Well hello there. Did you guys hear the new joke about the Red Wings goal that didn't count?
Kidding of course. Shockingly, this will be the only Wings' thing you read today that won't be about the miserable blown call by professional referee Dennis LaRue.
Last week, we looked at Detroit's three most promising prospects -- Brendan Smith, Max Nicastro, and Gustav Nyquist. However, Detroit has three more collegiate prospects we've yet to discuss. These guys are all late round picks, taken for very specific reasons but not yet completely paying off. Still, if you hear these names in the next few years, you'll be pleased that you read WIM and already heard about them!
Nick Oslund, LW, 22, 6'3, 210 lbs, drafted 7th round, 2006 -- I alluded to the fact last week that Detroit was not too fond of drafting college-bound players prior to the CBA change. In the first post-CBA draft, they drafted Justin Abdelkader, and then took a long shot on Oslund in 2006. They cited the fact that Oslund would spend a year in the USHL before going to college as a big reason behind drafting him. This would give Detroit half a decade to decide whether or not they should sign him. I figured his progress would have an impact on whether or not they drafted more college players, but they didn't hold back in the coming few years drafting more anyway.
Oslund was drafted directly out of the high school ranks -- from Burnsville in Minnesota. All you need to know about the high school ranks is that Minnesota's leagues are legit. Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Michigan are considered three of the biggest player-producing states. But virtually no players playing in the Michigan high school leagues go on to play college hockey. The best of the best get noticed if they go up north to the OHL or pay their dues in the USHL and hope they get noticed. But in Minnesota, it's quite common to see a dozen or so players drafted directly from high school. Oslund was a finalist for the Mr. Hockey award they give to the best high school player in the state.
He spent the next season with Tri-City in the USHL, but did not put up the numbers expected for someone billed as a power forward, with just 21 points in 56 games. He joined St. Cloud State the following season, in the powerhouse WCHA conference, featuring the likes of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Colorado College, North Dakota, etc. Oslund quickly emerged as a fan favorite as a role player that gave it his all, but his offensive totals were weak. Four goals and one assist as a freshman, and four goals and three assists as a sophomore.
Despite this, Oslund is a great skater, has a filled out frame, and doesn't cheat you on effort -- so he's no write-off yet. Now a junior, he's off to his best start ever with one goal and three assists in his first ten games. He had all the tools of a useful NHL grinder, and can put himself on the map if he shows he can contribute a little offensively. He still has one and two-thirds of a season to prove this to Detroit, as buried as he might be right now on the depth chart.
Bryan Rufenach, D, 20, 6'0, 187 pounds, drafted 7th round, 2007 -- It shouldn't come as a big surprise that the Wings took a nobody with their last pick in 2007. Unranked, and billed as an undersized, but offensively skilled defenseman, Rufenach was drafted out of the Ontario junior A ranks, headed to Clarkson University. Not exactly the type of player that everyone lines up for.
But the Clarkson product has shown flashes of the ability that made him appealing to Detroit. He didn't receive much ice time as a freshman on a blueline that did feature some promising NHL draft picks much older than him, and he only put up six points in 35 games. However, as a sophomore he earned himself a much bigger role, seeing regular top four minutes and time as the team's powerplay quarterback. He put up nine goals and 18 points, best of the defenseman on the team.
Rufenach is an excellent skater who loves rushing the puck coast-to-coast -- something that becomes explained when you look at his Clarkson profile and see his favorite player was Paul Coffey. He has that Red Wings-style composure and a natural talent with the puck, however, he needs work on play in his own zone while learning to pick his spots offensively a little better. He definitely has all the tools the Wings look for in their defenseman, but it's just a matter of finally putting it all together.
Julien Cayer, LW, 20, 6'3, 197 lbs, drafted 5th round, 2008 -- Like probably every other Red Wings fan, when the Wings drafted Cayer last year I said, "who?" Cayer was a once-undrafted Quebecois forward playing prep hockey in upstate New York. Not exactly the most common place to see a player drafted from, but for some reason Cayer attended the draft and scored an interview with TSN after he was picked. He was super excited, naturally, and kept saying things like "I'll go to the NHL if Detroit wants me to, but if not I'll attend Clarkson next year." I'm not sure what to make of an attitude like that. Is he really that good? Did the Wings find the steal of the draft? Or is he average, but merely thinks he's good?
He went to Northwood, home of such NHL stars as Mike Richter, Craig Conroy, and Chris Therien. He put up good numbers and was able to jump right to college hockey, becoming a teammate of Bryan Rufenach at Clarkson. He wasn't a regular every game with Clarkson at the beginning of the year, but eventually hit his stride and put up ten points in 29 games.
Cayer could have the skill to be a power forward, but he also plays a sound two-way game. Like the rest of this list, he's an excellent skater, which makes him an appealing prospect as someone with his speed and size. He has the skill as well, but hasn't yet grown into the ability to dominate as a college player. If he's going to succeed at the next level, he's going to need to assert himself more offensively. So far as a sophomore, he's off to a disappointing start with just two points in 11 games.
Notes: By far my favorite prospect to write about right now is 2009 7th round pick Adam Almqvist. Almqvist made his SEL with HV71 debut at the age of 18 this week, not registering a point, but going a +1 with some powerplay time ... His U20 team lost their first game of the season this week, having won their first 18 (two in shootouts) before Almqvist left, thanks to Matte for bringing that to my attention ... Tomas Tatar passed the "nine game threshold," meaning that this season will burn a year off his contract whether or not he stays in the AHL or gets sent to the OHL. If he had played nine games or fewer, this year wouldn't have counted as a year to his contract ... After being limited to just six of the team's first 15 games, Sebastien Piche was demoted to Toledo (ECHL) yesterday ... Jordan Pearce is Toledo's goalie, and had been splitting time with Alec Richards (Chicago) before he was recalled this week, however Billy Sauer (a familiar name to anyone who follows Michigan hockey) was assigned to Toledo in his place. Lastly, thanks to WIM reader Robert for scouring Russian sites and pointing out that Detroit's lone KHL prospect, Gennady Stolyarov, has a broken clavicle and is out until January. Stolyarov is the only prospect to not have played this season, so it's safe to assume he's injured, but it's hard to find information on KHL players so I was unsure of the details until this week.
Who's Hot: In between representing Sweden at the World Junior A Challenge and making his SEL debut at 18, Almqvist found a way to put up five points in two games with his previously undefeated U20 team (34 in 15 on the year) ... Landon Ferraro is showing life after injury, putting up three points in two games after appearing in the cold section recently. However, he was a -2 ... Logan Pyett, who struggled mightily through his rookie AHL season and was in jeopardy of losing major ice time to two rookies (the aforementioned demoted Piche and another rookie, Travis Ehrhardt) appears to be coming into his own. He scored his first goal of the season, giving him six points in 15 games. He's also a +2 after starting the season a -5 ... Boston University's Max Nicastro clearly reads WIM, as after I complimented his game last week, he had his first collegiate goal and another assist in two games ... The profiled Rufenach this week started hot, cooled down, but then put up three points in two games this week, good for third in team scoring on the year (eight points in ten games).
Who's Cold: The Griffins finally lost last Saturday after a nine game winning streak. They're not cold, but the likes of Evan McGrath (seven points) and Dick Axelsson (five points) are looking cold after being two of the hottest Griffins at the beginning of the streak ... Joakim Andersson started the season as one of Frolunda's top three scorers, but has still yet to register a point in weeks -- now sitting at six in 21 games ... In a rare and freakish occurrence, Gustav Nyquist did not register a point last weekend in two games. Only noting this because I expect it's the only weekend it will happen ... After his team traded away their leading scorer, opening up valuable minutes, super-pest Mitchell Callahan didn't put up any points in four games.