Late last week, the Red Wings announced the signing of 2009 7th round pick Adam Almqvist to a three year entry-level contract. Today, they inked one of their two third round choices from that year, Andrej Nestrasil, to a similar deal. The deadline to get both players under contract was Wednesday, June 1st.
In his first full year playing in Sweden’s top league, the 19 year old played on the top two pairings for a team that finished the regular season in first place. HV71 also employs Red Wings another piece of Red Wings property in goaltender Daniel Larsson, who could be in the running for the backup job with the Wings this coming season.
Almqvist, who is similar to Rafalski in terms of his size and incredible hockey sense, will likely play at least one more season in Sweden before giving it a shot in North America. Look for him to make the Griffins by the 2012 season.
Nestrasil was taken 75th overall by the Wings in 09, in a draft that had already seen them nab highly touted prospects Landon Ferraro and Tomas Tatar. Adding the Czech power forward to that duo gives the Red Wings a three-pack of potentially high-impact forwards for years to come.
All three have future top-6 potential in the NHL, and all play a different game. We got our first taste of Tatar at the NHL level this year, and he is a kid that loves to shoot the puck. Landon Ferraro has wheels that are just behind Darren Helm and Jan Mursak and is a great distributor of the puck.
Nestrasil, on the other hand, is Johan Franzen without the bad knees, or Todd Bertuzzi without the bad back and Steve Moore incident.
He has the ability to become a top-flight power forward in the NHL, if he can put all of his tools together. He has an enormous frame, that when he fills out with age, could put him at around 6’2″, 225 pounds. He also has hands around the net that force a comparison to the two aforementioned Red Wings, Franzen and Bertuzzi. Each of those players have the size to play a big man’s game, but have the soft hands that allow them to finish from in tight.
Nestrasil put up 70 points this year with the PEI Rocket of the QMJHL, and was clearly the best player on his Czech junior team this past Christmas, despite only registering 3 points in the 6 game tourney. Don’t let those numbers fool you though, the Czechs were way over-matched this year, and it was only due to Nestrasil and a small handful of other players that they were even competitive.
He was an assistant captain on that team, played big minutes, including killing penalties and playing the point on the power play. He will compete for, and likely earn, a spot on the Griffins next season. If you get a chance, take in some Griffins games next year at Van Andel Arena and watch the future of the Wings all in one place.
Almqvist and Nestrasil are ranked 15th and 16th, respectively, on Red Wings Central’s prospect rankings. With their signatures on contracts, they became the 5th and 6th players from the Red Wings 7 player draft class of 2009 to be signed.
Nick Jensen, who is playing his college hockey at St. Cloud State, must sign by August 15, 2014. He was taken in the fifth round, 150th overall.
The other 4 players are Landon Ferraro (32nd), Tomas Tatar (60th), Gleason Fournier (90th), and Mitchell Callahan (180th). All 7 of the Wings picks in this draft are in the top 23 prospects in the Wings system, which makes for an outstanding draft class.
Fournier will turn pro this season, but may start with the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye unless he blows everyone away in training camp.
Tatar will be going into his third season as a Griffin, and will be looking to take that next step into becoming a dominant, elite player in the AHL, before possibly joining the Wings full time in 2012.
Callahan will likely earn a job in Grand Rapids this year, and will quickly become a fan favorite. Fans will see him on the ice and think of Kirk Maltby in his heyday, as Callahan is a world-class agitator, who can also put up some offense. Between the regular season and playoffs, he put up 63 points in 72 games, in addition to 104 penalty minutes.
Ferraro had a season full of set-backs, as he couldn’t stay healthy. He will also be turning pro and will either play for the Griffins or the Walleye. His father, Ray Ferraro, scored 800 points in the NHL. According to him, Landon has the potential to be an even better player than he was.