Something that a lot of people haven't quite figured out yet is that the Detroit Red Wings have a knack for drafting and developing players well.
A lot of people call it luck, but I'd say a team that drafts Pavel Datsyuk (sixth round), Henrik Zetterberg (seventh), Nicklas Lidstrom (third), Johan Franzen (third), Valtteri Filppula (third), Sergei Fedorov (third), Tomas Holmstrom (10th) and Darren Helm (fifth) is a little more than lucky.
Nonetheless, roughly a decade after people began chanting about how the Wings' door was closing with the aging of Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan and Sergei Fedorov, those same people have come back to do it again.
I guess it's true what they say—those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
With that, let's look at the top five prospects in the Red Wings system.
Drafted: 210th overall
ETA: 2012-2013 season at the earliest
I had to add this kid in. Not a lot of people know about him yet, but there's something about Almqvist that makes me think he's going to be a big deal when he makes it to the NHL as a defenseman.
Maybe it's the fact that he's a Swede drafted 210th overall, like a certain Red Wings superstar.
It's either that or the fact that he's a Swedish defenseman described by Hockey's Future as having "hockey sense that's through the roof." Doesn't that sound familiar, Wings fans?
Either way, keep Almqvist on your radar over the next few years.
Position: Left wing
Drafted: 182nd overall
ETA: 2011-2012 season
Look at that forecheck. Mursak made his NHL debut for the Red Wings last season, and he impressed many. While he only registered one point in 19 games, Mursak still wreaked havoc on the forecheck, much like Darren Helm did in his first days as a Red Wing.
While Helm is a little bit faster than Mursak, Mursak possesses the one thing that seems to hold Helm back from being a star, and that is good hands. Watch out for Mursak when he gets on a breakaway, because his chances of scoring are higher than Helm's.
Jan Mursak could end up being a star in the NHL, but I wouldn't expect it until seeing a little bit more from him.
Either way, Mursak's contract is now one-way, and he's too good for Detroit to let him slip away, so expect him in the NHL next season, even if he's only rotating in.
Mursak-Helm-Patrick Eaves...new Grind Line, anybody?
Drafted: 60th overall
ETA: 2012-2013 season
Tatar made his NHL debut in the middle of the 2010-2011 season like Jan Mursak, but Tomas ended up playing fewer games and scored his first goal faster than Mursak did.
Judging by the video, the kid has hands. That looked like something Pavel Datsyuk would do, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. He can also obviously forecheck very well, as Red Wings fans saw during the season.
Tatar is like Mursak—he could be a star, or he could be a depth player—but the big advantage Tatar has over Mursak is three years. Tatar is already considered the better player, and he's three years younger.
Expect Tatar to spend next season in Grand Rapids and then receive a permanent call-up to Detroit's roster.
Drafted: 51st overall
ETA: 2012-2013 season at the earliest; most likely 2013-2014 season
Jarnkrok has already earned himself a nickname over in Sweden that has many Wings fans excited to see him in the Winged Wheel.
Jarnkrok's stats are comparable to a certain Red Wings player who played in the same Swedish league at the same age. That Red Wing just so happens to be his favorite player, and coincidentally, he's nicknamed after that player.
With the nickname "Henrik Zetterberg's Clone," why wouldn't Wings fans be excited?
Jarnkrok promises to be a good player, provided he can put on 20 to 30 pounds over the next few years. At his current size of 5'11", 156 pounds (another source says 165, so it's possible he gained that much over the last year), Jarnkrok will get pummeled in the NHL.
Jiri Hudler is heavier than that, and Red Wings fans like myself joke all the time about the wind knocking him over. Calle Jarnkrok will certainly have to gain some muscle mass if he ever wants to reach his NHL potential.
That NHL potential is high, considering ESPN ranked him the top European prospect in the NHL.
Yet on this list, he's not the top European prospect...
Drafted: 27th overall
ETA: 2011-2012 season at the earliest; 2012-2013 likely
Depending on whether or not Almqvist reaches his potential, he and Smith could end up being Detroit's top defensive pair in 10 years. Smith's offensive skill is through the roof, though some say his defense leaves a bit to be desired.
Either way, with Detroit's defensive system, Smith will have every opportunity to improve on his defensive game, and if he does, look out for a future Norris Trophy finalist.
Brendan Smith did have attitude problems in the past, but assuming those have been solved, he should get along fine with Red Wings management.
As for when he will debut, it's almost certain you'll see him play at least one game in the 2011-2012 season, but the chances of him playing a full season or even working in as a seventh defender are very low.
Despite that likelihood, Ken Holland told sportsnet.ca columnist Mark Spector last season that Smith should probably already be playing 15 minutes a night in the NHL. On May 25, Holland left the door open for Smith being called up following Brian Rafalski's retirement, implying that the Wings would see whether he is ready to play in the NHL. So who knows? You might just see a lot of him this year.
Judging by the slideshow title, you'd thought he'd be No. 1, didn't you? Nope...
Position: Left wing
Drafted: 111th overall
ETA: 2012-2013 season at the earliest; 2013-2014 season likely
Forgive me ahead of time, because I will definitely ramble about Pulkkinen, as he's already got me very excited for the Wings' future.
I'll get this out of the way now as it pertains to the video..."HOLY HELL" is all I have to say. The wind-up and release on his shot is absolutely horrific for anybody standing in front of it.
Now, on to Pulkkinen's potential: There's a whole lot of it. Unless you're a draft fanatic, you probably haven't heard a whole lot about him, so for those who don't know, before the Taylor vs. Tyler debate of the 2010 draft, there was the Taylor vs. Teemu debate.
Yes, there was a point where Pulkkinen, Detroit's fourth-round pick, was supposed to go first or second in the draft. That was around 2008, and if you're wondering why he fell so far on the draft boards, the blame can almost all be placed on injuries, as Pulkkinen only played 15 games in the Finnish league over the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 seasons combined.
Taking that into account, Pulkkinen was back to playing a full season in Finland after being drafted by the Red Wings, and he certainly didn't disappoint, scoring 54 points in 55 games. He finished fourth in the league in scoring, and everybody else in the top 10 was five years older than him or more.
Barring a serious injury, Pulkkinen is destined to be the Red Wings' next superstar.