Defense was the main issue for the Detroit Red Wings in 2021-22, but it might not be as big a concern moving forward, with big young defenders Moritz Seider and Simon Edvinsson anchoring the blue line for the foreseeable future.
Scoring and skill up front figure to be more pressing concerns in the years ahead. That could prompt general manager Steve Yzerman to select a forward with the No. 8 pick in this year’s draft, which is less and a month away (July 7-8 at Montreal’s Bell Centre).
This is the sixth year in a row the Red Wings will be selecting in the top 10 – all the picks have been between 4 and 9.
In addition to Seider, who could win the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie on June 21, and Edvinsson, who could make the leap from Sweden to Detroit’s top four on defense next season, the Red Wings have a good stable of young defensemen in the system (Jared McIsaac, Donovan Sebrango, William Wallinder, Albert Johansson, Antti Tuomisto and Shai Buium).
They are not nearly as deep up front in their system. Jonatan Berggren, coming off a strong rookie season in Grand Rapids, has a good opportunity to make the NHL in 2022-23, but no other forward appears close.
The 2022 draft class is deep up front at the top, where Shane Wright is the consensus choice to go No. 1 to the Montreal Canadiens and Finnish winger Juraj Slafkovsky isn’t far behind in the rankings.
The Red Wings could have several talented centers or wingers from which to choose at No. 8.
Here is a look at players the Red Wings are projected to select in some early mock drafts:
NHL.com: Jonathan Lekkerimaki, RW, Djurgarden (Sweden)
Adam Kimelman and Mike Morreale both project the Red Wings to select this sniper who led all players with 15 points (including five goals) in six games in this year’s World Under-18 championship for gold medal-winning Sweden. He dominated the J-20 league with 20 goals and 35 points in 26 games, earning a promotion to the top men’s league, where he produced seven goals and two assists in 26 games.
Kimelman said Lekkerimaki “has an NHL-caliber shot, with a one-timer and wrist shot he can use to pick corners. He’s an excellent skater with good offensive instincts. A future top line with Lekkerimaki on one wing and Lucas Raymond on the other has the chance to be very scary for opposing teams.”
Morreale added: “A pure sniper who plays a two-way game with good hands and explosiveness.”
The Hockey News: Matt Savoie, C, Winnipeg (WHL)
He’s small (5-9, 179) but is regarded as perhaps the fastest skater in the draft, with a strong shot and high compete level. He racked up 35 goals and 90 points in 65 games.
Ryan Kennedy writes: “Savoie is a highly-skilled pivot who battles hard, despite not being the biggest kid on the ice. Now, those players tend to get punished early at the draft, but if anyone would buck the orthodoxy, it’s Stevie Y. Savoie would give the Wings a solid 1-2 scoring tandem down the middle with veteran Dylan Larkin.
Sportsnet: Joakim Kemell, RW, Pelicans (Finland)
A strong skater and playmaker described as having good hockey sense, Kemell led rookies with 15 goals as a 17-year-old in Finland’s top men’s league despite missing a month with a shoulder injury.
Writes Sam Kosentino: “Inconsistency forced mostly by a mid-season upper-body injury forced him down the list and Steve Yzerman unearths another gem as a result.”
The Athletic: Marco Kasper, C, Rogle BK (Sweden)
Corey Pronman projects Detroit to select Moritz Seider’s teammate during the part of the 2020-21 season in the SHL.
“Detroit’s need for a center is well-documented and Kasper looks like a potential top-two line center whose stock is on the rise following the World Championships,” Pronman wrote.
TSN: Jimmy Snuggerud, RW, US National Team Development Program
Craig Button predicted the Red Wings will take Snuggerud, a goal-scorer who plays a two-way game has a high hockey IQ. Some believe he can make the transition to center.
Chris Ramson wrote: “Detroit goes for value by drafting Joakim Kemell, who came into this season as a line 2 right winger behind Brad Lambert before beating out Lambert for the first line right winger role on JYP. Kemell has the playmaking, sniping, passing, wrist shot power, wrist shot accuracy, slap shot power, slap shot accuracy, offensive awareness, hockey IQ, speed, skating, agility, stick handling, and ability to win faceoffs. He’s a sniper with amazing hands and elite stick handling that can do everything you want a line 1 right winger to do on tape, but he needs to improve his defensive awareness.”
More: 8 who could go to Red Wings with No. 8 pick