For years, the Detroit Red Wings had based much of their success on their ability to find late-round gems, almost always from Russia or Sweden. But that paradigm is shifting. The Wings’ top prospects are Canadians and Americans, and two of them – Anthony Mantha and Dylan Larkin – were first-round picks. That’s not to say the Wings have lost their magic in the late rounds. Finland's Teemu Pulkkinen was drafted 111th overall in 2010 and defenseman Alexey Marchenko was taken 205th overall in 2011. Center Axel Holmstrom is now considered a steal, going in the 196th spot in 2014.
Round 1, pick 19
Round 3, pick 73
Round 4, pick 110
Round 5, pick 140
Round 6, pick 170
Round 7, pick 200
Before acquiring Marek Zidlicky at the trade deadline, the Red Wings were in the market for an NHL-caliber defenseman, and that search will continue after Zidlicky’s contract expires this summer.
The Red Wings have relied heavily on the tandem of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. It has long worked for them, but with both players getting up there in age and prone to missing long stretches with injuries, Detroit needs players who are elite at both ends of the ice. Consistency in goaltending has also been an issue.
The Red Wings have roughly $56 million committed for next season. Aside from Zidlicky, they have only Dan Cleary, Erik Cole and backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson coming up for unrestricted free agency. Where GM Ken Holland will face his biggest challenge is in restricted free agency, where key players Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Jurco lead a long list of young players who want raises.
In the System 2015-16
There was speculation Mantha would make the team without any time in the minors, but he was hurt in rookie camp and had his struggles in the AHL, with just 15 goals in 62 games with Grand Rapids. Pulkkinen made the jump at mid-season after scoring 61 points in 46 AHL games and will stay, as will Marchenko.
Did You Know
The Red Wings had five prospects in the top 50 and six in the top 75 (tied with the Winnipeg Jets for most in the league) of this year’s Future Watch edition.