DETROIT – Right-handed shooting defensemen are high commodities around the National Hockey League these days. They’ve become hockey’s version of left-handed pitching in baseball – teams can never have enough.
There was a time that league general managers could secure these assets in the free agency market but that’s not necessarily true anymore, not in the new cap era. GMs now value the draft much more and the subsequent development of young talent is critical to their team’s future playoff success.
Detroit has the No. 15 pick in this week’s amateur draft, which begins with the first round Friday night at Wells Fargo Arena in Philadelphia. Rounds 2-7 will be held Saturday.
The Red Wings haven’t had that coveted right-hander on the point of the power play since Brian Rafalski abruptly retired following the 2010-11 season. They brought in free agents Ian White, a right-hander, Carlo Colaiacovo and Kent Huskins, none of whom panned out.
While the Red Wings are likely to use their first-round pick on the best available young talent, don’t be surprise if they decide to add a right-handed shooting defenseman to the cupboard with someone like Julius Honka, Jack Dougherty or Tony DeAngelo. All three are confident puck-movers … and oh yeah, they’re all right-handed shots.
Recent history would suggest the Red Wings will take a forward Friday night. In the past 15 years, they’ve used their first-round pick on a defenseman just four times – choosing Jiri Fischer (1998), Niklas Kronwall (2000), Jakub Kindl (2005) and Brendan Smith (2007).
The Red Wings have just three right-handed defensemen currently in the system – Ryan Sproul, Alexey Marchenko and Nick Jensen – and none on the Wings’ 23-man roster. So adding depth would seem to be paramount.
According to Mike Morreale of NHL.com the Red Wings’ top draft priority is along with blue line, suggesting Detroit will use their first-round pick by selecting Red Deer defenseman Haydn Fleury, a lefty, or Honka.
Detroit wants to make its first-round pick count as they don’t pick Saturday until midway through the third round at No. 76 (third round). The Wings traded their second-round pick to Nashville in the deal that brought David Legwand to Detroit at the trade deadline.
The Red Wings will also pick at No. 106 (fourth), No. 136 (fifth), No. 166 (sixth), No. 196 and No. 201 (seventh).
The draft is such a crap shoot, evident by the numerous mock drafts found on the Internet this week without much of a consensus among any of the prognosticators after the fifth overall pick. One thing most everyone can agree with is that whoever the Red Wings pick at No. 15 is likely a few years away from contributing at the NHL level.
Here’s a look at nine draft prospects that 10 different mock drafts have pegged to become the Red Wings’ first-round pick on Friday night:
Steven Hoffner, NHL.com
Adrian Kempe, RW, Modo Jr. (SWE-JR): The big, smooth-skating forward would fill a need up front for an aging forward group.
Adam Kimelman, NHL.com
Jack Dougherty, D, USA U-18 (USHL): Red Wings have added youth and skill to their forward group the past few years; now is the time to focus on smart, skilled defensemen.
Mike Morreale, NHL.com
Julius Honka, D. Swift Current (WHL): Played a key role for Finland at the 2014 World Junior Championship. Excelled in his first North American season with 16 goals and 56 points in 62 games; good awareness and excels on the power play.
Kevin Allen, USA Today
Dylan Larkin, C, USA U-18 (USHL): The dependable two-way forward would fit perfectly into Detroit's puck-possession offense. He's a good skater.
Kyle Woodlief, Red Line Report
David Pastrnak, RW, Sodertalje (SWE-2): This is such a perfect fit, and totally in character with Detroit's record of nabbing fast, highly skilled Euros who play with great intensity despite average size.
Bob McKenzie, TSN.ca
Kevin Fiala, C, HV71 Jr., (SWE-JR): Skills are very good but when you combine that with a determination that is excellent, you get a player who can make a difference and Kevin does. Plays where it matters and has the ability to deliver and unnerve opponents.
Tim Daniels, Bleacher Report
Jared McCann, C, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL): McCann seems like a player who will develop into a perfect third-line center. He probably won't lead the team in scoring, but he'll chip in some goals and assists while playing strong in his own zone. He's the type of player who will work hard for three periods and get rewarded by scoring the overtime winner.
Craig Button, TSN
Jared McCann, C, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL): All-around player, point on the power play, penalty killing, strong, smart center, right up the Detroit Red Wings’ alley.
Nikolaj Ehlers, LW, Halifax (QMJHL): Supremely skilled point producing forward adapted extremely well to Halifax’s high flying style in the QMJHL. Detroit seems like the perfect fit and next logical step for the electrifying young Dane.
Mike Finewax, Rotoworld
Brendan Perlini, LW, Niagara (OHL): The second best skater in the draft along with the third best shot according to McKeen’s, Perlini had 34 goals and 71 points for Niagara of the OHL. Every team is looking for a goal scorer and Perlini could be the best of this bunch. He had trouble in the playoffs as he is not a physical player and he still needs to work on his defensive game.
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