL.
The Detroit Red Wings are quite difficult to predict. Just when it’s time for a highly-touted prospect to step into the spotlight, someone unexpected gets the call.
Detroit has a tendency to let its prospects season in the minor leagues a while longer than most clubs. Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar are examples of skill players who had to wait for their opportunity when a grinder like Joakim Andersson made the jump ahead of them. Some thought that Nyquist was going to make the team out of training camp when Detroit re-signed veteran forward Daniel Cleary.
It’s a crapshoot when trying to predict what will come from hockey minds like coach Mike Babcock and general manager Ken Holland. They know what the team needs in the lineup and what players can provide it. Meanwhile, the Red Wings have a lot of talent working its way up the ranks as well as some quality role players.
Without further ado, here is this writer’s prediction of the next five prospects to arrive in the NHL.
Adam Almquist scored his first career goal in just his second game.
Adam Almquist turned heads with his offensive instincts during the preseason and it earned him a two-game stint with the big club in November.
The 5’11”, 174-pound Swede doesn’t possess the ideal size for an NHL blueliner, but his hard shot and good vision make him a commodity in the organization. In just his second NHL game, Almquist scored his first career goal in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Dallas Stars.
Currently playing with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL, Almquist has 13 points (all assists) in 18 games. Detroit has lately been more willing to turn to youth on their back end with the average age being 27 years old. Kyle Quincey is in the last year of his contract and could be headed for free agency. An open roster spot could allow Almquist to prove his worth and provide an offensive spark from a bottom pairing.
At 22 years old it is more likely he'll spend another season or two in Grand Rapids while Detroit finds a short-term solution, but a promotion may not be far off. Until then, he can continue to improve in his own zone while adding more muscle to increase his strength.
Tomas Jurco is averaging a point per game so far in the 2013-14 AHL season.
Tomas Jurco is a big part of Detroit’s future. In his second full season with Grand Rapids, he’s averaging more than a point per game with 10 goals and 13 assists in 21 games.
The flashy forward from Slovakia is Detroit’s third-best prospect according to redwingscentral.com and could be ready to make the jump very soon. Detroit has five forwards playing with expiring contracts and Jurco’s production will garner a serious look for the post-trade deadline roster expansion.
Standing 6’2” with an innate scoring ability, he has been compared to former Red Wing Marian Hossa. His skill set is exciting to watch, and if he continues to progress he can be a top scorer in the NHL. He currently ranks eighth in the AHL in points, six behind the league's leader.
Jurco flew under most radars skating behind NHL draft picks Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida), Nathan Beaulieu (Montreal) and Zack Phillips (Minnesota) while with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL. The oversight by some teams could make Jurco a dynamic second-round steal for Detroit with the 35th overall pick in the 2011 NHL draft.
Luke Glendening is a good penalty killer and adds solid depth at the center position.
Luke Glendening may not be the most attractive choice, but he has spent some time in Detroit already this season and earned his place.
Glendening has skated in nine games for the big club totaling a minus-3 with four penalty minutes. While he spent the majority of his time on the fourth line, he still saw the ice on the penalty kill. His stats don’t do his play justice, which has earned the praise of Coach Babcock:
He plays good every time he's here. He's just smart. Good player, good faceoff guy, real good penalty kill guy. We don't hide him when we play him. He goes right on the penalty kill. He does good things for us. We think he's an NHL guy.
In 14 games with Grand Rapids, Glendening has three goals and eight points. His even-strength minutes have dipped with the demotion of NHL forwards Jordin Tootoo, Patrick Eaves and Cory Emmerton, but he’s still an asset on special teams.
He’s a blue-collar skater who plays hard at both ends of the ice, and that’s the kind of player Babcock plugs into the lineup. It’s possible he could get the call again this season, and perhaps a roster spot when contracts expire this offseason.
Anthony Mantha has the makings of an NHL superstar.
Anthony Mantha is tearing up the QMJHL and it’s exactly what the Detroit brass expected. The Red Wings had their heart set on Mantha during the 2013 draft, even after swinging a trade with the San Jose Sharks to move down two spots in the first round.
Mantha leads the QMJHL in goals (30), assists (32) and points (62) through 28 games, and appears to be on the fast track to the NHL. The 19-year-old was the only player in the 2013 draft to top the 50-goal plateau and is well on his way to do it again.
I remember before the draft Ken [Holland] told me, 'We'll get you,' and they did. I thought before Detroit drafted maybe another team may get me, but when it was Detroit I was happy because that meant a lot to me for them to have that confidence. It makes me want to make them proud they chose me even more. They showed they believe in me and I'm trying my hardest now to improve and do what I need to do to make the next level.
Mantha is redwingcentral.com’s fourth-highest rated prospect in the organization with plenty of room to grow. He is an exciting prospect that possesses a rare combination of size and skill that leads one to believe he’ll do it all at the highest level. If he doesn’t make an appearance when rosters expand in March, an opportunity next fall would be intriguing.
Xavier Ouellet could grow into a stable NHL blueliner.
Xavier Ouellet has already spent a short time in the NHL, and could see more as the season progresses.
The 6’1’, 190-pound defenseman played in three games with the Red Wings averaging over 13 minutes of ice time. With Dan DeKeyser still on the long-term injured reserve list, Ouellet could see another promotion should any of the starting six defenseman miss time.
His size is more suitable than the aforementioned Adam Almquist, and he plays a two-way style that could earn him the first call from Detroit. Currently with the Griffins, Ouellet has one goal and six points in 19 games and an impressive plus-10 rating.
He’s a reliable body on the blue line, responsible in his own zone and not afraid to throw his weight around. Ouellet is steady and makes a lot of the subtle plays that go unnoticed. He won’t light up the scoreboard, but can certainly keep the opponent off of it. In the same boat as Almquist, Ouellet could battle for a roster spot should Kyle Quincey sport a different uniform next year.
Unfortunately, it is more likely that he’ll fall victim to another Ken Holland short-term solution. The front office in Detroit may feel more comfortable with a seasoned veteran to give Ouellet and others more time to grow into the NHL-ready players the Red Wings prefer.
Until then, he could still receive multiple spot starts throughout the remainder of this season due to injury or roster expansion.