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Who’s Next? Grading the Young Wave of Red Wings Prospects

April 19, 2019 will obviously always be remembered in Red Wings history. A new era is upon us here in Hockeytown, and it’s with all-time great Steve Yzerman in control. With player grades coming out for us here at WIIM, there are few players who will not be graded because we cut the grades off at roughly 10 games played this year. However, there are plenty of other new, young, shiny pieces for Stevie Y to start working with on the horizon. So here are our “who’s next” portion of player grades, and what players you may start seeing in the Winged Wheel for years to come.

Tier 1

Joseph Veleno, C, 19

Drummondville (QMJHL): 59 GP, 42 G, 62 A, +63

There really is no question as to who the most impressive Red Wings prospect has been this year. Veleno finished 4th in the Q in points, despite playing in 9 fewergames than the league leader. He also led the league in points per game at 1.76 (Min. 30 GP) and has led his team to the semifinals currently vs. Halifax (Hello, McIsaac). Obviously I would have liked Veleno’s season to have ended already for the possibility of him joining Grand Rapids for their playoff run, but I also don’t want to get nit-picky with a season like that of Veleno’s. Only time will tell just how good the 19-year-old will be, but all signs point towards a steal at #30 in last years draft.

2018-19 Grade: A++++

NHL ETA: Post-Deadline 2019-2020

Filip Zadina, LW/RW, 19

Grand Rapids (AHL): 59 GP, 16 G, 19 A, -17

It’s not so much that Zadina struggled this season, but more so there was just so much hype over the Czech winger that the expectations were a bit unfair. Zadina struggled early on for Grand Rapids, but it was only his first year of pro hockey. He did finish with 18 points over his final 31 games in the AHL, including a 7-game point streak back in February. Overall, you have to be happy with Zadina’s growth and adjustment to pro hockey, and it’s safe to assume he will be on the team out of camp next year, or at least soon into the season. Keep an eye out for Z Jr. over the next few weeks in the AHL playoffs as well.

2018-19 Grade: B-

NHL ETA: Opening Day 2019-2020

Tier 2

Evgeny Svechnikov, LW/RW, 22

DNP (injury)

Things really could not have gone worse for Svech this year. After finally getting his NHL chance in 2017-18, the injury-plagued Russian missed the entire season with an ACL injury. If you look at it with a glass-half full kind of mentality, missing the entire season allows for Svechnikov to be waiver-exempt all of next year, which is huge because now he can come and go between the NHL and AHL as he rehabs/gets his legs back under him. The talent is still there, and the hope is Svechnikov comes back stronger then ever.

2018-19 Grade: N/A

NHL ETA: Mid-Season 2019-2020 (20-30 games in GR first)

Jonatan Berggren, LW/RW, 18

Skelleftea (SHL): 16 GP, 3 A, +0 (Limited by injury)

Berggren was another one from the 2018 Draft Class that many labeled as a steal. The undersized Berggren spent this year in the Swedish pro league going up against bigger, stronger and faster professionals (the top 3 leading scorers were aged 32, 35 and 35), before missing the rest of the year due to injury. Despite only playing 16 games this year in Sweden, you have to think that will help Berggren understand the game more and should result in a smoother transition in to Grand Rapids once he gets there. What the Red Wings do next with him is still TBD.

2018-19 Grade: C+

NHL ETA: Mid-Season 2021-2022

Jared McIsaac, D, 19

Halifax (QMJHL): 53 GP, 16 G, 46 A, +33

McIsaac, like Veleno, is in the semifinals of the QMJHL playoffs currently. Also like Veleno, McIsaac has dominated the league at 19-years-old. He finished 2nd in the league among D in points and +/-, and has carried his Halifax team to a very successful season thus far. The difference between McIsaac and Veleno is the Red Wings already signed McIsaac to his entry-level-deal, meaning it’s very safe to assume he would join Grand Rapids if Halifax is eliminated in time. McIsaac was the first defenseman taken in the 2018 draft by the Red Wings, and with a successful campaign in the Q this season, all signs are pointing to proper development for the Canadian defenseman.

2018-19 Grade: A-

NHL ETA: Opening Day: 2020-2021

Tier 3

Vili Saarijarvi, D, 21

Grand Rapids (AHL): 70 GP, 2 G, 14 A, +19

Saarijarvi is an interesting one. When drafted in the 3rd round back in 2015, the hype was real with him. Since then, his development has gone south, including spending some time with Toledo of the ECHL in 2017-18. However, the 21-year-old Fin took a big step in the right direction this season with a +19 rating, and there is hope he is back on the right track. He’s an undersized right-handed shot, but a smooth-skater with a high hockey IQ. Saarijarvi may be next up on the blue line, with hopes that the potential of being a solid Top 4 D is still there.

2018-19 Grade: B

NHL ETA: Mid-Season 2019-2020

Gustav Lindstrom, D, 20

Frolunda (SHL): 40 GP, 3 G, 3 A, -5

Much like his countryman (hat tip, Ken Daniels) Berggren, Lindstrom spent his time playing pro hockey in Sweden. While the numbers weren’t gaudy, he averaged the 4th most ice time on his team, and 3rd most among D. The 2017 2nd round pick has also signed with the Red Wings already, and his team, Frolunda, is currently in SHL Finals. It will be interesting to see if the Red Wings bring Lindstrom on board after his run in Sweden or if they want him to play pro hockey across the pond for another year.

2018-19 Grade: B-

NHL ETA: Mid-Season 2020-2021

Joe Hicketts, D, 22

Grand Rapids (AHL): 64 GP, 3 G, 24 A, +2

When Joe Hicketts first made his NHL debut at the end of the 2017-18 season, you thought he might be around to stay. The small, 5’8” defenseman is feisty on the ice and a similar player to that of teammate Vili Saarijarvi. I think he’s a bit closer to the NHL than Saarijarvi, and what comes next for Hicketts is really a coin flip. He played 11 games with the big club this year, while averaging over 18 minutes a night, but still hasn’t shown anything all that impressive to keep him around long term. Expect him up again at some point next year in which more of a gauge on his future will be made.

2018-19 Grade: B

NHL ETA: Mid-Season 2019-2020

Filip Larsson, G, 20

Denver (NCAA): 22 GP, 13-6-3, 1.95 GAA, 0.932 GAA

The latest signing for the Red Wings is goalie Filip Larsson. He was the Wings 6th round pick back in 2016 and thoroughly impressed for the Pioneers this year. He was a finalist for the NCHC goalie of the year, his GAA ranked 11th nationally and Save % was good for 6th in the NCAA too. He split time with sophomore goalie, Devin Cooley, but Larsson was the goalie down the stretch for Denver, including playing in all 3 NCAA tournament games. With goaltending a major question mark in the rebuild for Detroit, Larsson was a bright spot this year and hopefully will be for years to come.

2018-19 Grade: A-

NHL ETA: Opening Day 2021-2022

Tier 4

Givani Smith, RW/LW, 21

Grand Rapids (AHL): 64 GP, 6 G, 7 A, +2

When the Red Wings used their 2016 2nd round pick on Smith, I scratched my head then, and still am. He obviously is still developing, but he is basically a 4th line grinder, which I feel a 2nd round pick shouldn’t have been used on. However, he had a pretty steady year in his first year of pro hockey in Grand Rapids. He did have 86 PIMs in 64 games though, which he really has to work on to make it in the NHL long-term. Hopefully he can keep developing a bit more to his game than just physicality and toughness, and maybe he will find a spot on the Wings 3rd/4th line in the future.

2018-19 Grade: C+

NHL ETA: Mid-Season 2020-21

Axel Holmstrom, C/LW, 22

Grand Rapids (AHL): 66 GP, 12 G, 13 A, +3

In his 2nd full season in the AHL, Holmstrom continued to be Mr. Consistency. After a 26-point campaign his first year, he followed that up with 25 points this year. He will never be flashy offensively, but does provide a nice two-way game the Red Wings will look for down the road after the Helm and Glendening’s of the world move on. The former 7th round pick has yet to play for Detroit, but with the way this year (and probably next year) have gone for the Wings, expect him to get a shot at some point next year, maybe even out of training camp.

2018-19 Grade: B

NHL ETA: Mid-season 2019-2020

Keith Petruzzelli, G, 20

Quinnipiac (NCAA): 14 GP, 8-3-0, 2.42 GAA, .904 SV%

Petruzzelli had a lot of hype around him when drafted in the 3rd round back in 2017. Many felt he was a steal and could become the goalie of the future for the Red Wings. While it looks like Larsson has taken that title lately, Petruzzelli had a pretty nice season in his 2nd year with Quinnipiac. He played in three less games than he did his freshman year, but his goals against average improved by 0.64 and he played 195 more minutes. He has sat behind one of the best goalies in college hockey, Andrew Shortridge, for two years now, but with the Sharks signing Shortridge, Petruzzelli will get the chance to be the #1 goalie for coach Rand Pecknold next year and that is when all eyes should be on him.

2018-19 Grade: B

NHL ETA: 2021-2022 Mid-Season

Dominic Turgeon, C, 23

Grand Rapids (AHL): 72 GP, 6 G, 14 A, +1

Turgeon has always been an interesting prospect to me. Not only has it felt like he’s been in our organization for 10 years now, but I also always feel like there is more to him than he’s produced. He dropped off in points this year, but also played in 4 games with the big boys. He seems to me like he may become a Colin Campbell-type and really just thrive more in Grand Rapids as well as help with the development of other young prospects, but you never know. He has 3rd/4th liner written all over him, but it feels like with several top draft picks having jumped him on the call up list, his window is closing to make the leap to the NHL. However, with his ELC up after this year, it will be interesting to see what Stevie Y and company decide to do with the former 3rd round pick.

2018-19 Grade: C-

NHL ETA: 2020-2021 Opening Day (With the Red Wings?)

I obviously just sit here and type out what I see as well as give some of my opinions, but hopefully there are some surprise prospects down the road. While it seems like the Red Wings have 2-3 really solid prospects, the rest may not be as impressive as we originally thought. I hope to be wrong, but regardless, the Red Wings have even more success in this years draft.

As for the NHL ETA’s, they are simply just my best guess as to when we’ll see everyone up for good. Obviously, I will be wrong on several, but I wanted to try and give fans an idea as to when we will see everyone with the Red Wings for the long haul. Things are shaping up more for the 2020-21 season, with the likelihood of Veleno, McIsaac, Zadina, etc. all finally with the squad for good, or at least on the cusp, which I am okay with. I want Yzerman to evaluate what he has for a year first and not try and get it all back at once. Plus, with the 2020 free agent defensive class currently headlined by Alex Pietrangelo, Roman Josi, Torey Krug, Tyson Barrie, Justin Faulk and Jared Spurgeon, you have to assume that’s when the Wings go for a splash in free agency.

This was all to just give everyone and idea of what is still brewing in the minors. The youth movement is upon us, and there is still even more coming down the road. Some of these players may even be used to strengthen the Wings via trades in 2-3 years when they are much more competitive. You just never know with prospects, but hopefully this gives everyone an idea of where the team is at.


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