Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Player Projections

With the season starting today, I thought I would share my player statistic projections for the whole season. I will be leaving off Darren Helm and Patrick Eaves because they have both been placed on the long term injured reserve (LTIR) and Gustav Nyquist because he has been reassigned to Grand Rapids to start the season. Although I am hopeful he will be up on the Red Wings soon, there is no telling how long he will be down there.

Forwards: Overall, with a few key additions though prospect development and free agency, the Red Wings' offense should be able to overcome the departures and be stronger this season then last.

Justin Abdelkader: 18 Goals 24 Assists 42 Points
        -If he is playing on the first line, he will get his share of goals playing somewhat of a Tomas Holmstrom role.

Daniel Alfredsson: 21 Goals 35 Assists 56 Points
        -Playing on the second line with a playmaker like Stephen Weiss, he will get his share of scoring chances, and a veteran with a shot like Alfredsson will not miss. At the same time, he will be playing with Johan Franzen who can score, and Weiss is no slouch himself when it come to scoring. Alfredssson is still a talent, and he will be surrounded by talent. It should make for a productive season despite his age.

Joakim Andersson: 8 Goals 19 Assists 27 Points
         -Depending on his line-mates, the big center has a chance to produce. Gustav Nyquist was sent to Grand Rapids to start the season, but Tatar is with the Red Wings. If Nyquist is called up, a line of Tatar, Andersson, and Nyquist has a chance to regain the chemistry they had as the top line of the Calder Cup champion Grand Rapids Griffins. Although Andersson is not a goal scorer, if he is surrounded by goal scorers, he will unavoidably get assists.

Todd Bertuzzi: 4 Goals 7 Assists 11 Points
         -There is no telling how much he will play, or if he will be healthy. If he does play, he will score some goals, but I'm anticipating a short season for him.

Daniel Cleary: 11 Goals 12 Assists 23 Points
         -Although he showed he could still score last season, he will need to adjust to playing on the 4th line with fewer minutes this season. He will still get his share of goals, but I expect it to be lower than what we have seen in the past.

Pavel Datsyuk: 26 Goals 45 Assists 71 Points
         -Datsyuk is only getting older, but he never seems to show it. I expect him to be at a point per game pace, but I also expect him to miss a few games due to injury throughout the year as he has in the past.

Cory Emmerton: 3 Goals 5 Assists 8 Points
         -It all depends on how many games he gets to play. He is starting on the roster, but that is not guaranteed to continue. If he does play his way into a regular roster spot for the season, I could see up to 7 goals and 10 assists, but I do not see that happening.

Johan Franzen: 31 Goals 30 Assists 61 Points
         -Playing alongside fellow Swede Daniel Alfredsson could be huge for Franzen. As a result of that and playing with a playmaker like Weiss, expect Franzen to break the 30 goal plateau for the first time since 2008-09.

Drew Miller: 9 Goals 8 Assists 17 Points
         -He is not paid to produce points, so there is no reason to expect him to do so. He will finish close to his average as a grinding player.

Mikael Samuelsson: 13 Goals 20 Assists 33 Points
         -He has the ability to produce points, but injuries will play a factor this year. I see this projection as a best case scenario for Samuelsson, because he could find himself with smaller totals if injuries bite him bad.

Tomas Tatar: 19 Goals 17 Assists 36 Points
         -This total could go up if Nyquist is recalled quickly and gets placed on his line. For now, Tatar is a bottom 6 forward on a line that will not provide him the best scoring chances. However, he is too skilled not to get his share of goals. In the future I see Tatar as a potential 30 goal player, but in his first season I believe 19 is a fair and healthy prediction.

Jordin Tootoo: 2 Goals 3 Assists 5 Points
         -Typically Tootoo would at least have a few more points than this, but there are not enough spots on the roster, and I do not see him playing in many games this season.

Stephen Weiss: 24 Goals 37 Assists 61 Points
         -A playmaker playing on a line with two snipers should give Weiss his fair share of assists. At the same time, he will get his chances to score when teams decide to take away the pass, and Weiss is capable of finishing.

Henrik Zetterberg: 21 Goals 48 Assists 69 Points
         -Zetterberg will have fun playing with Datsyuk this year, but if they are split up at any point, he will be surrounded by more talent than he has had in years. Not to mention the additions the team made should boost the powerplay. I do expect him to miss some time with injury, but the captain will still produce points.

Defenseman: This group is young, but they almost all have size, skill, and potential. They played well last year, and I only expect them to improve this year.

Danny DeKeyser: 5 Goals 15 Assists 20 Points
         -DeKeyser is more of a defensive defenseman, but he has shown some offensive upside in his limited time with the Red Wings. Expect the rookie to be a shutdown guy who will be able to chip in offensively from time to time.

Jonathan Ericsson: 2 Goals 11 Assists 13 Points
         -Similar to DeKeyser, Ericsson is a shutdown defenseman. He has never been much of an offensive contributor. Expect him to finish at his averages.

Jakub Kindl: 7 Goals 24 Assists 31 Points
         -Kindl was impressive last year. He showed what a nice shot he has, and proved that he has offensive upside. I expect him to make another jump this year, and start producing some more points along with his improved overall play.

Niklas Kronwall: 11 Goals 35 Assists 46 Points
         -Kronwall has emerged as a solid offensive defenseman in this league over the past few years. With a full year as the top defenseman on the team, I expect a big year from Kronwall who has potential to put up a lot of points from the blue line.

Brian Lashoff: 0 Goals 3 Assists 3 Points
         -As the extra defenseman on the roster, he will not get a lot of playing time. When he does play, he is a defensive defenseman who does not contribute offensively frequently.

Kyle Quincey: 8 Goals 20 Assists 28 Points
         -People forget about Quincey's offensive abilities. He is capable of scoring and producing points. He will have a solid season as far as point production goes.

Brendan Smith: 3 Goals 15 Assists 18 Points
         -I still believe Smith has offensive potential that he has not shown yet. He has a very good shot, but he just needs to make better decisions on the ice. I would not be surprised to see Smith with a few 10 goal seasons before his career is over, but I think he takes a only small step towards that potential this year.

Goalies: No unknowns here besides injuries. Howard should be steady as always.

Jonas Gustavsson: 7 Wins .895 Sv% 2.85 GAA
         -He will get a few starts, and he will therefore get a few wins. Howard cannot play 82 games, and Gustavsson is first in line as the back-up.

Jimmy Howard: 39 Wins .915 Sv% 2.21 GAA
         -After establishing himself as one of the top goalies in the league, Howard appears ready to carry the Red Wings into the playoffs and hopefully to a Stanley Cup Championship. However, he will be playing a lot of games. After a shortened season last year and a reduction in goalie pad sizes league wide, his save percentage and goals against average take small hits as he adjusts to playing a full season and the smaller pads, but it will be nothing significant.

What are some of your predictions for the season? Do you agree with my predictions?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Pre-Season Roster Adjustments

The NHL is coming. I can smell it in the air when I walk outside, and I can see it on T.V. when I see brief highlights of preseason games.

Believe it or not, the Red Wings play their first game 2 weeks from today when they face Buffalo at The Joe at 8 pm EDT on October 2nd. Although that is very close to now, the Red Wings still have some work to do before they are ready for the season as far as roster moves go.

Daniel Cleary is a Red Wing once again. It took all summer, but he was finally signed to a 1 year $1.75 million deal. Not surprisingly after a summer when many thought they had seen the last of Cleary in the winged wheel, this signing was heavily criticized. I take the opposite approach however. Cleary was a leader last year in the playoffs, both emotionally and as far as performance goes. He was 2nd on the team in postseason points behind our captain, and he was tied for 2nd in postseason goals trailing only Damien Brunner (who still remains unsigned). Cleary had one more point and one more goal than Pavel Datsyuk in the playoffs last year. I don't care who you are, that is impressive to me.

Now I'm not going to try and convince anyone that Cleary is as good as Datsyuk. Nor am I going to try and convince anyone that it is even close. What I will say is that Cleary is still a serviceable player and I think his leadership and work ethic will help this team. It is a very low risk signing with a low salary (he is between Drew Miller and Justin Abdelkader on the payscale), and with it only being one year.

There is a catch though, because the signing of Cleary creates a logjam at forward that is even more severe than before. If Helm starts the season on the injured reserve list (it's starting to look like that will be the case), there will be a battle between 10 players for 6 regular playing spots. These players are Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Jordin Tootoo, Patrick Eaves, Drew Miller, Todd Bertuzzi, Mikael Samuelsson, Cory Emmerton, Joakim Andersson, and Danny Cleary.

I'm going to do some assuming now. First, I already assumed that Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Daniel Alfredsson, Stephen Weiss, and Justin Abdelkader are on the team. Secondly, I do not think Cleary would have been resigned if he was not going to play, so I would think he gets one of those 6 remaining spots. 5 left.

Tomas Tatar is no longer waiver exempt. He either needs to play in the NHL for the Red Wings, be placed on waivers where another team will assuredly pick him up, or go play somewhere like Russia. After being the MVP of the Calder Cup playoffs last year, and getting a goal and an assist in the first Red Wings preseason game this year, I think he has proven that he belongs on the Red Wings. I believe he will be getting a spot. 4 left.

Drew Miller was signed to a new contract this summer. I find it hard to believe that he will find himself not in the organization's plans. He will have a spot. 3 left.

Joakim Andersson emerged as a dependable, hard-working two way center last year. With Helm who is a center still injured, a center with the size that Andersson brings is too valuable a commodity to lose. He should be safe. 2 left.

This is where things get interesting. Gustav Nyquist, Jordin Tootoo, Patrick Eaves, Todd Bertuzzi, Mikael Samuelsson, and Cory Emmerton remain with only 2 spots left. My initial reaction is that Gustav Nyquist has obviously proven that he can play in the NHL, so he should have a roster spot. However, he is the only player on this list that is still waiver exempt. It is not out of the question that he could find himself in Grand Rapids to start the year. That does not mean he will not be brought up, but we might not see Nyquist right away. If I were running the team, I would want Nyquist on the Red Wings. I think the more he plays in the NHL, the more he grows into a very good player. He needs NHL ice time, and he could be a big contributor to this team.

So what is the answer? What will happen next? There is honestly no telling. Bertuzzi could still have lingering injuries that keep him out, and the same goes for Samuelsson. Tootoo is a gritty player, and the Red Wings are lacking someone like him. However, he was a healthy scratch in the playoffs last year. This is not a good sign for things to come for Tootoo in Detroit.

Emmerton and Eaves are both solid all around players, but they are nothing more than that. They are known commodities which might be both a good and bad thing for them this offseason. I understand that Emmerton is still young and might have untapped potential, but he has not shown it in during his first 2 years with the Red Wings.

If it were up to me assuming the players all stay healthy, I would fill the last two spots with Nyquist and Samuelsson. I would then have Bertuzzi as an extra forward who could rotate in on the 4th line. Samuelsson is a veteran who can shoot and can score. If he is in shape and healthy, he is still a good option for this team. It would pain me to see Eaves go. I really like his competitiveness and his work ethic. That's the problem with depth though, not everyone can stay.  

Obviously this assumes everyone is healthy. Things could drastically change based on injuries as far as who I think should be on this team.

Who do you think should fill the bottom six forward roster positions? Do you agree that Cleary can still be an impact player? Are you happy about the Cleary signing?

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Great Howard Debate

It would be hard to argue against the fact that on an individual level Jimmy Howard had a successful playoff run this past year. He came up big against the Ducks by being a big part in the game 7 victory, and he helped the Red Wings push the eventual Stanley Cup winners to the brink of elimination. I heard from many people that they were happy Jimmy Howard finally broke through and showed what kind of potential he has.

Rewind about a month from that playoff run. Howard had just signed a 6 year contract worth almost $32 million. That contract was heavily debated, and although there were those who supported the contract, many were against it. In fact, it seemed like the majority were against it. Since that playoff run, most people have now changed their mind and think it was a good deal for the Red Wings.

There are reasons that many people supported the contract before the playoffs, including myself. I’m going to present those reasons here. I’m also going to break down this contract a little further, and I’m going to break down not only just how good Jimmy Howard is, but also how good he has been in comparison to other NHL goalies with familiar names.

Let’s start with the contract. For the past few years, Howard’s cap hit was $2.25 million which is a bargain for a goalie of Howard’s caliber. It was low because when he signed it, he was still young and unproven. His new cap hit will be $5,291,667 for 6 years. Many people did not like this contract, but not for all of the same reasons. There were a number of those who did not like the cap hit, another group that did not like the length, and yet another group that did not like the contract overall because they thought Howard was no good.

For comparison sake, let’s take a look at some other goalie contracts that are either more than, or near Howard in terms of cap hit.

Name – Team – Cap Hit – Age – Contract Start Year-Contract End Year – Total Length of Contract – Years Remaining

1.       Pekka Rinne – Nashville Predators – $7,000,000 – 30 years old – 2012-2019 – 7 years – 6 years

2.       Tuukka Rask – Boston Bruins – $7,000,000 – 26 years old – 2013-2021 – 8 years – 8 years

3.       Henrik Lundqvist – NY Rangers – $6,875,000 – 31 years old – 2008-2014 – 6 years – 1 year

4.       Carey Price – Montreal Canadiens – $6,500,000 – 25 years old – 2012-2018 – 6 years – 5 years

5.       Cam Ward – Carolina Hurricanes – $6,300,000 – 29 years old – 2010-2016 – 6 years – 3 years

6.       Ryan Miller – Buffalo Sabres – $6,250,000 – 33 years old – 2009-2014 – 5 years – 1 year

7.       Kari Lehtonen – Dallas Stars – $5,900,000 – 29 years old – 2013-2018 – 5 years – 5 years

8.       Miikka Kiprusoff – Calgary Flames – $5,833,333 – 36 years old – 2008-2014 – 6 years – 1 year

9.       Jonathan Quick – LA Kings – $5,800,000 – 27 years old – 2013-2023 – 10 years – 10 years

10.   Mike Smith – Phoenix Coyotes – $5,666,667 – 31 years old – 2013-2019 – 6 years – 6 years

11.   Sergei Bobrovsky – Columbus Blue Jackets – $5,625,000 – 24 years old – 2013-2015 – 2 years – 2 years

12.   Roberto Luongo – Vancouver Canucks – $5,333,333 – 34 years old – 2010-2022 – 12 years – 9 years

13.   Jimmy Howard – Detroit Red Wings – $5,291,667 – 29 years old – 2013-2019 – 6 years – 6 years

14.   Marc-Andre Fleury – Pittsburgh Penguins – $5,000,000 – 28 years old – 2008-2015 – 7 years – 2 years

15.   Jonas Hiller – Anaheim Ducks – $4,500,000 – 31 years old – 2010-2014 – 4 years – 1 year

16.   Martin Brodeur – New Jersey Devils - $4,500,000 – 41 years old – 2012-2014 – 2 years – 1 year

Now, I’m going to take that same group of goalies, and break down some statistics, both for this past season and their careers. I’m going to sort the list in terms of save percentage.

2013 Regular Season Stats
Name – Games Played – Save Percentage – Goals Against Average – Wins – Shutouts

1.       Sergei Bobrovsky – 38 Games – .932 – 2.00 – 21 Wins – 4 SO

2.       Tuukka Rask – 36 Games – .929 – 2.00 – 19 Wins – 5 SO

3.       Henrik Lundqvist – 43 Games – .926 – 2.05 – 24 Wins – 2 SO

4.       Jimmy Howard – 42 Games – .923 – 2.13 – 21 Wins – 5 SO

5.       Marc-Andre Fleury – 33 Games – .916 – 2.39 – 23 Wins – 1 SO

6.       Kari Lehtonen – 36 Games – .916 – 2.66 – 15 Wins – 1 SO

7.       Ryan Miller – 40 Games – .915 – 2.81 – 17 Wins – 0 SO

8.       Jonas Hiller – 26 Games – .913 – 2.36 – 15 Wins – 1 SO

9.       Pekka Rinne – 43 Games – .910 – 2.43 – 15 Wins – 5 SO

10.   Mike Smith – 34 Games – .910 – 2.58 – 15 Wins – 5 SO

11.   Cam Ward – 17 Games – .908 – 2.84 – 9 Wins – 0 SO

12.   Roberto Luongo – 20 Games – .907 – 2.56 – 9 Wins – 2 SO

13.   Carey Price – 39 Games – .905 – 2.59 – 21 Wins – 3 SO

14.   Jonathan Quick – 37 Games – .902 – 2.45 – 18 Wins – 1 SO

15.   Martin Brodeur – 29 Games – .901 – 2.22 – 13 Wins – 2 SO

16.   Miikka Kiprusoff – 24 Games – .882 – 3.44 – 8 Wins – 0 SO

Career Stats
Name – Games Played – Save Percentage – Goals Against Average – Wins – Shutouts – Stanley Cups as a Starter

1.       Tuukka Rask – 138 Games – .927 – 2.15 – 66 Wins – 16 SO – 0 Cups

2.       Henrik Lundqvist – 511 Games – .920 – 2.25 – 276 Wins – 45 SO – 0 Cups

3.       Pekka Rinne – 293 Games – .920 – 2.36 – 153 Wins – 30 SO – 0 Cups

4.       Roberto Luongo – 747 Games – .919 – 2.52 – 348 Wins – 62 SO – 0 Cups

5.       Jimmy Howard – 234 Games – .918 – 2.36 – 131 Wins – 16 SO – 0 Cups

6.       Jonas Hiller – 276 Games – .917 – 2.51 – 133 Wins – 16 SO – 0 Cups

7.       Sergei Bobrovsky – 121 Games – .917 – 2.49 – 63 Wins – 4 SO – 0 Cups

8.       Ryan Miller – 500 Games – .915 – 2.59 – 269 Wins – 28 SO – 0 Cups

9.       Carey Price – 310 Games – .915 – 2.56 – 145 Wins – 19 SO – 0 Cups

10.   Jonathan Quick – 286 Games – .915 – 2.32 – 149 Wins – 25 SO – 1 Cup

11.   Kari Lehtonen – 380 Games – .914 – 2.71 – 181 Wins – 22 SO – 0 Cups

12.   Mike Smith – 263 Games – .913 – 2.57 – 120 Wins – 24 SO – 0 Cups

13.   Martin Brodeur – 1,220 Games - .913 – 2.23 – 669 Wins – 121 SO – 3 Cups

14.   Miikka Kiprusoff – 623 Games – .912 – 2.41 – 319 Wins – 44 SO – 0 Cups

15.   Cam Ward – 431 Games – .910 – 2.74 – 214 Wins – 21 SO – 1 Cup

16.   Marc-Andre Fleury – 467 Games – .910 – 2.66 – 249 Wins – 23 SO – 1 Cup

I think the stats speak for themselves. Howard is a top goalie in this league, and his contract is the 13th highest. There are some goalies who are still young who are not on this list however. Corey Crawford won the Cup with the Blackhawks this past season, and Antti Niemi also won a Cup with the Blackhawks a few years ago. However, they are still young so they have not gotten their big contract yet. I can assure you that within the next few years, their names will be on this list too barring any sort of significant injury.

Howard also has some good career playoff stats. Of the goalies on the list, Howard is 8th in save percentage at .918, and he is 12th on the list in terms of goals against average at 2.57. Although that is not as stellar as his regular season stats, he is still playing above his contract ranking. Not to mention this past post season he played above his career statistics with a .924 save percentage and a 2.44 goals against average.

Howard might be one of the most underrated goalies in the league, and the thing about him that encourages me the most is his consistency. He plays a lot of games every year, and he has played well for multiple years now. He is not a flash in the pan type goalie like we saw out of Brian Elliot on the Blues a year ago, and what we saw out of Craig Anderson in Ottawa this year. I suppose Anderson has the chance to prove me wrong, but after being mediocre for so long, and then posting such great numbers this year, I have a lot of doubt that he can keep up that outstanding play.

For those of you worried that Howard is not a Stanley Cup caliber goalie, there is no need to worry. Howard is good enough to win the Stanley Cup. If you don’t believe me, look at the list of goalies above and the number of Stanley Cups they have won. There are some goalies that are considered elite that have never won a Cup. Henrik Lundqvist, Carey Price, and Pekka Rinne are just a few. No one questions whether those goalies are capable of winning a Cup. Howard has proven that he can perform in the playoffs (especially if you ignore the one bad series he had against Nashville in 2012) so I believe he is good enough. Now the question of whether or not he will win a Cup is another question. I am hopeful with the team the Red Wings will have playing in front of him, even as soon as next year.

Howard deserving of the contract he got based on his performance alone, but there is one more reason I am really happy about it. If we did not sign Howard to that kind of money, he would’ve signed with another team for the same price, if not more. Who would the Red Wings get to be their goalie? Starting goalies are not readily available, especially one as good as Howard has been. Now, the team has its rock in goal, and it is not an area the team will need to worry about for a while.

I did mention in my earlier posts that the Red Wings have a stud goalie prospect in Petr Mrazek, and I have not forgotten about him. He is probably 1 or 2 years away from being ready to play in the NHL. He is still very young though, so if he does make it to the NHL he can get his playing time as a backup to Howard while Howard is 2 or 3 years into this new contract. Because Howard plays so frequently, having a goalie like Mrazek  who is capable will be a very welcome addition to the team as some relief for Howard. If it is apparent at that time that Mrazek is better than a backup goalie, the Red Wings will have options. They can trade Mrazek, or they can even trade Howard. Either way, that is a good problem to have if it happens. People who think this contract is a road block to any young goalie in the Red Wings organization just need to realize that a team only needs one starting goalie. If Howard is good throughout the length of the contract which is very possible, then it will be a good deal.

What do you think of Howard’s contract? Did you like it initially? Have you changed your mind about it since the playoffs?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

My Top 20 Favorite Prospects

Before I get into the meat of what I want to talk about this week, I just wanted to mention a few things. 

First, I do not plan on having a blog next week. With the summer comes a lull in hockey news. However, there are a few things I want to share with you even with a lack of news, so I plan on having a new blog posted in 2 weeks.

Also, sorry for not getting this blog posted until Thursday, but I was out of town earlier in the week, and this post is my longest yet. Hopefully this blog is long enough to hold everyone for two weeks.

There is some news on the free agent front as well. The Red Wings have signed Brendan Smith to a 2 year contract worth a total of $2.525 million. That is a cap hit of roughly $1.26 million. I like the signing because it is a low risk signing that will give Smith a chance to prove himself as the highly touted prospect he has been.

There are still no contracts for Gustav Nyquist or Joakim Andersson, but Ken Holland said they will be signed by September. There is no real rush for them to sign, and in case something else happens with this team over the summer it will give the Red Wings flexibility in terms of how much money they can commit to them.

The last thing I wanted to mention is that Stephen Weiss has announced that he will wear the number 90 for the Red Wings. He has worn number 9 during his career in Florida, and needed to make the change since Gordie Howe's number 9 is retired in Detroit. Weiss is the 2nd player to wear number 90 for the Red Wings, the other being Mike Modano.

Now on to what I wanted to get into this week. I have talked a lot about the Red Wings’ prospect system being a good one. Now that the draft and free agency is over, the Red Wings shifted their focus to their annual prospect development camp in Traverse City. In the spirit of the development camp, I think it’s a good time to review some of the prospects in the system.

This list is based on which prospects I am most excited to see playing on the Red Wings in the future. It is not solely based on talent or how NHL ready a prospect is. Those are factors, but the main factor is what my excitement level would be if I were watching them play in their first NHL game.

1.       Calle Jarnkrok – C 5’11” 174 lbs                   Drafted: 2nd Round (51st) 2010 draft
-       A dynamic playmaker that could be fighting for a roster spot next season, but will likely start the year in the AHL. He has the most potential to become an all-star caliber player for the Red Wings out of any in this entire list. He played in the Swedish Hockey League (Formerly known as the Swedish Elite League) for the past few seasons, and he is someone who is a good skater, makes good passes, can beat a defender 1 on 1, and has a scoring touch. He is often compared to the player he idolizes, Henrik Zetterberg, but Jarnkrok is probably a quicker skater and stick-handler, and less of a shooter than Zetterberg was. The work ethic is there however. Expect Jarnkrok to become a top 6 center in the league for a long time to come. Do not be surprised to see him in a Red Wings uniform as early as this year if there are injuries.
                                                     GP  G     A   Pts  PIM                    GP  G     A     Pts  PIM
2011-2012     Brynäs          SHL     49   11   16   27   4         Playoffs    3      3      0      3      2 
2012-2013     Brynäs          SHL     53   13   29   42   12       Playoffs    4      0      0      0      6                 

2.       Tomas Tatar – LW 5’10” 186 lbs                  Drafted: 2nd Round (60th) 2009 draft
-       Tatar is often compared to a better skating version of Jiri Hudler, and it is accurate. Tatar simply loves to score goals. He is a solid player, who will be on the team at the start of the regular season likely as a 2nd or 3rd liner. He boasts a good shot, slick hands, a good work ethic, and a true love of the game. He completely tore it up in the AHL playoffs this past year, scoring 16 goals in 24 games en route to capturing the Calder Cup, and the MVP of the AHL playoffs. Although slightly undersized, he doesn’t shy away from physical play. He has the tools to be a 1st or 2nd line winger in the future.
                                                      GP  G    A   Pts  PIM                    GP  G   A   Pts  PIM
2011-2012   GR Griffins        AHL    76   24   34   58   45     Playoffs    N/A
2012-2013   GR Griffins        AHL    61   23   26   49   50     Playoffs    24   16   5    21   23
2012-2013   Red Wings         NHL    18   4      3    7      4     Playoffs    N/A               

3.       Ryan Sproul – D 6’4” 200 lbs                         Drafted: 2nd Round (55th) 2011 draft
-       Although he is not known for his defensive game, it is something he has become much better at in the past few years. His real assets are his very powerful shot, good skating, ability to lead the rush, and ability to produce points. A potential top pairing defenseman with the ability to quarterback a power play is an important prospect to have. Oh yeah, did I mention that he’s also 6’4”? He has the potential to be a Sheldon Souray type of defender. The 2012-2013 season for Sproul was a breakout type season. He was already putting up solid numbers, but he took it to a whole new level this season. He won the OHL defenseman of the year, and the CHL defenseman of the year awards. He also put up 66 points with 20 goals in 50 games, outscoring many forwards in the same league. He could stand to be more physical, but that is a minor concern. He doesn't shy away from contact, but he is not known as a big hitter. He will be fighting for a spot on the Grand Rapids Griffins AHL roster for the 2013-2014 season.
                                                     GP  G    A    Pts  PIM                     GP  G   A     Pts  PIM
2011-2012 Sault Ste. Marie  OHL    61   23   31   54   53        Playoffs    N/A
2012-2013 Sault Ste. Marie  OHL    50   20   46   66   45        Playoffs    6     2    3      5      0
2012-2013 GR Griffins        AHL     2     0     0     0     2        Playoffs    N/A               

4.       Tomas Jurco – RW 6’2” 193 lbs                    Drafted: 2nd Round (35th) 2011 draft
-       Boasting a good skating stride, and world class stick handling, Jurco put up huge point totals in junior hockey. However, it took him a while to adjust to the professional game in his first AHL season. He finished the season strong though, and played very well in the playoffs. He was one of the youngest players in the whole AHL this past season, so the adjustment period is a non-issue to me. Hopefully by next year he will be able to start out the season like he finished this past season. Losing Tomas Tatar to the Red Wings will force Jurco to be a leader on this team, and he will be relied on to be a big time point producer this upcoming season alongside Calle Jarnkrok and Martin Frk who I discuss later. He has been compared by scouts to a Marian Hossa with better stickhandling skills. The only knocks on him have been inconsistency and the fact that he tends to be more of a perimeter player and doesn’t go into the tough areas to get the puck. He has been working on that though, and has gotten better. There is potential for Jurco to be a top six forward in the future.
                                                       GP   G    A   Pts  PIM                    GP   G    A   Pts  PIM
2011-2012  Saint John       QMJHL    48   30   38   68   37       Playoffs    16   13   16   29   12
2012-2013  GR Griffins     AHL         74   14   14   28   22       Playoffs    24   8     6    14   21

5.        Martin Frk – RW 6’0” 203 lbs                       Drafted:2nd Round (49th) 2012 draft
-       A solid forward with perhaps the best shot in this entire group (just in front of Ryan Sproul who is just ahead of Teemu Pulkkinen), Frk is young, but trending quickly toward the NHL. After putting on a show with the Halifax Mooseheads en route to a Memorial Cup victory, he has nothing left to prove in junior hockey and will join the Grand Rapids Griffins next season. People will knock him for the numbers he put up in juniors because he played on a line with Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin who were both picked in the top 3 of the 2013 NHL draft. However, he earned his spot on that line, and it can be argued that he helped MacKinnon and Drouin look better as much as they made Frk look better. He is not the best skater, but he is not a bad skater either. He can play the point on the power play, and has some grit to his game. He will go to the tough areas, and stand up for a teammate. The Red Wings were able to acquire him in the 2nd round after suffering a concussion during his draft year, but before that he was considered a top 15 pick. He has put the concussion behind him, just as the Red Wings had hoped, and they are hopeful his concussion will not become a recurring issue. This prospect has a lot of upside as a top 6 winger who is a threat on the powerplay, but he needs to show that he can continue his production in the pros.
                                                   GP   G    A    Pts  PIM                       GP  G    A    Pts  PIM
2011-2012   Halifax       QMJHL    34   16   13   29   41           Playoffs    17   5     6    11   26
2012-2013   Halifax       QMJHL    56   35   49   84   84           Playoffs    17   13   20   33   32

6.       Xavier Ouellet – D 6’1” 190 lbs                    Drafted: 2nd Round (48th) 2011 draft
-       An all-around solid defender. It’s really hard to find anything wrong with his game at this point. He skates well, makes good decisions, has offensive flair, is paired against the top lines of other teams, and he is a natural leader. He should be a very good defenseman for the Wings within the next two years. He is planning on playing in the AHL this upcoming season, and he needs to continue to improve his overall game as the competition improves around him. He has the skill and the smarts to be an effective two-way top 4 rearguard in the NHL, and the leadership ability to be a captain or an assistant captain in the future.
                                                      GP  G    A    Pts  PIM                       GP  G    A   Pts  PIM
2011-2012  B-B Armada  QMJHL    63   21   39   60   67           Playoffs    11   3    7    10   14
2012-2013  B-B Armada  QMJHL    50   10   31   41   44           Playoffs    17   7    9    16   22

7.       Teemu Pulkkinen – LW 5’11” 183lbs         Drafted: 4th Round (111st) 2010 draft
-       Finally, a player who wasn’t drafted in the 2nd round makes the list, and it turns out to be a 4th rounder. Teemu Pulkkinen is a pure sniper. The problem is, there isn’t much else to his game. He loves to score, wants to score, and he does score. Possessing a deadly slap shot, he scores in a way similar to Brett Hull or Steven Stamkos. He is not the best skater, and is not very responsible defensively. He is also undersized, but is ready to begin adjusting to the North American style game. He does actually have a good passing ability, as his assist totals are always high. In fact, he broke Teemu Selanne’s single season rookie assist record that stood for 20 years in the Finnish SM-Liiga (Finland’s top hockey league). He is still developing, and is working hard at rounding out his game. Whenever a prospect can score like Pulkkinen can, it’s something to keep an eye on. He will play in the AHL this upcoming season and if he pans out, he could end up being a prolific scoring top 6 winger in the NHL.
                                                     GP   G    A   Pts  PIM                  GP    G   A     Pts  PIM
2011-2012  Jokerit          SM-Liiga   56   16   21   37   41       Playoffs    4     0    1     1     2
2012-2013  Jokerit          SM-Liiga   50   14   20   34   49       Playoffs    6     2    3     5     22
2012-2013  GR Griffins  AHL           2     0     1     1     2      Playoffs    14    3    2     5     10                              

8.       Petr Mrazek – G 6’1” 184 lbs                       Drafted: 5th Round (141st) 2010 draft
-       One of the best prospects on this list, Mrazek made his NHL debut this season. He is a confident winner who fights to make every save. The only reason he is lower on this list is because the Wings already have a solid goalie locked up in Jimmy Howard, and it is not as much a position of need right now. Mrazek relies on his athleticism, quickness, and very high compete level. He was the backstop to the Grand Rapids Griffins Calder Cup victory as a rookie, so he has shown he can perform under pressure. Expect him to spend another year in the AHL, and then during the 2014-2015 season he should be in place to back-up Howard. The Red Wings will have a decision to make at that time with two top goalies on their roster, although it’s a good problem to have. Mrazek has potential to be a franchise goaltender in the NHL.
                                                      GP        GAA     SV%                          GP    GAA     SV%
2011-2012   Ottawa 67’s    OHL      50         2.84      .917            Playoffs    17     2.59      .926   
2012-2013   GR Griffins     AHL      42         2.33      .916            Playoffs    24     2.31      .916   
2012-2013   Red Wings      NHL      2           2.02      .944            Playoffs    N/A 

9.       Nick Jensen – D 6’1” 193 lbs                         Drafted: 5th Round (150th) 2009 draft
-       Nick Jensen has quietly made a name for himself as a very good Red Wings prospect as a defenseman at St. Cloud State University. He can skate extremely well, and is capable of joining and leading a rush up the ice. His biggest weakness is his defensive game, but it’s something he has put work into and improved on recently. In fact, he was named the 2013 WCHA Defenseman of the Year. He wants to get better, and he continues to improve as a result. He likes to make big hits, and he does have a physical element to his game, but that is not what he’s known for. He is known as a good skating offensive defenseman who should play in the NHL someday even as high as a second pairing guy. He will fight for a job in the AHL next year and learn to adjust to the pro game.
                                                         GP  G   A    Pts  PIM                  GP  G    A    Pts  PIM
2011-2012    St. Cloud State  NCAA    39   6    26   32   4          Playoffs    N/A
2012-2013    St. Cloud State  NCAA    41   4    27   31   14        Playoffs    N/A

10.   Mattias Backman – D 6’2” 176 lbs              Drafted: 5th Round (146th) 2011 draft
-       Mattias Backman is another later round draft choice who has really started playing well lately. He never will be a player that wows anyone, in fact, sometimes he can be invisible on the ice. However, for a defenseman that can be a good thing. He is very responsible defensively, makes the right decisions, skates well, and can flat out shut down the opponents. His offense did pick up significantly this past year in the SHL as he piled up 26 points. He also was playing top pairing minutes which is an impressive feat for a 20 year old in the SHL. The biggest knock on Backman is his lack of physicality, however he makes up for it with his outstanding smarts and decision making ability. There was another Swedish defenseman we all know in Detroit who was smart and didn’t play a physical game. Although Backman does not project to be a Hall of Fame defenseman even near the caliber of Nicklas Lidstrom, he does have a bit of a similar style in the sense that he is a cerebral defenseman who has good mobility, and can chip in on offense without being a bruiser. He will play in  the SHL for one more year before heading to North America in 2014-2015. Backman has the ability to be a top 4 defenseman for the Red Wings in the future.
                                                    GP  G      A    Pts  PIM                      GP  G     A   Pts  PIM
2011-2012   Linköping       SHL      42   1      7      8    14          Playoffs    N/A
2012-2013   Linköping       SHL      52   2      24   26    34         Playoffs    10   2     4      6      4

11.   Riley Sheahan – C 6’2” 212 lbs                     Drafted: 1st Round (21st) 2010 draft
-       A solid forward prospect with size that could develop into a top 9 player. He is very responsible defensively, and has some scoring touch. He was actually drafted with the intention of being a top six point producing center, but since playing at Notre Dame his scoring has declined and his defense has excelled. He is probably NHL ready right now because he plays a solid all round game and he has NHL size. He is similar to Joakim Andersson, but is more skilled and has more potential scoring ability. It remains to be seen if the scoring potential will be found. Last year was his first year in the pros, and he had a solid season. As far as point producing, it wasn’t great, but he did have a very good playoff run. He needs to continue to mature, because he has had some issues off the ice including drunk driving which have some people questioning his character. He has played two NHL games in his career, but has not gotten his first NHL point yet. Expect him to spend another year in Grand Rapids simply due to a lack of room on the NHL roster, and expect him to take a leadership role in Grand Rapids. If there are injuries on the Red Wings, Sheahan will be one of the first players that will be called up.
                                                       GP  G    A   Pts  PIM                      GP  G    A    Pts  PIM
2011-2012    Notre Dame    NCAA    37   9    16   25   24         Playoffs    N/A
2012-2013    GR Griffins     AHL      72   16   20   36   33         Playoffs    24   3    13   16   10

12.   Andreas Athanasiou – LW 6’0” 179 lbs      Drafted: 4th Round (110th) 2012 draft
-       Athanasiou is fastest prospect on this list, and it has been said that his speed alone will earn him playing time in the NHL. Combining his world class speed with good hands and the ability to score, Athanasiou is an intriguing prospect. However, he needs to be a little more disciplined. He is confident, but it can be his downfall as he was actually a healthy scratch on his junior team during the playoffs two years ago. That is one of the things that hurt his draft stock, because he was regarded as a top 20 pick at one time. His play this past season reminded people why he was once regarded as such a talent. Not only did his point totals go up, but he also developed more of a willingness to battle for the puck in the corners. In the past, he was knocked for floating a bit too much. The Red Wings may have gotten a steal in the 4th round with Athanasiou. Expect him to play in the OHL again this upcoming season, and then he will plan on making the jump to the AHL in the 2014-2015 season. If all things fall into place, he could become a top 9 forward in the mold of a less physical Darren Helm with a little more scoring touch.  
                                                         GP  G    A    Pts  PIM                  GP  G     A   Pts  PIM
2011-2012   London Knights  OHL      63   22   15   37   22      Playoffs    11   1      4      5      0
2012-2013   Barrie Colts        OHL      66   29   38   67   30      Playoffs    22   12   13    25     11

13.   Alexei Marchenko – D 6’2” 183 lbs            Drafted: 7th Round (205th) 2011 draft
-       The Red Wings may have found a hidden gem in this 7th round pick who has played in the KHL, but is planning on making the leap to North American hockey for the 2013-2014 season. He will be battling for a spot on the AHL roster, but there are limited spots. Marchenko is definitely capable of claiming one of those spots, but it is not a guarantee. He is a solid two way defender with some leadership abilities. He has been injured a few times in his career already, but they have been unrelated so it is thought to have been a simple string of bad luck as opposed to a reoccurring problem. Playing in the KHL has given him a lot of very good experience, but he will need to adjust to the smaller North American ice. He reminds me a bit of Danny DeKeyser in the sense that he has good size, he is a very good skater, he is a smart and solid defender, and a good puck mover, but he might not end up being a top point producer from the blue line. He does have top 4 potential however. Another thing Marchenko has going in his favor is his right handed shot. There are not many right-handed shooting NHL defensemen, and the Red Wings currently have no right handed shooting defensemen on their roster. So Marchenko joins Sproul and Jensen as the only promising right handed defensemen on this list and in their system. Mitchell Wheaton is another right-handed shot and still may pan out, but since he was drafted this past year I left him off this list. Expect Marchenko to adapt to the North American style game this next year and be a player that is NHL ready by the 2014-2015 season at the earliest.
                                                       GP    G    A    Pts  PIM                 GP  G    A     Pts  PIM
2011-2012  CSKA Moskva    KHL      6     0     0     0    2       Playoffs    11   1    4      5     0
2011-2012  CSKA-Krasnaja   MHL     5     2     4     6    10     Playoffs    19   4    14   18   18
2012-2013  CSKA Moskva    KHL      44   4     5     9     6      Playoffs    7     0    0      0     0
14.   Landon Ferraro – C 6’0” 174 lbs                  Drafted: 2nd Round (32nd) 2009 draft
-       The son of an excellent player in Ray Ferraro, Landon is a forward with a lot of speed. He was drafted to be a scorer, but Ferraro took a few steps back after being drafted. In fact, no one knew if he would ever make it to the NHL. He has reemerged in the AHL this year however, and looks to be back on a path to the NHL. He is not scoring at the pace that was hoped, but he has scored more than he has been and he has also developed into a speedy player 3-zone player not unlike Darren Helm. He does not have quite as much speed as Helm or Athanasiou for that matter, but he has the same work ethic Helm possesses. It would be great to see him playing on a line with Helm in the future because they are similar, and teams would not be able to keep up with them. Although he is listed as a center, he can play any forward position if needed. He is very good at faceoffs though. Expect him to end up being a bottom 6 grinding type of player with the ability to chip in offensively.
                                                      GP  G     A    Pts  PIM                   GP  G   A    Pts  PIM
2011-2012   GR Griffins      AHL      56   9     11   20   47      Playoffs    N/A
2012-2013   GR Griffins      AHL      72   24   23   47   44       Playoffs    24   5   11   16   11

15.   Adam Almquist – D 5’11” 174 lbs               Drafted: 7th Round (210th) 2009 draft
-       Almquist is another defenseman that was picked in the 7th round.  He is on the smaller side, but has outstanding hockey sense. In fact, it was said that if the draft was based on hockey sense alone, he would’ve been a first round pick. He is a decent skater who makes good passes and has a good shot from the point. The biggest knock on him is his small size, but it does not deter him from the physical side of the game. However, he does have the tendency to get punished by big hits as well. Almquist played in the AHL this past year, and enjoyed some success there. He has the mind to play in the NHL, but it remains to be seen if he will be able to make the physical jump. If he does play in the NHL, expect him to be a bottom pairing defenseman with the ability to produce offensively. He could become a powerplay specialist at the next level.
                                                    GP   G    A    Pts  PIM                     GP  G     A     Pts  PIM
2011-2012    HV71           SHL       42    3    8    11   26         Playoffs     3    0      1      1      4
2012-2013    GR Griffins   AHL      68   10   21   31   34         Playoffs    21   3      7      10   12

16.   Marek Tvrdon – LW 6’2” 217 lbs                 Drafted: 4th Round (115th) 2011 draft
-       As a candidate for the most “under the radar” prospect in the Red Wings system, Tvrdon would probably be higher on this list if he were healthy more often. He suffered a season ending injury (an arm infection) that should not affect him in the future, but no one knows for certain. He also had an unrelated shoulder injury during his draft year. This injury limited his exposure to scouts, and allowed the Red Wings to take him in the 4th round. Tvrdon is a big forward who can rack up points with his excellent shot and skating ability. It is expected that being off the ice for so long will set him back a little bit as far as conditioning and comfort on the ice goes, so if he does not make a significant impact at the beginning of next season I won’t be worried. He has been compared to Tomas Jurco as a big Slovak winger with speed and stickhandling ability. Jurco probably has the better stickhandling, but Tvrdon probably has the better shot. He does need to stay healthy though, and he also has to play the game with more consistency. If he plays up to his potential, the Red Wings have a very talented top 6 winger on their hands, but he has a long way to go still. He did show off in the 2011-2012 season while he was healthy with some big point totals. He needs to find that form, and continue to improve on it as he will be battling for an AHL job this season. He is a player I will be keeping a close eye on this year, because if he has a big second half it could be a positive sign of things to come. 
                                                     GP  G     A   Pts  PIM                   GP    G     A    Pts  PIM
2011-2012   Vancouver      WHL     60   31   43   74   62       Playoffs    6      3      3      6      0
2012-2013   Vancouver      WHL     18   8     14   22   16      Playoffs    N/A

17.   Jake Paterson – G 6’1” 183 lbs                    Drafted: 3rd Round (80th) 2012 draft
-       Paterson is the most recent goalie drafted by the Red Wings, and all signs point to the fact that they made a solid selection. Paterson played for the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL last year, and he expects to play there again this upcoming season because he is still young. His stats will not jump out at you, but he had an excellent season regardless. Saginaw was just a mediocre team this past year which leads to his mediocre stats. He was a backup for Team Canada in the World Junior Championships this past year, and he is considered to be a top candidate as the starter for Team Canada for this upcoming year’s tournament. Paterson is unlike Mrazek in the sense that Mrazek is a make the save at all costs type of goalie which regularly means getting himself out of position and scrambling. The style that Mrazek has is a bit more like Dominik Hasek's style, however Hasek is an extreme example. Paterson is much steadier when he plays and although he is good at making the second or even third saves, he makes it look easier by not scrambling, and keeping good balance and positioning. He does need to play more consistently however, because he can look great at times, and average at others. He is calm under pressure as well, which is an attribute very important for goalies. Paterson still has work to do before getting to the NHL, but it looks like he will be at the very least a strong backup in the NHL. It will not surprise me to see him as a starter for an NHL team in the future, however with Mrazek and Howard hogging the net in front of him likely for years to come, that starting job may not be with the Red Wings.
                                                       GP    GAA      SV%                          GP    GAA     SV%
2011-2012  Saginaw Spirit    OHL      42     3.42      .904            Playoffs    12     3.05      .903   
2012-2013  Saginaw Spirit    OHL      50     3.53      .901            Playoffs    4       5.36      .860   

18.   Mike McKee – D 6’4” 245 lbs                       Drafted: 5th Round (140th) 2012 draft
-       McKee is a different type of player than anyone on this list. He is huge and he is flat out scary to play against. He is not afraid to drop the gloves one bit. He is a decent skater, and has a good shot, but he is definitely the toughest prospect the Wings have. He is still a young and a raw project, but McKee has the potential to play in the NHL. Although he was drafted as a defenseman, and is listed here as such, he may make the conversion to winger in the future. This would allow him to fight with more freedom because it’s easier for a team to lose a bottom line forward for 5 minutes or a game than a defenseman. He needs to learn to control himself when it comes to fighting however, because there are times when he gets a little out of hand. Especially next year, McKee is expecting to play at Western Michigan University in the NCAA where fighting leads to an instant game misconduct and potentially a greater suspension depending on how frequently that player fights. It will be a good chance for McKee to round out his overall game and take a big step towards one day playing in the NHL. He will have some time to develop at Western as well, under the coaching of ex-NHL coach Andy Murray. If he does make it to the NHL, he will be a bottom pairing defenseman or a 4th line winger. He is the type of player NHL teams love to have, but he needs to prove he is more than just a one trick pony in order to make it there.
                                                     GP  G     A   Pts  PIM                  GP    G     A    Pts  PIM
2011-2012    Lincoln Stars   USHL   59   2    17   19   237    Playoffs    8      0      0      0      44
2012-2013    Lincoln Stars   USHL   42   3    18   21   292    Playoffs    5      0      4      4      18

19.   Richard Nedomlel 6’5” 231 lbs                    Drafted: 6th Round (175th) 2011 draft
-       Nedomlel is a prospect who I have personally overlooked since we drafted him in 2011. However, he has proven that he is the real deal and will be fighting for a spot on the Grand Rapids Griffins roster this upcoming season. He was a bit of a late bloomer in the sense that his play improved substantially the season following when he was drafted. Going into the draft, he was looked at as a big stay at home defenseman who was mobile, physical, and had the ability to drop the gloves. However, he was never thought of as a top talent, hence his draft position. In the following season, became a much better puck mover and point producer jumping from 10 points with 0 goals in 2010-2011 to 46 points with 10 goals in 2011-2012. Now, Nedomlel looks to be a massive two way defenseman with offensive capabilities and a nasty edge. I am not convinced he will ever be more than a bottom pairing guy in the NHL, but he may continue to surprise me.
                                                      GP  G     A   Pts  PIM                      GP  G    A     Pts  PIM
2011-2012   Swift Current   WHL     72   10   36   46   83         Playoffs    N/A
2012-2013   Swift Current   WHL     72   7     21   28   105       Playoffs    5     0     1      1      2

20.   Mitch Callahan – RW 6’0” 190 lbs               Drafted: 6th Round (180th) 2009 draft
-       Callahan is a feisty, physical, agitating forward. He plays hard all the time, and will not hesitate to fight. He is not the best skater, but he is not a poor skater either. He needs to prove he can be more than an agitator at a lower level to prove he can play the NHL game. If he develops his hands and his skating, he could be a bottom line fan favorite for reasons similar to why Darren McCarty was beloved in Detroit. Callahan will likely never produce as much as even McCarty did though. Not only that, but Callahan is only 6’ tall. That’s not small for an NHL player necessarily, but it is for a player in an agitating role. He is currently playing in the AHL with the Griffins, and time will tell if he can make the jump to the NHL, and to be clear, he is not very far from being NHL ready. It’s just a matter of taking that final step. He will end up as no more than a 4th liner at the NHL level, but if he does play he will make an impact. That impact just won’t be on the score sheet.
                                                      GP  G    A     Pts  PIM                      GP  G    A    Pts  PIM
2011-2012   GR Griffins      AHL      48   6     3      9    103        Playoffs    N/A
2012-2013   GR Griffins      AHL      71   11   9      20   93         Playoffs    24   6     5    11   33

Keep in mind that when I list a projection for these prospects, that usually means it is the best case scenario. I would not be surprised if half of these prospects never ended up playing in the NHL, but at the same time there is potential for every one of them to make it.

I also left off all the players from the 2013 NHL draft. They are still new to the system, and I want to take some time to follow their progress for a while before putting them into a list like this. I don't know enough about them yet. It wouldn't surprise me if a player like Anthony Mantha shoots into the top 10 on this list by the end of the year.

Are there any prospects that excite you? What position still needs to be filled in the Red Wings' system?