ESPN’s Corey Pronman has released his highly-awaited Top-120 NHL Prospects list, which is available to all Insiders. The Red Wings have five prospects checking into the rankings, none of which come as a surprise.
Anthony Mantha (55)
Joe Hicketts (59)
Evgeny Svechnikov (62)
Vili Saarijarvi (64)
Axel Holmstrom (78)
I feel as if the list is essentially copy-and-pasted from last year, but that’s neither here nor there. What was really surprising to me is that Svechnikov, the Red Wings’ 2015 first-rounder, wasn’t ranked higher among the Red Wings prospects. Mantha is still very-much the cream of the Red Wing crop, but for me I feel like Svechnikov should be higher on the totem than Hicketts. Don’t get me wrong, Hicketts is a fantastic prospect, but what Chevy brings to the table is size, skill, and creativity. He projects to be a top-six power-winger at the NHL level, while Hicketts strikes me more as a middle-pairing guy.
What was really pleasing to me was Pronman’s high praise for 2015 third-rounder Vili Saarijarvi:
Few defensemen in junior hockey are as skilled as Saarijarvi. He was one of few bright spots for Flint this past season and was good for Finland at the WJC. His creativity and offensive IQ are elite. He's able to manage a power play so well because of how quickly he processes the game and how skilled he is at creating space with his hands and feet. Saarijarvi is small and isn't the first name I think of when there's a big defensive zone faceoff, but the potential here is enormous.
There is no doubt in my mind that Saarijarvi is a highly-skilled puck-moving rearguard, but my concern is that he will be sidelined with an injury to start the season. All we can do is hope that he rehabs well and doesn’t lose a step. Nevertheless, I am really excited for this kid, and you should be too.
Axel Holmstrom was once considered one of the Red Wings’ best prospects after he had such jarring production in the 2015 SHL playoffs, but with high performance comes lofty expectations. Holmstrom’s production weakened since his historic playoff outing, which forced him down the rankings a bit. Pronman calls him a crafty two-way center that can kill penalties, but needs work on his skating ability. Holmstrom will spend another season in the SHL, but hopefully will be moving to North America after the season wraps up.
All-in-all, the Red Wings are well-represented in Pronman’s list, as per usual. Svechnikov and Hicketts are making their transition to pro-league hockey in Grand Rapids this upcoming season, so it’s very exciting to see where these kids will grow from here. If you’d like to read more about Red Wings prospects, please check out our Top 25 Under 25 storystream.