The competition to become one of the Detroit Red Wings’ defensemen over the next couple of seasons has a crowded field. Since Steve Yzerman become general manager, the Detroit Red Wings accumulated 15 picks in the first three rounds of three drafts. The Red Wings used eight of those picks on defensemen.
That doesn’t take into account Jared McIsaac who is still very much in the defensive mix or Wyatt Newpower, who was signed as a free agent former college player last summer.
Moritz Seider and Simon Edvinsson hog most of the spotlight. But 2020 third-round pick Donovan Sebrango has still forced the Detroit Red Wings to pay attention to him. He just turned 20 two weeks ago and he already has 60 games of American Hockey League experience. He is plus-9 in those games.
“Put that in perspective,” Grand Rapids Griffins coach Ben Simon said. “When I was that age I was barely getting myself to class in college. He’s living on his own as a second-year pro. He has shown tremendous growth in his overall game. But I think you are seeing a lot more growth in his maturity as a person away from the rink. How he conducts himself and how he approaches the game.”
Sebrango should have played in the Ontario Hockey League again last season, but the Red Wings gave him an opportunity with Grand Rapids when COVID shut down the OHL. Many AHL teams used some younger players last season because of the pandemic. This season, the AHL’s competition level is more normal. Sebrango has comfortably made the adjustment.
“What you see with Donovan is that he learns from his mistakes,” Simon said. “He doesn’t continuously make the same mistakes over and over.”
Sebrango Hard to Play Against
Sebrango does regular video work with Griffins assistant coach Matt MacDonald, watching his shifts to pinpoint areas in his game that need attention. He earns his keep primarily for his defensive work. In his first 60 AHL games, he has one goal and nine assists.
“I think there is a lot more offense there than people give him credit for,” Simon said. “As a young kid learning this league and pro hockey I think he’s doing a really good job of focusing on what he can control and playing as simple of a game as he can. With that, his game will evolve and grow.”
NHL teams are always in the market for defenseman who can play a safe defensive game on a consistent basis. Sebrango has the potential to be that player or maybe more.
“I think his biggest attribute is competitiveness,” Simon said. “I think he takes pride in being hard to play against, being gritty and winning every battle he can. Once he establishes himself his role could grow. We’ve never had to rely on him for offense because we’ve had guys who can lead the offensive charge.”
The Red Wings need to be harder to play against. If Sebrango can master that trait, it may be enough to earn him a place on Detroit’s roster at some point.