It’s no secret that the Wings are among the league’s best when it comes to developing their young players. By that, I simply mean that they’ve not had to throw the young talent right into the fire, but rather allowed them to develop fully. Now, it’s also no secret that the Wings have a lot of prospects, and ranking them all would take hours, and even then, I would probably leave 1 or 2 or 10 out just because I forget them. So, rather than ranking them all, I’ll just rank the top 15 and make everyone’s life easier.
No. 15: Kasper Kotkansalo
Kotkansalo was the Wings’ third round pick in 2017, and boy was he a good one. Standing at 6’2, 190 pounds, he’s a big body, and he’s not afraid to use it. On top of that, he’s solid offensively, and while there’s obviously room for improvement, he could very well be a strong two-way defender in due time.
No. 14: Dominic Turgeon
Turgeon made his Grand Rapids debut last season, and it’s fair to say it was underwhelming. The young American had just 18 points in 71 games, after having 70 in 72 games with the Portland Winterhawks the year prior. You’d like to think it’s just an adjustment thing for the former third-round pick, but his production, or lack thereof, with Grand Rapids is the thing holding him back in this ranking honestly.
No. 13: Filip Hronek
Hronek impressed with the Griffins last season, despite just playing 12 games total, with 2 in the playoffs. The former second-round pick has the potential to be a solid two-way defender, though slightly undersized at 6′, 170 pounds.
No. 12: Axel Holmstrom
Holmstrom is a strong two-way center with a knack for performing decently in the regular season, and lighting it up in the playoffs. Similar to his namesake, Tomas Holmstrom, he’s a big body with a knack for scoring goals and playing well in the playoffs for whatever reason.
No. 11: Joe Hicketts
Joe Hicketts’ size is genuinely the only thing holding him back on this ranking. Standing just 5’8, 174 pounds, his size makes him fly under the radar. He’s a phenomenal two-way defenseman, but again, his size is worrisome, and if he were even 5’11, 180 pounds, you wouldn’t be reading about him at number 11, but more likely than not, you’d be reading about him in the top 5.
No 10: Zach Gallant
I think I like putting third-round picks in the list. Gallant, the Wings’ third-round pick in 2017, is a big guy. Standing 6’2, 187 pounds, he fit the grit mantra the Wings and Ken Holland took for this year’s draft. It’s just an added bonus that Gallant can produce offensively. I like the Gallant pick a lot, and I think he may very well make it to the NHL in two or three years.
No. 9: Dylan Sadowy
HEY! Another third-round pick. I’m telling you, I love me my third rounders. Sadowy is another solid big forward. The Wings like themselves some big forwards that can score, and Sadowy is exactly that. Standing 6’1, 181 pounds, Sadowy is definitely up there on the prospect rankings. He’s gritty, and a net-front presence who likes getting those ‘garbage’ goals. And just to make the trade to acquire Sadowy from the Sharks even better, they sent San Jose a third-round pick. So, they gave up a third round pick in a weaker draft, to get a prospect that could play the role Tomas Holmstrom played.
No. 8: Keith Petruzzelli
The 18-year old American is a big guy. Standing 6’6, he is no Ben Bishop, but he’s only one inch shorter. And hey, you know what, Petruzzelli is another third-round pick. He’s got solid statistics and was real freaking good in high school. And even after, he was still real freaking good. However, in a small sample size, with decent GAA in playoffs, he didn’t have a great saver percentage though. However, it may very well be because he faced very few shots.
No. 7: Jordan Sambrook
Sambrook is a big right-handed shooting defenseman, standing 6’2, 192 pounds. Solid offensively and defensively, he is a good two-way defenseman. Sambrook is a strong skater and can very well become even better. Given a few years in Grand Rapids, the former fifth-round pick could be a strong top-pairing defenseman.
No 6: Givani Smith
Simply put, Smith is a moving tank and loves hitting opponents. At 6’2, 205 pounds, the winger can play on either wing, and can dish out hits like no other. However, his physicality also leads to big penalty minutes, averaging 142.5 per season in two full seasons with the Guelph Storm. Smith is a respectable scorer as well, but when he makes it to the NHL, he will likely play more of a physical presence-role with the occasional goal or two. Smith is a darkhorse when it comes to potential guys to get the final NHL roster spot.
No. 5: Vili Saarijarvi
The next two or three prospects in this ranking are interchangeable in my eyes. But at number 5, Saarijarvi is the one that takes the spot. And hey, he’s a former third-round pick. Saarijarvi is slightly undersized, at 5’10, 165 pounds, however he is a good skater, and should do work in Grand Rapids this season. In the OHL, Sarrijarvi was great offensively, and was a finalist for defenseman of the year.
No. 4: Dennis Cholowski
Cholowski is the first first-round pick on the list, and you’d kind of hope for him being in the top five, and he’s done exactly that. Cholowski is respectable offensively, and a solid skater. He’s got good positioning as well, and has a high hockey IQ. He’s not a super big, at 6′, 170 pounds, you’d like to see him put on a little extra weight, but beggars can’t be choosers. With a few years in Grand Rapids, Cholowski could be a top-pair defenseman, but a top-4 at worst.
No. 3: Michael Rasmussen
The Wings’ 2017 first-round pick slots in at number three here, simply because I’m probably too high on Tyler Bertuzzi. No matter, Rasmussen doesn’t have any professional experience, so my having him ‘so low’ is justifiable. Rasmussen is a big ass dude, and can skate well for his size. He’s a net front presence, and is more of a gritty player than can do some offense, than an offensive player that can do some grit.
No. 2: Tyler Bertuzzi
I am very, very high on Bertuzzi. Perhaps too high. No matter, the former second-round pick is a bigger body, and will stick up for his teammates if need be. He lands himself in the penalty box quite often, but also has potential to be an elite scorer in the NHL. Bertuzzi lit up the opposition in the playoffs last season, earning a 19 points in 19 games. Bertuzzi should very well fight for a spot on the NHL roster for this upcoming season, and shouldn’t have much competition for it.
No. 1: Evgeny Svechnikov
The best Wings’ prospect is Evgeny Svechnikov. I shouldn’t get much scrutiny for this one, hopefully. He played well in the Calder Cup playoffs, and in the regular season with Grand Rapids. He played two games with the Red Wings, and impressed in both. He even scored a game-winning shootout goal. Svechnikov is one of the only Wings’ prospects that has the potential to be elite, and may very well be the only. He and Bertuzzi should challenge for that final roster spot with little competition from others.