When Steve Yzerman announced his new head coach, we heard a lot about “the process” from Derek Lalonde. Many of you (including myself) ask, what the heck does that mean? The 2022 NHL Draft was a shining example of how Yzerman’s rebuild is turning out to be thought-out and well-calculated. A part of the process.
I’m not going to give out grades for this Draft because I think that would be disingenuous. Outside of maybe three players, I have limited knowledge - and as we’ve seen with Yzerman’s picks before, sometimes knowledge doesn’t equal a good grade. It’s clear to me that Steve Yzerman is building the foundation of his franchise with scouting. This week, they picked up 10 new players that have potential to be a part of the big picture.
How the Draft played out
It all started with Marco Kasper at 8th overall. I’ve read a lot about how he’s more of a “high-floor” rather than “high-ceiling”, but after examining his pedigree, I’m going to contest that. Kasper debuted in Sweden’s top league at the tender age of 16. That means, as a kid, he was competing against men in most situations. He even spent some time playing alongside Mo Seider during a breakout season for the former 6th overall pick. When I look at Marco Kasper, I see a forward version of Mo. Smart, quick and won’t hesitate to put you on your ass if you get in his way. We saw how Mo’s style of play transitioned at every level almost seamlessly. I have a good feeling we may see the same from Kasper — though when he will make his NHL debut is a big question mark. Either way, I consider him to be the franchise’s power-center of the future.
Day two of the draft started off with Steve Yzerman addressing a big need — goaltender depth. He flipped a 3rd-round pick for a proven NHL goalie in Ville Husso. Detroit wasted no time in getting Husso signed to a three-year deal. Now they have a tandem of Alex Nedeljkovic and Ville Husso — that’s an underrated duo to have as your last line of defense.
The Red Wings used both of their 2nd-round picks on shifty, speedy wingers out of the USHL and Russia. Dylan James (pick 40) is coming off a Clark Cup-winning season where he picked up USHL Rookie of the Year. Just 12 picks later, they picked up Dmitri Buchelnikov who absolutely lit the MHL on fire last season as the 2nd-best scorer (41 goals, 34 assists). Contrast that with former Red Wings 1st-rounder Evgeny Svechnikov, who never managed to eclipse 20 goals at the same level. Now I want to be clear; the MHL isn’t a tough league by any means, but the highlight reel speaks for itself.
Russian prospects are a complicated thing right now given the current climate.. So there’s some risk here but it’s pretty clear that the reward is about as high as it gets. If I were Yzerman, I’d waste no time in getting him over to North America if he hasn’t already. As for Dylan James — he’s committed to play hockey and the University of North Dakota. The NCHC is a meat-grinder conference in the college hockey world (he will also get a chance to play against some future teammates playing at Denver). It’s a great place for his development and it gives him time to grow.
So between Kasper, Husso, James and Buchelnikov — I am comfortable saying this was another big draft for Steve Yzerman.
The Detroit Red Wings have been in need of depth down the middle for.. well, ever since the Euro Twins. Marco Kasper was a big step forward, but Steve Yzerman took a few more steps and added Amadeus Lombardi (OHL, Flint), Maximilian Kilpen (SHL, Orebro), Owen Mehlenbacher (USHL, Muskegon), and Brennan Ali (Committed to Notre Dame) in later rounds. None of the names jump out but don’t let that discount “the process.” Steve Yzerman has made it clear he’s in the business of getting more “kicks at the can.” There’s a good chance none of those names pop up in the NHL next year, but if they continue to grow and develop — well, golly you might just have yourself a ticket to the rodeo, Steve.
Look, I don’t have a crystal ball. No one does. It wasn’t the flashiest of Drafts for Steve Yzerman but it has a sense of structure that I appreciate. What I also notice is how heavily invested they are in scouting, especially in Europe. Yzerman has had four Drafts as Red Wings GM. Each one, he used his top pick on a European player. Two of them (so far) have proven they possess franchise-altering talent. I think I’m gonna side with “the process” on this one.
What is your take on the Red Wings’ 2022 Draft?
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