Do the Red Wings really have the 18th best prospect pipeline?

As far as ranking prospects go, it is mostly a crap shoot. Each year people try to guess which team is taking which player in a mock draft and normally it is just someone’s best guess. Corey Pronman of ESPN on the other hand is one of the best in the business. His knowledge is nearly unparalleled, like others, he does miss the mark but more often than not he sees what others don’t. His yearly prospect pipeline rankings are out and they are always a “can’t miss” article. 

He ranked the Red Wings as 18th best pipeline this year compared to 7th the year before. Does Pronman have a point? Have the Wings fallen off that badly?

In regard to the ranking, if a player has played more than 25 games in an NHL season or 50 games total over the course of a few seasons, that player has “graduated”.

Players like Dylan Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou have graduated, which obviously lowers the system slightly but the overall depth and talent of the pipeline was “down” according to Pronman.

On either side of the Wings, they had the Wild at 17th and the Devils at 19th, a couple of clubs that aren’t known for their prospects. They both similarly have a top end prospect or two, after that it is a list of players that couldn’t be named if given the chance.

At one point, Pronman describes the Wings’ pipeline as “pretty good, with several players who have a chance to be quality NHL players, even if there’s no “star” prospect in this system.”

Ouch.

The top two Wings’ prospects in our rankings this summer were Anthony Mantha and Evgeny Svechnikov. Pronman mentions Svechnikov and says he didn’t have the season he was expecting. Making the Red Wings’ ranking even more puzzling. Is Svechnikov rated that highly that he can have a down year and still carry their rankings? The team isn’t brimming with prospect talent but when looking at the rest of the league outside of the top ten, no one has that much talent. 

The fact is, it is tough to develop and draft the right players. The Red Wings had a period of time where they seemingly hit on every seventh round prospect. Those days have past and it isn’t just because of personnel that have left, it is because of the cyclical nature of a salary cap league. 

When your draft position varies, it can make for interesting drafts. When you are stuck in a middling position like Detroit, you will stay in that position until something drastic changes. You almost have to hit on your pick every time you draft. So instead of drafting for a type of player, it needs to be best available every time, regardless of what your draft chart says.

If anything, Pronman’s rankings are a bit generous considering the lack of depth in the system. The prospects drafted this year will likely take longer, as many see them as project-type players. No immediate help is coming outside of a couple of players and they likely won’t see much time in the NHL. 

The team’s stock is at an all-time-low and no reinforcements are on the way. Wouldn’t this be the time to sell? As Ricky Bobby once said: “If you ain’t first, your last”. That silly phrase seems to fit the Red Wings’ who are perfectly content, standing pat and not improving. What happened to the winning culture?

(click here for Pronman’s prospect pipeline rankings which are available to ESPN Insiders)