Team Recaps: Detroit Red Wings
Steve Kournianos | 11/12/2020 | Nashville | [hupso]
The Red Wings possessed one of the draft’s most confounding storylines; not just for the ambiguity surrounding their intentions for pick No. 4, but their 2020 draft class as a whole. Remember, it was only a year ago when GM Steve Yzerman bucked the consensus in taking mobile two-way defenseman Moritz Seider at sixth overall, so it was reasonable to think that at least 10 prospects in this year’s top group were in play for the fourth pick. Throw in the intrigue from the Red Wings having over 10 selections for a fourth straight draft, plus the pressure following one of the worst seasons in 34 years, and you had all the makings of must-see TV whenever the Wings were ready to make their picks. In the end, Yzerman and scouting director Kris Draper made off with an impressive haul, beginning with dazzling winger Lucas Raymond on Day 1 and multiple high-end skaters at both the forward and defense positions. Additionally, Yzerman was busy on the trade front; first by shipping the 45th pick to the Kings for No.’s 50 and 96, then moving down again in the third round by swapping the 64th selection to Minnesota for picks 69 and 151.
Lucas Raymond, Left wing (4th overall)
The Red Wings sure love those Swedes, so the drafting of Raymond out of the Frolunda organization shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Although they could have targeted the center position, it’s clear that they viewed Raymond’s sublime puck skills and point-producing potential as critical factors in selecting the winger. One must wonder, however, how long a rebuilding team in a demanding market is willing to wait for him to develop into a regular contributor. Remember, this was Detroit’s highest pick in Round 1 in 30 years, and the pressure to produce an on-ice product that doesn’t induce stomach pains may get in the during Raymond’s apprenticeship.
William Wallinder, Defenseman (32nd overall)
We had Wallinder pegged as a potential first rounder, so getting him with the first pick in Round 2 not only made sense, but also gave the Red Wings another premier left-defense prospect to join the likes of righties like Seider, Antti Tuomisto, and Gustav Lindstrom. Big, smooth, and notably aggressive on or off the puck, Wallinder can be classified as having Zach Werenski potential, except the Swede plays a bit meaner.
Theodor Niederbach, Center (51st overall)
Ranked 48th and identified as a potential first-round sleeper, Niederbach’s stock took a massive jump after his red-hot start to the 2021 season with Frolunda. He always had a strong reputation within scouting circles and it sure looks like he rebounded nicely from his knee injury two season prior. Niederbach is a pure playmaker with deceptive 1-on-1 moves but also makes sounds decisions on the puck in all three zones. His off-the-charts numbers in Sweden’s J20 league may be a bit inflated but they clearly help him solidify his upside as a future point producer.
Cross Hanas, Left Wing (55th overall)
You’d be hard pressed to find a flashier winger from the WHL who was available in the second round, which is why selecting Hanas may pay huge dividends for the Wings when all is said and done. Although he’s more of a one-way forward than a 200-foot type, Hanas is known to posterize defensemen with his stickhandling and rapid directional changes, which usually place him in a prime scoring area. He can be a dual threat in open ice and place the perfect touch on passes from either his forehand or backhand.
Donovan Sebrango, Defenseman (63rd overall)
Normally I would consider choosing a physical defenseman as a decision that should be reserved for the later rounds, but the Red Wings by Round 3 had already loaded up on skill and finesse, thus making the Sebrango selection palatable. He’s big, physical, and can skate the puck out of danger, so any concerns with adapting to the pro game should be minimal. I considered Sebrango to be one of the few OHL defensemen who were consistently reliable in their own end, so the added element of above-average speed likely made him too tantalizing a defense prospect to pass up.
Eemil Viro, Defenseman (70th overall)
One of my favorite defense prospects since the beginning of the season, Viro is just a tweak or two away from taking his game to an elite level. Unfortunately, those improvements have to be made in the creativity and playmaking departments, but then again, he was picked in the third round, so the Wings can afford to be patient. Every other box, however, is double checked, as Viro is a graceful skater with outstanding multi-directional mobility and advanced hockey sense off the puck. It should be noted that it was Niederbach who dangled Viro for a highlight-reel goal at the February Five Nations in the Czech Republic, so expect to see some added competitive fire when they meet up at development camp.
Sam Stange, Right Wing (97th overall)
A high-energy overager who stirred the drink for Sioux Falls, Stange is a Wisconsin native who will suit up for his hometown Badgers this winter. They could certainly use his intangibles and coachability, but Stange is a pure scorer who not only knows how to finish, but also excel in tight-checking affairs. He has an excellent shot and release so look out below when he’s loading one up from the circle.
Jan Bednar, Goalie (107th overall)
You had to figure the Red Wings were going to grab a goalie with one of their 12 picks, but with Bednar they have a potential steal. Considered to be one of the most polished European goalies after Yaroslav Askarov, Bednar has the size (6-foot-3) that not only meets Detroit’s apparent minimum height standards for backstops, but also allows him to absolutely blanket the net. His numbers against adults in the Czech Extraliga were less than pedestrian, but Bednar proved to be too good for the junior circuit and also put on a show at several international events. Competition among the Red Wings’ young goalies is about to get heated, but Bednar — at least on paper — appears to be one of the most promising.
Alex Cotton, Defenseman (132nd overall)
A hard-shooting overager who last season took a tremendous leap forward in his development, Cotton exploded out the gate and maintained his hold as one of the WHL’s top draft prospects among blueliners. Big, physical, and mobile, Cotton was a power-play fixture and his staff designed set plays specifically for him to let one fly off a draw. There’s always risk in drafting a kid who was passed over once before, but the Red Wings made the smart choice by drafting a point-per-game defenseman who won’t turn 20 until after next season.
Kyle Aucoin, Defenseman (156th overall)
Just an opinion, but I (as well as many others) tend to be skeptical when Central Scouting’s rankings are full of kids whose fathers played in the NHL. Such was the case of Aucoin — the offspring of former Islanders’ defender Adrian Aucoin, although Kyle was a kid whose on-ice merits were talked about for quite some time. Nonetheless, I soon became impressed with Kyle’s mobility, plus the fact that he was able to stand out in a support role on a Tri-City squad that already had puck rushers Mike Koster and Mitchell Miller. He’s headed to Harvard, where he’ll likely stay all four years.
Kienan Draper, Right Wing (187th overall)
You know you had a good draft when the most controversial pick was in the seventh round, and the only reason why it was remotely questionable was the fact that Draper was drafted by his own father, Kris, who heads Detroit’s scouting department. To Kienan’s credit, however, he plays his tail off and was a critical piece to an energy line that also provided punch for St. Andrew’s College. The young man will always have to deal with the whispers that he was drafted mostly because of his dad, but Draper plays the game the right way and should develop nicely in the BCHL with Chilliwack before heading to Miami-Ohio.
Chase Bradley, Left Wing (203rd overall)
A tough winger with underrated puck skills, Bradley was the perfect late-round selection because he is expected to spend another full season in the USHL (with Sioux Falls) before embarking on what should be a four-year NCAA stint in Boston’s Back Bay with Northeastern. He can be a crash-and-bang forward on one shift; a puck-possessing fiend the next. It should take Bradley some time before he’s ready to dance with the notable names within Detroit’s overloaded system, but I always felt the sixth or seventh round was the perfect landing spot for long-term projects who are years away from impacting the contract limit.