Under the tutelage of GM Steve Yzerman, the Detroit Red Wings have made 12 selections in the NHL entry draft. That’s good news from a rebuilding standpoint. On the other hand, there’s also worrisome news. There isn’t one among those 12 players who’ve suited up for an NHL game.
Granted, three of those players – goaltender Trey Augustine and defensemen Andrew Gibson and Brady Cleveland – were only recently selected in the 2023 draft. It’s far too early to write any of them out of the future.
And, it’s also worth noting that for the most part, Yzerman and his scouting staff are opting to be selecting players who are heading to play U.S. college hockey, or who are playing in Europe. They are certainly specializing in players that they can afford time and patience to while they are developing.
That being said, the team has now gone through five drafts under Yzerman. And really, beyond first rounders like defenseman Moritz Seider (2019) and winger Lucas Raymond (2020), the Red Wings haven’t come up with another NHL regular from that draft pool.
Red Wings 2019 Draft Class Under Scrutiny
Alarm bells certainly went off earlier this week when winger Robert Mastrosimone was signing an AHL deal with the Toronto Marlies. He was part of Yzerman’s first draft class, chosen 54th overall in 2019 and wasn’t considered even worthy of a contract offer.
“At some point we hope to have a really good nucleus, but the reality is that somewhere along the way they don’t all play,” Yzerman said of NHL draftees. “Maybe you don’t have room for them all. One player hasn’t developed the way you hoped, so you take another at that position, or trade and acquire to fill that void.”
That being the case, it’s also abundantly true that in a salary cap world, the fastest way to climb up the standings is by drafting effectively.
“If you don’t have a good team, you better have a lot of draft picks, because how are you gonna get better?” Yzerman asked.
— Lars Thorsell (@LarsThorsell) August 2, 2023
Of Detroit’s other two second rounders, defenseman Albert Johansson (60th) spent last season with the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins. Word within the organization was were it not for a late-season injury, Johansson likely would’ve been getting an NHL look.
The first second rounder ever chosen by the Yzerman regime, Finnish defenseman Antti Tuomisto (32nd) will be making his North American pro debut with the Griffins this fall. Considering that forward Elmer Soderblom (159th overall) was also seeing duty in 21 NHL games for Detroit last season, there’s still a chance that the club could be producing three NHLers from the 2019 crop, which in hockey circles is considered a good draft.
Red Wings 2nd Round Picks Under Steve Yzerman
|2019||32||Antti Tuomisto-D||Assat (SM-liiga)|
|2019||54||Robert Mastrosimone-LW||Chicago Steel (USHL)|
|2019||60||Albert Johansson-D||Farjestads (SHL)|
|2020||32||William Wallinder-D||Modo (SHL)|
|2020||51||Theodor Niederbach-RW||Frolunda (SHL)|
|2020||55||Cross Hanas-LW||Portland (WHL)|
|2021||36||Shai Buium-D||Sioux City (USHL)|
|2022||40||Dylan James-LW||Sioux City (USHL)|
|2022||52||Dmitri Buchelnikov-LW||SKA (KHL)|
|2023||41||Trey Augustine-G||USNTDP (USHL)|
|2023||42||Andrew Gibson-D||Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)|
|2023||47||Brady Cleveland-D||USNTDP (USHL)|
It’s going to be a big year for Detroit draftees in terms of turning corners. Defenseman William Wallinder (32nd, 2020) is also going to be debuting in Grand Rapids. Left-winger Cross Hanas (55-2020) is beginning his second campaign with the Griffins. He’ll be looking to rebound from season-ending shoulder surgery.
Right-winger Theodor Neiderbach (51-2020) needs a breakthrough year with MoDo of the SHL. Otherwise it’s unlikely he’ll be earning a Detroit contract. Scouts are offering mixed reviews of Denver defenseman Shai Buium (36-2021).
First goal in KHL for 19-year-old Dmitry Buchelnikov! pic.twitter.com/REPZdikyra
— KHL (@khl_eng) September 28, 2022
It’ll be another two years at least before left-winger Dmitri Buchelnikov’s Russian commitments are complete. He remains an international man of mystery. Left-winger Dylan James enters his sophomore year at North Dakota after finishing strongly in 2022-23.
Still Too Early To Write Off Detroit’s Second Rounders
It will take another year or two before anyone will be penning an epitaph regarding Yzerman’s first two draft classes. That doesn’t mean there isn’t justifiable cause for concern.
When Yzerman was building a Stanley Cup contender in Tampa Bay, he and his staff unearthed several gems in the later rounds of the draft. Nikita Kucherov (58th) and Ondrej Palat (208th) were selections in 2011. Brayden Point (79-2014) was another steal.
If the Red Wings want to get better, they’d better start finding some players of this ilk.