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Photo Credit: Nick Seguin

WN MONDAY MAILBAG: IT’S (ALMOST) HRONEK TIME!

With the 2018 trade deadline having come and gone, questions about the team have shifted from focusing on the present to focusing on the future. With eight picks through the first four rounds and eleven picks total, the Wings have more draft picks than any other team at the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. After last Monday’s deadline, it became clear that Red Wings management has also started to focus on the future. What will this team look like in three years? What about five years? With the current team on a non-playoff trajectory once again this season, fans are looking forward to the large pool of prospects the team has stocked up.

The Wings have so many prospects in Grand Rapids knocking at the doors of Little Caesars Arena that it’s hard to pick just one. Certainly, any injury to a forward will warrant a call-up for Dominic Turgeon, but I can’t help but wonder what Evgeny Svechnikov looks like this year. Turgeon’s gotten five games in already this year and he is currently lighting up the AHL, so a call-up for him is certainly warranted. Still, his next stint should be a permanent one. So to fill an injury, I would love to see what Svechnikov could bring to the table. Despite a slow start to his year, he’s looked really good lately. So good, in fact, that Jeff Blashill told the media that there was likely a call-up in his future to see how his game has progressed.

For the defense, I can’t wait to see what Filip Hronek looks like at the NHL level. He has been tearing it up this year in the AHL and I’m mighty excited about what kind of defenseman he can be for the Red Wings. Realistically, I don’t see it happening, especially with Xavier Ouellet, Nick Jensen, and Luke Witkowski all getting semi-regular minutes on the blue line. This team is pretty much covered if one of their regulars goes down.

Honestly, I don’t think the Wings will fall much lower than they are right now (currently 25th in the league). Montreal is only going to get worse now with both Max Pacioretty and Shea Weber out of the lineup and Detroit is better than the Canucks, the Seantors, the Sabres, and the Coyotes. The only team that they’ll maybe fall below is the Edmonton Oilers, but who really with the way Edmonton has been playing this year.

It’s true that Detroit has a tough stretch of games coming up, but don’t forget that they’ve beat the Vegas Golden Knights, San Jose Sharks, and Anaheim Ducks in previous meetings this year. Same with the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs. This team can turn it on and win games if they really want to. Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me if they won 3-4 games on this stretch. If we want a top-5 pick, it’s going to come down to luck. Nothing is impossible, but this team isn’t intentionally tanking. They are going to try to win these games.

Okay, I’ll bite and play armchair GM here, just please remember that this is what I would do right now, not what I think the organization will do.

First, I would be active at the draft and move at least one roster player. It doesn’t matter if it’s a forward or a defenseman – either way you are clearing cap space and creating a roster spot. Gustav Nyquist would yield the greatest return, maybe a high draft pick (either 2018 or 2019) and a good (not great) prospect. The other move I would make at the draft, depending who’s left on the board, is trading Vegas’ 1st for two seconds. Depending how far Vegas goes in the playoffs, that 1st is going to be in the mid- to late-20s. If there are a couple big names coming up that will still be there in the second, I would make that trade.

Second, I would sign no free agents in the offseason. Not a single one. This means no bringing Mike Green back. It means not taking a run at John Tavares. It means no David Booths or Tomas Vaneks. I don’t even care if have no bait at the trade deadline (because Nyquist would be gone at the draft). At this point, we are past selling and into developing. We have a lot of picks in the next two drafts, we have to start making room for our prospects to keep the pipeline clear.

Third, I would throw some prospects into the mix full-time next season. Don’t send Michael Rasmussen back to junior. Instead, play him on Zetterberg’s wing. It’s time for Evgeny Svechnikov to be thrown into the deep end. Sink or swim, baby. Throw Joe Hicketts on the bottom pair and see what kind of damage he can do. Give Hronek a call-up to start acclimatizing him to the NHL game.

Let’s be clear here: in this scenario, we are going to stink next season. It will be bad. But for the long-term health of this organization, this is needed. We need room for our eight picks from the first four rounds in 2018 and six picks from the first four rounds of 2019.

Yes, just not now. Filip Hronek is having an amazing season in the AHL and will be part of the Griffins playoff run. There’s no reason to throw him into the insanity of the current Red Wings roster. The Wings have one of the hardest schedules in the league between now and April. There will be a lot of losing. There will be a lot of drama. The media will be asking a lot of questions. In my opinion, they should keep Hronek sheltered this season. Let him play out a winning season with the Griffins and give him a shot next year.

The only Grand Rapids defenseman I would be okay with them calling up is Joe Hicketts because he’s already gotten a taste of NHL action this year. For now, be patient and watch some Griffins games. The AHL is good hockey and you’ll get a good look at our young D-men.

This is an interesting question. I think that Rasmussen will make the team as a regular as early as next year. He’s at that weird age where he can’t be assigned to the AHL, so it’s either the NHL or junior and he’s getting to be a little too good for junior. So yes, I think Rasmussen will make the Wings before Hronek and Svechnikov.

It wouldn’t surprise me if next year was Svechnikov’s transition year. Just like Tyler Bertuzzi this year, I could see him starting the year with the Griffins and becoming a regular at some point during the season. It all depends on the roster decisions made in the off-season. If Holland moves another forward, then Svechnikov will almost be a lock for a roster spot.

As for the other two, I would think the organization wants Cholowski to see a full season in the AHL before giving him any NHL duties. Hronek will likely see some time next year, but Cholowski’s still got some proving to do. So I think Cholo will be the last of the crop to become an NHL regular.

This tweet was cut off and the second tweet read:

“…the playoffs next year?”

The answer to this is no. Despite what we all want, these two players are not the rookie saviors who will break into this league and lead the Red Wings to the playoffs. Hell, there’s a good chance that neither of them are on the team next year! It’s time to start wrapping our heads around the fact that next year is a write-off. It has to be. The team has too many bad contracts to ride out. Once they are out from Kronwall, Witkowski, Nyquist, and Jensen’s deals, all expiring at the end of next year, we can start focusing on winning again.

There’s a good chance they don’t make the playoffs the year after, too. And that’s okay. With the way they’ve acquired draft picks, they are well on their way to building a contender. But it’s going to take some time and it’s going to require our patience. Step one to this many step process is almost upon us: The Entry Draft. Get hyped for that.