Re-Grading Detroit Red Wings' Last 5 1st-Round Picks
The NHL draft is here, and each club’s front office is finalizing its strategy with hopes, wants and needs. Each team has certain talent in mind, but will also keep its options and phone lines open.
The Detroit Red Wings have the 15th overall pick, their highest since taking Martin Lapointe with the 10th choice in 1991. However, if history is any indication, trading down is a more likely scenario.
In seven of the last eight seasons the Red Wings have had a first-round pick, they have traded down, often acquiring an additional pick in the process.
It’s a tough decision to make, but Detroit traded out of the 18th spot in 2013, selecting Anthony Mantha at No. 20 and Tyler Bertuzzi with the additional pick acquired (58th overall).
Detroit has made some quality decisions in the first round, as well. Only one of its last five opening-round selections has yet to reach the NHL, four of which have an opportunity to crack the roster for the 2014-15 campaign.
These are the new grades for Detroit’s last five first-round draft picks.
Draft year: 2013
Pick: First round, 20th overall
Mantha is Detroit’s only first-round selection on this list who has yet to reach the NHL.
It will not take him long.
Mantha obliterated the QMJHL last season, posting a bewildering 57 goals and 120 points in 57 games for Val-d’Or. He is Detroit’s top prospect according to Red Wings Central and could battle for a roster spot at training camp.
The only reason he did not receive an “A” is because he has yet to play in the professional ranks. The sky is the limit for a player of his innate ability, but without true professional experience under his belt, it’s hard to justify such a high grade.
At 6’5” and 204 pounds, the Longueuil, Quebec native is a rare combination of great size and impeccable skill, making him one the most attractive prospects on paper. His performances in the QMJHL playoffs and the IIHF World Junior championship prove the NHL will soon see his shadow.
He’ll receive plenty of opportunities to showcase his talents in the preseason, and if he demonstrates he is NHL ready, Detroit won’t hesitate to grant him a spot.
He is that good.
Draft year: 2010
Pick: First round, 21st overall
Riley Sheahan was promoted to fill one of many holes in the Red Wings lineup caused by injury last season, and he made his presence felt.
Playing initially in a bottom-six role, he eventually was called upon to center the second line and embrace multiple roles.
He performed admirably, scoring nine goals and 24 points in 42 games while showing great versatility and reliability. He had trouble elevating his game in the postseason but was an impressive addition nonetheless.
In his stint, he was able to answer when called upon to kill penalties, win crucial faceoffs or take on a scoring role. He displayed notable passing ability and vision as a key contributor in qualifying for a 23rd consecutive playoff appearance.
The most important part of his game is his accountability. He’s a well-built, two-way forward that excels in his own end and shows willingness to go into the corners and the front of the net. He finished 10th on the team in scoring and fifth with a plus-eight rating.
Sheahan is likely to secure a roster spot after an impressive first season. Whatever the role he’s given, the 22-year-old has certainly shown he is NHL ready.
Draft year: 2008
Pick: First round, 30th overall
Admittedly, this writer has been very hard on Tom McCollum as a prospect. At one point, it appeared the 24-year-old was destined to be a minor-leaguer, but he may have salvaged his career in 2013-14.
Before last season, he bounced between Grand Rapids of the AHL and Toledo of the ECHL with regularity, struggling to show any form of consistency and dependability.
He backed up Petr Mrazek in 2012-13 and was a member of Grand Rapids’ Calder Cup championship team. Last season, McCollum saw plenty of minutes after an injury to Jonas Gustavsson forced Mrazek’s promotion to Detroit.
He was a restricted free agent prior to last season when Detroit signed him to a minor-league deal. The club has made it clear that Mrazek is its top goaltending prospect, but McCollum’s resurgence could earn him a second look.
He went 24-12-4 with a 2.30 goals-against average, a .922 save percentage and two shutouts in his best season as a professional. His 24 wins ranked 11th in the league.
While it is not realistic that he’ll make the NHL through Detroit’s system, he has shown he can make the adjustment after all. He’s young enough to still earn a shot, but in Detroit, he’ll be nothing more than a depth player.
Draft year: 2007
Pick: First round, 27th overall
Brendan Smith could finally be on the verge of his breakout season.
The 25-year-old had the finest season of his young career, posting five goals and 19 points and was one of Detroit’s best players in its first-round series against the Boston Bruins.
While he did not record a point, he was one of four players—and the only defenseman—to finish with a positive plus/minus (plus-one). He averaged 19:36 of ice time, a full minute more than he averaged during the regular season.
Smith was one of Detroit’s top prospects before earning his opportunity as an NHL regular. With two seasons under his belt—albeit one shortened by the lockout—he could be on the cusp of a big year.
Although Detroit is looking to add a top-four defenseman this offseason, Smith is sure to be a valuable piece on the blue line. He has the potential to be a contributing offensive defenseman but still makes a few rookie mistakes here and there.
If he can improve in his own end, he could become a significantly more valuable commodity. He showed he can increase the level of his play in the postseason and rounding out his skill would make invaluable.
He still has plenty of time to mature before he enters his prime, and if last year is any indication, he could make big strides in 2014-15.
Draft year: 2005
Pick: First round, 19th overall
Jakub Kindl has had plenty of time to prove himself as a first-round talent, but he has not developed the way the club had hoped.
At 27 years old, he has skated in 213 games and totaled just 49 points and plus-10. For his size (6’3”, 216 pounds), he does not excel in the physical game and has not looked comfortable in his own zone. He totaled two goals and 19 points in 66 games last season, which is just six more than he totaled in 2012-13—in 25 more games.
Although he played in 55 regular-season games in 2011-12, he did not suit up in the postseason. Last season, he was replaced in the lineup for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Boston Bruins by Xavier Ouellet.
At his age and with a plethora of capable prospects in the system, time may be running out for Kindl. Detroit has shown a recent willingness to give its youngsters a shot, which could make him expendable.
He is making $2.4 million against the salary cap in each of the next three season and could be trade bait at the NHL draft, or any point this summer.
If he remains with the club come training camp, he’ll need to show significant improvement if he’s going to maintain a spot in the lineup.