NHL Comparisons for Detroit Red Wings' Top Prospects

Daniel WilliamsContributor IIIJune 17, 2014

NHL Comparisons for Detroit Red Wings' Top Prospects

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    The NHL draft is fast approaching, and focus has shifted from the Detroit Red Wings’ current standing to hopes of a bright future.

    Detroit has the 15th overall pick in June’s draft, its highest selection since 1991 (Martin Lapointe, 10th overall).

    While plenty of young players await their draft-day dreams, Detroit’s budding stars are preparing to earn a spot with the NHL club.

    A rite of passage for any prospect, making the NHL roster—especially in Detroit—is a daunting task. A few aspects need to line up, but more importantly, the player needs to bring something to the table that sets them apart from the rest.

    The prospects that made this list provide a parallel to NHL players that piques interest. Each player is likened to an NHL talent—past or present—based on personality, skill set and on-ice execution.

    These are simple evaluations and by no means a guarantee each will develop into their match. Whether or not each prospect develops into an NHL caliber player is in their hands.

Anthony Mantha

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    Comparison: Rick Nash

    How He Compares

    The biggest reasons for comparison here are skill and size. At 6'5", Anthony Mantha actually stands one inch taller than Rick Nash, and both players have incredible mobility and innate scoring ability.

    Mantha was named the CHL’s player of the year after scoring 57 goals and 120 points in 57 games for the QMJHL’s Val-d’Or Foreurs.

    He will be a competitive player in training camp for Detroit, battling to earn a spot with the club in the first year of his three-year, entry-level contract. He and Nash are very gifted goal scorers with strength on the puck, skill to play one-on-one and the ability to use their size to their advantage.

     

    What He Brings

    Mantha is a scoring threat from anywhere at any moment. He’s one of those young talents that only comes along once in a long while.

    He has the ability to be the best natural scorer for Detroit since Sergei Fedorov.

    A big body with uncanny skill to match, he's a prototypical power forward with an unnaturally high ceiling. Although the sky is the limit for him, he is still very young and needs to mature on and off the ice to ensure a successful NHL career.

    The talent and intelligence are there, and his learning curve can progress rapidly in Detroit's system.

Teemu Pulkkinen

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    Comparison: Brett Hull

    How He Compares

    Like Brett Hull, Teemu Pulkkinen has a smaller frame (5’11”, 185 lbs) and isn’t the flashiest skater. What he lacks in speed, he makes up for with an absurd shot.

    He has a knack for finding the soft spot in the offensive zone and usually needs just one opportunity to find the back of the net. It’s rare to find a player with a naturally accurate shot, but adding his quick release and impressive power makes Pulkkinen a valuable commodity within the organization.

    He came over to the United States from Finland and his impact was immediately felt, scoring 31 goals and 59 points in 71 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins.

     

    What He Brings

    Pulkkinen isn’t the most physically blessed prospect in Detroit’s system, but that never stopped guys like Hull and Jari Kurri.

    Speed is dangerous, but Pulkkinen has hockey smarts and his shot makes him a dangerous weapon from anywhere in the offensive zone.

    The puck tends to find him on offense and his accuracy defines him as a pure sniper. He has plenty to learn in the defensive zone, both in terms of responsibility and understanding how to make an impact when playing 200-foot hockey.

    At just 22 years old, he has plenty of time to round out his game before becoming an NHL regular.

Ryan Sproul

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    Comparison: Drew Doughty

    How He Compares

    Drew Doughty is a prototypical offensive defenseman with excellent hands and natural scoring prowess. That is Ryan Sproul in a nutshell.

    The young defenseman is gifted with exceptional skating ability and innate offensive instincts. Sproul was named the CHL's top defenseman in 2012-13 and is arguably Detroit’s most prized defensive prospect.

    Early in his career, Doughty struggled to develop consistency in his own end, often sacrificing defense in favor of making an offensive play. Sproul has similar struggles, but has the work ethic and hockey intelligence to improve dramatically in a short period of time.

     

    What He Brings

    He brings everything Detroit covets in a defenseman. He is a right-handed shooter with a rocket from the point. He is very good with the puck and is a force from the blue line on the power play. He scored four of his 11 goals in Grand Rapids on the power play, with 32 total points in 72 games in his first AHL season.

    He still isn’t the strongest in the defensive zone, so another season or two in the AHL is likely and necessary.

    Standing at 6’4” and 205 pounds, adding extra muscle and strength will go a long way toward improving his narrow frame. When he shows he’s ready, he’s sure to be promoted to get him accustomed to the NHL's speed and tenacity.

Tomas Jurco

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Comparison: Marian Gaborik

    How He Compares

    Tomas Jurco has a lot in common with his NHL comparable. Both he and Marian Gaborik hail from Slovakia, have a similar stature and a penchant for finishing plays.

    Jurco scored eight goals and 15 points in his first 36-game taste of the NHL. He represented his native country in Sochi, scoring one of the team’s five goals in four games.

    He isn’t afraid to attack the dirty areas and play a physical role. In his time in Grand Rapids, Jurco showed his offensive proficiency with 13 goals and 32 points in 32 games before receiving his promotion.

    Gaborik is a proven scorer with 704 points in 810 career games, and while Jurco may not become that prolific, he has plenty of quality years ahead of him.

     

    What He Brings

    Jurco will be a dependable scorer. He has outstanding hands and is strong on the puck. He may be a bit of a late bloomer in development, as he was buried on the depth chart in juniors. Seeing another year or two with top-line minutes in the AHL could do him wonders.

    He’s already shown great speed and a knack for the spectacular in his brief NHL career.

    It’s only a matter of time before he settles in and becomes a regular on the scoresheet. He’s shown it in short stints in the AHL, and a full campaign in one setting to hone his ability will secure him a spot on the NHL roster soon enough.

Xavier Ouellet

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Comparison: Brent Seabrook

    How He Compares

    Brent Seabrook is the rock on Chicago’s top pairing alongside Duncan Keith. In a manner of speaking, Seabrook stays at home while Keith runs the errands.

    Xavier Ouellet can be that reliable force on the blue line that contributes in a multitude of ways.

    While not relatively large (6’0”, 200 lbs), he is a stable two-way defenseman with excellent mobility and a high hockey IQ. He has a little flair for offense and is really smart with the puck. He’ll be an outstanding complementary defenseman for an offensive-minded partner.

     

    What He Brings

    Ouellet brings a little bit of everything to the table. Seabrook is reliable on the back end and can contribute offensively, and Ouellet is cut from the same cloth.

    He totaled four goals and 17 points in 70 games with Grand Rapids in 2013-14. In four NHL games, he did not register a point, finished with an even plus/minus rating and two penalty minutes.

    He is probably Detroit’s NHL-readiest defensive prospect. He can play quality, dependable hockey at both ends of the ice and is valued in any situation. He’s strong on his feet, welcomes physical play and can line up against a team’s top line and on the penalty kill.

    It would not be surprising if Ouellet earns a job with Detroit coming out of camp.