You can smell it in the air. It’s like a combination of heat, humidity, and the overwhelming weight of expectations. Yes, it’s that time of the year again, folks. The 2022 NHL Draft is just around the corner. This time around, the Detroit Red Wings pick eighth overall. After a pretty disappointing end to an otherwise promising season, they’re back to the drawing board with yet another chance at picking the next star.
But who’s the next big name for the Winged Wheel? In our SB Nation mock draft, I had the unique opportunity to represent the Red Wings while doing my best Steve Yzerman impression. With that being said, here’s how the draft shook up before Detroit’s pick:
A few surprises, to be sure — especially the Kemell pick for the Senators. When the time came and the Red Wings were on the clock, I selected Matthew Savoie with the 8th overall pick.
Who is Matthew Savoie?
In layman’s terms, Savoie is exactly the kind of player the Red Wings need. While some may shirk at his small frame (5’9”, 179 lbs), he makes up for size in abundant scoring. This season, Savoie potted 35 goals and 90 points in 65 games for the Winnipeg Ice of the WHL, topping it off with an additional 12 points in 10 games in the playoffs. In addition, he led the entire WHL in rookie scoring. Not bad for a first-year guy.
Matthew Savoie working the defender 'window' on this even-strength tally— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) January 16, 2022
Make it 19 goals and a WHL-leading 53 points in 35 games. pic.twitter.com/ww8lmAO0Vp
He’s a wickedly creative center with the ability to work opposing defensemen into tough positions. When he’s not scoring at will, he’s dishing tape-to-tape passes like it’s nobody’s business. He’s got a deceptive release that’s fooled many a goaltender, excellent perimeter play, and great ability transitioning to both ends of the ice. He’s likely to fall in the draft due to his size, but that shouldn’t stop the Red Wings from giving him a look. After all, Alex DeBrincat of the Chicago Blackhawks is 5’7” and scored 41 goals this season.
Savoie is often compared to Mat Barzal of the New York Islanders based on his play style. If Savoie tops out as a Barzal-esque player, netting a center of that caliber at eighth overall would be a colossal win for the Red Wings.
What do the scouts think?
“There isn’t a player in this draft class whose game thrills more than Savoie’s does. Inside the offensive zone, he’s lethal. He’s got extremely quick side-to-side hands that help him beat defenders one-on-one off of cuts.” - Scott Wheeler, The Athletic
“He’ll analyze all possible options and make the best possible play within a split second, creating offense before most defenders get a chance to react. Savoie’s hockey sense and skill with the puck make him the most dangerous player on the ice at any given moment. - Matthew Somma, Smaht Scouting
Electric dual-threat, who can score a lot of goals and create scoring chances...might have the highest offensive upside of the class. NHL ETA 0-1 years. – Eetu Siltanen, DobberProspects
Savoie’s role in Detroit
One of the biggest needs on Steve Yzerman’s offseason checklist is a playmaking second-line center. Not only does Savoie match that description, his skillset makes him a perfect fit behind Dylan Larkin. When you have a top-tier two-way center shutting down the top line and an offensively-gifted second-line center behind him, you’ve got a wicked one-two punch that will befuddle the opposition.
Pair a guy like Savoie with Jakub Vrana and, say, Filip Zadina (a player that’s drastically improved alongside Vrana), and you’ve got yourself a bona fide second line. You can even give Jonatan Berggren some reps with the rookie. Savoie’s skillset is so dynamic that he can work with nearly anyone on the roster.
Ultimately, what the Red Wings decide to do in the draft will come down to who’s available, when they’re available, and how Yzerman decides to approach the situation. If the draft follows a similar approach to the mock draft, the Red Wings will end their first pick with a solution to their biggest need.