How the Red Wings' Top 20 Prospects Were Acquired

Jonatan Berggren Brendan Smith
By Jeff Watters

January 21, 2021

Over the past four seasons, the Detroit Red Wings have been on a mission to acquire as many young assets as possible. The majority of these moves have involved draft picks — critical pieces to any rebuilding puzzle. The Red Wings Top 20 prospects list is littered with these pieces. But how many of them were acquired with picks that originally belonged to other NHL teams?

If you follow the National Hockey League with any regularity, you’re well aware that almost every player in the league today was drafted. Although there are some late bloomers who are looked over on draft-day and sign as free agents years later (eg. Danny Dekeyser, Luke Glendening, Troy Stecher, and Mathias Bro…wait, the Red Wings have a lot of undrafted players!) team’s acquire impact talent primarily through the draft.

It should be no surprise, then, that 19 of the Red Wings Top 20 prospects were drafted. Having added a net total of 16 picks over the past 4 years via trade — bringing their total to 44 picks — it was also inevitable that some of this newfound draft capital would allow the Wings to add some serious talent to the pipeline.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane to identify which of the team’s Top 20 prospects were drafted with a Red Wings pick and who was selected with a pick acquired from another NHL club.

1. Lucas Raymond, LW
Red Wings’ pick
1st round, 4th overall (2020)

The Red Wings’ most recent 1st round pick was acquired via a combination of terrible hockey and bad luck.

Don’t get me wrong, the Wings were thrilled to draft a potentially elite winger in Lucas Raymond. The reality, however, is the Red Wings finished dead last in 2020 — by a large margin. They deserved better.

17 wins in 71 games. 

A -122 (!) goal differential. 

The Red Wings were a disaster and should’ve had better odds in the NHL draft lottery. With just an 18.5% chance of drafting Alexis Lafrenière and a 50% chance of dropping out of the top 3, the odds were stacked against them.

2. Moritz Seider, D
Red Wings’ pick
1st round, 6th overall (2019)

Seider was selected 6th overall in 2019 — the 1st pick of GM Steve Yzerman’s tenure with the Red Wings. The Wings had the 4th best odds to win the 2019 lottery but were leapfrogged by the New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks.

This was a shocking pick as Seider had been projected to slot in as a mid-first round selection. Less than two years later, the pick looks like a home run. Seider has been among the best players in the SHL this season and projects to be a top-pair defender who should don the winged wheel very, very soon.

3. Joe Veleno, C
Acquired pick
1st round, 30th overall (2018)

Joe Veleno was drafted by the Red Wings 30th overall in 2018, but not with a pick that initially belonged to the club.

Remember our old friend Tomas Tatar? He was shipped off to Vegas at the 2018 trade deadline. The return included a 1st round pick in 2018, a 2nd round pick in 2019 (more on that later), and a 2021 3rd rounder.

The 1st round pick turned out to be…you guessed it. 

Joe Veleno.

joe Veleno acquired via draft
Joe Veleno was drafted by the Red Wings with a pick that initially belonged to the Vegas Golden Knights. | Tom Pennington, Getty Images

Veleno was seen as a potential steal on draft day, and very well could live up to that billing. He’s currently honing his skills in Malmö (SHL), and although he hasn’t set the world on fire he has continued to progress at each level. The Red Wings are hopeful Veleno can become a centre that slots into their middle-6.

4. Jonatan Berggren, RW Acquired pick
2nd round, 33rd overall (2018)

This is a good one.

Berggren has had an excellent season thus far in the SHL. He leads Skellefteå with 31 points in 31 games and has dazzled with his creativity in the offensive zone. 

The Red Wings must’ve given up something significant to garner this type of return, right? 

Here’s the trade:

Red Wings Acquire:

  • 2018 2nd round pick, 33rd overall (Jonatan Berggren)
  • 2017 3rd round pick, 83rd overall (Zach Gallant)


Rangers Acquire:

  • Brendan Smith


Nice.

To add insult to injury for the Rangers, Smith — a pending UFA at the time — was subsequently inked to a 4-year extension worth $17.4 MM.

Ouch.

Another interesting wrinkle in this deal is that the 33rd overall selection originally belonged to the Senators. In July of 2016, the Rangers and Sens swung a deal that sent Derick Brassard and a 7th round pick to Ottawa in exchange for the 33rd pick and Mika Zibanejad.

Double ouch.

Thanks, Ottawa!

5. Albert Johansson, D
Acquired pick
2nd round, 60th overall (2019)

Along with Berggren, Albert Johansson has opened some eyes with his flashy play in the SHL this season. Johansson is a gifted skater who provides something the Red Wings have lacked for years:

Offense from the blue-line.

But how did Detroit acquire the 60th overall pick they used to select Johansson?

The pick was part of the return from San Jose in the trade that sent fellow Swede and fan-favorite, Gustav Nyquist, to the Sharks.

Red Wings acquire Albert Johansson 2019 draft
Albert Johansson was drafted with a pick acquired from the San Jose Sharks. | Photo: Allison Farrand, The Athletic

The 2019 trade saw the Red Wings send Nyquist, a pending UFA, to sunny California in exchange for a couple of draft picks. The 2nd rounder was used to nab Johansson. A 3rd rounder was also acquired and eventually flipped to Minnesota in a draft-day trade that landed the Red Wings two more picks. 

The Red Wings used these picks to draft defensemen Eemil Viro (70th) and Alex Cotton (132nd).

So, a few months of Gustav Nyquist for Albert Johansson, Eemil Viro, and Alex Cotton. 

Not bad.

6. Theodor Niederbach, C Acquired pick
2nd round, 51st overall (2020)

Niederbach, recently loaned to Modo of HockeyAllsvenskan, has had a nice start to his draft-plus-1 season. He proved to be far too advanced for the J20 Nationell prior to the league canceling its remaining 2021 schedule; got a taste of the SHL; and had a strong showing at the 2021 World Juniors.

The Red Wings were very excited to nab him with the 51st pick in the 2020 draft. How did they end up with the pick? This one has a few moving parts. 

Red Wings acquire Theodor Niederbach 2020 draft
The Red Wings made two separate trades to obtain the 51st overall pick that was used to draft Niederbach. | Photo: Michael Erichsen

Heading into the 2020 draft, the Red Wings held the 45th overall selection. This pick — along with Sam Gagner and a 2021 2nd rounder — was acquired in the trade that sent polarizing forward Andreas Athanasiou and AHLer Ryan Kuffner to the Edmonton Oilers.

With a number of intriguing players remaining on the board at 45, Stevie Y. decided to trade back and add another pick later in the draft. He flipped the 45th overall selection (originally belonging to EDM) to the Minnesota Wild. The return: the 51st overall pick and the 97th overall pick.

Niederbach, of course, was drafted at 51, with forward Sam Stange coming off the board at 97.

Needless to say, this one didn’t work out very well for Kenny Holland and the Oilers.

7. William Wallinder, D
Red Wings’ pick
2nd round, 32nd overall (2020)

Like the Raymond pick, this one was a product of the Red Wings finishing dead last.

Fortunately, the draft lottery has no bearing on rounds 2 thru 7 so the Red Wings were granted the 1st pick in each of those rounds. Wallinder was taken with the 1st pick of the 2nd round.

Wallinder was widely considered to be a 1st round talent in 2020. With his size, mobility, and skill, the Swedish defender gives the development team a ton to work with. 

8. Antti Tuomisto, D
Red Wings’ pick
2nd round, 35th overall (2019)

Another pick that belonged to the Wings from day 1. The Red Wings finished 4th last in 2019, therefore picking 4th in the 2nd round.

Tuomisto was the MVP of Finland’s Junior A. SM-liiga last season and is currently adjusting to life in North America with the University of Denver.

9. Robert Mastrosimone, LW
Acquired pick
2nd round, 54th overall (2019)

Mastrosimone was selected with the aforementioned 2nd rounder acquired in the Tomas Tatar trade. 

This pick originally belonged to the New York Islanders. It was part of the absolute haul the Knights received for taking on Mikhail Grabovski’s contract and (more or less) leaving the rest of the Isles’ roster alone during the expansion draft.

The Knights received a 2017 1st round pick (Erik Brännström), 2019 2nd round pick (sent to Detroit), Mikhail Grabovski, and Jake Bischoff in exchange for “expansion draft considerations.”

Red Wings select Robert Mastrosimone
Mastrosimone was drafted with a pick that originally belonged to the New York Islanders. | Photo: Kevin Light, Getty Images

So far that’s Joe Veleno and Robert Mastrosimone for Tomas Tatar, with a 3rd rounder in 2021 rounding out the Red Wings’ return for the Slovak sniper.

Time will tell how this one turns out, but it’s hard to argue Detroit didn’t get great value at the time of this trade.

As an aside, look at how much Vegas ultimately gave up for Max Pacioretty:

  • Nick Suzuki
  • 2018 1st round pick (30th overall – Joe Veleno DET)
  • 2019 2nd round pick (54th overall – Robert Mastrosimone DET)
  • 2019 2nd round pick (50th overall – Samuel Fagemo LAK)
  • 2021 3rd round pick


Steep!

To be fair, Vegas originally acquired a lot of these assets for…not so much, but it’s still a huge package to give up for Pacioretty.

10. Jared McIsaac, D
Red Wings’ pick
2nd round, 36th overall (2018)

The 36th overall selection was Detroit’s own 2nd round pick in the 2018 draft.

After identifying defense as a priority early in the draft, the Wings jumped on the opportunity to select McIsaac in the 2nd round. Had the Red Wings not acquired the 30th and 33rd overall picks, would they have gone in the same direction with this pick?

I guess that would have depended on whether or not Veleno and/or Berggren were still available. Luckily, the Wings got all three.

11. Michael Rasmussen, C
Red Wings’ pick
1st round, 9th overall (2017)

Ah, the infamous 2017 draft.

Rasmussen was taken with the Red Wings’ first top-ten pick since 1991. 

A much-maligned selection, the Red Wings are now hopeful Rasmussen can be a shutdown forward in their bottom-6.

12. Dennis Cholowski, D Acquired pick
1st round, 20th overall (2016)

You could argue Cholowski was taken with the Wings’ own pick since their 16th overall selection was a part of the package used to acquire this pick.

Anyway, we all know the trade. The Red Wings sent Pavel Daytsuk’s contract, along with the 16th overall pick in the 2016 draft (Jakob Chychrun), to the Arizona Coyotes. In return, Detroit obtained the 20th overall pick (Cholowski), a 2nd rounder (Filip Hronek), and the salary of Joe Vitale.

(Interestingly, the 20th pick originally belonged to the Rangers and was part of the 2015 trade that sent Keith Yandle to the Big Apple).

Red Wings acquire Dennis Cholowski 2016 draft
Jakob Chychrun (left) was selected with the 16th overall pick in 2016; Dennis Cholowski (right) was chosen with the 20th overall selection. | Photos: SI.com, Detroit Red Wings

This is a swap that has turned out nicely for both clubs, with Jakob Chychrun and Filip Hronek establishing themselves as top 4 rearguards. Cholowski’s performance will dictate who wins this one.

And no, I don’t care to address what the Red Wings did with the cap space they gained from moving Datsyuk’s contract.

13. Evgeny Svechnikov, RW
Red Wings’ pick
1st round, 19th overall (2015)

Back in 2015, the Wings were a 100 point team and not in the business of acquiring draft picks. It should be no surprise that their lone 1st rounder came in at 19th overall.

Evgeny Svechnikov was viewed as a potential top-6 sniper when the Wings selected him with the pick. 

Unfortunately, things have not materialized for Svechnikov and the Red Wings as injuries have derailed a once-promising career.

If — and it’s a big IF– Svechnikov can stay healthy, there is hope he can contribute in a bottom-6 role.

14. Taro Hirose, LW
Undrafted
Signed March 12, 2019

The only undrafted player on this list, Hirose was signed as a college free agent back in March of 2019. 

The playmaking winger had been sought after by a number of NHL teams as he was about to wrap up an excellent collegiate career with the Michigan State Spartans.

Hirose’s history with the Red Wings surely affected his decision to choose Detroit. In 2018, he was a free agent invitee to Red Wings development camp. That familiarity paid off as he signed a two-year entry-level deal with the team. 

After a hot start to his Red Wings career, Hirose’s production has slowed considerably. The skilled winger will begin the 2021 season in Grand Rapids (barring injuries) in what could very well be his final season in the Wings’ organization.

15. Keith Petruzzelli, G Acquired pick
3rd round, 88th overall (2017)

The only goaltender on Pipeline’s Top 20 list, Petruzzelli was selected with a pick the Red Wings acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks.

Who did the Red Wings ship off to the Windy City to obtain the pick?

Tomas Jurco.

Keith Petruzzelli makes save Quinnipiac Bobcats
The trade that sent Tomas Jurco to Chicago netted the Red Wings the 3rd round pick they used to draft Keith Petruzzelli. | Photo: Quinnipiac Athletics

After parts of four seasons, the Red Wings finally gave up on the 2011 2nd round pick. Jurco has since bounced around the AHL for the better part of 4 years while Petruzzelli has had himself a nice collegiate career with Quinnipiac University.

16. Gustav Lindstrom, D
Red Wings’ pick
2nd round, 38th overall (2017)

In 2017, the Red Wings held the 7th pick of the 2nd round thanks to a bottom-6 finish in the standings (and being knocked down a spot to make room for a new Vegas franchise).

They selected Lindstrom, who has been one of two 2017 picks (Michael Rasmussen) to debut for the Red Wings.

Expect him to be sent down to Grand Rapids when the AHL resumes play in February.

17. Elmer Soderblom, LW
Red Wings’ pick
6th round, 159th overall (2019)

The fact that the Red Wings drafted Elmer Soderblom in the 6th round is exciting. Although he is no sure thing to even play a game in the NHL, any time you have a real prospect in your organization that was taken with a late-round pick you should be doing backflips.

In a re-draft, Soderblom would surely be taken before the end of the 2nd round.

18. Otto Kivenmäki, C
Red Wings’ pick
7th round, 191st overall (2018)

Kivenmäki was taken with the Wings’ final pick in 2018…but he nearly wasn’t.

When the Red Wings re-acquired goaltender Thomas McCollum from the Calgary Flames the year before, they sent a conditional 7th rounder in return.

Luckily, the conditions were not met as McCollum failed to play at least 20 minutes in 15 NHL regular-season games the following season, Detroit retained the pick and nabbed the diminutive Finn.

19. Cross Hanas, LW Acquired pick
2nd round, 55th overall (2020)

Prior to the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline, the Red Wings swung a deal with the defending Stanley Cup champs. 

Detroit sent defenseman Nick Jensen and a 5th round pick (Arseni Gritsyuk) to Washington for Madison Bowey and a 2020 2nd rounder.

That 2nd round pick, of course, turned out to be Cross Hanas.

Cross Hanas Portland Winterhawks
Cross Hanas ultimately became the return for defenseman Nick Jenson when the Red Wings selected him with the 55th overall pick in 2020. | Photo: nhl.com

With the WHL season all but lost, Hanas has taken his talents to Lincoln, Nebraska. He has a goal in 3 games for the Stars (USHL).

20. Chase Pearson, C
Red Wings’ pick
5th round, 140th overall (2015)

Chase Pearson is another late-round pick that could end up providing the Red Wings with some value. Taken late in the 5th round in 2015, Pearson has all the makings of a shutdown 4th line centre. 

He’s entering his 2nd full season with the Grand Rapids Griffins and will look to make a splash with the big club next season.

Recap

So, the Red Wings added half of their Top 10 prospects and nearly half (8) of their Top 20 via draft picks that were acquired from other teams.

That’s…significant. 

Below is a simplified breakdown of the transactions that led to the acquisition of these players: 

Note: Jakob Chychrun will be listed in place of the 16th overall pick in 2016 and salaries (eg. Pavel Datsyuk) will not be included as I want to limit this to on-ice talent only (unless it’s a future pick). This also won’t include unsigned draft picks/players or NHL players that were acquired by the Red Wings as parts of the trades, so no Madison Bowey or Sam Gagner.

how red wings acquired 8 of top 20 prospects

I apologize for listing Filip Hronek as an “additional asset,” but this is about the Wings’ Top 20 prospects, after all. 

Final Thoughts

Of course, it’s far too early to judge these picks as only Hronek and Cholowski have played in the NHL. But if we exclude those two and consider the Datsyuk trade a wash, the only real “asset” the Red Wings gave up with term was Tomas Tatar.

Nyquist, Smith, and Jensen were all pending UFAs and weren’t a part of the Red Wings’ future plans. Nor were pending RFAs Andreas Athanasiou and Tomas Jurco. They all needed new contracts and the Wings did what rebuilding teams do. They acquired as many assets as they could for them and moved on.

Things would certainly look much different — and a lot less exciting — had the Red Wings been unable to unload these expiring contracts. 

Ultimately, we won’t know what kind of impact most of these prospects will have on the Red Wings’ rebuild for some time.  Still, it does show us that Ken Holland’s fingerprints are all over the Red Wings’ pipeline. 

All but one of the acquired picks (Theodor Niederbach) were added by the Red Wings’ former GM. For all the grief we give Kenny for his poor contract management and role in delaying the inevitable rebuild, he did an excellent job once Detroit had fully-committed to tearing it down.

Now it’s up to a Red Wings legend to continue to stockpile draft picks and finish what his predecessor started.

Featured Images: nhl.com/Derek Leung, Getty Images

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