Breaking Down Detroit Red Wings' Prospect Depth at Each Position
The Detroit Red Wings’ farm system has received a multitude of attention over the course of the last two seasons.
Between the emergence of Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar, Anthony Mantha’s first-round selection in the 2013 NHL draft and the Grand Rapids Griffins’ Calder Cup title, it’s undoubtedly merited.
With a plenitude of budding young stars in the making, Detroit is beginning to see for itself the genuine skill waiting to seize an opportunity. Ten players from Grand Rapids’ 2013 championship roster have skated with Detroit in the NHL this season.
Most notably are Tatar and Nyquist, who have combined for 27 goals and 48 points on a team struggling to stay healthy. Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco have become third-line staples since their promotion and are proving they can compete at the top level.
Anthony Mantha was selected 20th overall in last June’s NHL draft and currently leads the QMJHL with 90 points in 42 games. Between the talent in the minors and those migrating from overseas, Red Wings brass salivates while opposing teams envy.
There is plenty more talent waiting in the wings eager to make the big time. Here’s a closer look into Detroit’s prospect depth at each position.
Detroit has a great bit of flexibility down the middle. With world-class players like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, who could argue?
Center is currently Detroit’s deepest position in regards to NHL-ready talent. Current Red Wings Luke Glendening and Riley Sheahan are making the most of their opportunities centering the bottom two lines.
The play of Sheahan and Glendening has kept them on the NHL roster, and Cory Emmerton has seen his fair share of time as well. When Detroit gets healthy, Sheahan and Glendening are likely to return to the AHL.
Meanwhile in Grand Rapids, Emmerton and Landon Ferraro are the top centermen, while newcomer Calle Jarnkrok is receiving his share of North American experience.
After spending the last few seasons in Sweden, Jarnkrok made his jump to the AHL, where he’s compiled a modest 24 points in 44 games. Griffins head coach Jeff Blashill remains high on his skill set via redwingscentral.com:
He’s such a complete player, so, so well-rounded in his game that he never cheats at all offensively. When you’re going from a bigger sheet [of ice] to playing on a smaller sheet and the NHL style, you have to learn to create the same offense. But because he’s such a complete player, he’s not willing to do it without sacrificing the defense. That makes the transition for those well-rounded offensive guys a little bit longer. But it’s just a matter of time, in my opinion.
Same could be said regarding Landon Ferraro, the son of former NHL star Ray Ferraro. The 32nd pick in the 2009 draft is in his third season with the Griffins and has just 44 goals and 91 points in 174 games.
Ferraro is a good leader on the ice who can play in any situation but doesn’t have the scoring touch associated with his name. He’s a restricted free agent at the end of the season and could be at a crossroads in his career in Detroit’s system.
The Red Wings are looking forward to the abundance of youth they have down the middle, and depth at center is a valuable asset come playoff time. If any team has the playoff experience to prove that fact, it’s the Red Wings.
While they may not be NHL ready, or even playing at the AHL level, Detroit’s stock of young wingers is formidable and rich in talent.
Tomas Jurco is the most notable prospect enjoying the biggest stage, but Anthony Mantha is the name that has gotten the most recognition.
Jurco has played alongside Tomas Tatar and Riley Sheahan on Detroit’s third line and has settled into his role nicely. He has two goals and six points in 18 games with Detroit but had 32 points in 32 games with Grand Rapids before his promotion.
Mantha was the only 50-goal scorer available in the 2013 draft but is currently on a torrid pace with 43 goals and 90 points in 42 games with Val-d’Or of the QMJHL. He could be the special kind of talent that forces his way to the NHL at an early age.
Mantha has already signed an entry-level contract and could join Grand Rapids this year when Val-d’Or's season comes to a close.
The surprise contributor so far has been Finland native Teemu Pulkkinen playing in his first full season in North America. In 47 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins, Pulkkinen has potted 18 goals and a team-best 40 points—good for 11th in the league.
Another talent turning heads is 19-year-old Andreas Athanasiou with the Barrie Colts of the OHL. In 48 games this season, the talented winger has notched a career-high 34 goals and 70 points—good for eighth in the league.
He’s a tremendous skater with blinding speed but still needs to find a level of consistency. He'll certainly make an impact wherever he plays, but until he can round into a complete player, he’ll spend a lot of time in development.
On the wing, Detroit has certainly done wonders to restock the cupboard. The immense raw talent in these individuals provides tremendous depth and a very exciting glimpse into the future of Hockeytown.
It’s a very exciting time for Detroit fans when they can celebrate a healthy abundance of talent-laden individuals on the blue line.
Detroit currently has the youngest defensive corps since Nick Lidstrom was under the age of 30, and is stocked with much more. The hottest of their young defensemen isn’t a household name.
The 22-year-old Russian Alexey Marchenko has built off of his professional experience in the KHL and brought it to Grand Rapids. Although he has just 17 points in 42 games, the two-way defenseman was the only Griffins player named to the 2014 All-Star Classic roster.
He made his NHL debut on Jan. 5 against the Dallas Stars, earning a plus-two rating.
As far as the numbers are concerned, Adam Almquist is making the most noise in Grand Rapids. With 32 points in 44 games, Almquist is third on the team in scoring and ranks sixth among AHL defensemen.
The next-highest scoring defenseman for Grand Rapids is budding star Ryan Sproul, who is the second-ranked defensive prospect in the organization according to redwingscentral.com. Sproul’s 23 points rank 19th among blueliners and are good for eighth overall on the team.
The size and skating ability Sproul possesses makes him a coveted member of the system. At 6’3” 185 pounds, the 21-year-old is quite an attractive commodity for other clubs.
In saving the proverbial best for last, redwingcentral.com’s top-rated defensive prospect is Xavier Ouellet. The 20-year-old has 13 points in 44 games but is a driving force on the blue line and a key to Grand Rapids’ success this season.
More defensive-minded than the aforementioned prospects, Ouellet provides decent size (6'1") and good mobility. His responsibility in his own end grants him time in all facets of the game. Strong with the puck, he can also occasionally contribute offensive flair.
While Detroit’s defense has struggled mightily this season, some of these players have stepped in for a short stint and performed admirably.
While they’re not ripe for NHL play, they definitely have the skills to compete at the professional level, and Detroit is sure to provide what they need to get there.
It’s fair to say that a lot of teams don’t carry an assembly of goaltending prospects—Detroit has just one with a shot at an NHL career.
Petr Mrazek already has a few in Hockeytown buzzing for their goaltender of the future, even with the recent play of Jimmy Howard and Jonas Gustavsson. He is redwingcentral.com’s second-highest-rated prospect.
Mrazek has started four games (appeared in seven) in Detroit this season due to multiple injuries to Howard and Gustavsson. In that time he has a 1-3-0 record, a 1.64 goals-against average, .924 save percentage and one shutout.
In Grand Rapids this season, Mrazek is 11-3-1 with a 2.20 goals-against average, .923 save percentage and one shutout. As a rookie, he led Grand Rapids to a Calder Cup championship with a 15-9 record in 24 playoff games.
During Mrazek’s time in Detroit, former 2008 first-round pick (30th overall) Tom McCollum settled between the pipes with a record of 18-9-1 with two shutouts in 32 games.
After failing to establish himself as a top prospect, McCollum has taken up shop as a possible career minor leaguer. It’s not to say he won’t earn a shot. At 24 years old, his prime is still ahead of him. With a talent like Mrazek starting over him in the AHL, a starting gig is unlikely.
Sitting in a distant third is Jared Coreau, whose numbers indicate he isn’t going to take anyone’s job anytime soon. The former Northern Michigan University standout is 0-4-0 in five games with Grand Rapids and produced a 4.39 goals-against average.
Detroit certainly doesn’t have the depth between the pipes that they do at other positions, but their leading prospect in net is top-of-the-line.
The growing number of possible breakout stars in the farm system is truly impeccable, but then again, not all young players pan out in the end.
While Detroit gets healthy and makes their push for a 23rd straight playoff appearance, their young talent will continue to work, develop and await their big moment.