Taking a look back at the summer development camp and looking forward to tomorrow, let’s see what the Wings’ team looks like–or at least what I think it looks like–based upon the 15 forwards, 8 defensemen and 3 goalies the team revealed today.
It should be noted that 7 forwards, 4 defensemen and 2 goalies–that’s 13 of the 27 players–are Red Wings property, with 5 Grand Rapids Griffins signings and 9 free agent invites along for the ride.
11 Filip Zadina RW: Zadina’s the headliner of the tournament for the Red Wings, a 6th overall pick in 2018, who posted 16 goals and 19 assists in 59 AHL games this past season. After suffering some significant ups and downs as he adjusted to the professional game after dominating in the QMJHL, he’s going to be counted upon to step up and be a scoring threat all over the ice. Zadina had a tendency last year to try to force goals to come from his favorite sniping spots on the ice, and those tendencies should be fading now.
42 Mathieu Bizier C**: Bizier is a free agent invite who was passed over in his draft year this past season. The 6’1,” 187-pound center took off production-wise when he was traded from Rimouski to the Gatineau Olympiques, where he posted 27 points in 35 games. During the summer development camp, he didn’t stand out until the Red vs. White game, where he scored a hat trick.
46 Chase Pearson C: Pearson is an older prospect at 22, and the 6’2,” 197-pound center wore the captain’s “C” at Maine for the past two seasons. Pearson posted almost a point per game over the course of his sophomore and junior seasons, but he insisted this past June that he will earn his bread and butter as a strong-skating, duteous shut-down forward. He’s got a lot of competition in that department on the Wings’ roster and in the prospect pipeline, so Pearson will have to stand out among his peers as he prepares to turn pro. For this weekend, he’ll probably helm the Wings’ third line.
48 Givani Smith LW: What does Givani Smith bring to the mix? Darren McCarty sees a lot of himself in Smith, a gritty 6’2,” 206-pound forward whose first professional season yielded 86 penalty minutes in 64 AHL games played. Smith may or may not be an enforcer in the making, but the 21-year-old is definitely an agitating forward, and I would suggest that his ceiling is that of a Tyler Bertuzzi-type player.
56 Ryan Kuffner RW: The Red Wings signed the Princeton graduate after he posted 44 points in 31 games, and the 6’1,” 195-pound forward is mature and poised at 23 years of age…But what does he bring to the pros? Kuffner looked a lot like another checking forward during his 10-game stint with the Wings. Kuffner’s buffed up a bit during the summer, and for this upcoming weekend, he’ll be counted upon to produce some offense.
62 Cody Morgan C**: Morgan, a free agent try-out, is a 5’11,” 183-pound forward who was passed over in his draft year despite posting 39 points in 61 OHL games split between Windsor and Flint–including 33 points in 33 games with the Firebirds. He’s not big, and the Wings have their share of small forwards in the system, so he’ll have to be outstanding to stand out.
67 Taro Hirose LW: I’m really surprised that the Wings were able to squeeze in a pair of 23-year-old rookies in Hirose and Kuffner, but the criteria by which players are made eligible for the prospect tournament change from year to year, and there is much finagling (i.e. negotiation) regarding the inclusion of certain players. You know Hirose as a 5’10,” 160-pound mini-mite who posted 50 points with the Spartans last year, and followed that up with 7 points in 10 games played in Detroit. He’s a “waterbug” forward with all sorts of potential, and he will be targeted physically if he’s not aware of his situation.
75 Troy Loggins LW*: Loggins is a Grand Rapids Griffins signing, a 5’9,” 161-pound forward who posted 40 points in 39 games as he rounded out his career with Northern Michigan University this past season. Prolific at the NCAA level but small, he fights an uphill battle at 24 years of age.
76 Jarid Lukosevicius RW*: Another Grand Rapids Griffins signing, the 5’10,” 194-pound winger played four seasons with the University of Denver, averaging about 30 points per 40-game season. Like Loggins, Lukosevicius is 24, so there’s a small window for him to impress and climb the prospect ladder.
78 Gregor MacLeod C*: The third in a trio of Griffins signings, Grand Rapids signed one of Joe Veleno’s teammates after the 21-year-old posted 84 points in 61 games with the QMJHL’s Drummondville Voltigeurs. The Wings hope that proximity + an AHL deal = a low-risk signing with high potential. We shall see.
79 Thomas Casey C**: Casey is 19 and was passed over in two draft years because he’s 5’8″ (maybe) and listed at 185 pounds (maybe). He raved about taking part in the Wings’ development camp, and the QMJHL forward will have to differentiate himself from a crowd of undersized skaters.
85 Elmer Soderblom LW: At the other end of the spectrum, the Red Wings’ 2019 draft pick (159th overall) is a massive 6’7″ and 220 pounds at all of 18. He’s one of two Frolunda Indians players who were made available to the Red Wings–which is incredibly rare for a European team to do–and Soderblom is very raw, but very comfortable in a massive frame. He’ll have to keep his head up and deliver a few hits of his own.
88 Chad Yetman RW**: Yetman is 19, and, stop me if you’ve heard this before, passed over in his draft year because he’s small (by today’s NHL standards) at 5’11” and 180 pounds. Yetman posted 57 points in 68 games with the OHL’s Erie Otters, so the Wings are looking for Yetman to tap into his scoring potential.
89 Owen Robinson LW**: Robinson’s also not big at 6′ and 170 pounds, and again, he was passed over in the draft. He did post 41 points in 61 games with Sudbury. As is the case with the other free agent try-outs, the Wings are taking a flyer on him.
90 Joe Veleno C: Speedy and dynamic, Veleno will be counted upon to center the scoring line as the 19-year-old, turning-pro forward attempts to display that he’s far more “NHL Ready” than anyone believes he is at present. The 6’1,” 191-pound center posted 104 points in 59 QMJHL games with Drummondville, and his speed, playmaking, shooting and passing skills are elite, as is his checking ability. On a team with 6 natural centers, Veleno is the top of the food chain.
28 Gustav Lindstrom: Lindstrom is a bit of a puzzle for me. Highly-regarded as a top-four defender with oodles of offensive ability, the turning-pro 21-year-old from the Frolunda Indians has never really posted a significant number of points, and while he’s 6’2″ and 187 pounds, I expressed concern in June regarding his readiness for bigger, faster opponents on smaller, faster ice. I still believe in Lindstrom’s potential, so I’m going to be optimistic and hope that his first real taste of North American hockey is one in which he will seize the initiative and display his top-pair abilities.
53 Moritz Seider: The Belle of the Ball, as it were, the Red Wings’ 6th overall pick from the 2019 draft enters this weekend’s prospect tournament with zero North American pro experience. That being said, like Lindstrom, Seider has been in Detroit since mid-August, skating with the Red Wings’ late-summer crew, and it will be fascinating to see whether the 6’4,” 207-pound behemoth from Adler Mannheim can display the offensive chops that had the Red Wings jumping the queue to draft him, or whether the comparisons to Marc-Edouard Vlasic, perhaps the league’s best shut-down defenseman at this moment, were more apt. The next four days won’t tell the tale once and for all, but they’ll give fans their first glimpse of what Seider has to offer.
63 Alec McCrea*: A Grand Rapids Griffins signing, the 6’3,” 195-pound defenseman was safe and steady at the summer development camp, and the 24-year-old graduate of Cornell will attempt to bump and grind his way up the depth chart this weekend.
86 Charle-Edouard D’Astous*: D’Astous, another Griffins signing, is the real wild card of the bunch. The 21-year-old defenseman wrapped up his QMJHL career with 66 points in 55 games this past season, and 56 points in 50 games the year before that. The 6’2,” 205-pound defenseman looked like a steal at the summer development camp. To stick with a crowded Grand Rapids Griffins roster instead of heading to Toledo to begin his pro career, he’ll have to shine. Otherwise, he’ll head to Northwest Ohio to begin his pro career.
87 Marc-Olivier Duquette**: Duquette, a free agent invite, is the Gregor MacLeod of the blueline. The 21-year-old Duquette played for Joe Veleno’s Drummondville Voltigeurs in the QMJHL. The 6’4,” 205-pound defenseman posted 24 points in 50 games, and he looked very mobile on his big skates during the summer development camp.
94 Alec Regula D: Regula is another unknown drafted quantity on defense, because he’s striving to develop into an offensive defenseman at the OHL level with the London Knights, but he may end up earning a professional paycheck playing a middle-pair, shut-down role. The 6’4,” 203-pound Michigander posted 39 points in 64 games with an absolute powerhouse of a London team, but he’s physical, too, and the Wings need big, mobile and physical defenders. It will be fun to see whether Regula can continue to step up his offensive game while taking part in his first action since April (Regula nursed a knee injury to health without surgery during the off-season).
97 Gustav Berglund D: The third Frolunda Indians prospect on the roster and the second draft pick to be lent to the Wings for this weekend’s prospect tournament, the 18-year-old Berglund posted point-per-game numbers among his peers, and the combination of scoring and 6’2,” 194-pound right-shooting size caused the Wings to take him 177th in the draft. Like Soderblom, when I saw Berglund this summer, I saw a raw prospect.
98 Owen Lalonde D**: Another free agent invite, the 6’1,” 185-pound defenseman from the Guelph Storm posted a solid 41 points in 61 draft year games, but he was passed over in Vancouver. He improved consistently over the course of the prospect tournament, but what he can provide at a near-pro level is as yet uncertain.
36 Kaden Fulcher: As I said earlier today, Fulcher went from the penthouse to the doghouse over the course of a very inconsistent rookie pro campaign with the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye. The Wings signed the 6’3,” 182-pound netminder after a superb summer development camp and prospect tournament in 2017, but Fulcher struggled in Traverse City last September, and he experienced ups and downs while playing behind Walleye starter Pat Nagle. Now slated behind Filip Larsson, Calvin Pickard and Nagle, Fulcher will have to battle his way back into the “goalie of the future” category.
38 Filip Larsson: Like Fulcher a few seasons ago, there are immense expectations on the shoulders of Filip Larsson, whose unique and winding developmental path has taken him from Stockholm, Sweden to Kearney, Nebraska, Denver, Colorado and now, most likely, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Larsson is all of 21, but he had two superb seasons, first in the USHL and then in NCAA hockey, marred by a groin injury that required surgery. Now the 6’2,” 187-pound netminder with impeccable fundamentals is highly-heralded as the Wings’ goalie of the future. This weekend, Larsson will simply have to play good hockey and begin his adjustment to the professional game; wherever he ends up, he’s got both the chops and the mental makeup to thrive…But this is still the beginning of his pro career.
68 Sean Romeo**: Romeo is a free agent invite who did not participate in the summer development camp. The 24-year-old graduate of Ohio State University has a job with the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones lined up (per EliteProspects), and the 6’1,” 172-pound netminder went 8-7-and-2 in limited action last season.
80 Anthony Popovich**: We wrap things up with a final free agent invite and new member of the Red Wings’ team. Popovich comes to the Wings from the OHL’s Guelph Storm, and the OHL champions’ starting netminder posted a 30-13-and-2 record last season, but the 20-year-old has been passed over twice in the draft. That could be because he’s not big by today’s standards at 6’1″ and 182 pounds, and it could be because his save percentage hovers around .900, which is about twenty points short of where you’d prefer it to be.
Those are my takes on/profiles of the Red Wings’ prospects participating in the prospect tournament; I hope the last several hours’ of work was worth your time in answering some of your questions about the Wings’ players and team as a whole.
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