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This Red Wings Pick Could be on Fast Track to NHL

Danielson is leading team in playoff scoring

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Nate Danielson,, Red Wings prospect
Red Wings pick Nate Danielson is leading Portland with 21 points in the WHL playoffs.

If the Portland Winterhawks are to beat the Moose Jaw Warriors in the WHL final, it’s a safe bet that Detroit Red Wings prospect Nate Danielson will be playing a vital role.

It’s a sure thing that if the Winterhawks hadn’t gone out and added Danielson at the WHL trade deadline, they probably wouldn’t be here today.

The center chosen ninth overall by the Red Wings in the 2023 NHL entry draft is leading Portland in playoff scoring. Danielson is good for five goals and 16 assists through 14 games. During the Western Conference final against the Prince George Cougars, Danielson led all scorers with 2-9-11 numbers, along with a plus-7 rating.

“He’s really shifty,” assesed Grand Rapids Griffins forward Emmitt Finnie. Finnie played against Danielson this season while a member of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers.

“He’s a great skater. I’d say that’s one of his best assets.”

In seven of 14 postseason games Danielson has accounted for at least two points. He was good for three points in three successive games against the Cougars. That performance would earn him WHL player of the week honors.

“What has he meant to our group? Great leadership in the room, leadership on the ice. Good two-way centre,” Portland coach-GM Mike Johnston told WHL.ca. “I just like his mature game and how he handles things both on and off the ice.”

How Quickly Will Danielson Make Red Wings?

The Red Wings are still in desperate need of a legit No. 2 center. J.T. Compher, who filled that role during the 2023-24 season, is much better suited to be a No. 3 pivot.

There’s hope that Danielson could prove to be that guy. But it’s likely too much to expect him to be filling that role next season. Or is it?

“He’s a guy that I know will be a longtime pro and a real good pick by Detroit,” Johnston said.

Both Dylan Larkin and Lucas Raymond did crack the Detroit lineup a year after being drafted. But Raymond is a winger and Larkin, though a center, also skated on the wing as a rookie.

A 6-foot-2 and 188 pounds, Danielson has the ideal frame to be a dominant NHL center, although he’ll still need to bulk up and add strength. He’s already known for his 200-foot game, and defensive play is generally the aspect that is holding young players back from making the NHL grade.

“He did not (look out of place),” Detroit coach Derek Lalonde said of Danielson’s first NHL training camp last fall. ” I love the fast that even as young as he is, he came in with a ‘I want to make the team’ mentality, which is exciting for me.

“My message was want to get back here as quick as you can.”

Could that be next season for Danielson? The tradition with this franchise is to slow cook prospects. At the same time, in certain cases – Larkin, Raymond, Moritz Seider – when a player shows that he’s ready, they’re ready to give him the chance to show what he can do in the show.