The Wings have plenty of options available to them in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft this summer, where they will draft somewhere between 22nd and 30th. We call that status quo in Detroit, who have become accustomed to drafting late in rounds due to their strong finishes in the league standings. In fact, Jakub Kindl at 19th overall in 2005 was the highest they’ve drafted in decades.
The Wings have looked just about everywhere and drafted just about every position in the first round in recent years. In 2010, they gave it the old college try, taking center Riley Sheahan out of Notre Dame. The next year, they recognized that several players they liked were available to them at 29th overall and traded down a few spots to take another center in Landon Ferraro of the WHL, son of 800 point man Ray Ferraro. In 2008, they took goaltender Thomas McCollum of the OHL’s Guelph Storm. 2005 and 2007 saw them take two defensemen who figure to be big parts of their future (in Brendan Smith out of the University of Wisconsin and Jakub Kindl from the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers).
Just as in the past, the Wings have plenty options available to them and will no doubt take the player they determine to be the best available whenever it is their turn to pick. If it is their turn to select and there are multiple players left that they like at their spot, they will trade down to accumulate picks. They have the luxury of not being particularly weak at any one position at the NHL level and depth-wise, so they won’t be forced to reach on a pick to take a player to fill a need.
Don’t expect to see them trade up, either, as they’d rather accumulate more picks and prospects than move up to take one particular player. They trust their scouting and development teams each enough that they have faith that the players they do take will be in good hands.
NHL.com recently did a mock draft where three of their experts, Adam Kimmelman, Mike Morreale and Steven Hoffner, projected how they thought the first round would unfold. For the purposes of their draft, they had the Wings picking 25th overall, due to their finishing with the 6th best regular season record. Obviously they could slide up or down a couple spots based on how they do in the playoffs. As expected, the three experts opinions on what the Wings will do in round one ran the gamut, from the Pacific coast of the United States to Scandinavia.
First up, Adam Kimmelman has the Wings taking defenseman Joseph Morrow of the Portland Winterhawks.
D Joseph Morrow 6’1”, 198 lbs
60 GP, 9 G, 40 A, 49 P, 67 PIM, +23
Morrow’s Winterhawks eliminated Landon Ferraro’s Everett Silvertips in the first round of the Western Hockey League playoffs, and are currently up 3-2 in their series with the Kelowna Rocket. He has 10 points in his teams 9 playoff games, to go along with 15 penalty minutes.
Morrow is described by the NHL.com experts as potentially “the steal of this draft”. He was praised for his “smarts and recognition”. Kimmelman notes that he logged big minutes, ahead of several other NHL prospects on the blue line.
In all, there are three players on the Winterhawks blue line who have already been drafted, Brett Ponich and William Wrenn who both went in the second round in 2009 to the Blues and Sharks respectively, and Taylor Aronson who went to the Predators in 2010. Still, Morrow led the team in points by a defenseman by a healthy margin. The next closest player in points by a defender played 12 more games than did Morrow.
Morrow was 13th in the WHL in defense scoring, behind NHL prospects Tyson Barrie, Alex Petrovic and Brayden McNabb. Expect Morrow to become one of the elite defensemen in the WHL next season, and if you have a chance to do so, check out his Winterhawks as they pursue the CHL’s Memorial Cup.
Mike Morreale is next up for NHL.com, and I’m sure he would agree that, if he were still available, the Wings would grab Morrow at number 25. In fact, he has him going four spots earlier to the Anaheim Ducks at 22nd overall.
Morreale seems to have a keen understanding of what the Wings like to do in the first round, as well as what they look for in general. Their last two first round picks have been forwards. In fact, in the last two drafts, their first three picks have all been forwards, with the bulk of them coming from Europe or the CHL, with Riley Sheahan being the lone exception. Morreale has the Wings killing two birds with one stone, taking a Swedish import who is currently playing in the OHL.
RW Rickard Rakell, 6’1”, 185 lbs
49 GP, 19 G, 24 A, 43 P, 12 PIM, +14
Rakell was a rookie in the sense that it was his first year playing on this side of the pond, joining the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL, but he quickly acclimated himself to the North American game. Despite only playing in 49 of the teams 68 games, the native of Sollentuna, Sweden was tied for second on the team in powerplay goals, with 9.
The games he did miss were so he could represent his country internationally, including with the World Junior team, where he had 3 points in 5 games.
Rakell almost immediately began playing on the Whalers top two lines, despite his youth and inexperience in North America. He ended 11th in rookie scoring in the OHL, and 6th on the Whalers in points.
Rackell played his junior hockey with the U20 and U18 affiliate of AIK, a member of the Swedish Elite League, which is generally regarded as the top professional hockey league, outside of the NHL.
Morreale described Rakell as a “high-energy Swede” with a “great work ethic” who could “forecheck hard” and was responsible defensively. Sounds exactly like what the Wings look for in a player.
Rakell seems to have the right frame of mind on how to play the game. In an interview with Our Sports Central, Rakell described his approach:
“90-percent of the goals are scored in front of the net”, Rakell said Saturday after scoring his game-winning goal. “I don’t have a problem crashing the net if that’s what I have to do.”
He also already has some ties to the team, as George Malik describes a meeting between Rakell and Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom, initiated by Lidstrom to welcome Rakell to North America.
Finally, Steven Hoffner also has the Wings taking a Scandinavian forward, but this time he actually has them travelling across the pond to do so, rather than the 27 miles from Detroit to Plymouth.
RW Joel Armia, 6’3.5”, 187 lbs
48 GP, 18 G, 11 A, 29 P, 24 PIM
If the Wings manage to land Armia at 25, it would probably top Morrow as the steal of the draft. Adam Kimmelman has him going at 12th overall to the Carolina Hurricanes, so if he manages to slide all the way down to where Detroit ends up picking, they’d be almost forced to take him.
Armia was at one point the 2nd ranked European skater, behind only defenseman Adam Larsson who could wind up going first overall, and will likely be taken in the top 3 picks.
Only 17 years old, “the Finnish Ace”, as he is known in Finland, played “a major role on the first line” for the Porin Assat Blues, one of the top teams in the SM-Liiga. The SM-Liiga was ranked as the second strongest European league by the IIHF in 2008. The Blues finished 2nd in the regular season league standings.
Armia’s numbers are eye-popping, to put it mildly. Playing against kids his own age, he simply dominated, putting up 89 points in 51 games. He then moved on to the U18 level, where he averaged about a point per game, playing against the older kids.
Next, he moved up to the top level of the SM-Liiga where he put up the points you see in bold above. Those are ridiculous numbers from a 17 year old kid playing against fully grown men at a very high, professional level. Also keep in mind when looking at his 29 points in 48 games that, generally speaking, Finnish hockey tends to be more defense-oriented then other leagues.
He finished the year as the 4th ranked European skater, according to the NHL Central Scouting Bureau.
The Wings current resident Finn, Valtteri Filppula, didn’t accomplish the feat of playing in the top level of the SM-Liiga until two years after he’d been drafted, and even then only put up 18 points in 49 games.
Mikko Koivu, one of the NHL’s top Finnish players, and the captain of the Minnesota Wild, played a third of his draft year with TPS in the SM-Liiga. He put up just 1 point in his 21 games. He put up 7 points in 48 games the next year, 20 points in 37 games the following year, and 30 points in 45 games in his final year in Europe.
At this stage in his development, at least, Armia seems to be well ahead of the curve for Finnish players, and if the Wings do manage to land him in the draft he is definitely a player to be excited about.
Which of these players would you like to see the Wings take with their first round pick? Let me know in the comment section!