The Athletic’s Bultman offers ‘draft Thoughts’ (and so do I)

The Athletic’s Max Bultman wrote an intriguing article late last night, offering “19 Thoughts” regarding the Red Wings’ 2019 draft performance. I can’t share them all with you, but I feel that Bultman’s words of caution regarding the hit-or-miss nature of drafting players is too important not to share:

If this all sounds a little too positive, allow me to refer you to a quote from former Detroit scout Christer Rockstrom when I recently asked him what he was thinking when leaving the Red Wings’ legendary 1989 draft.

“Every scout leaves the draft happy,” he said.

That’s the deal here. Yes, the Red Wings like the guys they drafted. It’s why they drafted them. And maybe their rationale makes it a little easier to be excited about a class that — whether because of the publicly available draft rankings or sheer unfamiliarity — hasn’t necessarily been met with the same enthusiasm as last year’s class. Just make sure it also doesn’t fool you into thinking Detroit just drafted 11 NHL studs. Pronman gave the class a “B.” That sounds about right to me.

I don’t like to deal in absolutes, but the chance most — or even half — of these prospects pan out as the Red Wings hope they will is incredibly small. The goal is getting a few to hit, and one or two to hit it big. And that still might not happen.

Bultman continues (paywall) at length, and my take on the draft class, at least very, very early on, is this:

Of the Wings’ 11 picks, I see the team as having drafted a complementary first-pairing-or-second-pairing defender in Moritz Seider (who the Red Wings definitely drafted based upon positional need as much as their, “Take the player adjudged to be the best player available” draft philosophy), a big second-pair defenseman in Antti Tuomisto, and then some projects.

Robert Mastrosimone, Ethan Phillips and nasty Albin Grewe offer pluck and jam in the forward department, generally in smaller sizes; defensemen Albert Johansson, Cooper Moore and Gustav Berglund are longer-term projects; the Wings went to the extremes of the size spectrum to snag point-per-game-producing forwards, albeit at lower ends of the competitive spectrum, in the gigantic Elmer Soderblom and tiny Kirill Tyutyayev, and as it is essential to keep the goaltending pipeline humming, the Wings picked a netminder who split time in the cage in Carter Gylander.

Under Tyler Wright, the Wings seem to be determined to carve out their own path, mock drafts be damned, and that seems to leave more than a few fans seething.

That’s where I feel that it’s absolutely essential to not get “married” to the concept of a particular prospect playing for your team, because there’s a 1-in-31 chance that they’re going to be drafted by Detroit.

I certainly didn’t see the Wings picking Moritz Seider 6th overall, but I wasn’t too attached to Dylan Couzens, Cole Caufield or the rest of the forward crop that was available to the Wings. It would have been nice to see the Wings add another big center to the mix, but the possibility of the Wings dipping into the pool of defensemen available simply because they needed to replenish the defensive pipeline–and add size on the blueline–was too high to ignore.

The rest of the draft almost always involves the Wings sticking with their picks as opposed to the consensus first-rounders who slipped through the first round, so I honestly don’t pay that much attention to the group of prospects who aren’t going to be in the Wings’ first-round range, and down the line, you know there are going to be (1) Hakan Andersson and/or European staff specials (Swedes who are long-term projects, like Johansson, Grewe, Soderblom and Berglund–some years they are all Swedes, some years they are all Czech-and-Slovak, some years they are Swiss or Austrian, and many years, they’re a mix of the two, but they’re almost always European), (2) a couple of NCAA-college-bound picks (which is true for all of Mastrosimone, Phillips, Moore and Gylander), and (3) one or two “What the hell, let’s give him a chance” kids toward the end, like Tyutyayev. Most years, there are also some (4) hard-working projects from the Canadian Hockey League (QMJHL/OHL/WHL), but you can’t nail ’em all down every year.

Absent the headliners in Seider and Tuomisto, the rest of the Wings’ draft class falls into the aforementioned categories, and there is usually an overriding theme to the draft class, be it blueliners, forwards or high-end prospects.

This year’s theme seems to either involve drafting big defensemen and/or picking “middle of the roster” players to accentuate the high-end talent that the Wings have been seeking with riskier picks over the past couple of seasons.

I really feel that this class is “safer” than most of the Tyler Wright era’s draft picks, but, as Bultman says, the fact that the Wings are picking 10 or 11 players over the course of a draft that is anything but an exact science instead of 7 does not mean that the Wings will end up with more prospects than a team picking 5-7 players.

Ken Holland’s rule that you hope to get 2 or 3 NHL players out of a draft class seems to hold true regardless of whether the Wings snag an ark’s worth of prospects or a single hand’s full thereof, and between the fact that European prospects are now less willing to ride the bus for more than one AHL season, the narrow window for 4-year-college-playing prospects to develop before they get “too old,” the burnout rate for CHL prospects and the simple reality of drafting long-shots yielding long shots to make it, and you don’t need calculus to figure that we’re still talking about 2 or 3 NHL players–in a good year, maybe 4 or 5 professionals, including AHL vets–coming out of any particular draft year.

So that’s where we are, and as much as I always wake up the day after the draft and hope that the Wings have finally hit that mythical 1989-part-2 draft class of future hall-of-famers and valuable picks, the Wings haven’t hit a home run since Nicklas Lidstrom was a well-kept secret and Detroit almost landed Pavel Bure, only to have him ruled ineligible for Detroit to draft.

At this point, I’m comfortable with the amateur scouting staff’s theme of adding size to what looks to be a skilled but smallish set of developing blueliners, combined with a replenishment of Swedish prospects, as a draft year in general summary. I would not have drafted everyone that the Wings did, but I am but one person who understands that Detroit’s draft signature involves doing the unexpected.

On to development camp!

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George Malik

My name is George Malik, and I'm the Malik Report's editor/blogger/poster. I have been blogging about the Red Wings since 2006, when MLive hired me to work their SlapShots blog, and I joined Kukla's Korner in 2011 as The Malik Report. I'm starting The Malik Report as a stand-alone site, hoping that having my readers fund the website is indeed the way to go to build a better community and create better content.