What if the Red Wings Lose the Lottery?

Taking a look at the possibilities for Detroit’s top pick outside the lottery range

With the format set for the playoffs (and play-ins?), there’s little hockey related discussion to be had for Red Wings fans and fans of the other six teams eliminated from the games slated to potentially begin in August. The Red Wings may not get game action again until maybe even January. So naturally discussion has turned to who the Wings may pick whenever the draft is eventually set.

The Math

The NHL Draft Lottery is staged for Friday. After some unfair teasing by the league, leaking plans to improve Detroit’s chances at retaining the top pick or sinking no lower than 2nd, the league backed off and returned to something resembling the original lottery system at least as far as Detroit is concerned. Right now the Wings are picking anywhere from 1st to 4th depending on the way the lottery balls fall. As many know, statistically the Wings have essentially a coin flip chance of even staying in any of the three lottery spots. The exact odds are 18.5% (1st), 16.5% (2nd), 14.4% (3rd), and 50.6% (4th).

The Prizes

If the lottery does in fact fall in the Wings favour, you better believe it’s about as close to a guarantee as you can get that Alexis Lafreniere will be the Wings top choice. The same can be said if they land the second lottery position. While not quite the lock Lafreniere is, Quinton Byfield has made a strong case for why he is the clear favourite as second fiddle in this draft. Don’t be mistaken, it’ll be a huge get for the Wings to land either of these players and we could be talking about jolting the rebuild forward a year or two with one of these guys on the roster.

The Best of the Rest

But as noted there’s a 65% chance the Wings end up 3rd or 4th instead. So to save you from any potential disappointment here’s a look at a somewhat wide array of possibilities for either of those draft slots, and the promising players you should still be excited for if they end up as part of this club’s future.

Once the draft gets to No. 3 is where things get intriguing, and depending on which draft board you’re looking at there’s at least 6-7 players that shouldn’t come as much more than a mild surprise starting at that slot. So in no particular order, the following are several players the Wings could select in either the 3rd or 4th position.

Tim Stützle

The German forward is predicted by many to be the 3rd player selected in the draft, and may even give Byfield a run according to some. Now that may have to be taken with a grain of salt. NHL scouts deliberately give bad information leading up to drafts to try and conceal their real thoughts on players.

However, that doesn’t mean the theory is without merit. Stützle is able to boast playing in a men’s league with Mannheim in the DEL and contributing decent production. Very few draft eligible players are capable of producing in pro leagues like he has. Depending on which scouting reports you look at Stützle projects as a center or a winger, with several stating he could start on the wing and work his way to center, a la Dylan Larkin.

The connection here to Detroit is easy to be poetic and draw the line to last year’s selection of fellow German Moritz Seider, who also played for Mannheim in the DEL his draft year. But that’s a disservice to Stützle who is an outstanding player in his own right and well worthy of a high selection.

One of Stützle’s standout skills is his speed and skating. He likely won’t be among the most elite NHL skaters but he projects to be among the upper calibre skaters. While there may be some concern of how he’ll adjust to the smaller ice surface at the NHL level, those are alleviated by the fact what makes him a good skater is his edgework and his ability to create space for himself when there seemingly is none.

But what makes Stützle an upper tier prospect worthy of a high selection is his combination of strong skating, skilled hands, and playmaking ability. His highlight reel demonstrates a player who is able to control the puck through defenders as space starts to close, creating opportunities that most players cannot. When he is closed out from creating his own lane to the net, he’s able to find pockets or create time to make a play to his teammates.

The one knock is his goal scoring and potentially his shot. But it’s hard to get a good read on what his production in the DEL means with historically very few players being drafted from the league. While he can be viewed as somewhat of a risk-reward type pick, the film doesn’t lie, and he should be a pretty safe bet to project as a 1B center to Larkin’s 1A within a few seasons.

Lucas Raymond

Raymond is the highest projected winger in this draft class if Stützle is considered a center. The right handed Swede demonstrates he has elite hands. While his skating may not be anything to get excited about, Raymond can routinely make his opponents look silly in one on one scenarios. He definitely appeared to have hit some growing pains playing against men in the SHL with his production slipping to 10 points in 33 games.

But the SHL is no joke and it’s natural for it to take him some time to learn the defenders in that league are not as easily fooled by his quick hands. When taking on players his own age Raymond’s skill with the puck becomes very clear and it’s likely only a matter of time before that skillset is ready for the pro level. The other talent that pushes Raymond into the upper tier of this draft is his vision for finding his teammates with the puck. Raymond shows a great knack for shifting and opening lanes and drawing attention to himself before getting rid of the puck.

While some worry he might get forced to stay on the perimeter at the NHL level, Raymond has proven he can still be quite dangerous from there especially when paired with a linemate who’s better suited for finding available seams to receive the one-timer pass. That’s also not to say Raymond is afraid to drive the net, it just might not be a strength.

If the Wings end up with this young Swede you can already see him being dropped into a role in the top six and manning the top powerplay unit as the play-maker on the half wall.

Alexander Holtz

The other Swede in the upper tier of prospects for this draft is a dynamic right handed winger. There are some similarities between Holtz and Raymond. But Holtz’s standout skill is his lethal shot. Holtz has a deadly wrist shot, particularly off the rush. He’s able to beat goalies from distance and from bad angles like near the half wall.

Holtz is more of a finisher than a play-maker. But he has that skill set too and is able to use the threat of his shot as an opportunity to draw attention and find teammates. This is to take nothing away from a particularly good set of hands as well. Much like Raymond, Holtz is quite capable of beating defenders one on one and putting pucks seemingly through them and getting them into poor position to defend him.

If there’s a knock on Holtz’s game it’s probably his skating. His stride isn’t terrible by any means but projecting him to the NHL level it may be what tempers his ceiling if he doesn’t improve. But there’s been many prospects before him that have had their skating knocked only to make massive improvements through specific skill coaches.

If the Wings do end up taking Holtz, it wouldn’t be a reach at all. They have players that fit his type on the roster already in Mantha and Zadina, with the Swede being much more similar to Zadina in size. But there’s no such thing as too many goal scoring threats and he also happens to be right handed. He’d quickly find a role in the top six and top powerplay unit as the trigger man at the top of the circle.

Jamie Drysdale

The lone standout defenseman in this year’s draft. There will likely be more defenseman who creep into the top ten picks like Sanderson but they won’t sniff the top five.

Unlike some of the aforementioned players, Drysdale’s skating is actually one of his attributes that make him a great prospect. He is always a threat to jump in or start the rush if able to wheel behind his own net. His skating also allows him to create chances in the offensive zone simply by how well he can track across the blue line or slide down with the puck while opening his hips to create passing or shooting options from either side.

His shot is alright but nothing to write home about, but he’s a threat primarily as a passer. Even with the NHL trending smaller, his frame is a little on the slight side for a defenseman at 5’11”, 173 lbs. Ideally he’ll fill out some more to withstand the wear and tear of playing the back end at the highest level. There’s been plenty of examples recently for him to follow for small but effective defensemen.

His hockey IQ and strong skating will help him though with retrieving pucks quickly and making the proper outlet play to avoid taking unnecessary hits. He’s shown a good prowess for making effective breakout passes and he has the patience and creativity to find lanes in the offensive zone.

Perhaps one reason Wings fans may not be high on him as a top pick is right handed defensemen are actually one spot Detroit may be well stocked. But management could do worse than loading the cupboard at the position that’s usually hardest to fill on most rosters. The worst case would be the problem of having too many for your roster and trading someone to help fill other holes. If Yzerman is confident that Drysdale is the player he looks to be, he shouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger.

Marco Rossi

This is where the conversation starts to turn depending on if position is a serious consideration for Yzerman and company. Strength at center is a must for any potential contenders and the Red Wings are woefully thin behind Larkin and maybe Joe Veleno. While some of the players noted above bring dynamic skillsets, Rossi is the first player listed after Byfield that is a lock to be a center in the NHL.

Let’s get this out of the way first, yes Rossi is on the smaller side at 5’9”. But he’s stocky, already tipping the scales at over 180 lbs. From all accounts while the frame is small he’s got legs like tree trunks and won’t be knocked off pucks easily. You’d also like for a player his size to be an elite skater, which he’s not. He’s more of an east-west skater who allows the play to develop rather than drive a rush.

If you’re looking for production Rossi has it in bunches. He put up 120 points in 56 games with the Ottawa 67’s in the OHL. Obviously point totals don’t tell the whole story but it’s hard to ignore those gaudy numbers.

Rossi has seemed to gradually creep further and further up draft boards to the point where being a top five selection won’t surprise anybody. As is often the case with highly rated yet small players like him, he has a lethal set of hands. Reach won’t be his advantage but he is able to turn defenders inside out on the regular. He’s also a terrific passer who can get creative with the ways he finds his teammates. He can make all the expected passes and easily projects as the focal point of a powerplay on the half wall.

Another thing Rossi has going for him is he’s one of the few players at the top of this draft where scouts have praised his two way play. He plays all situations including penalty kill. His game may be the most complete of any player right now, which is never a bad thing to invest draft capital in.

If selected, Rossi could quickly develop into the second line center behind Dylan Larkin and if paired with the right scoring winger could make Detroit’s offense scary soon.

Cole Perfetti

Perfetti is another prospect at the crucial center position. Like Rossi he is on the smaller side at 5’11” but only 177 lbs. His production last season in the OHL with the Saginaw Spirit was just behind Rossi’s on a team that was also strong but not quite on the same level as Rossi’s Ottawa 67’s team. So you can see why who goes off the board first between these two is a mixed bag depending which rankings or mock draft you look at.

Perfetti’s ability as a passer and playmaker is what will take him far at the NHL level. He is able to almost always put the puck on the tape of his teammates and to create enough deception when he controls the puck to give them a chance to find openings. He displays terrific vision and patience to allow plays to develop and not force a shot on low percentage scoring opportunities.

Unfortunately Perfetti is an average skater. He doesn’t have pull-away speed and his edge work is decent enough but doesn’t make him anymore dangerous. Luckily for him he has a terrific set of hands that can still make him dangerous in one one situations. Perfetti has a unique ability to allow defenders to close in on him and then just as they have seemingly closed him out, step around them with control of the puck and move into a much more dangerous position. The question will be with his lack of foot speed will he still be able to do this to NHL calibre defensemen.

If Perfetti is the pick for the Wings, he’ll need to be paired with a scoring winger to maximise his playmaking ability. He could be a could fit with someone like Zadina. Like some of the other players listed above he’s also a good bet to be the half wall guy on a powerplay unit.

Yaroslav Askarov

Askarov is the only goalie to crack this group. He’s also going to find himself in the very small group of goaltenders selected in the first round. Since 2013 only Samsonov (22nd), Oettinger (26th), and Knight (13th) have been selected in the first round. Askarov has a good chance to be the first top 10 goalie selected since Carey Price all the way back in 2005.

There’s good reason Askarov is set to buck the trend of goalies taken early in the draft. What makes Askarov such a good goalie isn’t necessarily his physical traits, while he does have those. It’s his ability to read plays and track the puck that make him hard to beat. He routinely tracks the cross slot passes to get himself set square to the shooter.

He’s not the new prototype hulking goaltender, but he’s not small either at 6’2”. But he’s always quick to get to the top of the crease to make the most of his frame and take away angles from shooters. Being his size may actually work to his advantage as it allows him to show what may be elite lateral quickness. He also athletic ability and flexibility to make the acrobatic save when needed. You won’t see him have to do it often because of the way he reads plays but when called upon he can make the highlight reel save.

Askarov has been highly touted all year, even with a fairly poor performance at the World Junior Championships. But he slid on draft boards towards the end of the season. Not so much for his play but scouts all know goalies are far and away the hardest position to project. They take several years to develop and teams usually seek a more immediate impact from first round picks.

Even if a team like the Red Wings were to have the patience to wait on his development, the position he plays makes him somewhat of a 50/50 chance to ever make the NHL. But it’s also a position of desperate need in the Wings system with a few prospects that all have a lot of question marks tied to them. If the Wings do make Askarov the pick, it would certainly be the biggest surprise but Yzerman has shown he doesn’t care what the pundits think.

So Who’s the Guy?

While none of these players are at the same level as Lafreniere or Byfield, many analysts have indicated the Top 10 of the 2020 group to be as good as any in recent years. So if the lottery voodoo happens to go against the Red Wings it’s alright to be upset. But don’t fret for too long because they’re still likely to get a cornerstone piece of the future from this group.

Who should the Red Wings select 4th overall if these players are available?

Tim Stutzle952
Lucas Raymond68
Alexander Holtz32
Jamie Drysdale208
Marco Rossi134
Cole Perfetti31
Yaroslav Askarov143
Other (excluding Lafreniere and Byfield)11