There is no feeling as unrewarding as being an armchair general manager, except being an armchair general manager with a time machine. Let’s do both anyway. As a part of “What If?” week, let’s take the hand of the Ghost of Draft Days Past and travel back in time to re-do some first round picks (but not more than five years because that could mess with the space-time continuum).
Ah, 2015. A simple time when most of us were in denial about the direction of this franchise, the playoff streak was still intact, and a fresh-faced Jeff Blashill was ready to lead us back to the promised land. Detroit is coming off of two top-tier first round picks in Anthony Mantha (2013) and Dylan Larkin (2014). With the exception of David Pastrnak in 2014, it’d be hard to find anyone who disagrees with Mantha at no. 20 and Larkin at no. 15 in their respective years.
Detroit selected forward Evgeny Svechnikov with pick no. 19 in 2015. In 20 career appearances he has 2 goals and 2 assists, not what you want from a first round grab. Svechnikov has had his struggles with injuries, but more importantly consistency. He hasn’t been able to crack the lineup since being drafted, and this upcoming season will likely be do-or-die for his career in Detroit. It’s hard to root against the kid, but equally hard to pick him again in a redraft.
One player stands out as the redraft gems taken after no. 19. It’s tempting to look for a defenseman to spare fans years of hopelessness on the blue-line, but ultimately the pick has to be Sebastian Aho. Brock Boeser and Travis Konecny would be welcome additions, but Aho is the clear choice. Originally taken at no. 35, Aho’s 263 points are good for fourth in his draft class, behind only Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, and Mitch Marner. (pst… Datsyuk and Zetterberg aren’t immortal. Another center would be nice). An Aho-Larkin one-two punch feels like a ridiculous dream. Thanks to SB Nation Theme Week, it’s real for today.
Sebastian Aho: so hot right now pic.twitter.com/015cJs1boN— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) February 12, 2020
Original Pick: Evgeny Svechnikov
Redraft: Sebastian Aho
Ok, 2016. Tough loss in the first round against Tampa Bay. That’s alright, we’re still invincible and will never miss the playoffs, right? Detroit originally held pick no. 16 but thanks to Ken Holland wizardry, the contract of newly-retired Pavel Datsyuk was dumped on the Arizona Coyotes and the Wings moved down to no. 20.
The pick this year was defenseman Dennis Cholowski. Cholowski has made 88 appearances for Detroit and tallied nine goals add 15 assists. It’s not a disappointing pick, especially in a draft where there is a significant drop off in talent after the first round. This is an odd situation, as Detroit’s best pick in the draft was second round defenseman Filip Hronek at no. 53. I’ll take the liberty of deciding that if the Wings are able to redraft, the teams after are as well. Forwards Jesper Bratt and Alex DeBrincat would be solid redraft choices, but for a team that was and is desperate for a solid young defenseman it would be hard to sacrifice Hronek and his future. Hronek has yet to play a full NHL season and is eighth in points in his draft class. The unusual choice is still an original Detroit pick, just 33 places higher.
Original Pick: Dennis Cholowski
Redraft: Filip Hronek
We’re into dangerous territory now. Only one player in this draft has played more than 200 games and the majority of picks have most of their career ahead of them. I hate to speculate about players whose ELC’s might not even have expired (or even signed) but that is the duty of an armchair hockey executive so it must be done.
Detroit took forward Michael Rasmussen with pick no. 9. He managed 18 points in his 62 NHL appearances during the 2018-19 season. It is truly too early to tell with everyone from this point on. St. Louis’ Robert Thomas has put together two decent seasons in his short NHL career and sits third in points for the 2017 class. He is coming off of 42 points in 65 games so he’d be a solid redraft choice. Rasmussen stands at 6’6 and could turn out to be a physical nightmare in front of the net. Watch his eight NHL goals and you’ll see him parked between the hashmarks and the net-front eight times redirecting shots or burying rebounds. Watch his AHL and junior highlights and you’ll see a whole lot more.
There is no telling what either player’s ceiling will be so it’s difficult to go against what the Red Wings front office has already done. With no way to tell if Thomas would fit and the little bit of Rasmussen we’ve seen in red, he’ll be the redraft pick as well.
Original Pick: Michael Rasmussen
Redraft: Michael Rasmussen
Who would’ve thought that taking Filip Zadina at 6th overall would end up being a controversial pick? After the Czech winger fell from the projected third spot to Detroit, it was a no brainer. Zadina has 9 goals and 9 assists in his 37 NHL games along with 51 points in 80 AHL games. Again, it’s too early to say how he will fare the rest of his career. He’s 20 years old and hasn’t even played a full half-season. That being said, the Red Wings have arguably the worst defense in the NHL currently. The Wings’ -122 goal differential is 70 goals worse than the next worst with 11 unplayed games.
There are gaping holes on the blue-line and Canuck’s defenseman Quinn Hughes’ rookie season is hard to overlook. The University of Michigan product tallied 53 points in 68 games in his first full season. Despite Zadina’s potential, the more desperate need is defensive. Picking up another high-potential forward in Joe Veleno at the tail-end of the first round would soften the blow of losing Zadina. Hughes is an excellent skater and puck mover and would significantly improve the Red Wings’ play in transition. More importantly, he has proven he could step in right away. The prospect pipeline isn’t dry but it’s difficult to turn down Hughes’ instant impact and potential.
Either side of the argument has merit and it’s tough to be upset about having Filip Zadina, but Hughes narrowly edges him out in the redraft.
Original Pick: Filip Zadina
Redraft: Quinn Hughes
I won’t even try to argue in favor of a different pick. Five players in this draft have played a game in the NHL and only three have more than ten games. Moritz Seider is a big strong skater and considered one of the most NHL ready blue-liners out of this class. He plays calm, consistent defense and can pass well. After a full season in a professional league and a solid rookie year in the AHL, Seider is the redraft pick for 2019.
So here’s the past five years redrafted.
2015: Sebastian Aho
2016: Filip Hronek
2017: Michael Rasmussen
2018: Quinn Hughes
2019: Moritz Seider