Considering it’s Easter Weekend, I sent the Wings Nation staff on a bit of an Easter Egg Hunt to find players in the Red Wings system who could be hidden treasures for the team down the road. We hear a lot about the Michael Rasmussens and Filip Hroneks in the Wings’ farm system, but what about the players who aren’t mentioned as much? Surely there’s more than one diamond in the rough to be found. Below, our staff discusses a few players who they think will make an impact for the Red Wings down the road.
The hidden treasure of the Wings prospect pool, to me, is 2017 3rd round pick Keith Petruzzelli. The hopeful heir to Jimmy Howard’s throne, Petruzzelli has all the intangibles that can make him a great NHL net-minder. Playing at Quinnipiac University this past season, things didn’t go so well as he sported a .892 save percentage. However, he came in as a freshman battling for the starter’s role at a very academically demanding school.
He fits the mold of what you look for in an NHL goaltender. He’s got size, standing at 6’5’’ and 181 lbs. He’s technically sound, and doesn’t overly rely on his athleticism, something we didn’t see from past Red Wings goaltender Petr Mrazek, who could never put himself in the proper position.
“The thing about Keith’s depth and style is this: A kid who plays overly aggressive has a brutal transition as the game speeds up, especially a big kid,” [Ken Baumberger] wrote me. “But a big kid who plays deep and gets away with it will have to learn to be more confident in his challenges.” Said TheAthletics Cat Silverman.
And confident he is. The overall feel with Keith is he’s poised with his abilities, and mature beyond his years. He’s all business.
If that’s not good enough for you, he even scored a goal back in his USHL days!
At 24 years old, Libor Sulak is not necessarily the right age to be considered a prospect – but my prospects are high for him in the future. Playing for the Lahti Pelicans in the Finnish Liiga this year, Sulak was able to put up crazy high offensive numbers.
Finishing the season with 9 goals and 32 points in 42 games (0.76 Pts/GP) for a defenceman in Finland is mostly unheard of. As I pointed out in my article earlier this year *link to article*, only two other Under-24 defenceman in the past decade have had better offensive seasons than Sulak did this year – a 23-year-old Erik Karlsson (1.13 Pts/GP) and a 21-year-old Sami Vatanen (0.82 Pts/GP)
Sulak has just recently come over to North America after his team was eliminated from the playoffs in Finland. Currently recovering from an injury, he should be lacing up for the Griffins sometime soon. Time to get excited for the Czech brothers pairing of Libor and Filip.
David Pope was one of the top NCAA players this year and he is graduating from the University of Nebraska-Omaha this Spring. This season, he posted 41 points (20-21-41) in 35 games and 72 points over his Junior and Senior seasons – 69 games.
There has been some concern across Red Wings land that he may not sign with Detroit and elect for free agency in August. This is not the case. Once classes finish, he will begin contract negotiations with Detroit. It’ll be for 2 years and he’ll want to be a part of the Wings future. He will receive a legit shot to make the roster in training camp – during another season of Red Wings woes.
Pope was drafted in the 4th round (109th overall) in 2013, making him 23 years old. His decision to play four seasons in the NCAA greatly paid off. He is a 6’2” 187 lbs left winger. I would imagine Detroit will put him on a workout and nutrition routine this summer to get him a little bigger. He is going to come to training camp motivated to make the team. Keep an eye on him.
Matt Puempel arrived in Grand Rapids in October 2017 as part of the trade that sent Ryan Sproul to the New York Rangers. Since his arrival, Puempel has put up 51 points (22 goals, 29 assists) in 50 games.
A former first round pick by the Ottawa Senators in 2011, Puempel played 52 NHL games for the club that drafted him over the span of three seasons, putting up six points (4 goals, 2 assists). He couldn’t stick on the roster, though, and was eventually traded to New York in 2016-17, where he suited up for 27 games with the Rangers, scoring six times and recording nine points. Since his draft year, Puempel has been a bubble NHL player who is unable to hold down a permanent roster position with a big club, but he’s been one of the Griffins best forwards this year.
In my opinion, he should be near the top of the depth chart and get a chance at holding down a bottom-6 roster spot. He’s certainly somebody who can add depth scoring and help on the penalty kill. Unfortunately for him, he’s behind Evgeny Svechnikov and Dominic Turgeon, both of whom saw NHL time this season, and will likely be leapfrogged by last year’s first round pick Michael Rasmussen, who is proving to be too good to return to the WHL next year.
We don’t hear much about Puempel, but he’s been a big part of the Griffins’ season and I hope he gets a good hard look at next year’s training camp.