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Does Yzerman Have Another NHL Draft Ace Up His Sleeve Today?

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Cutter Gauthier, Team USA
Could one of the highly-regarded forwards fall to the Red Wings at No. 8?

Gifted NHL scorers can attest to the reality that the only problem with scoring 30-plus goals in a season is that it is followed by the expectation of scoring that many every season.

That’s similar to the situation Steve Yzerman is in as an NHL general manager. Yzerman drafted Moritz Seider, Lucas Raymond, Simon Edvinsson and Sebastian Cossa with first-round picks in his first three drafts with Detroit. That gives him two young stars, another first-pairing defenseman and one of the world’s top young goalies. Yzerman also owned a record of quality draft picks in Tampa.

That’s why Detroit fans anticipate he will add another building block player tonight when the Red Wings draft at No. 8 in Montreal (ESPN, 7 p.m.)

“We certainly hope so,” Yzerman said. “That’s our plan. Ultimately, they’re all 17 or 18 and you don’t really know. But we feel good where we’re sitting with what we think might be available.”

Mock drafts have varied significantly in the ramp up to tonight’s first round. The various projections have had the Red Wings selecting a USA U-18 player such as Cutter Gauthier, Frank Nazar or Jimmy Snuggerud. The Red Wings have also been tagged to select Swede Jonathan Lekkerimani. Austrian Marcus Kasper or Finn Joakim Kemell. Winnipeg Ice dynamic small center Matthew Savoie and his teammate Conor Geekie have also been listed at No. 8.

Kasper Projection

Hockey Now draft expert Marco D’Amico has projected the Red Wings grabbing Kasper at No. 8 in his 2022 NHL mock draft. 

But he also says he wouldn’t be surprised if the Columbus Blue Jackets take Kasper at No. 6. Kasper is an Austrian center who plays in Sweden

“This whole thing could go a lot of different ways. You look at all the public lists and they can vary,” Yzerman said.

Historically, draft lists differ significantly from team to team. That’s because teams are trying to project what 17- and 18-year players will be like as adults.

Last year, Yzerman was able to move up in the first round on his second pick (from Washington). He went to No. 15 and drafted Cossa. But moving up is never easily accomplished at the NHL.

“The only difficulty is finding a partner that wants to,” Yzerman said. “There’s been times we’ve looked to move, whether it be up or back, but simply couldn’t find anybody that wanted to do it.”

But Yzerman isn’t going to rule out anything. The draft is unpredictable.

“Ultimately those decisions to move on the draft floor happen pretty quickly at the time of the draft.” Yzerman said.

Players Always Fall

The consensus is Shane Wright, Juraj Slafkovsky, Logan Cooley, Simon Nemec, Lekkerimaki, Gauthier and Kemell should go at the top of the draft.

But every year, one or two of the favorites, go lower than expected. That’s why D’Amico believes it’s possible Detroit could end up with one of those players.

“Center is a topic of conversation (in Detroit),” D’Amico said. “Cutter Gauthier comes to mind. He potentially can be a center, a power forward style of player.”

He played on the wing for Team USA, but is expected to play center at Boston College.

But Gauthier is expected to go fifth to Philadelphia. If Lekkerimaki slips down, D’Amico likes the fit in Detroit.

“He was the best player at the Under 18 tournament in May, leading the tournament in scoring,” D’Amico said. “He blew away Sweden-based scouts. (Lekkerimaki) was such an impactful player at age 18, in a similar fashion to how Lucas Raymond was at the same age.”

But D’Amico also knows Yzerman doesn’t follow the crowd in rating players. Others didn’t have Seider rated as highly as he did. D’Amico said even Raymond had slipped on some NHL teams’ list when he went No. 4 to Yzerman.

The Red Wings have more quality defense prospects than forward prospects. But Yzerman said this week that won’t impact his first round decision. He’s taking the best player available regardless of position.

Mintyukov Rising

“If (the Red Wings) don’t care about positional needs, one out of the box pick that seems to be jumping out at everybody is Pavel Mintyukov,” D’Amico said.

Mintyukov played for the Ontario Hockey League’s Saginaw Spirits. A Russian defenseman, Mintyukov netted 17 goals and put up 62 points in 67 games.

“Just an insane turn-around this year when it came to his play,” D’Amico said. “…There is no visa worries with him. He was almost a point per game player on the worst team in almost all Canadian major junior hockey. The advanced metrics are off the chain and we know Steve Yzerman likes to look at analytics when it comes to players  He would be a darkhorse player if (the Red Wings) were going to take a defenseman. I don’t think (Czech defenseman) David Jiricek impressed a lot of people. The only other defenseman I could see them going for is Kevin Korchinski.”

Korchinski played for the Seattle Thunderbirds and posted 62 assists this season.

“Another defenseman who was close to point per game,” D’Amico said. “This is a rare year when we have four or five (defenseman like that.).”

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