The Wings Got Screwed. Now What?

By: Danny Ryan

The NHL Draft Lottery (Pt 1) was last night, in case you didn’t hear the 5 people on twitter yelling about. While the longstanding fans of Team E finally ended years of misery by taking home the #1 prize, the Original Six Detroit Red Wings fell in the draft for the 4th consecutive year. Team E will get to play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and then be able to select generational talent Alexis Lafreniere, because, why not? The Red Wings were on the verge of having one of the worst seasons in recorded history before coronavirus put them out of their misery. For that, their reward will be a good, possibly very good, player that will help them in the future, but is not the cure to their lackluster roster. Optimism tells me that picking #4 is still going to help this team in the future, pessimism reminds me that players like Lafrienere don’t just grow on trees and that this current roster is a load of barf. Nevertheless, we persist. Now is time to give up the Lafreniere dream and start doing the real digging on what pool Detroit will be selecting from. The top 3 is all but solidified of Lafreniere, Quinton Byfield and Tim Stuetzle. While NHL teams do have a tendency to reach on players and shake up mock drafts in the past (see Canadians/Zadina), this may be the most clear-cut top 3 we have had in years. The only real shakeup I envision, is Stuetzle being taken over Byfield, but even that feels like a reach.

 

  1.     Alexis Lafreniere – Team E

        This is happening and we will not talk about it. Don’t Google him. Picturing him in a Blackhawks, Penguins, Canadians or Maple Leafs jersey will not help.

 

  1.     Quinton Byfield – Los Angeles Kings

The Case for Taking Him

        The Kings are blessed with a loaded prospect pool with a diverse skill group across the board. They took Alex Turcotte in the 1st round last year and even though he did not fully live up to expectations at Wisconsin, he still projects to be a #1 center in the NHL. With Byfield and Turcotte down the middle, the Kings would have a vaunted pairing that could compliment each other well. Byfield is big and imposing but doesn’t sacrifice any skill with his size. He has great hands, good playmaking ability and is not known for being slow. Evengi Malkin comes to mind. The Western Conference teams love big centers and you need some size down the middle to succeed in the Pacific. By drafting Byfield and Turcotte, the Kings can happily say they have handled Anze Kopitar’s succession plan as best as possible.

Why He May Fall

        Really the only the reason the Kings pass here would be for Tim Stutzle. Stutzle has shot up the draft boards in the past year and some scouts have him as the #2 ranked prospect. The Kings may have a preference for the German, but ultimately that should not effect the Red Wings. While it would be a massive reach, keep an eye for Canadian defenseman Jamie Drysdale in this spot. The Kings do not have a clear cut #1 Defenseman prospect and they could see a reason to reach if they are satisfied with Turcote and Gabe Vilardi/Rasmus Kupari down the middle.

  1.     Time Stutzle – Ottawa Senators

The Case for Taking Him

        The German phenom has had the biggest rise out of anyone during this draft campaign. Playing for Moritz Seider’s old team Alder Manheim in the DEL, Stutzle was playing against grown men and thrived. He showed elite playmaking sense and can make everyone on the ice around him better. During the World Junior Classic, the upstart German team made waves and a lot of that was due to Stutlze. Playing as a young 17-year-old, Stutzle exceled against the older competition on his way to a point per game performance, including a beautiful assist against the US. Stutzle is a set it and forget it type player. Throw him on the ice with whoever, watch him fly around and do whatever he wants, good things will happen.

Why He May Fall

        Its hard to imagine any universe where Stutzle falls past the Senators here. If anything, he is going #2 instead of #3. The Senators have a barren cupboard of talent right now and Stutzle would immediately start on their team. They have good defensive prospects, so I don’t see Drysdale going here, since they could have him at the #5 pick.

 

Now the real fun begins. There are still good players available, but the Red Wings are going to have a hard time deciding. They could use a #1 or #2 Center, some top 6 wingers, some bottom 6 wingers, another top 4 defenseman and I won’t even mention the Goalie situation and will choose to worry about that in the 2027 Stanley Cup Finals. You could make an argument for any of these players, but these just so happen to be my preference. Again, if any of the top 3 fall, Steve Yzerman should be raising his hand on Zoom immediately to draft them, but instead we will be preparing for reality.

  1.     Lucas Raymond, Frolunda, SHL, Winger

        When we talk about Stutzle’s meteoric rise, it fails to mention who he passed along the way. Raymond was a consensus top 3 pick this time last year after a dominant u17 year. In an age group that was constantly referencing the record-breaking US team lead by Jack Hughes, it was Raymond who propelled Sweden to steal the u18 World Championships. Lead by a hat trick and game winner in the final against top goalie Yaroslav Askorav, Raymond showcased his skill against the best players in his age group. He is silky; can create off the powerplay and on 5 on 5. Raymond tends to find open spaces in which he can work and always plays with his head up. His hands are delicious, and he has no problem looking to shoot when the opportunity is there. The reason he fell in rankings this year, is because he had a pedestrian first year playing against grown men. The SHL is no joke of a league and he did not take the step many expected to see. While that may be cause for concern, Raymond still has the highest ceiling of the remaining prospects and could end up being the Red Wings best player. Que me fantasizing him teeing up clap bombs for Zadina.

  1.     Cole Perfetti, Saginaw, OHL, Center

        Sooner or later the Wings are going to have to address that #2 center spot and get some depth down the middle. While you would like to get someone who could compete with Larkin at the #1 spot, Perfetti is a great consolation. Perfetti is a really good player who has been a consistent point getter during his time in the OHL. He can play wing, so that versatility could come in handy if/when the Wings are able to take another center in the top 5. He is not going to wow you with his skill but is the stereotypical player who will get the job done. Right place, right time kind of guy. Smart, two-way capabilities and not bad on the power play. While Raymond is more of a creator on his own, Perfetti makes his living off seeing the game and following it to where the plays are happening. Perfetti’s next season should be the most telling of his longterm projection. Another year in the OHL and a hopeful spot on Canada’s WJC roster could go a long way in showing just how good he can be.

  1.     Marco Rossi, Ottawa, OHL, C

        A diminutive draft darling, this pick would admittedly fall under the category of a Steve Yzerman pick. Rossi’s only real knock is that he is 5’ 9”, which plays into the tired Hockey trope that he will get bossed around and be too wimpy. That fails to point out that he led the OHL with 120 points this past season. Rossi knows how to score; he knows how to create, and he is not a liability on defense. He seems to always have his head up looking to make a play at all times and knows how to have the game flow through him. While he is listed as a center, he would be another candidate of moving to the wing at some point in his career. The Red Wings need offensive players with high end talent, Rossi would fit the bill and would pair nicely with anyone in the current lineup. Expect it to take him a few years to be in the NHL, but I would not be shocked if he is knocking on the doorstep sooner than most people thought

  1.     Jamie Drysdale, Erie, OHL, D

        Unfortunately, this also falls under the category of a Steve Yzerman pick. This is not to discredit Drysdale as a player, but I am more concerned about the offensive state of this franchise, especially since Seider is the Wings #1 prospect now. As colleague Alex Drain put it, next year is the year to draft a puck moving defenseman. All that being said, I still think Drysdale should be getting the love Bowen Byram got last year. He had an exceptional year this year for Erie and played meaningful minutes as a 17-year-old defenseman for the Gold medal winning Canadian team at the WJC. Drysdale is a mobile defenseman who can get the puck up ice and participates actively in the offensive zone. Right-handed defenseman do not exactly grow on trees and finding one with his puck moving ability is tantalizing for any team. A 1st pairing combination of Seider or Drysdale/Hronek would put the fate of the Red Wings backend in good hands for years to come. Worth noting, Drysdale is my candidate for a team to reach on. If there is any shakeup in the top 3, expect Drysdale to be the cause of it.

Summary: The Red Wings suck. They sucked (at a colossal level) last year. They could suck just as bad this year. They suck at winning the lottery and that sucks. Alexis Lafreniere will not suck. All that sucks. However, the Red Wings are still able to draft a player that does not suck and could quite possibly, be the best player on their team in years to come. The Red Wings need to get better at every position, which is both a blessing and a curse. When you are picking #4, it allows you to be a little more creative with who you select. Let us just hope Stevie and the scouting department do all their homework.