7 Prospects That Just Missed RWP's Top 20

Givani Smith sits on Red Wings bench
By Jeff Watters

November 18, 2020

It’s been some time since we’ve seen the kind of prospect depth the Red Wings have amassed over the past few seasons. As a result, there are some players with some real talent and a legitimate shot to make it to the NHL that narrowly missed our Top 20 Prospects list.

Today we’ll look at 4 forwards, 2 defensemen, and a goalie prospect that didn’t make the RWP’s Top 20 but could factor into the Red Wings’ future plans. Some of these players are recent draftees and are years away, while others already have some pro experience under their belts and will be looking to establish themselves as viable options moving forward.

Let’s start with the forwards and then move on to defense and goalie. In no particular order:

1. Givani Smith, LW

2019-20 club: Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL)/Detroit Red Wings

2020-21 club (projected): Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL)

Drafted by the Red Wings 46th overall in 2016, Smith has moved quickly through the organization. The Toronto native turned pro in 2018-19 and showed improvements throughout his first season with the Griffins, totaling 6 goals and 13 points in 64 games. Smith also added 2 assists in 4 playoff games for the Griffins.

Last season, Smith racked up 9 goals and 19 points in 37 AHL games. He impressed enough to garner a couple of call-ups to Detroit, where he scored 2 goals and added an assist in 21 games for the big club. He’s the only player on this list of Red Wings prospects to appear in an NHL game.

There is a lot of bite to Smith’s game; he’s not afraid to get in the face of an opponent. Smith will need to avoid taking unnecessary penalties, however, as he racked up 84 PIMs last season between Grand Rapids and Detroit. The big winger also has a strong net-front presence and is able to chip in offensively. Smith would bring an element to Detroit that has been lacking for some time.

Smith projects to be a 4th liner who can add a bit of offense. It’s not unreasonable to think he could be a regular 8-10 goal scorer while filling a checking role for a contending Red Wings team. While the Red Wings forward depth will make it highly improbable for Smith to crack the lineup in 2021 (barring a number of injuries), he’ll be looking to carve out a role on the Red Wings’ 4th line in 2021-22 and beyond.

2. Albin Grewe, RW

2019-20 club:
Djurgårdens IF J20 (J20 Nationell)/Djurgårdens IF (SHL)

2020-21 club:
Djurgårdens IF (SHL)

Grewe was a player many had their eyes on in advance of the 2019 draft. He’s the rare Swede that plays more of a North American-style game, thriving on physical play and getting under the skin of the opposition. In fact, Grewe has claimed to pattern his game after Brad Marchand. He’s not afraid to chuck knuckles, either. Check out his scrap with Elmer Soderblom in Wings development camp a few summers ago:

Aptly referred to as “T-Rex” by Djurgårdens head coach, Robert Ohlsson, due to his alpha play, Grewe also exhibited some serious offensive skill leading up to draft day. Many were excited to see the Red Wings snatch him up in the 2nd round.

Unfortunately, Grewe hasn’t done much to impress since the draft as he has really struggled to produce offense in the SHL. He had just 1 goal in 19 games with Djurgårdens in 2019-20.

Grewe was set to play 2020-21 in Saginaw (OHL), but due to COVID-19 Grewe has remained in Djurgårdens. 

If Grewe can improve his skating and figure out a way to be more effective against bigger, stronger competition, he could jump into the Top 20 as a potential bottom-6 winger. 

3. Ethan Phillips, RW

2019-20 club: Boston University (NCAA)

2020-21 club: Boston University (NCAA)

Ethan Phillips was selected by the Red Wings in the 4th round, 97th overall, in the 2019 draft. A very skilled forward, Phillips impressed in his draft year putting up 16 goals and 43 points in 50 games for the Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL).

Ethan Phillips Boston University Terriers
Ethan Phillips will suit up for Boston Univ. this season | Jim Pierce

The Dartmouth, NS native was one of the fastest skaters in the 2019 draft.  He plays a solid 2-way game and has good offensive instincts. His quick feet and puck handling ability allow him to evade defenders and play bigger than his size in the corners. 

He is one of many undersized Red Wings prospects, currently listed at 5-10, 160lbs, so the challenge for Phillips will be to make the NHL as a guy who can chip in offensively (and he’ll have lots of competition). He’s not going to be one to carve out a career as a fourth-line grinder even with his strong 2-way game. The hope is Phillips can add another inch and 20 more lbs or so over the next three seasons at BU. There’s plenty of time for Phillips to develop and that’s a big reason he decided to go the college route.

4. Kirill Tyutyayev, LW

2019-20 club: Gornyak Uchaly (VHL)/Avto Yekaterinburg (MHL)

2020-21 club: Yunosk Minsk (Belarus)

Tyutyayev shares a birthplace with one of the all-time great Red Wings. Another undersized prospect, Tyutyayev was born in Yekaterinburg, home of Pavel Datsyuk. 

The commonalities don’t stop there – Tyutyayaev, like Datsyuk, was also a late-round pick of the Red Wings. Taken in the 7th round of the 2019 draft, Tyutyayev spent most of his draft-plus-1 season in the VHL, Russia’s “AHL” if you will. As a 19-year-old, the winger totaled 3 goals and 20 points in 27 games for Gornyak Uchaly. Very impressive numbers for a player drafted at 5-9, 146 lbs.

Tyutyayev’s most impressive season? In 2017-18 he had 47 goals and 114 points in 31 games in Russia’s U18 league. There’s no question the kid has got some offensive chops. He isn’t the fastest skater, and mainly plays from the perimeter, but he has good vision and quickly identifies passing lanes. He won’t wow you with skill, but he’s done nothing but produce at every stop in his career thus far. If you’re one for NHL comparables, think Taro Hirose.

Tyutyayev is currently playing in Belarus and is in the top 15 in league scoring with 5 goals and 15 points in 14 games.

5. Donovan Sebrango, D

2019-20 club: Kitchener Rangers (OHL)

2020-21 club: Kitchener Rangers (OHL)

Sebrango was selected with the Red Wings first of two 3rd round picks in 2020. The 2-way defender is an excellent skater and has shown the ability to play in all situations with his junior team, the Kitcher Rangers.

Sebrango won’t wow you with any one part of his game, but his steady, dependable play, along with his mobility and puck-moving ability, make him a guy to keep an eye on. He had 6 goals and 30 points in 56 games for the Rangers in 2019-20 and will look to take his game to the next level in an even bigger role in 2021.

Donovan Sebrango CHL prospects game
Donovan Sebrango is a dependable 2-way defenseman | neutralzone.net

Sebrango has been another victim of the OHL’s delayed return to play. Fortunately, he has been invited to Team Canada’s World Juniors selection camp so he will be getting some reps in with some of the best junior players in the world. Sebrango is a long shot to be selected, but the camp will be a valuable experience for the young Red Wings prospect.

The son of retired Cuban footballer, Eduardo Sebrango, Donovan will look to be yet another professional athlete in the family. Here’s to hoping he can crack the Top 20 in 2021.

6. Eemil Viro, D

2019-20 club: TPS (Liiga)/TPS U20 (Jr. A SM-liiga)

2020-21 club: TPS (Liiga)

Viro, the other Red Wings 3rd rounder in 2020, played most of the 2019-20 season against older competition with TPS of the Finnish Liiga. He’ll spend all of 2020-21 with TPS, and has already matched his 2019-20 point total (3 assists) in one-third of the games (10) in 2020-21.

Viro, like Sebrango, is an excellent skater. He’s an average-sized defender at 6-0 and 168lbs, and due to his lack of high-end skill, it’s difficult to project what Viro’s future will hold. He’s a player who has always held his own against older competition and has proven to be solid in all areas of the game. Smart, puck-moving defensemen always have a shot in today’s NHL. It’ll be interesting to see if Viro can add enough strength to be able to take his game to the next level. 

Viro will spend a few more years in Finland before hopefully turning pro and making his way over to North America.

7. Filip Larsson, G

2019-20 club: Toledo Walleye (ECHL)/Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL)

2020-21 club: Almtuna IS (Allsvenskan)

Larsson has been loaned to Almtuna-IS in Sweden due to COVID-19. Unfortunately, he suffered a broken finger in mid-October. The estimated recovery time for the injury was 3 weeks, so we should expect to see Larsson back in action soon.

After a fantastic season with the University of Denver (NCAA) in 2018-2019 where Larsson posted a .932 SV% in 22 games, the 2019-20 season wasn’t so kind to the Swedish netminder.

Larsson’s .843 SV% in 7 games for the Griffins earned him a demotion to the Toledo Walleye of the ECHL, where he spent the remainder of the season.

Larsson was just 21-years-old for the entire 2019-20 season, so it shouldn’t be unexpected for a goaltender that age to have his fair share of struggles at the professional level. This is the first time Larsson has faced any kind of adversity in his young career, so it’ll be important for him to put the work in and continue to improve and make adjustments to his game.

Filip Larsson Denver Pioneers
Filip Larsson had a fantastic 2018-19 season with the Pioneers | denverpioneers.com

Goalies are very difficult to evaluate, and rarely become NHL regulars before they hit their mid-twenties. Larsson is very highly regarded in Detroit and will be given plenty of time to develop and should be given another shot in Grand Rapids this season or in 2021-22. 

Final Thoughts

The depth is impressive. While none of the above prospects are likely to be impact players in the NHL (unless Larsson emerges as an NHL starter), the Red Wings have continued to pump talent into the pipeline. It’s not out of the question that 3 or 4 of these players become NHL regulars, but it’s also possible that Smith is the only one from this group to ever play an NHL game.

As members of the Top 20 graduate to Detroit, the pipeline will be restocked with players from subsequent drafts. In 2021, we should see Moritz Seider and possibly Joe Veleno and Lucas Raymond in Detroit, leaving the door open for three Red Wings prospects to claim their spots in the Top 20. Then we have Evgeny Svechnikov and Taro Hirose, whose days are numbered as prospects.

Stay tuned. the 2021 version of the Top 20 may look drastically different from this year’s iteration.


Featured Image: David Guralnick, Detroit News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *