Welcome to the 2019 Top Shelf Prospects series. As we go through the Summer of 2019 LWOH will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. We will be following the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no traded draft picks) and you can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, we will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in the 2019 draft, as there have been no games since then, and our reports on them will not have changed. Today we look at the Detroit Red Wings Prospects.
What we will be doing is linking you to those articles, as well as taking a look at prospects that were acquired before this year’s draft; their progress, and their chances of making the 2019-20 roster of the NHL team in question. We will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later, or was an undrafted free agent signing who we pick as our dark horse to make the NHL. For those wondering, the cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played (including playoff games) or is 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and we may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
Detroit Red Wings Prospects
After all those years in a row making the playoffs, the Red Wings are now deep in their rebuild. The 2018-19 version of the team finished in 7th place in the Atlantic Division, well off the playoff pace. There were some bright spots though. With 73 points, Dylan Larkin proved that he can be a first-line centre. Andreas Athanasiou scored 30 goals and Anthony Mantha put up 25 goals, showing their offensive abilities. Tyler Bertuzzi also hit the 20 goal mark. With these youngsters leading the way and a number of good prospects the Wings future looks good upfront.
Missing the playoffs brings changes though. The biggest of those changes came in the general manager’s chair with team legend Steve Yzerman taking the reigns. Long-time general manager Ken Holland has left and is now in Edmonton. Yzerman added Valtteri Filppula, Patrik Nemeth and Calvin Pickard in free agency. Overall though, the off-season has been relatively quiet, with Yzerman focusing on the Detroit Red Wings prospects to grow the team over the next several years.
2019 NHL Draft Picks (Grade A-): Moritz Seider, Antti Tuomisto, Robert Mastrosimone, Albert Johansson, Albin Grewe, Ethan Phillips, Cooper Moore, Elmer Soderblom, Gustav Berglund, Kirill Tyutyayev, Carter Gylander
2018-19 Graduations: Michael Rasmussen, Dennis Cholowski, Christoffer Ehn,
Top Prospect: Filip Zadina
Right Wing — shoots Left
Born November 27th, 1999 — Pardubice, Czech Republic
Height 6’1″ — Weight 196 lbs [185 cm / 89 kg]
Drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in the 1st Round, 6th Overall at the 2018 NHL Draft
Zadina spent most of the season with Grand Rapids in the AHL. He put up 16 goals and 35 points in 59 games. While those numbers don’t jump off the page, consider the fact that he was one of the youngest players in the league. He also put up two goals and an assist in five playoff games. Zadina even got in a nine-game stint with the Red Wings in the NHL, scoring a goal and two assists.
The Czech winger is a very good but not quite great skater. He has good top-end speed but is not going to be confused with a speedster either. The lack of elite top-end speed is the only thing holding back his skating though. He shows great agility and the ability to make quick cuts and get by defenders. He also has the power necessary to fight through checks and take the puck to the net. All of this makes him very strong one-on-one and off the rush. He can take a defender wide and cut to the net, fighting through any checks along the way. He also has very good balance and can control the play down low on the cycle.
Zadina is a pure and talented goal scorer. He has a very heavy wrist shot, with a lightning-quick release. He can combine this with his skating and power game to be a real threat off of the wing. An absolute sniper, he can score with his wrist shot, snap shot, slap shot and one-timer. He even has a strong backhand. Zadina takes advantage of his shooting skill, as he generates a very high number of shot attempts every game. Zadina also has the soft hands to score in close to the net. He can bury rebounds, deke goalies, and get tip-ins. He has a knack for getting himself open, finding soft areas on the ice even when everyone is watching him.
As a playmaker, he needs to make better decisions with the puck. Zadina can sometimes hold on to it for too long and get himself into trouble instead of moving it quickly. He has the passing skill to get it through tight openings and make tape-to-tape passes when he does move the puck. He is willing to work in the cycle game, and to battle along the boards and in front of the net. Zadina is not afraid to get to the dirty areas of the ice in order to create offensive chances. He will need to put on weight in order to do this at the next level.
Zadina works hard in the defensive end and was even used on the Mooseheads penalty kill in juniors. He didn’t get a lot of penalty kill time in the AHL but that is not unusual given his age. Zadina still plays high and cuts off passes to the blue line, and getting in shooting lanes when defenders do have the puck. His positioning and footwork can be further refined, but it is already at a decent level given his age.
A late 1999 birthday, Zadina will not be eligible for an entry-level slide this season. Regardless of how many games he plays, this will count as burning the first year of his entry-level contract. There is little reason for Zadina to stay in the AHL. With Thomas Vanek allowed to leave as a free agent, Martin Frk not tendered a qualifying offer, and Gustav Nyquist moved at last year’s trade deadline, the Wings have opened up a spot for him. Expect Zadina to make the Red Wings out of training camp and never look back.
#2 Prospect: Filip Hronek
Defence — shoots Right
Born November 2nd, 1997 — Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic
Height 6’0″ — Weight 170 lbs [183 cm / 77 kg]
Drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in the 2nd round, #53 overall, at the 2016 NHL Draft
Hronek split time between Detroit and Grand Rapids last season. He was impressive in both spots. In 46 NHL games, he scored five goals and 23 assists. In 31 AHL games he put up seven goals and 24 points. He also added three points in five playoff games. Hronek was even more impressive at the IIHF World Championships where he scored three goals and 11 points in 10 games.
Hronek is a solid skater. He has good speed in both directions and excellent acceleration. Hronek has the agility and footwork to be an extremely mobile defender. He covers large areas of the ice. Hronek is tough to beat one-on-one due to his good feet.
Offensively, Hronek’s agility can combine with his stickhandling to make him dangerous moving the puck up the ice. He also has good side-to-side agility, allowing him to walk the line, and open up the passing and shooting lanes. Balance and strength on the puck can be an issue. Hronek needs to bulk up so he does not get pushed off the puck. This will help win battles along the boards and clear the front of the net.
Filip Hronek projects as a puck-moving defenseman as he has a number of good offensive skills. He sees the ice extremely well and has very good instincts and passing skills. He can utilize these with a good first pass out of the zone to start the transition game, or to quarterback things on the power play.
Hronek has poise with the puck on his stick, and the patience to wait for a shooting or passing lane to open up. His agility and lateral movement allows him to create those lanes as well. He also has the stickhandling ability to get away from forecheckers and to maneuver with the puck through the neutral zone. When it does, he can thread a pass through a small opening. Hronek has a decent slapshot, which he gets through traffic and on the net. It could stand to be a little bit more powerful, but that may come with maturity and upper body strength. Hronek’s hockey IQ and offensive instincts are extremely good.
Hronek has some solid defensive skills. He overcomes the lack of muscle with his quick stick which he uses to poke the puck off of an attackers stick. He has good positioning, reads the play well and cuts down passing lanes. Hronek does a good job of keeping opponents to the outside and away from the key goal-scoring areas. However, Hronek’s lack of muscle makes it difficult for him to clear the front of the net, or contain bigger forwards in the cycle game. These are areas that have improved in the last year but there is still some room to grow. His ability to retrieve pucks quickly and transition to offence allows him to minimize the time he spends in his own end though.
Hronek has the skills to project as a two-way, top-4 defender who can contribute in all situations. He proved that he can handle top-four minutes last year, playing nearly 20 minutes a night in the NHL. He should only get better as he continues to get physically stronger. One would be forgiven for thinking Hronek isn’t a prospect and has arrived at the NHL level. However, he fits the criteria as having under 50 games played and is included in these rankings in order that we can make apples-to-apples comparisons when we look at all 31 prospect pools. Make no mistake though, Hronek will play a key role for the Red Wings this season.
#3 Prospect: Moritz Seider
The Red Wings drafted Seider with the 6th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Seider. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#4 Prospect: Joe Veleno
Centre — shoots Left
Born January 13th, 2000 — Kirkland, Quebec
Height 6’1″ — Weight 195 lbs [185 cm / 88 kg]
Drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in the 1st round, #30 Overall at the 2018 NHL Draft
Veleno had a tremendous season in Drummondville, showing why so many thought that the Wings got a steal when they took him 30th overall in the 2018 Draft. He scored 42 goals and 104 points in 59 regular-season games. Veleno also added eight goals an 17 points in 16 playoff games. He was named to the QMJHL first all-star team. He also played for Team Canada at the World Juniors, putting up two assists in five games.
Veleno has tremendous speed and outstanding acceleration. It is his skating skill that truly gave him a leg up on older competition and earned him an exceptional player status as a 15-year-old in the QMJHL. He is silky smooth on his skates. Veleno has the ability to take a defender wide and cut to the net. He also has the agility and edgework to beat a defender in a one-on-one situation off the rush. Veleno is strong on the puck and works well down low and in the cycle game at the junior level. He has shown increased core strength in recent years, though that will be tested playing against men at the pro level.
Veleno is more of a playmaker than a goal scorer. He has great vision, hockey sense, and passing skills. Veleno reads the play well and anticipates where his teammates will be. He uses his speed and agility to open up passing lanes. He also has the ability to put the puck through tight spaces, and make tape-to-tape passes to set up linemates in good scoring areas. Veleno has very good hockey sense and seems to always make the right play with the puck on his stick.
While his instinct is still to be a playmaker first, Veleno emerged as a goal scorer this past year. Added power in his wrist shot and a more deceptive release saw him greatly increase his goal totals. He also shows off the hands needed to beat a goaltender in tight to the net. Veleno is not afraid to get to the dirty areas of the ice, both with and without the puck. His determination and willingness to fight for position in front of the net and to control the game down low has been a key catalyst in taking his game to the next level.
Veleno is also gritty and not afraid to get involved in battles on the boards at both ends of the ice. He is good on the backcheck and works hard in his own end. His compete level is very high. He could use a bit of work on his positioning, but this is not a major concern. Overall his defensive game is very strong at the junior level. He uses his body effectively and is willing to block shots. When a turnover is created, he transitions quickly to offence.
Based on his age he is still eligible to play in the QMJHL and to represent Canada again at the World Juniors. However, the fact that he was an exceptional player at 15 means that he has finished four full junior seasons and is also eligible for the AHL this season. There is not a lot left for Veleno to prove at the QMJHL level, so the AHL seems like the place for him. He also is eligible for an entry-level slide.
Expect his season to mirror Zadina’s 2018-19 campaign. He will spend most of the year in the AHL, could be released to play in the World Juniors, and could be used in nine NHL games without burning a year of his entry-level contract. Veleno is still at least a year away from being an NHL regular, but his ceiling remains very high.
#5 Prospect: Jared McIsaac
Defence — shoots Left
Born March 27th, 2000 — Truro, Nova Scotia
Height 6’1″ — Weight 195 lbs [185 cm / 88 kg]
Drafted by the Detroit Red Wings, in the 2nd Round, 30th Overall, in the 2018 NHL Draft
McIsaac looks like another 2018 NHL Draft steal for the Red Wings. He put up 16 goals and 62 points in 53 games for the Halifax Mooseheads last season. He also added two goals and 16 points as the Mooseheads went to the QMJHL Final and played in the Memorial Cup. McIsaac was named to the QMJHL’s Second All-Star team. He also played for Team Canada at the World Juniors.
McIsaac is an outstanding skater. He has very good mobility, with top-notch speed and acceleration in both directions. This allows him to lead the rush out of his own end, or to make pinches at the blue line and still recover defensively. Quick feet, good agility, edgework, and pivots allow McIsaac to cover 360 degrees of ice. He transitions quickly from offence to defence, and vice versa. His strong skating ability makes him very difficult to beat on the rush. McIsaac has good strength in his lower body. This gives him excellent power and balance. It helps him to win battles in front of the net, and along the boards. He is also strong on the puck.
McIsaac can carry the puck out of his own zone and lead the rush. He combines excellent puck handling skills with his good skating and can carry the puck end-to-end to create a scoring chance. He also has the vision and skills to make a strong first pass and start the transition game that way. His good passing skills transition to his play at the point. He has the poise to handle the puck and the patience to make plays. His agility allows McIsaac to walk the line and open up passing and shooting lanes. McIsaac has the passing skill and vision to set up scoring opportunities for his teammates.
McIsaac has a strong shot in addition to the ability to quarterback the power play. He has a good wrist shot with a quick release. His slap shot may not be an absolute bomb, but it is still above average. He understands how to get it on the net, even with traffic in front. McIsaac keeps his shot low and creates opportunities for tip-ins and rebounds. The skill is clearly there, and it is high end. McIsaac had issues with consistency earlier in his junior career but seemed to solve that this past season.
McIsaac’s strong skating ability helps him to be an excellent two-way defender. He is very difficult to beat one-on-one. McIsaac can also play a physical game in the corners and in front of the net. However, in order to continue to play this type of game at the next level, McIsaac must get stronger. He is also a smart player, with a strong positional game and good anticipation. McIsaac cuts down passing lanes with an active stick. When a turnover is created, he transitions quickly to offence.
McIsaac likely heads back to the QMJHL next season. He also has a good chance of playing for Canada at the World Juniors. With Halifax loading up to host the 2019 Memorial Cup, the team will have a lot less talent this season. It would not be surprising if McIsaac is moved to a contender at the QMJHL trade deadline, speeding up the Mooseheads rebuild.
#6 Prospect: Jonatan Berggren
Centre/Right Wing — shoots Left
Born July 16th, 2000 — Uppsala, Sweden
Height 5’11” — Weight 183 lbs [180 cm/83 kg]
Drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in the 2nd Round, #33 Overall at the 2018 NHL Draft
A back injury limited Bergren to just 16 SHL games this year, putting up three assists. He also played in seven Champions League game with one goal. Overall though, this seems like a bit of lost development year for the 18-year-old.
Berggren is an outstanding skater. He is very fast and reaches top speed in just a few strides. This can create breakaways and other odd-man rushes. He is dangerous taking a defender wide on the rush. He also gets in quickly on the forecheck. Berggren has a low centre of gravity and he is difficult to move off the puck as a result. Despite his size, he is effective in board battles and in front of the net. His agility and edgework are also strong. Berggren is able to beat defenders with quick movements and cuts.
Berggren may be small, but he plays a heavy game. He is a torpedo on the forecheck, getting in quickly on opposing defenders and forcing them to turn the puck over. He also battles hard on the boards and gets to the front of the net and causes havoc. Berggren is not afraid to take a hit to make a play, or to take abuse in front of the net. He scores most of his goals in tight to the net. He has the soft hands to finish on breakaways that he generates with his speed. Berggren also has the hand-eye coordination and quickness to pounce on rebounds. However, Berggren needs to work on his shot. From further out, his wrist shot lacks power and needs a quicker release.
Berggren is more of a playmaker than a goal scorer. When he creates turnovers on the forecheck, he is quick to move the puck to an open linemate. He is also good at finding open players on the rush. Berggren has good vision. He anticipates the play and makes smart passes with the puck.
Berggren’s speed and hockey IQ are assets in the defensive zone. He is committed to playing in his own end and supporting the defence with backpressure. He also works to cut down passing lanes with his quickness and strong positioning. His ability to read the play aids Berggren in creating turnovers and quickly transitioning to offence. However, Berggren’s size starts to become an issue in the defensive end. He can be overpowered by bigger forwards when working to contain the cycle.
After rehabbing his injury, Berggren should be ready to start the season back with Skelleftea. He will look to improve in playing against men this season and should also represent Sweden at the World Juniors.
#7 Prospect: Taro Hirose
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born June 30th, 1996 — Calgary, Alberta
Height 5’10” — Weight 160 lbs [178 cm/73 kg]
Signed with the Detroit Red Wings in March 2019
Hirose had a huge junior season with Michigan State, putting up 15 goals and 50 points in 36 games. He was named Big Ten Player of the Year and was the conference scoring champion. Hirose was also a Hobey Baker Award finalist. He signed with the Red Wings in March and put up a goal and seven points in 10 NHL games down the stretch.
Hirose is a very good skater which helps him to make up for his lack of size. He has a quick first step and very good acceleration. Hirose’s top-speed is very good and he reaches it in just a few strides. Good edgework and agility allow him to be very shifty. He can avoid defenders both with and without the puck. This helps him to create space that he uses to generate scoring opportunities. Hirose uses a low centre of gravity to fight for position and work along the boards. He is surprisingly effective given his lack of size.
Hirose has outstanding hands and can stickhandle in a phone booth. He is extremely difficult to contain in one-on-one situations. He has the ability to get around a defender or just make a subtle move to change the angle and open up passing or shooting lanes. Hirose has outstanding vision and passing skills. He can make a tape-to-tape pass through tight spaces and can also saucer a pass over an opponent’s stick and on to a teammate’s tape. He is a creative player who will try to make plays that most others wouldn’t. Hirose is surprisingly good at winning battles for loose pucks as his low centre of gravity lets him compete in the corners.
Hirose is more of a passer than a goal scorer. However, his wrist shot and snap shot are very accurate and he uses them to score goals. He also has a very quick release on his shot which can fool goaltenders. He could stand to add more power on his shots and he is likely never going to be a consistent scorer outside the face-off dots, but he can put in goals in tight. His quick hands are also a threat in tight.
Hirose is willing to work in his own end of the rink. He provides good back-pressure and supports the defence down low. His positioning is strong and he eliminates passes back to the point. He is also willing to block shots. An active stick helps him to create turnovers. Once a turnover occurs, he quickly transitions to offence. However, lack of size can be an issue here as he is overpowered in trying to defend the cycle or clear his man out of a key area.
After his impressive debut last season, expect Hirose to once again make the Red Wings and be part of their top-nine. The question here is how much of his production at the NHL-Level was overachieving over a small sample size and how much is sustainable. There are some limitations to his game. Expect him to be either a second or third-line winger going forward, rather than putting up the points at the pace he did at the end of last year. He should still be a good NHLer, but expectations might be a little high based on the way he ended the season.
#8 Prospect: Robert Mastrosimone
The Red Wings drafted Mastrosimone with the 54th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Mastrosimone. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#9 Prospect: Evgeny Svechnikov
Right Wing — shoots Left
Born October 31st, 1996 — Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Russia
Height 6’3″ — Weight 212 lbs [191 cm / 96 kg]
Drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in the 1st round, #19 overall, at the 2015 NHL Draft
After a very strong rookie season in the AHL, the last two years haven’t gone the way Svechnikov would have hoped. In 2017-18, he put up just seven goals and 23 points in 57 games. He also had just one goal in five playoff games. Svechnikov also spent time in Detroit, putting up two goals and two assists in 14 games. Last season, an ACL injury suffered in training camp cost him the entire season.
Svechnikov is a strong skater with very good speed and acceleration for his size. He loves to drive the net and can finish in close when he gets there. He shows great versatility on the rush. Svechnikov has the speed to take a defender wide, the agility and strong stickhandling to beat them with his lateral movement, or by fooling them with changing speeds. He is stronger since his draft year, improving his balance, and becoming tougher to knock off the puck. He has also improved his first step.
Svechnikov has good size. He shows off an outstanding wrist shot and release. He also has an impressive snapshot and a very hard one-timer. When it comes to his shooting arsenal, Svechnikov has pro-ready skills. However, he is not just a one-trick pony as Svechnikov also has excellent vision and passing ability. He shows high-end offensive hockey IQ, making very smart plays with the puck on his stick and finding openings in the defence without it.
Svechnikov has tremendous skill and the stickhandling ability to protect the puck and to get by defenders. He also shows the willingness to play a power game when necessary, getting in hard on the forecheck, and battling hard in the corners and in front of the net. He pressures defenders effectively. Svechnikov throws big hits at times. The issue here is consistency. Svechnikov can be a world-beater one night and seem invisible the next. He needs to find a way to bring his elite offensive skills on a more regular basis.
Svechnikov’s defensive game is a work in progress. He tries to help out in his own end and uses his size to battle for pucks. Other areas of his game are improving. Svechnikov’s positioning is better than it was in his draft year. However, he can still get himself out of position and leaves the opposing team with passing lanes from time-to-time. He tries hard, but still makes some mistakes when he doesn’t have the puck.
Svechnikov hopes to have a strong training camp and put the last two seasons behind him. There are some openings in the Red Wings forward group, but there is stiff competition for spots. Svechnikov may need some time to shake the rust off after not playing for a full season.
#10 Prospect: Albin Grewe
The Red Wings drafted Grewe with the 66th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Grewe. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
Sleeper Prospect: Filip Larsson
Goaltender — shoots Left — Catches Left
Born August 17th 1998 — Stockholm, Sweden
Height 6’2″ — Weight 196 lbs [188 cm / 89 kg]
Drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in the 6th round, #167 overall at the 2016 NHL Draft
Larsson had an outstanding freshman season at the University of Denver, stealing the number one job. In 22 games, he put up a 1.95 goals-against-average and .932 save percentage. Larsson was named to the NCHC All-Rookie team and was an Honorable Mention for the Conference All-Star Team.
Skating and Talent Analysis
Larsson plays deep in his crease, protecting the net with his quick reflexes. He has very quick legs and takes away the bottom of the net. Like many young goaltenders, he could work on his rebound control. Larsson stays square to the shooter and is ready to make the next save when he does give up a rebound. He is good at tracking the puck and gets post-to-post quickly. Larsson gets his glove hand in front of shots but needs to be better at catching the puck to shut down rebounds. He also has a good blocker.
Larsson stays in his net and does not come out to play the puck. His puck skills could use some work going forward, but he is more likely to just let his defenders handle things.
Larsson does not let things phase him. It can sometimes be an adjustment for goaltenders moving from big ice to the smaller surface. Increased traffic in front of the net can take some adjusting too. This wasn’t the case for Larsson who did not let it bother him and just kept playing his game. He does not dwell on bad goals but is quick to recover and get ready to make the next save.
Like many young goaltenders, Larsson will need plenty of development time. He has left college and signed an entry-level contract with the Red Wings. Expect Larsson to join Grand Rapids where he will play a busier schedule than he would have if he stayed in college. The increased number of games should allow Larsson to develop quicker but plenty of patience is still needed.
Two straight great drafts have really added a lot of depth to the Red Wings system. They have a number of quality prospects. The philosophy has been to rebuild from the net out. The wings goaltending prospects are especially deep with Keith Petruzzelli, Jesper Eliasson, Kaden Fulcher, and Joren Van Pottelberghe worth keeping an eye on. Defenders to watch include Albert Johansson, Alec Regula, Antti Tuomisto, Gustav Lindstrom, Joe Hicketts, Kasper Kotkansalo, Seth Barton, Oliwer Kaski, and Villi Saarijärvi. Upfront, the team still has some hope for Axel Holmstrom, Dominic Turgeon, Ryan Kuffner, Ryan O’Reilly, and Ethan Phillips. The Wings system is in good shape and Yzerman has plenty of high-end talent to work with as he builds the team back up to respectability.
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