The Calm Before The NHL Draft Storm: What to Expect Tonight for Detroit

Well, the day’s finally here.

Tonight, Detroit will add another high-end prospect to its pool, and then we will move from the phase of the off-season in which we endlessly discuss who Detroit should take in the first round on to the phase in which we endlessly discuss if they made the right decision.

So, let’s summarize where we are at this point.

Detroit currently holds the #6 overall pick. There have been no rumors of Detroit looking to trade up, and while that scenario is certainly possible, it seems like the least probable scenario to play out tonight.

Picking at Six

This leads us with two probable scenarios. The first, which I believe is the most likely to happen, is that Detroit stays at 6 and takes the player who is highest on their draft board. While many people, including me, focus a lot on lists and rankings released by prospect experts, it’s important to keep in mind that a team’s draft board often looks quite different from what’s publicly available.

Team’s have their own scouting apparatus, they conduct player interviews at the combine, and a team’s internal rankings can vary widely from public rankings and mock drafts. People often cite the case of Elias Pettersson, who very well could have the best NHL career of the players in his draft class, being drafted at fifth overall. Some teams reportedly had him first on their draft boards that year. (I believe this was mentioned by Elliotte Friedman on the 31 Thoughts podcast.)

We, however, don’t have access to team draft boards, which is why we focus on public rankings.

The reason I mention this is because we saw just last year how even though the general consensus is that Alex Turcotte and/or Bowen Byram will already have been taken by the sixth selection, that’s not assured.

Before people get too excited, it’s important to remember, however, that last year, two players selected ahead of Zadina were centers. The general rule of thumb is that centers are more valued than wingers, and especially since there appears to be a gap between Byram and the next tier of defensemen, it would be surprising if Byram wasn’t picked in the first five slots.

Before I go into who I would be favoring if Detroit stays pat and picks at six, we have had some experts on our podcasts recently to discuss that question and the draft in general.

This WIIM Radio episode is focused on the draft from the Red Wings perspective, and this episode of Fer Sure is focused on the draft from a league-wide perspective. Dr. Dangles appears on both episodes, and the Fer Sure episodes features a segment with Will from the prospect site Scouching and Dylan Galloway, the head scout for Eastern Canada for Future Considerations.

Additionally, our writer Prashanth Iyer has spent the last 5 weeks creating a model to project scoring at the NHL level for prospects. As he tweeted in a further tweet: “IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: These projections do NOT factor in the probability of player making it to the NHL which is why you will see a number of overagers toward the top as they tend to score at least as well as first-year eligible players when drafted.”

There is an embedded version of this app at the end of this article.

With all that being said, here’s what I would be looking at with the information I have available to me, both from reading and talking to people who know a lot more about prospects than I do.

If Turcotte or Byram are available at 6, I am running up to the podium and taking them in that order. If they aren’t, I’m looking at Trevor Zegras or Kirby Dach. I think both of those players have the highest ceilings of the available centers. I really like Cole Caufield, and I think that he’s going to be an elite NHL winger, but I’m taking the center here.

According to Cory Pronman, the Wings have been linked to Dach, Dylan Cozens, and Vasili Podkolzin. I’d personally rank those three Dach, Podkolzin, Cozens, but I don’t think any of those three would be a “bad” pick. As always, teams can engage in subterfuge, and just because hockey writers say they’re hearing something, it could very well be misdirection.

Moving Back

This would be the more interesting scenario, although I think it’s the less likely one. The reason I say that is because not only do both teams involved have to agree on the value of swapping picks, they both have to feel that they can get a player they want at their new pick position.

There are two teams that seem like the likeliest teams for Detroit to trade with: Edmonton and Vancouver.

Vancouver has been rumored to be in discussions with other teams to move up in the draft, and there appears to be a potential battle between Edmonton and Vancouver to draft Philip Broberg. If you are interested in reading more about Broberg, here is our prospect article about him.

I think that would be a huge gamble to take Broberg that high, and normally I would dismiss this out of hand, but then you have to remember the level of decision making happening in Vancouver, especially based on this nugget:

So, it appears that if this is the case, Detroit can move back to 8 or 10, add another asset or two, and still get a very good player. Even without the assumption that the team that switches us does so to take Broberg, Detroit would be guaranteed to be able to choose from two of the following players: Dach, Zegras, Cozens, Caufield, Boldy, Podkolzin, Krebs. If Broberg is selected ahead of us in this situation, then they would be able to choose from at least 3 of those players.

The more I think about it, the more I like this option. For me, it depends if Turcotte or Byram fall to 6. If not, I’m very interested in trading back to 8 or 10.

Before his injury, Krebs was considered a top 10 pick, and assuming that Detroit feels comfortable with his long-term prognosis, I’d be fine with taking him there.

For the sake of completeness, I should mention there is a possibility that Detroit values a defenseman more highly than the public consensus. If that is what they are interested in, there are likely four potential names they could be looking at: Moritz Seider, Cam York, Victor Soderstrom, or Ville Heinola. I think taking one of these players would be more likely if Detroit trades back past 10th overall.


Because of the large pool of players who are considered potential top ten selections, and the variation between how teams value those players, Detroit is in a great spot for tonight.

Regardless of what Detroit does (unless they do something completely unexpected) they are going to end the night with a very good prospect. The only question that remains is who will be pulling on the Winged Wheel.

Here is an embedded version of the app for Prashanth’s model:

(If it doesn’t work, click the reload button. If it still doesn’t work, you can follow the link in Prashanth’s tweet embedded earlier in the article)

Shiny App Iframe