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Familiar Upside: Recapping the Detroit Red Wings 2021 Draft

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Tampa Bay Lightning v Detroit Red Wings Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images

The Picks

Round 1

#6 Overall: LHD Simon Edvinsson

#15 Overall (traded #23, #48, #138 to Dallas to move up to #15): G Sebastian Cossa

Round 2

#36 Overall (traded #38 and #128 to Vegas to move to #36): LHD Shai Buium

Round 3

#70 Overall: LW Carter Mazur

Round 4

#114 Overall (traded #102 to Vegas for #114 and #155): C Redmond Savage

Round 5

#134: C Liam Dower Nilsson

#155: RHD Oscar Plandowski

Round 6

#166: C Pasquale Zito

Recap and Analysis

In a draft that many expected to be an even bigger crapshoot than normal, Steve Yzerman and the Detroit Red Wings placed a lot of bets on high risk/high reward players. Early on they appeared to focus on strengthening the now deep defensemen prospect pool by grabbing Simon Edvinsson with the sixth overall pick then moving up in the second round to take Shai Buium. The thing that stands out for both is their size with Edvinsson standing 6’5” and Buium at 6’4”. Both are also left hand shots who skate well, look to make things happen offensively with the puck, and are not afraid to have it on their stick. Both also need to clean up their decision making in their own zone and understand that the simple play can often be the right play. They are projects who will definitely take a couple seasons of development at least before they see the NHL but both have massive upsides who, along with Filip Hronek and Moritz Seider on the right side, could real give the Red Wings a high end blue line for years to come.

Sandwiched between the two defensemen, Detroit made the first of their three draft day trades to move up from #23 overall to #15 overall to take goalie Sebastian Cossa. His size (reported as 6’6”) is the first thing you notice about him but once you hear him talk his swagger immediately starts to stand out. While he is not as technically sound as fellow first round goalie Jesper Wallstedt, his athleticism and anticipation is off the charts. Couple that with the kind of confidence that allows him to feel comfortable playing the puck and even throwing a few chirps at the other team during the game and you get a goalie prospect to really be excited about seeing.

With a pick each in the middle rounds the Red Wings looked to their comfort areas of the local hockey scene and Frolunda of the Swedish Hockey League. In the third they took right shooting, left winger Carter Mazur who was born in Detroit, grew up in Jackson and even played for Red Wings Director of Amateur Scouting Kris Draper when he was a coach with the Little Caesars program. As the captain for the Tri-City Storm of the USHL last year he had a breakout season with 44 points (20G/24A) in 47 games so there could be some offensive upside to go with his grit and compete. For me this is probably the weakest of the picks for the Wings this draft based on where he was taken compared to his current perceived development ceiling, but if anyone knows him it would be Draper and the Red Wings so hopefully, they see some things that others have not yet. Carter will join fellow 2021 Red Wings draft pick Shai Buium as a freshman at the University of Denver, joining 2019 Detroit draft pick Antti Tuomisto.

The fourth and fifth saw the Red Wings make arguably two of their best picks of the draft in Red Savage and Liam Dower Nilsson. Both are average-ish sized centers who have some real flash and dash to their game. Savage is another local kid (he calls Northville home and is close friends with 2020 seventh round Red Wings draft pick Kienan Draper) who prides himself in his compete level and energy on the ice, but he is not just a energy guy. He has some real shake to his game that could provide some much-needed offensive flare to the Red Wings down the road without sacrificing in his own end. He is expected to head to Miami (OH) University in the fall. In the fifth the Red Wings went outside the state to another familiar place, Frolunda HC of the SHL, and selected center Liam Dower Nilsson. A real pattern emerged by now as Nilsson was, yet another Red Wings pick with high upside who competes hard, can play in both ends of the ice, but has some developing to do before he can play in the NHL. Nilsson, like Savage, loves to make plays with the puck in the offensive zone. But where Savage prefers to dangle through/around players to make plays, Nilsson prefers to use his vision and high-end passing ability. Outside of Cossa, he is probably the player I am most excited about the Red Wings drafting this year. His passing and vision could be a real asset to the Red Wings, especially on the power play, and his work ethic on the ice should allow him as good an opportunity as a fifth-round pick can expect to make an NHL roster.

With the last two picks of their draft, the Red Wings finished off their swing for the fences draft by taking a right-handed defenseman and another center. Taken with their second pick in the fifth round, defenseman Oscar Plandowski is an excellent, smooth skating, right shot Dman who has shown some ability to use his skating prowess to get points from the blue line while playing in the QMJHL. He is smaller than some of Yzerman’s recent picks along the blue line, and his decision making/positioning needs to improve to have a shot at rising up through an ever deepening Red Wings defensemen prospect pool, but there is upside there and his skating will definitely give him a boost.

The final pick of the Red Wings draft went across the Detroit River to take Pasquale Zito of the Windsor Spitfires. With the OHL not having a season this past year and Zito frankly not being good enough of a prospect to find somewhere in Europe to play, there really is not much out there on him. He scored 13 points (3G/10A) in his draft minus one season with Windsor and he could theoretically be one of those players that fell through the cracks because he did not play this past year. But it is just as likely he never even gets a contract with the Red Wings.

Final Thoughts

I like what Yzerman and the scouting team did throughout this draft. Some of the players they took probably would not have been the ones I would have taken, but they were aggressive and used their plethora of draft picks in this draft to move up while still walking away with four players in the first three rounds and eight players overall. They took major swings with their first three picks on players with massive upside who, if their development goes right, will be major pieces in the rebuild. Moving up eight spots to draft Sebasian Cossa is a move I loved. It showed that they are not afraid to be bold and make a big play for a player they believe will help get them back into Stanley Cup contention. The other thing all these high upside picks shows is Yzerman’s faith in his development team to help these kids grow and get as close to their ceilings as possible. The phrase spoken a ton this weekend by many Red Wings fans is “Trust the Yzerplan” and while I am not one to really subscribe to the concept of the “Yzerplan”, the development of the first two drafts under Yzerman (especially the 2019 one) definitely has earned a “I like what has gone on so far so I trust them to continue”.