Goal Scorers Detroit Red Wings Should Target in 2014 NHL Draft
The Detroit Red Wings pride themselves on their disciplined, defensively responsible style of play, but it sometimes costs them in the offensive zone.
Detroit had just one 20-goal scorer this past season in Gustav Nyquist (28 goals), who was not on the roster to open the year.
Henrik Zetterberg (age 33), Pavel Datsyuk (35) and Johan Franzen (34) won’t be around forever, and Detroit needs some young guns to transition to the NHL level.
After suffering through much of the 2013-14 season without its top scorers due to injury, Detroit will be looking for some talented shooters in June’s NHL draft to stock up its farm system.
Detroit has a few quality threats in its system already, but can a team ever have too many scorers? Let’s take a look at some that the Red Wings should seriously consider announcing at the podium come June.
Jake Virtanen: RW, Calgary Hitmen, WHL
Jake Virtanen is a versatile forward who isn’t afraid to throw his weight around.
At 6’0” and 208 pounds, the 18-year-old models his game after New York Rangers forward Rick Nash but with a bit of a mean streak.
In 71 games with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL, he scored 45 goals and 71 points. His 45 goals were sixth in the league in 2013-14, after he had just 16 in his rookie campaign.
After scoring 34 points in 62 games as a rookie in the WHL, his sophomore season saw him double his offensive output while nearly tripling his goal total.
He also has a bit of experience with the draft process, having been selected No. 1 overall in the 2011 WHL bantam draft.
Unfortunately, the young winger is expected to miss four to six weeks after undergoing shoulder surgery, according to TSN. He will not participate in the fitness portion of the scouting combine.
His willingness to play the physical game accompanied by a natural scoring ability makes him a good fit for Detroit, which doesn’t have many prospects who fit that dimension. The NHL is big, fast and violent, and Virtanen appears ready for it.
Jakub Vrana: C, Linkoping, Sweden
Jakub Vrana would be a keen fit for the Red Wings, as they covet European prospects.
He is a sly center with remarkable skill and good hockey sense. Detroit likes to play smart, finesse hockey, and he would be a good fit. Although he’s undersized for a center (5’11”), Detroit lacks prospect depth at the position.
NHL director of European scouting Goran Stubb discussed Vrana, via Mike G. Morreale of NHL.com:
He plays with determination and drive, has an excellent work ethic and is a very fast skater with excellent all-round skills. He's got OK size and strength. But he's able to control the game and create a lot of scoring possibilities with his quick moves.
Central Scouting’s fourth-ranked European skater averaged a point per game with Linkoping Jr. and tallied 14 goals and 25 points in 24 games this season. He comes in at the 36th overall skater on Craig Button’s list.
Adding some muscle will make up for his lack of size, but as Detroit has shown with prospects Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar, skill trumps size.
Nick Schmaltz: C, Green Bay Gamblers, USHL
Nick Schmaltz is a gifted skater and blessed with creativity on the ice.
A solid offensive talent, he finished tied for seventh in the USHL with 63 points in 55 games for the Green Bay Gamblers. He scored just 18 goals, but his 45 assists finished best on the team and third in the league.
A bit more of a playmaker than a goal scorer, Schmaltz still possesses an accurate shot and keen hockey intelligence.
The 18-year-old has already committed to play at the University of North Dakota and is a likely first-round talent come June. Detroit selects 15th overall, and as Craig Button’s 22nd-ranked skater, he could be available for Detroit.
He was a member of the 2013 U.S. Under-18 team that won silver at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament, and he led the team in scoring with five goals and nine points. He won gold at the 2013 World Junior A Challenge and led the tournament with 12 points in four games.
He plays fast and hard at both ends of the ice and shows an excellent work ethic. Detroit likes playmakers at the center position, and Schmaltz fits the mold.
Nikita Scherbak: LW, Saskatoon Blades, WHL
As a rookie with the Saskatoon Blades, Nikita Scherbak had no trouble adjusting to North American hockey.
He is Central Scouting’s 15th-ranked North American skater and provides excellent offensive punch after an apparent smooth transition to the U.S. If he can manage to improve upon his impressive season, he could be one of the league’s top prospects.
Detroit has never been afraid to ease its European prospects into North American hockey, almost to a fault. His skill set and work ethic fit well into Detroit’s style, and he also notes Pavel Datsyuk as his childhood hockey idol.
Because Detroit doesn’t have a second-round pick, it may have to reach or trade down in order to get the talent it wants. If he’s available, Scherbak may the best scoring fit obtainable in the middle-to-late first round.
Nicholas Ritchie: LW, Peterborough Petes, OHL
Nicholas Ritchie brings excellent ability to the table for any team that is looking for that special combination of size and skill.
The 6'2", 231-pound winger has shown the ability to take over a game, including a five-goal explosion in a 7-6 shootout loss at the hands of the Kingston Frontenacs.
Detroit has Johan Franzen currently filling that role at the NHL level, but to have another player of similar size and skill developing in the system would be noteworthy.
Ritchie put up 39 goals and 74 points in 61 games, while his 136 penalty minutes were good for fifth in the OHL.
He’s the seventh-ranked skater according to Central Scouting and is expected to go in the first round of the NHL draft. Picking at No. 15 could be the right spot for Detroit to snag the power forward.
It is possible Detroit could trade down in the first round and perhaps snag a second-round pick in the process. If it should do so, then Ritchie likely wouldn't be available.
Should the team stick with what it has, the big Ontario native could be the name read by general manager Ken Holland in the middle of the first round.