Any Detroit Red Wings fan who wants to see what the team will look like when the rebuild is completed only needs to make the 157-mile drive to watch the Grand Rapids Griffins play this season.
Depending on who makes the Red Wings roster this season, it’s possible, on some nights, 55 percent (11 players) of the Griffins’ lineup could be Steve Yzerman draft picks. That doesn’t include Yzerman undrafted prospect free agent signings, such as Wyatt Newpower, Alexandre Doucet and John Lethemon. It also doesn’t include prospect Jared McIsaac, 23, who was a Ken Holland draftee.
Since taking over as GM in 2019, Yzerman has participated in five drafts and selected seven first round picks. Two of the first round picks (Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond) are in Detroit, and three (Sebastian Cossa, Simon Edvinsson and Marco Kasper) could start in Grand Rapids. The 2023 first rounders (Nate Danielson and Axel Sandin Pellikka) will return to their teams from last season.
Dan Watson, the highly successful Toledo Walleye coach from last season, is the Griffins’ new coach this season. This is the Yzerman draft picks he might have this season:
They start with goalie Sebastian Cossa, considered by many to be the Red Wings’ goalie of the near future. The team’s top draft pick in 2021 had a strong season Toledo.
Defenseman Simon Edvinsson (No. 5 in 2021) is recovering from surgery and it’s hard to say with certainty whether he will be ready for the start of the season. He could start in Detroit or Grand Rapids.
Forward Marco Kasper, taken in the first round in 2022, played in one game for the Red Wings last year. In theory, he could win a Detroit roster spot in training camp.
Defenseman Antti Tuomisto is a 2019 pick who played in Finland after two years at the University of Denver. Defenseman Albert Johansson, the third of the three second-round picks that year, spent last season in Grand Rapids.
Another defenseman, William Wallinder, a 2020 second-rounder who played in a single game at Grand Rapids last year, spent most of last winter playing in Sweden.
Forward Cross Hanas, the third of three second-round picks in 2020, returns to Grand Rapids after scoring nine goals in 30 games last season.
Defenseman Eemil Viro spent most of his first pro season with Grand Rapids last winter. He was taken in the third round in 2020. Forward Carter Mazur, a third-round pick in 2021, played in six games with the Griffins last year after leaving the University of Denver, scoring three goals.
Amadeus Lombardi, a fourth-round pick in 2022, is highly touted in his first full pro season after scoring 45 goals for the Flint Firebirds of the OHL last season.
Elmer Soderblom, a sixth-round pick in 2019, played in 21 games for Detroit and 20 for Grand Rapids, recording the same scoring line (5-3—8) at both levels. There’s certainly a chance he will start the season in Detroit.