Today is the day many Detroit Red Wings fans have longed for since the calendar turned from 2021 to 2022. Of course, we are talking about the NHL Entry Level Draft, which begins tonight (Thursday), July. 7 at the Bell Centre in Montreal. The draft is special in many ways, but tonight is extra special in the hockey world as this will be the first time since the start of COVID-19 that the draft will be held in person. The previous two drafts had been held via Zoom.
Heading into tonight, general manager Steve Yzerman and the Detroit Red Wings are sitting pretty, having four picks in the top 100, including the no. 8 overall selection. Although the rebuild is far from over, Yzerman and Kris Draper, who heads the scouting department, will have an opportunity to add another franchise-caliber player to a growing list of highly touted prospects.
There is a reason to be optimistic heading into tonight. It seems everything Yzerman touches turns to gold. Many fans tend to point towards the Tampa Bay Lightning when justifying Yzerman's worth as a manager, but look what he's brought the organization since taking over for Ken Holland. Yzerman has added Moritz Seider, who is coming off a Calder Trophy season, and, I might add, the first Red Wing to win the award since the Original Six era. Seider was selected sixth overall in 2019. Plus, just a year later, Yzerman added Lucas Raymond with the fourth overall pick, who walked in and immediately became a top-six forward and Calder Trophy finalist this past season.
In addition to that, last season Yzerman landed a towering defenseman in Simon Edvinsson with the sixth pick. Edvinsson is coming off of a stellar season overseas, where he recorded two goals and 19 points over 44 games with Frolunda HC of the Swedish Elite League.
Then, Yzerman identified a need and pounced on the opportunity to trade up to select a top goaltending prospect in Sebastian Cossa. Cossa led the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League (WHL) to a Memorial Cup berth. He played in 19 postseason games posting a 16-3 record. Cossa also posted video game-like numbers, maintaining a 1.93 Goals Against Average (GAA) to go with a save percentage of 0.919. During the regular season, Cossa played in 46 games posting a record of 33-9-3 with a GAA of 2.28 and a save percentage of 0.913.
Needless to say, these are all reasons to be excited heading into round one of the NHL Draft.
Identifying the Detroit Red Wings' greatest need heading into the NHL Draft.
The Detroit Red Wings are not to the point in their rebuild where they can venture off from their draft board just to take a flier on a specific player. Yzerman will stick to the method that's worked for him all these years. Yzerman will follow his draft board, and if history has shown us anything, it's that his board is likely a lot different than other GMs across the league, hence the Moritz Seider pick from 2019.
I hope that the best available player on Detroit's board is a forward when they are on the clock with the no. 8 overall pick. The Detroit Red Wings desperately need to add another high-level forward with the no. 8 overall pick, someone with top-six potential. Notably, a center. Championships are built down the middle, and after Dylan Larkin, things really tail off for the Red Wings.
Two players to keep an eye on and hope they somehow fall to no. 8 are Matthew Savoie and Cutter Gauthier.
Savoie is a small, skillful 5-foot-9 forward who posted a 35-goal, 90-point season over 65 games with the Winnipeg Ice of the WHL.
Gauthier, 18, a 6-foot-2 center, is coming off a spectacular season in which he scored 19 goals totaling 28 points in 22 games with the U.S. National Development Team in 2021-22. One fun fact about Gauthier, he's ambidextrous. Despite being a left-handed shot, Gauthier can swing a golf club or shoot a puck from either side. Gauthier has a blistering shot, similar to Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and has the makings of being a prolific scorer at the professional level.
One more thing to keep an eye on is the rumor mill.
Yzerman never tips his hand, but rumblings suggest a blockbuster-type deal involving the Detroit Red Wings wouldn't be out of the question. Two potential players that could be on the move are Tyler Bertuzzi, who is a year away from being an unrestricted free agent, or perhaps Filip Zadina, who has never lived up to his draft hype. Earlier today, the Chicago Blackhawks dealt star forward Alex DeBrincat to Ottawa in a deal that includes picks no. 7 and 39 in return. I don't feel teams value Bertuzzi quite as much, but he's certainly worth a top-twelve selection.
I can't wait to see what Yzerman has in store for Red Wings fans across the globe.