Detroit Red Wings 2020 Prospect Rankings
October 30, 2020
With the 2020 NHL Entry Draft in the rearview mirror and the 2021 season upon us, it’s time to take a look at Pipeline’s first annual Red Wings Prospect Rankings.
This list will include the top 20 Red Wings prospects under 25-years-old that have yet to establish themselves as NHL regulars. It’s as simple as that. I toyed with a number of criteria, such as simply following the NHL’s definition of a rookie and leaving off any players who have exceeded the games played limits, but decided to keep things simple this time around.
So, 24 or under and not yet an NHL regular. I consider Filip Zadina and Filip Hronek as definite NHL regulars moving forward so they were not included in this year’s ranking.
These rankings are based on a mix of NHL upside (becoming an impact player at the NHL level), the probability the player will become an NHL regular, and the player’s recent track record.
Here are RWP’s Red Wings Prospect Rankings for the 2020-21 season:
1. Lucas Raymond, LW (1st round, 4th overall, 2020)
Raymond is a player who has shone on the international stage for years. In the 2019 IIHF U18 Worlds he notched a hat-trick, including the overtime winner against Yaroslav Askarov and team Russia. In the 2020 U20 World Juniors, he had 2 goals and 4 points in 7 games as a 17-year-old.
Raymond has an elite hockey IQ, elite hands, and a great shot. His fantastic edgework and agility combined with his above-average skating make him a nightmare to contain in the offensive zone. Raymond can quarterback a power play and brings much-needed playmaking ability to a depleted Red Wings system.
A relentless forechecker, Raymond doesn’t wait for the puck to come to him; he plays a solid 200-foot game already, and his work ethic is off the charts. Raymond was an easy pick for number one and projects to be the Red Wings’ best player for years to come.
Raymond is currently with Frölunda of the SHL, and projects to be NHL ready as early as 2021-22.
2. Moritz Seider, D (1st round, 6th overall, 2019)
The big German defenseman was a surprise pick on Day 1 of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, but has since lived up to the expectations of Steve Yzerman and the Red Wings development staff.
At 6-4, 207 lbs, Seider is mature beyond his years. After suiting up for Adler Mannheim (DEL) in his draft year, he made the jump to the AHL and impressed with 22 points in 49 games as an 18-year-old.
Seider does not possess the elite offensive ability of a Quinn Hughes or Cale Makar, but projects to be a huge, minute-eating, top-pair defenseman for the Red Wings in the very near future.
He’s reliable at both ends of the ice, has good speed, incredible composure with the puck, and will bring a physical element to Detroit’s backend that has been lacking since Niklas Kronwall’s prime.
Seider is on loan with Rögle BK in the SHL and should make his NHL debut in 2021-22 at the latest.
3. Joe Veleno, C (1st round, 30th overall, 2018)
Red Wings fans rejoiced when Veleno fell to pick 30 in the 2018 draft. The two-way centre had been pegged to come off the board about 15 picks earlier.
Veleno will bring a strong, intense, 200-foot game to Detroit, and is a forward capable of playing in all situations. He’s a fantastic skater with good hands and a gifted playmaker with excellent vision.
After dominating the Canadian junior ranks in 2018-19, Veleno struggled during his first few months with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL as he had difficulty finding the balance between his offensive and defensive game. Veleno turned things around in the second half, and Shawn Horcoff and the player development staff were thrilled with the strides he made putting things together at both ends of the ice.
If Veleno continues to refine both sides of his game at this pace, he could be on track to make some noise in 2021-22.
4. Jonatan Berggren, RW (2nd round, 33rd overall, 2018)
Berggren has undeniable skill. However, injuries (back, shoulder) limited the Swede to just 40 games over the past two seasons.
If he is able to put these setbacks behind him and continue to work on getting stronger and becoming less susceptible to injuries, Berggren will have the potential to be a top 6 forward for the Red Wings.
Having a guy like Berggren become an impact player for the Red Wings would be a boon for the club and could expedite the rebuild process dramatically. Berggren is currently with Skellefteå in the SHL and will need a few more years of development before transitioning to North America.
5. Albert Johansson, D (2nd round, 60th overall, 2018)
Johansson is a smooth-skating defenseman with some real offensive upside. Taken by the Wings 60th overall in the 2019 draft, the young Swede has excellent hockey sense and is able to make quick decisions with and without the puck.
Johansson seemed to gain some confidence late in the 2019-20 season as he was given more time on the power play, and he will look to carry that into 2020-21 where he looks to get big-time minutes with Färjestad in the SHL.
At 168 lbs, he’ll need to add strength and be tougher to play against in his own end, but if all goes well for Johansson, the Red Wings could have another top-4 defenseman on their hands.
6. Theodor Niederbach, C (2nd round, 51st overall, 2020)
Niederbach, like Berggren, is another highly skilled forward that has been bitten by the injury bug. He missed the entire 2018-19 season after suffering a knee injury, but bounced back in his draft year, putting up 15 goals and 48 points in 40 games for Frölunda J20.
Niederbach is a right-shot centre who sees the ice extremely well and has been praised for his hockey sense. He’s an incredibly smart playmaker who excels on the power play.
His defensive game leaves much to be desired, and he will need to be more effective in his own end if he wants to remain a centre, but Niederbach will be given every opportunity to show he can remain down the middle.
Niederbach will be a project considering he lost a full year of development, but the Wings will take their time with him as he continues to add strength and learn how to play against bigger, faster, and stronger competition.
7. William Wallinder, D (2nd round, 32nd overall, 2020)
The Red Wings have made it no secret they value big, mobile, skilled defenseman, so no one was surprised to see them pounce on William Wallinder in the 2nd round of the 2020 draft.
Wallinder is a fantastic skater with good hands, and at 6’4” oozes potential. The big Swede currently lacks polish, but has all the raw tools of a first-round talent (where many predicted he would go in the draft).
He will have to work on his defensive game, adding strength, and improving his shot, but the Wings were ecstatic to get a talent like Wallinder in the second round. One of youngest players in the draft, he will be a long-term project, but his immense upside should have Red Wings fans excited.
8. Antti Tuomisto, D (2nd round, 35th overall, 2019)
Tuomisto dominated Finland’s top Jr. league — Jr. A SM-liiga in 2019-20, earning him the league’s MVP and Defenseman of the Year awards.
Tuomisto undoubtedly should have been playing against men last year in Liiga, but in order to preserve his eligibility to play in the NCAA in 2020-21, had to remain in the junior ranks.
The Finnish rearguard is a strong skater, good puck-mover, and has a booming shot from the point. He isn’t the most physical player but does have some bite to his game.
It will be interesting to see how Tuomisto’s game translates to the smaller, North American ice, where he’ll look to continue to improve on his defensive game. All eyes will be on Tuomisto when he suits up for the University of Denver in 2020-21.
9. Robert Mastrosimone, LW (2nd round, 54th overall, 2019)
Mastrosimone has a motor that just won’t quit. The New York native competes with an incredible pace that plays just about anywhere in a lineup. The undersized forward netted 7 goals and 17 points in 34 games for a very talented Boston University team in 2019-20.
Mastrosimone is a playmaker first, but also possesses a lethal shot and a quick release. He has quick hands and can be very creative with the puck. Mastrosimone’s vision makes him particularly effective on the power play, where his ability to find passing lanes and open ice truly shines.
He will need to work on his footspeed and add strength in the coming years, but Mastrosimone could be a solid top-9 forward for the Wings as they return to contention.
10. Jared McIsaac, D (2nd round, 36th overall, 2018)
McIsaac has been perhaps the most injury-prone of all Red Wings prospects as of late.
Selected in the 2nd round of the 2018 draft, the Nova Scotian projected to be a well-rounded 2-way defenseman able to play in all situations. After a shoulder injury sidelined him for most of the 2019-20 QMJHL season, McIsaac finished strong for the Moncton Wildcats.
McIsaac turned pro in 2020, and was loaned to HPK of Finland’s Liiga. He played all of 34 seconds before exiting with an injury and has since been sent home to Canada.
While the injuries are becoming a concern, McIsaac does still project as an NHLer and is still only 20 years old. Red Wings fans are hoping to see a full season of McIsaac soon.
11. Michael Rasmussen, C (1st round, 9th overall, 2017)
Rasmussen has been a polarizing figure among Red Wings fans. Selected 9th overall in a draft many would like to forget, Rasmussen was just a point-per-game player for the Tri-City Americans of the WHL during his draft year.
While he possesses a strong net-front game and decent hands for his size, Rasmussen doesn’t have the high-end skill you would expect from a top-10 draft pick.
Rasmussen spent all of 2019-20 with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL after suiting up for the Red Wings in his D+1 year. Ideally, he would have spent both seasons with the AHL club, but his junior eligibility made him ineligible to play in the AHL in 2018-19.
Rasmussen will have to use his size to his advantage if he is to become an effective NHLer, as his skill alone will not play at the highest level. He will likely see some time with the Wings again in 2021-22.
12. Dennis Cholowski, D (1st round, 20th overall, 2016)
Cholowski has somewhat been the victim of circumstance. Now 22, The offensive-minded defender has been yo-yo’d between Detroit and Grand Rapids the past two seasons, as he has been unable to solidify his place on the Wings’ backend.
This has been due, in large part, to his defensive troubles in the NHL, but injuries to other Red Wings defenders have resulted in the team calling up Cholowski when he was likely better served to refine his game at the AHL level.
Cholowski has strong offensive instincts, but his offensive game has been suppressed as he’s been focused on making fewer mistakes with the puck at both ends of the ice. His defensive game will need to improve if he’s to grab a spot in Detroit’s top-6.
2021 looks to be the first year we can expect to see Cholowksi spend a much needed full(ish) season with the Griffins (if and when the season gets underway).
13. Evgeny Svechnikov, RW (1st round, 19th overall, 2015)
The Red Wings had high hopes for the elder of the Svechnikov brothers when they selected him 19th overall in the 2015 draft. Evgeny doesn’t have the explosive offensive game his younger brother Andrei does, but he’s a high energy winger with quick hands and a good shot.
Evgeny had a very impressive rookie season with the Griffins scoring 20 goals with 51 points and 74 games. Unfortunately, Svechnikov took a step back in 2017-18 and then missed all of 2018-19 after undergoing knee surgery.
Svechnikov has worked hard to regain strength and agility and will be given a shot to stick with the big club in 2021 as he is no longer waiver-eligible. His star has dimmed considerably since his draft year, but the Red Wings are hoping they have some depth scoring in Svechnikov.
14. Taro Hirose, LW (Undrafted)
Hirose is one of the more skilled players with the Grand Rapids Griffins, but will be competing with the likes of Rasmussen, Adam Erne, Givani Smith, and Mathias Bromé when it comes to call-up duty for the Wings in 2021.
Hirose has good hands and is a pass-first player. He often passes up the chance to shoot and tends to defer to teammates. He excels on the power play when he is given lots of space to display his creativity, but lacks the speed to be a 5-on-5 threat.
In limited action with the Red Wings in 2018-19 and 2019-20, Hirose has struggled to play with NHL pace, and should now be considered a fringe-NHLer.
15. Keith Petruzzelli, G (3rd round, 88th overall, 2017)
Petruzzelli was the best value pick of the 2017 draft for the Red Wings. At 6’5”, he’s a giant in the net.
After a slow start to his NCAA career, Petruzzelli had a fantastic Junior season for Quinnipiac, posting a .920 save pct and 2.01 GAA in 34 games for the Bobcats, while taking home team MVP honors.
Petruzzelli has yet to sign with Detroit, but expect them to ink the netminder to an entry-level contract if he puts together another strong college campaign.
16. Gustav Lindstrom, D (2nd round, 38th overall, 2017)
Lindstrom made his Red Wings debut in 2019-20 and held his own. He certainly won’t wow you with his skating, offensive prowess, or physical play, but Lindstrom was decent as a bottom pair, stay-at-home defender.
With the Red Wings’ offseason additions of Jon Merrill and Troy Stetcher, Lindstrom will likely be relegated to the AHL and primed for a call up in 2021.
Lindstrom likely doesn’t project as anything more than a number 6 or 7 defenseman but will continue to get looks with the Red Wings as they rebuild and await the arrival of their younger prospects.
17. Elmer Soderblom, LW (6th round, 159th overall, 2019)
Soderblom took the Swedish J20 circuit by storm in 2019-20, putting up an impressive 29 goals and 55 points in 36 games with Frölunda J20.
The behemoth winger, taken in the 6th round in 2019, has great hands and playmaking ability, making him a very unique talent. As he continues to develop his game at both ends of the ice, his long reach and size will have to come into play to take his game to the next level.
Despite his 6-7, 227 lb frame, Soderblom is not a physical player and has yet to take full advantage of size. His skating will also need to improve.
6th round picks are always long-shots, and Soderblom is no different. With his unique blend of size and skill, however, Soderblom has a chance.
18. Otto Kivenmäki, C (7th round, 191st overall, 2018)
Otto was next on a number of team’s boards when Detroit selected the Finnish centre in the 7th round of the 2018 draft. Weighing in at just 137 lbs at the time of the draft, Detroit took a swing on an incredibly skilled, and small, forward.
Kivenmäki is now listed as 5-9, 172 lbs, and has impressed with Ässät (Liiga). He has good puck skills and is an excellent passer. After suffering a very scary season-ending head injury in February 2020 that many thought could end his hockey career, Otto is back in action in 2020-21, which is great to see.
Like any other small forward, Kivenmäki will need to continue to get stronger, but after gaining 35 lbs in two years, you have to wonder if there’s anything left to add to his frame. There is no denying Kivenmäki’s skill, but the question will be whether he is skilled enough to overcome his size and land a scoring role with the Red Wings.
19. Cross Hanas, LW (2nd round, 55th overall, 2020)
Hanas was the third and final 2nd round pick for Detroit in the 2020 draft. He’s a very skilled puck handler and playmaker, and is another young Red Wings prospect with a very high hockey IQ.
Hanas gained some notoriety during the 2019-20 season for scoring two “lacrosse goals” for the Portland Winterhawks, showing off his elite hands and confidence in the offensive zone. He totalled 22 goals and 49 points in 60 games for Winterhawks.
Hanas has the offensive toolkit but will need to improve his skating to see his game translate at the next level. While not easy to do, the Red Wings believe in Hanas’ drive and commitment to put in the work.
20. Chase Pearson, C (5th round, 140th overall, 2015)
The former University of Maine Captain suited up for the Griffins full-time in 2019-20, scoring 8 goals in 59 games as a 22-year-old.
Pearson is no offensive threat, and will score the majority of his goals by crashing the net, but could be an effective checking forward in the NHL. He’s a big, strong, physical center with a great work ethic who will likely get a shot at an NHL job in 2021-22 as a 4th line centre.
Had 2020 not gone completely off the rails, the next iteration of RWP’s Red Wings Prospect Rankings was set to be released mid-season. That is now to be determined and will depend on how the rest of 2020-21 plays out.
As players graduate from the Top 20 new prospects will take their place, but a true overhaul shouldn’t be expected until the new rankings are released.
Let’s cross our fingers and hope there are no more delays in any league’s return-to-play and we can see all Red Wings prospects in action soon.
Any thoughts on RWP’s rankings? Your favorite prospect ranked too low? A bit bearish on another? Let me know in the comments.
Featured Image: Petter Arvidson/Bildbyrån