Robbie Russo is the third highest-rated defenceman on our prospects list. He was drafted 95th overall by the New York Islanders in the 2011 NHL Entry Level Draft and opted to go the college route where he played exceptional defence for the University of Notre Dame during his four year tenure there.
Russo signed with the Red Wings in August of 2015 to a two-year entry-level contract. He was assigned to Grand Rapids where he had a solid season that attracted some attention, mostly positive, from Red Wings management, press, and fans.
By the numbers
Russo’s numbers tell a great story of a player whose game has improved every season. Even his shortened 3rd season with the University of Notre Dame was an improvement offensively over his first two seasons. The 41 points in his senior year with Notre Dame was good for 2nd on the team, 1st in the league for goals by a defenceman and 1 point shy of tying for 1st in the league for points by a defenceman.
In his first season with the Griffins, Russo was a bright spot on the blueline, both offensively and defensively. He led team defensemen with his 39 points and was 6th overall on the team. The stat that got him the most attention as a rookie defenseman in the AHL was his plus/minus. I know, I know – this is not a stat that we like to talk about like it means anything, but his plus-40 rating is quite eye-opening and hard to ignore.
Russo’s high number of assists indicates that he can move the puck well. And what does everyone talk about the Red Wings needing? A good puck-moving defenceman. At 6’ and 190 lbs, Russo will have to fill out a bit more to compete that the NHL level, but that’s an achievable goal for a kid with this much talent.
Unfortunately for him, Detroit’s blueline is a mess. With Ericsson and Kronwall locked into terrible contracts until the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons respectively, two of the six D spots are gone. Then you’ve got Mike Green who is deservedly holding down a top-4 spot and a new contract coming for Danny DeKeyser – that’s two more spots gone. Finally, rounding out the top 6 are Marchenko who just signed a new contract and Smith who has one more year left on his deal. Last but not least, Xavier Ouellet is no longer waiver-eligible and is expected to find himself with the club at some point this year.
With rumours swarming that Ken Holland might be looking to trade the Red Wings overstock of forwards for a top-4 defenceman, the jury is out on what this D-core is going to look like in the coming years. Will Russo be a part of it? Maybe. But as one of the Red Wings top defence prospects who’s a little older, he may be packaged up into a deal to bring a more NHL-ready defenceman to the club.
I wouldn’t be upset if this happened. Would you?