The NHL Expansion Draft has come and gone and now it is time for the NHL Entry Draft. Detroit is slated to pick 9th overall in the first round and will have a total of 11 picks for the draft. The draft represents a critical situation for the Wings, one they cannot afford to fumble. Here’s my quick take on how the Red Wings should approach the draft.
Do Not Trade Up from Ninth
Last month, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman speculated that Detroit may consider trading up to take defenseman Miro Heiskanen (Canucks Army draft profile). While most scouts have pegged Heiskanen to be the top defenseman in the draft, the cost of trading up into the top-three will be prohibitive. Why is trading up an issue?
Several years back, Michael Schuckers proposed an expected draft pick value for each draft position. He started with an arbitrary number of 1000 for the #1 and each subsequent pick carries a depreciating value. The ninth overall pick carries an expected value of 456 whereas the third overall pick (likely the lowest Detroit could trade to in order to guarantee Heiskanen is available) carries an expected value of 809. Therefore, if we were to envision a “fair” deal based on expected pick value, Detroit would have to trade the 9th (value = 456), 38th (value = 150), 71st (value = 86), and 79th (value = 77), and 162nd (value = 43) picks to make the values match. Obviously the expected pick values are just a starting place and Detroit could use prospects/roster players to minimize the number of draft picks used but the point stands that the cost would be astronomical.
The need to trade up becomes even less exciting when you consider who might be available at ninth overall. Looking at ESPN’s Corey Pronman’s most recent mock draft (note: Insider only), centers Martin Necas, Nick Suzuki, and Cody Glass were all available at the ninth overall pick. While the draft may not play out exactly the way Pronman envisioned, the point stands that a number of talented centers will be available at the ninth overall pick. Which brings me to my next idea....
If Glass Is Gone By 9th, Trade Down
Cody Glass is arguably the top center that is realistically available to Detroit. If he’s available at ninth, Detroit should strongly consider taking him. Looking at the preview done by Jeremy Davis of Canucks Army, we see that Glass has a high probability of success with an expected points/82 games of 57.8.
Canucks Army has Glass as their 3rd best player and as such, the Wings can’t afford to pass on him if he’s available at ninth.
However, if Glass is gone, there is not a lot of variation between the next crop of centers. Martin Necas, Nick Suzuki, Lias Andersson, and Elias Pettersson are all within range of one another and are likely to be available in the 11-14 range. Pronman’s latest mock draft has Necas at 9th, Suzuki at 10th, Pettersson at 12th, and Andersson at 13th. If Glass is gone and the four players mentioned above are still available, then Detroit should consider moving into the 11-13 range with an attempt to add a late 2nd round or early 3rd round draft pick based on Schuckers’ expected pick value. Why add another 3rd round pick when the Wings already have four? Glad you asked!
Look To Trade Back Into The First Round
One of the most interesting stories surrounding this draft is the slide of Swedish defenseman Timothy Liljegren. After entering the 2016-2017 season as a consensus top-five pick, Liljegren has found himself in danger of slipping to the bottom of the first round. Pronman’s latest mock draft has Liljegren falling to the Edmonton Oilers with the 22nd pick. The biggest concerns surrounding Liljegren have been his hockey IQ and his offensive decision-making.
However, the data suggests that Liljegren remains one of the top defensemen in the draft. Canucks Army rates Liljegren as the sixth-best player in the draft and the top defenseman. Sorting through their evaluation, we see that Liljegren doesn’t have many matches, with only two players matching with him. Contrast that with the 29 players that matched with Glass and it’s harder to be confident in Liljegren’s projection. However, Liljegren’s SEAL-adjusted scoring is impressive for a defenseman of his age. Additionally it’s likely that we didn’t get to see the best of Liljegren due to his struggle with mononucleosis, an illness that can cause significant fatigue for weeks to months.
With all of that being said, if Liljegren slides past 16th, Detroit should look to package their 2nd round pick along with one or more of their 3rd round picks to see if they can move back into the first round. From an expected pick value standpoint, Detroit could trade for the 16th overall pick (value = 324) with their 38th (value = 150), 71st (value = 86), and 79th picks (value = 77). This move would allow Detroit to take another shot at grabbing a high-end player while still retaining nine total picks for the draft. Detroit needs to maximize both the quantity and quality of players they draft and this would be one way for them to do that.
At the end of the day, Detroit has holes at center and at defense. It’s imperative that Detroit restocks their prospect pool if they hope to turn things around in the near future. The strategy outlined here allows Detroit to be aggressive about filling their needs. At best, they could walk away with Cody Glass and Timothy Liljegren. At worst, they could walk away with one of Suzuki, Pettersson, Andersson, or Necas and ten other picks if they opt to keep all of their picks. Either way, it’s not a bad start in the road back to contention.