Okay. Draft Talk I is up and posted, and I’m hoping that you’ll talk both amongst yourselves and with me regarding your takes on the North American-based prospects that the Red Wings will probably choose from on October 6th.
There’s still a possibility, though not a large one, that the Red Wings are going to pluck a European-based prospect with the #4 overall draft pick, so we need to talk about the top three skaters and top goalie not named Tim Stuetzle, who’s gonna be gone by the time the Wings pick.
So, as I continue to work out the “bugs” and grumble aloud about the fact that I haven’t been able to see these guys in person (stupid pandemic cancelling the World Junior Summer Showcase)…
We’ll start with the wildest card in the first round in one Yaroslav (Iaroslav?) Askarov, a 6’3,” 176-pound goaltender who plays for the KHL’s mightiest franchise, SKA St. Petersburg. Askarov has bounced around EIGHT different organizations since he was 16, though most were under the SKA umbrella or the Russian National Team’s management.
Askarov is three things that make him a little hard to pin down: he’s a goaltender, which makes his developmental curve incredibly difficult to peg; he’s a right-catching goalie, which means that he’s going against the grain; and he is playing for the biggest-market, biggest-money team in the KHL, which means that his playing future is hard to discern, because the better he does, the more SKA will flex their petroleum-based finances to keep him.
At 6’3,” Askarov’s lanky, but from what I’ve seen of him, he’s a very smooth-skating netminder who plays a superb butterfly style; he doesn’t leave his feet too early, and his movements are absolutely elegant.
Dobber Prospects’ Cam Robinson wrote this update regarding Askarov’s status as of this month, as the big Siberian (he’s from Omsk) adapts to playing as SKA’s back-up:
September 2020 – The 18-year-old has elevated to the KHL and appears no worse for wear. In fact, he’s been the top goaltender in the entire league through the opening two weeks of the season. Askarov has stopped 76 of 78 shots over three contests – including a 32-save shutout. His .974 save percentage is tops for starters. I repeat, he’s 18! You don’t use lottery picks on goaltenders. That is, of course, unless they’re truly special. This kid is special.
The question, as DetroitRedWings.com’s Dana Wakiji noted, is whether a “special” goaltender is worth investing a top-of-the-first-round pick in, especially given how wildly unpredictable developing goaltenders is when they’re under your control (and, as an SKA-employed goalie, Askarov probably won’t “turn North American pro” until he gets some assurances of NHL playing time).
Do the Wings pick him? I don’t think so, but one never knows…
If Detroit is to pick a European skater, my money is on Frolunda Indians winger Lucas Raymond. The 5’11,” 172-pound Gothenburg, Sweden native has developed slowly and steadily within Frolunda’s system (and the Indians are probably Europe’s most consistent team), and while he posted all of 10 points in 33 SHL games as a 17-year-old…
Raymond can really do it all. He’s a good skater, with speed and maneuverability; he knows how to score goals; he’s an excellent playmaker, and while he’s not going to grow much vertically or horizontally, he busts his ass working to battle bigger and stronger players. NHL Central Scouting compares him to Mitch Marner for a reason.
According to DetroitRedWings.com’s Dana Wakiji, Raymond’s mother is his personal trainer and nutritionist, too, so he comes from an athletically-inclined family.
If there’s another Swede that the Wings are considering, it’s Djurgardens IF forward Alexander Holtz. Holtz isn’t as highly-regarded in media circles as Raymond, but NHL Central Scouting ranked Holtz higher (behind only Tim Stuetzle), and the 6’0,” 192-pound Holtz possesses a very similar skill set to Raymond.
The difference is that Holtz is more of a goal-scorer, both historically speaking and in terms of his as-a-17-year-old SHL season. Both Dobber Prospects and DetroitRedWings.com’s Wakiji describe Holtz as an elite goal-scoring prospect who compares himself to countryman Filip Forsberg, if not Boston’s David Pastrnak.
Both Holtz and Raymond are highly-regarded young men as well as prospects, and they’re both projected to be stars at the NHL level. The only question is whether you’re looking for a pure sniper or more of a small playmaker.
The final player for your consideration is honestly more of a mystery to me than Askarov ever could be. Squeezed in between Holtz and Raymond in the NHL Central Scouting rankings is a Finn, 6’1,” 185-pound center Anton Lundell.
Unlike Aksarov, Raymond or Holtz, there’s hardly any hype about the IFK Helsinki forward, and that’s pretty weird.
Lundell is a “late” 2001 birthday, born on October 3rd, so he’ll be 19 by the time he’s drafted, and he’s played for the Finnish League’s excellent IFK system, posting 10 goals and 18 assists for 28 points in 44 games as an 18-year-old.
According to Dobber Prospects’ Cam Robinson, Lundell is already sporting an Alternate Captain’s “A” on his jersey ahead of the 2020-2021 Liiga season, and he’s still growing, still improving his skating, and DetroitRedWings.com’s Wakiji reports that Lundell is seen as a big, mature, dependable center who plays a sterling two-way game.
Like Raymond, he has athletic bloodlines, too, as his father Jan was a professional goaltender who coaches IFK’s goalies presently (and Mr. Lundell even served as an EBUG in one of IFK’s games last season).
Generally speaking, Lundell isn’t seen as an offensively explosive forward per se, but he’s going to be a big, dependable two-way center who may be NHL-ready quickly as an older-birthdate player.
If the Wings want to continue building up the middle behind Dylan Larkin, they could do much worse than picking Lundell to join Joe Veleno and Michael Rasmussen as a rock-solid two-way center in the Aleksander Barkov mold.
My gut says that the Red Wings will pick a North American-based player. My gut says that it’s Rossi, Perfetti or Drysdale. But one never really knows with Steve Yzerman, and I would not be surprised if Kris Draper feels that Askarov or Lundell are the best players upon which to utilize the #4 overall pick.
Ideally, the Red Wings pick the player with the highest developmental ceiling, and the greatest chance of reaching that ceiling, and then they develop the hell out of him.
Among the Europeans, I’d say that’s Lucas Raymond, and I’d say that because of his competitiveness and “drivetrain” (see: will, pride, drive to succeed, or, literally, his transmission and torque). He genuinely excites me as a player who has the game-breaking skill to overcome his size, but that’s just me.
Who would you pick among this group?