The Red Wings are entering uncharted waters. The Ken Holland era has come to a close and the Yzerman regime is set to administer their first draft in Detroit. With ten draft picks at their disposal — including four in the top 60 — a good first impression would really set the tone on what is to come under this new leadership. The 2019 draft will truly be the first significant impact Yzerman will have on the franchise as general manager.
However, some familiar faces are still in the fold such as scouting directors Tyler Wright and Hakan Andersson, as well as assistant general managers Kris Draper and Ryan Martin. The amount of influence the aforementioned names and the entire scouting department will have on Yzerman is uncertain. Because of this the Red Wings draft will be quite unpredictable.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t try!
Here are four of my best guesses of what may transpire in Vancouver:
The Red Wings draft a CHL player at 6
It’s no secret Yzerman loves poaching talent from the CHL. His track record speaks for itself — drafting 34 players from the CHL over his nine years in Tampa Bay, compared to 33 players from anywhere else combined. His first draft pick in every draft was used to select someone from the CHL.
This same philosophy has been present in Detroit. In every draft since Wright took over as director of amateur scouting in 2014, the team has picked a draft eligible from the CHL with one of their first two draft picks. Also note worthy, they’ve taken four CHL produced talents out of the six first rounders they’ve had during Wright’s tenure.
With the Red Wings holding the 6th overall pick, it seems likely they opt to take a player out of Canada with their first pick for the third consecutive year. The names that have been thrown around as possibilities in this range include Bowen Byram, Dylan Cozens, Peyton Krebs, and Kirby Dach. I wouldn’t be shocked if Philip Tomasino lands this high on some teams list. Gun to my head, if I have to predict who gets the nod I’m going with Cozens. The big center from Lethbridge is a high character kid who competes hard and skates like the wind.
The Red Wings don’t draft a goaltender
The Red Wings are in dire need to find Jimmy Howard’s long-term successor in net, and with just a bunch of maybes in the pipeline something needs to happen. This draft has a plethora of options, in fact its one of the strongest crops in recent memory. Spencer Knight is the best teenage American goaltender we’ve seen in years. Supporting him in this class are legit prospects in Cameron Rowe, Hugo Alnefelt, and Taylor Gauthier, among others.
One of the stand-out moves from Yzerman’s time in Tampa Bay was the bold decision to draft goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy in the first round, and it has obviously been a smashing success. I’m sure Stevie is drooling over the thought of Knight donning the winged wheel, but the reality is the price will be too steep to pay. Knight will surely hear his name called early in round one, and I’m not too sure the Red Wings have the draft capital to move up and grab him. They have three second round picks, but I can’t imagine a few lottery tickets will be enough to pry away a high-end goalie prospect.
Missing out on Knight won’t open up the board for the Wings to target other net-minders. The way I see it, with the goaltending position being so subjective in terms of what to value, as well as the difficulty to project their development, Yzerman opts to avoid the position entirely. It’s not inconceivable to believe he doesn’t fully trust/agree with the scouting staff he is inheriting, thus choosing to wait a year to find his answer in the crease once he fully establishes his own scouting department.
The Red Wings draft a two-way defensemen
The Red Wings farm system is taking a hit in the size department. They are expected to lose the rights of five draftees from the 2017 draft, which includes Cole Fraser and Reilly Webb — both being defensemen with size. In recent years the Wings have made an attempt at beefing up the farm system with solid two-way defenders, some examples being Jared McIsaac, Gustav Lindstrom, and Malte Setkov.
My gut feeling is they take another swing on a blue-liner with some size and the ability to defend well. There are many to go around this draft. Some day two options that scouts are excited about include Tobias Bjornfot, Vladislav Kolyachonok, Mikko Kokkonen, Case McCarthy, Daniil Misyul, Matthew Robertson, and Alex Vlasic. In the case of McCarthy (pun intended) the Red Wings should have a very good read on him, as he billets with assistant GM Ryan Martin and his family.
If they are interested in going after one in the later rounds, they could take their pick at Layton Ahac, Ronnie Attard, Ben Brinkman, William Francis, Kaedan Korczak, Nikita Okhotyuk, Henry Thrun, Antti Tuomisto, or Michael Vukojevic.
The Red Wings generate trade buzz
It only makes sense that Yzerman would want to make a splash early on in his reunion with the Red Wings. Once Detroit makes their selection at 6th overall they’ll have a lot of waiting to do until the order of claim reaches pick 35. With all that spare time, Stevie will have the chance to work the phones and meet face-to-face with his fellow GMs.
The trade market is just starting to pick up, with the name most intriguing to Red Wings fans being Jacob Trouba. But I could also see something getting done in terms of a Ryan Callahan deal. Taking Callahan off the hands of the salary cap tight Lightning with a draft pick or prospect as compensation would certainly be in the Red Wings best interest.
No matter what it is, big or small, I’ve got the feeling Yzerman will have something up his sleeve on draft day.