Red Wings 2020 Draft Review

Steve Yzerman and Kris Draper Detroit Red WIngs 2020 NHL Entry Draft
By Jeff Watters

October 16, 2020

The long-awaited 2020 NHL Entry Draft has come to a close. The Red Wings added 12 players to the pipeline when all was said and done. How did they fare? It’s time to find out in our Red Wings 2020 Draft Review.

Kris Draper, Director of Amateur Scouting, and the Detroit Red Wings made a total of 12 picks (while trading back twice) on Tuesday and Wednesday via their remote setup. Steve Yzerman, having been possibly exposed to Covid-19, was not present but  swung four trades during the longest two day draft in NHL history. 

(I mean, 8.5 hours for rounds 2 thru 7? If you sat through the entirety of this epic draft, I commend you.)

I, myself, had been looking forward to this year’s draft for what seems like an eternity. The Detroit Red Wings last played an NHL game on March 10 in a(nother) loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, so this was the first event us Red Wings fans had to look forward to in almost 7 months.

So, without further ado, let’s get into the Detroit Wings 2020 Draft Class.

Breakdown:

6 Forwards
5 Defenseman
1 Goaltender

1st Round

Going into round one, the consensus top 3 to go off the board were Rimouski Océanic right-winger Alexis Lafrenière, Sudbury Wolves’ centre Quinton Byfield, and Mannheim winger Tim Stuetzle.

No surprises here. They did.

Lafrenière to the Rangers, Byfield to the Kings, and Stuezle to the Sens. 

On to the Wings.

Detroit had long been rumored to be heavy on centre Cole Perfetti, but you and I both know that Stevie Y. is a vault. The more I heard Perfetti linked to the Wings, the less I expected it to happen. Remember Mo Seider from a year ago? A great pick in hindsight, but no one expected that. 

As this year’s draft had such a talented top 10, I had prepared myself for any one of probably 7 players. Here they were, in order of my preference:

Lucas Raymond
Cole Perfetti
Marco Rossi
Jamie Drysdale
Alexander Holtz
Jake Sanderson
Yaroslav Askarov

Truly, it would be hard to be disappointed with any of these picks, but I was all aboard the Lucas Raymond train. A Mitch Marner-like winger with finishing ability? Sign me up.

When Gary Bettman threw to Kris Draper, I took a deep breath and prepared myself for Jake Sanderon or Yaroslav Askarov. Two players I knew were very possible picks, but also the two players I would have been the least thrilled with.

And with their first pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, the Detroit Red Wings were proud to select…

Lucas Raymond drafted by Detroit Red Wings
Photo: Bildbyrån

4th Overall:
Lucas Raymond
5-10, 183
Left-Wing
Frölunda (SHL)

Thrilled. Over the moon. This was the pick. 

It was official: From Frölunda in the SHL, Lucas Raymond was the newest Detroit Red Wing and the team’s new top prospect.

Raymond is a player who has shone on the international stage. In the 2019 IIHF U18 Worlds, he notched a hat-trick in the gold medal game (including the overtime winner) against Askarov and team Russia. In this year’s World Juniors, he was dominant at times as a 17-year-old.

He’s got an elite hockey IQ, elite hands, a great shot, and fantastic edgework. Raymond doesn’t have incredible speed, and may not have a huge transition game, but he can quarterback a power play and will bring a much-needed playmaking skill set to a depleted Red Wings squad.

I mean, do the Wings even have a legit playmaker in the system? Dylan Larkin plays a complete game and has solidified himself as a true #1 centre in the NHL, but he does not possess the elite vision and playmaking skills Raymond does.

A relentless forechecker, Raymond doesn’t wait for the puck to come to him; he plays a solid 200-foot game already. He’s highly competitive, and you know the Red Wings look for this trait in all of their prospects. Raymond ticks all of the boxes.

At 5-10, 183, Raymond will need to continue to fill out and mature physically, but you could say that about almost every player in the draft.

As noted, Raymond is currently with Frölunda of the SHL, and with all SHLers under contract required to finish out the year with their current club before coming over to the NHL, we should not expect to see Raymond in Detroit until the 2021-2022 season at the earliest (which would’ve been the case regardless).

Lucas Raymond. Awesome.

Now that we’ve established that I think the Red Wings hit an absolute home run with the 4th overall pick, let’s look at the rest of their picks:

2nd Round

William Wallinder drafted by Detroit Red Wings

32nd Overall:
William Wallinder
6-4, 191
Defense
Modo (Allsvenskan, Sweden)

Heading into Day 2 of the draft, there were a number of first-round talents still available on the board.

The Wings went with young blueliner William Wallinder. As they did with their first pick in the draft, they swung for the fences and bet on Wallinder’s huge upside. 

The 6’4” Swede is an excellent skater and puck mover and has great offensive instincts. He projects as a two-way defender that can play in all situations.

Wallinder is not the strongest defensively, but the Wings are banking on his raw talent and that, as he works with their development team, his defensive game can improve. The tools are there, and as one of the youngest players in this year’s draft (Wallinder just turned 18 on July 28), he will be given plenty of time to develop.

I like the pick. The Red Wings need help across the board, but you had a feeling that left-shot defensemen would be a priority and Wallinder is a big, mobile blueliner that you can dream on.

Theodor Niederbach drafted by Detroit Red Wings
Photo: Bildbyrån

51st Overall:
Theodor Niederbach
5-11, 172
Centre
Frölunda J20 (Sweden)

Hey, another Swede!

The Red Wings initially owned the 45th overall pick but swung a trade with LA to move back to pick 51, while also acquiring the 97th overall selection in the draft.

This was the first of two trade-backs on the day, and with the 51st pick, the Wings landed a centreman in Theodor Niederbach.

Niederbach has absolutely dominated the J20 ranks this season, netting 21pts in just 12 games. He’s a smaller forward, like Raymond, but possesses silky smooth hands and great hockey sense in the o-zone.

Niederbach, like Raymond, shoots right. That’s two right-shot forwards in the first three picks. We haven’t seen two skilled right-shot forwards in Detroit since…

…Yzerman and Shanahan?!

No, seriously. Glendening? Umm…no.

Pulkkinen? That shot though.

Eaves? I loved Eaves…as a fourth-liner.

It’s been a long, long time.

Now, I am not saying Raymond and Niederbach are going to be the second coming of Yzerman and Shanahan. In fact, I can guarantee they won’t come even remotely close.

All I am saying is Red Wings fans should start getting excited about the talent being added to the system. 

Lucas Raymond is probably the best player Detroit has drafted in the 1st round in 30 years, and Niederbach immediately becomes the team’s best centre prospect, aside from Joe Veleno (and you could even make the argument he has a higher ceiling than Veleno).

Niederbach missed all of 2018-19 due to a knee injury, and some believe he could even gain a step as his knee fully recovers. If that happens, and Niederbach has been “underperforming,” look out. The Wings may have stolen another first-round talent in the latter half of the second round.

Cross Hanas Portland Winterhawks
Photo: nhl.com

55th Overall:
Cross Hanas
6-1, 165
Left-Wing
Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

With their third and final pick of the second round, the Red Wings scooped up Cross Hanas, a skilled puck handler out of the WHL.

The Wings, again, swung for the fences here as Hanas has a boatload of offensive skill and very good hockey sense. 

The big knock on Hanas is his skating.

This will be something he will need to improve upon if he has any future in the NHL but with some improvement Hanas likely projects as a third-line winger who could chip in some offense. 

3rd Round

Donovan Sebrango Kitchener Rangers
Photo: neutralzone.net

63rd Overall:
Donovan Sebrango
6-1, 185
Defense
Kitchener Rangers (OHL)

With their first pick in the third round, Detroit selected another two-way defenseman in Donavan Sebrango.

For any soccer fans out there, Donovan is the son of retired Cuban footballer, Eduardo Sebrango. Let’s hope we have another pro athlete in the family!

Sebrango is another left-shot defenseman; the second of the day to be drafted by the Wings. He, like Wallinder, is a great skater. He is very reliable at both ends of the ice and rarely makes the wrong play.

Sebrango closes gaps well in the d-zone and is an excellent puck-mover through the neutral zone. 

He’s a very solid pick in this range, Nothing in his game screams elite, but he is a well-rounded defender that, if everything clicks, could become a solid 4 (or more likely 5) on Detroit’s blue line.

Eemil Viro Finland
Photo: Pasi Mennander/Finnish Ice Hockey Association

70th Overall:
Eemil Viro
6-0, 168
Defense
TPS, Liiga (Finland)

The second trade back of the day. The Wings traded their 65th pick to Minnesota for the 70th and 132nd picks. With the 70th pick, Detroit selected Finnish defenseman, Eemil Viro.

Viro was a pretty divisive prospect heading into the draft, ranked as highly as the early thirties and as late as the mid-nineties. 

Viro played in Liiga, Finland’s top league, in 2019-20 – and played well. He’s the third smooth-skating left-shot defenseman Detroit drafted on day 2, and also the smallest of the three.

There are concerns about Viro’s decision-making and lack of physicality, but some have seen parallels between his game at that of Jets’ defenseman Ville Heinola.

Well, that would be a grand slam of a pick, wouldn’t it? 

Viro likely projects as a third-pair defenseman if he puts it all together. He’s been steady, albeit unspectacular, and that’s where the divisiveness comes from. Do you want to bank on huge upside or a high floor in the third round?

The answer will differ from organization to organization, as will their evaluation of the player. I have to trust that Draper and Viro’s area scout saw something in his game that led them to believe he could someday don the winged wheel.

At this point in the draft, it’s anybody’s guess.

4th Round

Sam Stange Wisconsin
Photo: ushl.com

97th Overall:
Sam Stange
6-0, 200
Right WIng
Sioux City/Sioux Falls (USHL)

With the pick acquired from the Kings for trading down in the second round, Detroit nabbed right-winger and multi-sport athlete Sam Stange.

Stange, undrafted in 2019, was the Winsconsin high school athlete of the year in 2019 as he dominated both on the ice and on the baseball diamond. He’ll be playing for former Red Wings Assistant Coach Toni Granato this upcoming season at Wisconsin University.

Jan Bednar Detroit Red WIngs
Photo: Bildbyrån

107th Overall:
Jan Bednar
6-4, 196
Goaltender
HC Energie Karlovy Vary (Czech)/ HC Banik Sokolov (Czech 2)

Bednar was among the top 4 or 5 goaltenders available in the 2020 draft, so this was good value in the 5th round.

Not unlike many of Detroit’s other goaltending prospects, Bednar is a big dude. He’s a great athlete, but as with all goalies, he will need to refine his game and is years away from being considered a legitimate prospect.

Let’s hope fellow countryman, Dominik Hasek’s (heard of him?) insane drive and competitiveness rubs off on Bednar and he turns into an NHL starter.

Goalies are next to impossible to evaluate at this age, so I am a fan of using picks in this range to take your chances. Good pick.

Bednar will suit up for the Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL) for the 2020-21 season.

5th Round

Alex Cotton Lethbridge
Photo: Lethbridge Hurricanes/Erica Perreaux

132nd Overall:
Alex Cotton
6-2, 175
Defense
Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)

Like Stange, Cotton went undrafted in 2019 before tearing up the junior ranks this past season.

In 2018-19, Cotton put up just 11pts in 54 games. In 2019-20, this past season, Cotton exploded for 67 pts in 63 games. 

Yes. he was older than most of his peers, but that is a noticeable jump in production, and if he’s just getting started this could be a huge steal for the Red Wings.

Would I bet on that happening? No, but it sure is fun to think about.

Again, this late in the draft, you’re betting on a particular trait you identify in a player. The Wings hope Cotton has turned a corner here.

6th Round

Kyle Aucoin Tri-City Storm
Photo: ushl.com

156th Overall:
Kyle Aucoin
5-10, 164
Defense
Tri-City Storm (USHL)

I’m sure you recognize the last name. Yes, Kyle is the son of former NHLer Adrian Aucoin.

Kyle is on the smaller side and put up 13 pts in 48 games in the USHL last year.

7th Round

Kienan Draper St. Andrew's College
Photo: Hickling Images

187th Overall:
Kienan Draper
6-0, 187
Right Wing
St. Andrew’s College (CAHS)

I’m positive you recognize the last name.

With what we thought was their final pick in the 2020 draft, the Wings picked up Kienan Draper, son of Kris Draper.

Of course, the first thing that comes to mind is, “Ah, they just mailed it in with their 7th rounder and drafted the scouting director’s kid. That was nice of them to do. See ya next year.”

One thing is certainly clear…

Any 7th rounder is a long shot to make the NHL. That’s just the way it is. 

It is worth noting, however, that Kris Draper was not the only one in the organization banging the table for Kienan. According to Draper, a few area scouts were also on Kienan and really pushed for the selection.

Do with that information what you will. It’s still pretty cool to be able to draft your son. Great moment for the Drapers.

Chase Bradley Omaha Lancers
Photo: Omaha Lancers

203rd Overall:
Chase Bradley
5-11, 180
Left-Wing
Omaha Lancers (USHL)

Bit of a head-scratcher here.

After trading out of the 5th round (125th pick to Vegas for a 4th rounder in next year’s draft), the Wings traded back into the 7th, sending their 2021 7th rounder to St. Louis in exchange for the 203rd overall pick. 

With their actual final pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, they selected left winger Chase Bradley.

Bradley put up just over a half-point per game in the USHL last year and has some grit to his game. 

Again, as a 7th rounder, he’ll be a long shot.

Final Thoughts

When looking to grade or give an immediate reaction to an NHL draft, there are two ways to approach things. I heard The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler recently frame things this way, and I like to look at the draft like this as well.

First, what was the total value of the prospects acquired in the draft?

Looking at total value, the Red Wings had a great draft.

They added 12 prospects to their system, while some other teams added just 4 (Boston) or 5 (Arizona, Minnesota). 

Now, if Detroit went way off the board with every pick we would be having a different conversation. But the Wings added a lot of talent to their system with those 12 picks. 

Next, what was the relative value of the prospects acquired in the draft?

When you consider relative value, you need to consider the players the WIngs passed on. There were definitely a few players later in round 2 and beyond the Wings passed on who you could argue have higher ceilings or more complete skill sets than a Cross Hanas or a Donovan Sebrango, and depending on what you prioritize when ranking prospects, you may have a different view of how they did in this regard.

But, ultimately, what it comes down to is this: the Detroit Red Wings selected the players they had highest on their board, not necessarily the player they believed to have the highest ceiling. 

Why? 

It’s simple. “Highest ceiling” doesn’t mean “most likely to become an NHL regular,” and that’s something that has to be taken into consideration. Teams don’t draft for pure skill (hi Tomas Jurco). Teams draft for the whole package and prioritize players they believe they can turn into NHLers.

I know this isn’t anything groundbreaking, but it’s a reminder not to judge draft selections based on Top 100 or 200 draft ranking lists. Different scouts and talent evaluators look for a lot of the same characteristics but value those characteristics differently. There are a lot of variables, and the reality is it is extremely difficult to project what an 18 or 19-year-old is going to look like when he is 22, 23, or 24. 

So, my grade for the Detroit Red Wings 2020 Draft Class?

Draft Grade: A-

I think you need to look at both the total and relative value when evaluating the team’s draft class, and when you consider a successful 7 round draft should net you 1-2 NHLers (based on a team making one pick per round), you have to like what Detroit did.

Lucas Raymond can be a superstar.

If you hit on Wallinder and Niederbach you may have a top 4 defenseman and a 2nd line centre.

Cross Hanas seems like a high risk, high reward type of pick, and Donovan Sebrango just looks like a solid 3rd pairing defenseman. 

Eemil Viro has a legit shot as well.

You have to think that Raymond is a lock and AT LEAST one of Wallinder, Niederbach, Hanas, Sebrango, and Viro becomes an NHLer as well. 

I would hope to get three NHLers out of this draft, and that is an absolute win. I think it’s very realistic as well.

That will do it for our 2020 Red Wings Draft Review. As with every draft, we won’t be able to fully judge how Steve Yzerman, Kris Draper, and the rest of the organization fared this year until we start to see these kids play and develop. Let’s hope we get to see all of the Red Wings’ prospects back in action soon.

Lucas Raymond, though. 

As a Red Wings fan, I’m thrilled.

Featured Image: Bruce Bennett, Getty Images