The Yzerplan is in full effect.
The Detroit Red Wings went from making the playoffs in 25 straight years to missing the playoffs every year since that streak ended in 2016-17. General Manager Steven Yzerman has been working his magic on this roster since 2019, managing to build an impressive young core.
His moves have often gone against consensus and have looked outstanding in hindsight. That begins with defenseman Mortiz Seider at sixth overall from the 2019 NHL draft. Since that pick, Seider has been a force in the AHL, SHL, and NHL, winning the Calder as the NHL’s top rookie in a runaway vote.
The Red Wings have gone from grasping at straws to make the playoffs towards the end of the Ken Holland years to building up one of the deeper prospect pools in the league. The Red Wings have used their top picks on players out of Europe in every draft that Yzerman has been a part of, and it's hopeful that pays off.
After Seider in 2019, winger Lucas Raymond was drafted fourth overall in 2020 out of Sweden. The following year, defenseman and fellow Swede Simon Edvinson was selected in 2021. The 2022 draft didn’t defer from that trend, with center Marco Kasper’s name being called at eighth overall, who happened to play in Sweden.
The Red Wings done a masterful job of filling out their positional depth chart. The Red Wings traded up to take goaltender Sebastian Cossa at 15th overall in 2021 to fill that glaring hole in their prospect pool. In the four drafts that Yzerman has been at the helm, they have drafted a center, a winger, a right-shot defenseman, a left-shot defenseman, and a goalie in the top 15 picks of the draft.
The depth built out behind that group of high-end picks has been admirable as well. Jonatan Berggren, Liam Dower-Nilsson, and Carter Mazur highlight some of the depth names up front while William Wallinder and Albert Johansson are the names to watch on the back end. Jan Bednar provides some depth in net as well. The Red Wings management team has done a wonderful job of building out a strong stable for the future.
2022 NHL Draft Class
Round 1 (8 Overall) - Marco Kasper, C, Rogle BK Angelholm (SHL)
Round 2 (40 Overall) - Dylan James, L, Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
Round 2 (52 Overall) - Dmitri Buchelnikov, L, SKA 1946 St. Petersburg (MHL)
Round 4 (105 Overall) - Anton Johansson, D, Leksands IF Jr. (J20 Nationall)
Round 4 (113 Overall) - Amadeus Lombardi, C, Flint Firebirds (OHL)
Round 4 (129 Overall) - Maximilian Kilpinen, L, Orebro HK Jr. (J20 Nationall)
Round 5 (137 Overall) - Tnias Mathurin, D, North Bay Battalion (OHL)
Round 7 (201 Overall) - Owen Mehlenbacher, F, Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)
Round 7 (212 Overall) - Brennan Ali, C, Avon Old Farms (USHS-Conn)
A hard-nosed 200-foot center who plays the game with high pace and a relentless motor, Kasper is a really intriguing pick. Improving game after game throughout his draft year, Kasper played in the Swedish men’s league all year which was an excellent spot for the 6-foot-2 center to develop. His upside may not be that of a true top-line center but he’s fairly close to playing in the NHL and he’s a safe bet to be a very good two-way second-line center that plays with speed, efficiency, and physicality.
Detroit then selected USHL winger Dylan James at 40th overall. A physical forward who establishes body position along the boards quite well, James works his way to dangerous areas and has a pretty good shot from in tight. Defensively, he continues his physical play with quick decisions to close out opponents and hard-working defensive instincts. He might not have a ton of flash and flair but he could easily be a fan favorite with his work ethic and penchant for getting into the fray.
Their second pick in round two came as a bit of a surprise as they snagged overage Russian prospect Dmitri Buchelnikov, a highly skilled forward who brings all the flash and flair that Dylan James lacks. He doesn’t bring the same kind of physical edge though, so their second-round picks have a thunder and lightning feel to them. Buchelnikov can dazzle with his hands at times and has a lot of really nice offensive tendencies from silky smooth passing to an accurate shot with a quick release.
The Wings had three fourth-round picks, starting with 6-foot-4 defender Anton Johansson from Leksand's program. He played at the J18, J20 and SHL levels last year and while he doesn’t have the offensive touch of many of the most flashy defenders, he is a solid defensive player who takes good routes in his own end and cuts off the play effectively.
The overall depth of their prospect pool is their biggest strength. Coming into the draft, their center depth was an area of weakness but the addition of Kasper instantly made that less of an issue because now Dower-Nilsson and newly signed Pontus Andreasson aren’t high-end players. Red Savage and Theodor Niederabach both have some center experience as well, too. On the wing, they have four of five names deep on each side. The left side of the blueline has as many as six names deep. Depth is key in all aspects of roster building and the Red Wings have found that in their prospect pool.
The Red Wings have a deep prospect pool full of a variety of talents and skillsets. The one area they seem to be lacking a bit is the right sight of their defensive corp, although they do have Seider on the NHL roster, who has established himself as one of the game's best young right-shot blueliners.
Antti Tuomisto is their top prospect at the position now. He is taking the step to pro hockey next season, leaving the University of Denver after helping the squad to join TPS in the Liiga which is a great step in his development. Beyond Tuomisto, though, the right side features many players lacking NHL upside.
Next Man Up: LD Simon Edvinsson
Detroit signed quite a few NHL veterans this off-season with the idea to challenge their young players to force their way onto the roster. Raymond wasn’t given the spot he had last season; he took it for himself with an incredible training camp and impressive preseason. That will once again be the challenge this year for Detroit’s top prospect, Simon Edvinsson.
The defensive corp has plenty of names that can play NHL minutes and Edvinsson is a year behind where Seider was coming into the season last year. Edvinsson is a big defenseman who is smooth as butter on his feet and has the ability to affect the game in all three zones. His upside is certainly higher than most blueliners on the roster but nothing will be given.
If Edvinsson doesn’t come into training camp and impress beyond belief, he may start the year at the AHL level while Jordan Oesterle or Robert Hagg could fill in on the NHL roster until the time comes when Edvinsson is ready. Based on everything we’ve seen from Edvinsson since the young Swede was drafted, he should secure his spot on the roster in camp and start his year in Detroit.
Prospect Depth Chart Notables
LW: Robert Mastrosimone, Carter Mazur, Cross Hanas, Dylan James
C: Marco Kasper, Liam Dower-Nilsson, Pontus Andreasson, Red Savage
RW: Jonatan Berggren, Elmer Soderblom, Albin Grewe, Theodor Niederbach
LD: Simon Edvinsson, William Wallinder, Albert Johansson, Eemil Viro, Donovan Sebrango
RD: Antti Tuomisto
G: Sebastian Cossa, Jan Bednar
For a deeper dive into the prospect pool with player rankings, check out the Yearbook and Future Watch editions of the Hockey News print edition!