It's that time of the year again! ESPN's Corey Pronman released his mid-season top-50 NHL prospects list. As always, the Red Wings check in with a handful of names that are mentioned. Five, to be exact:
30. Evgeny Svechnikov
Geno was drafted 19th overall in June, becoming the highest-picked Russian player in Red Wings history. He's lush with lethal offensive skill, as Pronman points out, but lacks with his skating ability and defensive play. Pronman mentions he's the type of guy who "bleeds upside," but will need ample time in the AHL to bring it all together. Ken Holland recently announced that Svechnikov will be in Grand Rapids next season.
34. Joe Hicketts
Sometimes big things come in small packages, and Joe Hicketts seems to be a great example of that. The Red Wings nabbed this pint-sized defender as a free agent, and has since been one of the best defensemen in the WHL. Not to mention, he was an anchor for Team Canada in the WJC this year. Pronman says Hicketts isn't much of a total skill player as he is a complete two-way guy who appears to be someone you can count on in all situations. With his pro career set to begin next season in the AHL, Pronman thinks the transition will tell us what kind of player Hicketts is.
35. Axel Holmstrom
Looks like Swedish super-scout Hakan Andersson has found himself another late-round gem in Axel Holmstrom (of no relation to former Red Wing Tomas Holmstrom), after Detroit drafted the centerman 196th overall in 2014. Holmstrom is a strong two-way player who can easily slide into any part of the lineup. He's been highly productive in the SHL, and appears to be staying there for another season. Pronman praises his vision, and ability to control the puck or play in "critical defensive situations."
40. Vili Saarijarvi
Fresh off winning World Junior gold with Team Finland, Saarijarvi checks into Pronman's top-50 after having an impressive start to his junior career with the OHL's Flint Firebirds. Detroit took the tiny Finnish defender at 73rd overall in 2015. He decided to stay in North America over Finland, and signed his entry level contract over the summer. Pronman speaks very highly for Saarijarvi's offensive skill, noting it as "off the charts." The big question is his defensive play, which is to be expected from a small-framed defenseman, but the highlight of his game is the way he moves the puck, as Pronman mentions.
48. Anthony Mantha
We know the story here. Mantha was one of the NHL's top prospects after scoring 81 goals through 81 games in his final QMJHL season. His transition to pro-level hockey has had it's ups and downs, stocked with unfair criticism. This season has shown that Mantha can be an offensive force, as he is one of the top scorers on the team with 11 goals, and 14 assists in 30 games. I don't think Pronman has ever been very high on Mantha, so seeing him crack his top-50 is certainly a good thing. He points out that Mantha has started to improve defensively, and boasts a great blend of size, skill, and a good shot. Of course with that, Pronman also mentions Mantha's tendency to "give up on a play, or go half-effort." I wouldn't look too much into that, as plenty of goal-scorers are pinned with the same denunciations.
So there you have it. If you have access to ESPN Insider, I recommend reading up on the list for more of Pronman's analysis and opinions of our prospects. Always important to take it with a grain of salt, but it's interesting to see what folks around the industry think about Detroit's top prospects.