We are nearing the end of our season preview series, and today we will take a look at our last batch of defensemen: Jakub Kindl, Alexei Marchenko, and Xavier Ouellet.
The Wings already have six defensemen who are considered to be ahead of the three aforementioned players on the depth chart. That means that only one of them will actually be on the team when the season starts. Who will it be? That we have yet to find out.
But, all three players should receive at least some playing time this season, so let's see what we can expect from them:
#4 / Defenseman / Detroit Red Wings
Feb 10, 1987
In the few games Jakub Kindl played last season, his offensive numbers were far from poor, scoring five goals and 13 points in 35 games. His biggest strength is that he is an overall decent offensive defensemen. Kindl has shown flashes of being a solid puck-carrying defenseman who can quarterback the power play when needed.
The former first-round draft pick certainly has talent, but he has yet to translate that into success with the Red Wings. Kindl seems to follow up solid performances with lackluster ones filled with mistakes, and his inability to develop a consistently good game keeps pushing him out of the lineup. If anything, Jakub Kindl's weakness may be himself. He has showed that he can be a decent NHL defenseman. He just has not been able to show that on a consistent basis.
With two really good defensemen below him in the depth chart, the pressure will be on Kindl to perform this season. He will most likely start the season as the Wings' #7 defenseman, but will get to play quite a bit as the season drags on. His challenge will be to supplant Brendan Smith or Kyle Quincey as the Wings' #6 defensemen, a task which will be necessary for him if he wants to have a future in Detroit beyond this season. Also, I will be interested to see how Jeff Blashill plays Kindl this season. Maybe a change in coaching will be what the doctor ordered for him?
#47 / Defenseman / Detroit Red Wings
Jan 2, 1992
He shoots right.
Besides Alexei Marchenko's ability to shoot right, he is also a big guy, checking in at 6'3" and 210 pounds. He may not be the strongest player on the team, but he is still young and if he can learn to use his build better then this could become a huge advantage for him, beyond what it already is. Marchenko is also an interesting two-way player, who has shown to be able to produce both offensively and defensively, and clearly has a good understanding of the game. His defensive ability would be a great complement on a pairing with a more offensively minded player.
While Marchenko is not a bad two-way player, he does not carry the same offensive firepower as a defenseman like Ryan Sproul does. Since the Wings already have a couple of other defensemen who are more offensively capable than Marchenko, this is not a big deal. He is also still fairly inexperienced, having only played two seasons in North America. Granted, before heading over the Atlantic, Marchenko played a full season in the KHL for CSKA Moscow, which is hardly a disadvantage.
Up until last season Marchenko had never been a player who I had placed a high value on. But, after an impressive stint with the Red Wings, he jumped to the top spot of many people's rankings of our prospect defensemen. Expect Marchenko to receive a similar showcase as he did last year, probably somewhere between 10-20 games. In the few games that he does have, a lot of eyes will be on Marchenko, and I will be looking for him to at least match last season's performance.
#61 / Defenseman / Detroit Red Wings
Jul 29, 1993
Like Marchenko, Xavier Ouellet is a decent two-way player. He is more offensively minded than the former, and much like Kindl he is a player who can command the power play. Ouellet also strikes me as a very mature player when he plays. While he does make the occasional rookie mistake, he plays with a level of poise that goes well beyond his age.
Ouellet is not as big as a Jonathan Ericsson, Danny DeKeyser, or a Marchenko, but he is not as small as Brian Rafalski either. Ouellet also lacks a great shooting ability, scoring only one goal in 52 games for the Griffins last season. However, Ouellet makes up for this by having a good hockey sense and a good passing ability.
Personally I am really excited to see what Ouellet can bring this season. He is the Red Wings' defensive prospect who I feel the most excited about. Even compared to Marchenko, Ouellet strikes me as the one prospect who can truly become a solid top-4 defensemen in the NHL, and this season will do a lot to either further or rebuke that view. Expect Ouellet to be playing regularly with the team come playoff time.
Who Makes The Final Roster?
As I have mentioned, expect to see all three of these players receive some playing time this season. While I would prefer to have Marchenko or Ouellet on the roster from day one, the two are waiver exempt, and in order to avoid having to move another defenseman, putting them in Grand Rapids for the time being makes sense.