The Detroit Red Wings Prospect with the Most Upside at Every Position
While Detroit Red Wings players drop like flies, the farm system continues to generate quality stand-ins.
According to Ansar Khan of MLive.com, Teemu Pulkkinen will make his NHL debut on Friday, skating in place of injured Tomas Jurco. He will be the eighth member from the Grand Rapids Griffins’ opening-day roster to play a game with the Red Wings this season.
While Detroit has struggled to stay healthy, its AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids has enjoyed great success. The Griffins are second in the Western Conference, one point out of first.
The influx of young talent has made for easy adjustments as players fluctuate between leagues. Grand Rapids hasn’t missed a step as it looks to repeat as Calder Cup champions.
Detroit has been forced to recall five forwards, three defensemen and a goaltender to fill out its ailing lineup. Among them are some of its brightest future stars.
The ceiling is high for a lot of top prospects, and Detroit has a few at every position. These are the Red Wings’ prospects with the most upside at those positions.
Center, Riley Sheahan
Riley Sheahan began his second full season with Grand Rapids looking to rebound from a disastrous off-ice predicament.
In October 2012, Sheahan was arrested in Grand Rapids for operating a vehicle with a blood-alcohol content of .30—over three times the legal limit.
He used hockey as an outlet, which helped him grow both emotionally and professionally.
Injuries gave Sheahan an opportunity at the NHL level and he told reporters that he’s enjoyed his new venture:
I think I've just been going out every day and trying to work my hardest. My spot here isn't solidified. I think I'm going to have to spend more time in Grand Rapids but I'm trying to make the most of my opportunity here. (Coach Mike Babcock) always says take your piece of the cake so I think that's what I'm trying to do.
In 25 games with Detroit, Sheahan has four goals, 14 points and is minus-two. He is 52.6 percent on faceoffs while averaging 14:15 of ice time.
Playing alongside Tomas Jurco and Tomas Tatar, the “kid line” has emerged as a legitimate offensive threat.
At 22 years old, Sheahan has valuable professional experience and could be ready to step into a permanent roster spot.
Wing, Anthony Mantha
By now, it’d be tough to find a Detroit Red Wings fan that isn’t excited about the future of Anthony Mantha.
Detroit’s first-round pick (20th overall) in the 2013 NHL draft, Mantha has led the QMJHL in scoring nearly wire to wire.
He totaled 50 goals and 89 points in 67 games with Val-d’Or in 2012-13 and was the only 50-goal scorer in the draft.
This season, he’s proving it was no fluke. In 56 games, Mantha has 56 goals and 117 points—12 more points than the next highest scorer in nine fewer games played.
He earned national attention when he displayed his innate scoring ability at the World Junior Championships for Team Canada. He tallied five goals and 11 points in seven games, earning honors as a member of the 2014 Media All-Star Team.
Detroit inked the budding star to a three-year, entry-level contract in October.
Mantha is in his final year of QMJHL eligibility and could move up to Grand Rapids when Val-d’Or’s season comes to an end.
With respect to young talents Tomas Jurco and Teemu Pulkkinen, Mantha possesses a dream bundle of size, skill and hockey sense, making him Detroit's prize prospect.
Defense, Ryan Sproul
Detroit has used three different defensemen from Grand Rapids this season, but Ryan Sproul may have the biggest upside.
Sproul has the physical necessities to grow into a top defenseman. He is a smooth skater with a heavy shot and good size (6’4”, 205 lbs).
He has evident hockey smarts, but is still very raw defensively. His offensive instincts are impressive for a 21-year-old and he could develop into a dangerous scoring blueliner.
He spent three seasons with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL, totaling 153 points in 172 games. However, he was only plus-one over that span.
Improving defensively is what will ultimately determine the kind of player he becomes. The versatility of being a two-way defenseman could quickly turn him into an NHL regular.
Sproul has plenty of time to progress and Detroit is sure to be patient. If he can round into form in his own zone, Detroit could have a solid top-two defenseman.
He is rated as Detroit’s second-best defensive prospect on RedWingsCentral.com, but his natural ability and hockey sense provide the highest ceiling.
Goalie, Petr Mrazek
Detroit doesn’t have much depth in prospects at the goaltender position, but Petr Mrazek is still an immense talent.
Taken in the fifth round (141st overall) of the 2010 NHL draft, Mrazek can already be considered a steal.
He backstopped the Griffins to the 2012-13 Calder Cup championship in just his first season with the team.
He has been reliable at both levels, splitting time between Grand Rapids and Detroit due to injuries suffered by both Jimmy Howard and Jonas Gustavsson.
Mrazek is fundamentally sound, with good lateral movement post to post. He is listed as Detroit’s No. 2 overall prospect on RedWingsCentral.com and is the team's heir apparent to Howard.
He has proven his worth faster than the club anticipated and could deliver friendly competition for Howard soon.
CapGeek.com indicates that Howard has five years remaining on his contract, but with Mrazek waiting in the wings, Detroit’s crease is in good hands.