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Should Red Wings fans be concerned about the Yzerplan?

Just one Red Wings prospect was playing in the recently-completed World Juniors

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Red Savage, Detroit Red Wings prospect
Red Savage was the only Red Wings prospect playing in the World Junior Tournament.

And there was one. One Detroit Red Wings prospect in the recently-completed IIHF World Junior Championship. Forward Red Savage of the NCAA Miami Redhawks, a 2021 Detroit draftee, won a bronze medal with the USA.

A year after a record nine Red Wings draft picks were skating in the tournament, Savage was alone on the world junior stage in terms of representating Detroit’s future. And that should definitely be cause for concern.

Let’s face it, the 2022-23 season isn’t playing out as a banner year for Red Wings prospects. Rookie forwards Jonatan Berggren and Elmer Soderblom are certainly creating hope for the future in Detroit. At the same time, in all honesty is has to be noted that Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider aren’t playing nearly as dominant a role as sophomores like they were doing a year ago as first-year NHLers.

Red Wings Prospect Buzz Is Fading

A year ago, there was a palable buzz about the number of quality prospects who were either in Detroit, with the AHL Grand Rapids Girffins, or playing starring roles for European clubs. It was the same in prior seasons as Raymond, Seider and Joe Veleno were working their way up the ladder.

There’s no such excitement about the next wave of European Red Wings hopefuls, at least not yet.

Beyond defenseman Simon Edvinsson, Detroit’s sixth overall pick in the 2021 NHL entry draft, the new defensemen with the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins aren’t setting the world on fire, according to NHL scouts who’ve seen a lot of the likes of Albert Johansson and Eemil Viro. And the reports on goalie Sebastian Cossa are that his play has been erratic and inconsistent at best.

Among the next crop of future hopefuls, defenseman William Wallinder and Marco Kasper, Detroit’s top pick in the 2022 draft, are playing key roles with Rogle of the SHL. Beyond that pair, there isn’t much to create excitement among Detroit picks playing in Europe.

Niederbach, Dower Nilsson Demoted

This was supposed to be the year that forward Theodor Niederbach established himself in the SHL and Liam Dower Nilsson made a breakthrough as a senior player. Instead, both were given demotion to the Allsvenskan, the Swedish Second Division, barely two months into the season. Pavel Buchelnikov is playing in Division 2 in Russia. Besides, he’s signed with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL through 2025, so he won’t be seen on this side of the Atlantic Ocean for a couple more years.

In NCAA hockey, Denver’s Carter Mazur is second in the nation with 16 goals. There is also excitement about Amadeus Lombardi of the OHL’s Flint Firebirds, who rates among the league’s top scorers and has already signed an entry-level deal with Detroit. On the other hand, Mazur’s University of Denver teammate defenseman Shai Buium, a 2021 second-round pick of the Red Wings, was cut from the USA squad prior to the tourney for the second year in a row.

Featuring just one player at the World Juniors is the worst performance by the Red Wings organization since current GM Steve Yzerman was still playing for the club. In 2005, no Red Wings prospects were picked for the tournament. Every year since until this year, there’s been a minimum of two Detroit picks skating in the event.

Red Wings Prospects in World Junior Tournament

Year Total Players (Country)
2023 1 Red Savage (USA)
2022 9 Sebastian Cossa, Donovan Sebrango (CAN), Jan Bednar (CZE), Eemil Viro (FIN), Simon Edvinsson, Theodor Niederbach, William Wallinder (SWE), Carter Mauzr, Red Savage (USA)
2021 7 Jan Bednar (CZE), Eemil Viro (FIN), Gustav Berglund, Albert Johansson, Theodor Niederbach, Lucas Raymond, Elmer Soderblom (SWE)
2020 4 Jared McIsaac (CAN), Moritz Seider (GER), Eemil Viro (FIN), Jonatan Berggren (SWE)
2019 4 Jared McIsaac, Joe Veleno (CAN), Filip Zadina (CZE), Malte Setkov (DEN)
2018 4 Malte Setkov (DEN), Kasper Kotkansalo (FIN), Filip Larsson, Gustav Lindstrom (SWE)
2017 3 Filip Hronek (CZE), Villi Saarijarvi (FIN), Joren Van Pottelberghe (SWI)
2016 6 Joe Hicketts (CAN), Villi Saarijarvi (FIN), Evgeny Svechnikov (RUS), Christoffer Ehn, Axel Holmstrom (SWE), Joren Van Pottelberghe (SWI)
2015 5 Joe Hicketts (CAN), Julius Vahlatalo (FIN), Christoffer Ehn, Axel Holmstrom (SWE), Dylan Larkin (USA)
2014 2 Anthony Mantha, Jake Paterson (CAN)
2013 3 Xavier Ouellet, Jake Paterson (CAN), Martin Frk (CZE)
2012 5 Petr Mrazek (CZE), Teemu Pulkkinen (FIN), Mattias Backman (SWE), Tomas Jurco, Marek Tvrdon (SLV)
2011 4 Andrej Nestrasil (CZE), Teemu Pulkkinen (FIN), Calle Jarnkrok (SWE), Mitch Callahan (USA)
2010 3 Andrej Nestrasil (CZE), Tomas Tatar (SLV), Brian Lashoff (USA)
2009 2 Joakim Andersson (SWE), Tom McCollum (USA)
2008 3 Shawn Matthias, Logan Pyett (CAN), Joakim Andersson (SWE)
2007 3 Darren Helm (CAN), Mattias Ritola (SWE), Justin Abdelkader (USA)
2006 3 Jakub Kindl (CZE), Anton Axelsson, Mattias Ritola (SWE)

Shallow Prospect Pool?

While every player who skates in the World Junior doesn’t go on to be a stellar NHL player, or even an NHLer for that matter, the vast majority of those who make the NHL do come through the tournament. On Detroit’s current roster, 21 players performed in the event.

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Should Detroit fans be harboring a level of concern about where the so-called Yzerplan is currently situated? While it’s far too early to be completely writing off these young, still developing players, it must also be said that at this current juncture, the future potential of Detroit’s prospect pool seems much more shallow than it did a year ago.