We’ve now made it past Thanksgiving and the holiday season is right around the corner. Like the last few years, PHR will take a look at what teams are thankful for but this year comes with a bit of a change. Normally teams would have an idea of where their season was heading, coming up on the one-quarter mark with mountains of statistics to analyze. Instead, in this unprecedented year, the season hasn’t even begun. We’ll still take a look at what each group is excited about and what they could hope for once the calendar turns to 2021.
What are the Red Wings most thankful for?
Sweden’s development system.
Detroit as an organization has always been known for its willingness to look outside of North America to find the best players in the world, and while that certainly is no longer an attribute limited to just them, it continues to this day in the team’s drafting strategy. Sweden, in particular, has stood out as a proving ground for the Red Wings eventual picks, with four players picked directly from the Frolunda organization over just the past two years.
That group is led of course by fourth-overall pick Lucas Raymond , who likely won’t be in Sweden much longer, but also includes Theodor Niederbach , Elmer Soderblom , and Gustav Berglund . Other Swedes picked in recent years include William Wallinder , Albert Johansson , and Albin Grewe , all selected with picks in the top 66. When the World Juniors hits the screen later this month, don’t be surprised if you hear “Red Wings draft pick” often when watching a Sweden game.
At the head of that draft strategy is Yzerman, who has experienced first hand throughout his playing and managing career the kind of impact international players can have. Though the team hasn’t experienced much on-ice success since he took over from Ken Holland in 2019, it’s hard to argue with the job he’s done so far in the rebuild.
The Red Wings prospect system is packed with high-end talent, they have another six picks in the first three rounds of 2021 and the roster is unencumbered by any expensive, long-term deals. In fact, only Anthony Mantha , who received a new deal last month, is signed through the 2023-24 season. Yzerman can form this roster in whichever direction he chooses, but names like Raymond and Moritz Seider are a great place to start.
What would the Red Wings be even more thankful for?
A breakout from one of their older prospects.
There was talent in the system even before Yzerman arrived, too. It’s hard to know where 21-year-old Michael Rasmussen ’s career trajectory is pointed at this juncture after a somewhat disappointing first few years, but if he ever did reach his ceiling (or perhaps break through it with his 6’6″ frame) he could be a dynamic presence in the middle of the lineup.
So too could Filip Zadina and Joe Veleno , the two players Detroit selected in the first round of 2018. Both have immense upside as a top-end sniper and two-way center respectively, but neither has quite followed through on that potential just yet. It’s certainly not time to give up on either one, but if there is a breakout coming the Detroit rebuild could be accelerated considerably.
What should be on the Red Wings holiday wish list?
Even more draft picks.
This train is headed in the right direction, but there might be one last year of pain for the Red Wings with the roster as currently presented, meaning one last collection of picks would do the team good. Darren Helm , Valtteri Filppula , Luke Glendening , Bobby Ryan , Sam Gagner , Marc Staal , Patrik Nemeth , Jon Merrill , Alex Biega , and Jonathan Bernier are all scheduled to be unrestricted free agents after this season—you can bet a good number of them won’t finish the year in Detroit.
It’s not that these kinds of players will bring back a huge package of assets, but every third or fourth-round pick they land for an aging-but-capable veteran means another lottery ticket that could turn into something great. (Don’t look now, but Frans Nielsen , Robby Fabbri , Vladislav Namestnikov , Danny DeKeyser , Troy Stecher , and Thomas Greiss will all be UFAs in 2022 and could face similar fates.)
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