The 2019 NHL entry draft has now come and gone and the Red Wings walked out with a collection of prospects to add to the pipeline. In total the club made eleven selections, previously owning ten before trading back in the fifth round. The draft picks came from all over the globe — spanning from Sherwood Park, Alberta, to Mannheim, Germany.
Somewhat interesting was none came from the CHL. Instead, European-born players were a prominent fixture in the Red Wings 2019 draft class. They selected four Swedes, one Finn, one German, and one Russian. The full list of their selections can be seen below:
A brief overview and I think it is pretty clear what direction the scouting staff was going for. In a way, this draft reminds me of their 2017 iteration: skill players who are tough to play against. The difference being, however, there are more bets on pure skill, rather than hard skill.
The selection of wingers Robert Mastrosimone and Albin Grewe represent that quite well. Both plays are known for their competitiveness and tenacity, but have the skill to make plays. Mastrosimone is a talented goal scorer with a strong work ethic and bulldog mentality. Grewe is a speedy forward with a nasty side — receiving comparison to noted pest Brad Marchand. The 2017 draft included forwards Zach Gallant and Lane Zablocki, both players who lacked dynamic skill to warrant their top-100 selections. The scouting staff also learned their lesson with CHL players after losing the draft rights of Gallant and Zablocki after just two seasons. The Red Wings will have up until 2023 to sign Mastrosimone and Grewe before losing their rights.
The Red Wings also took more shots at risky players. They took undersized forwards in Ethan Phillips and Kirill Tyutyayev, both of whom are projects. If they turn out, great, if they don’t, oh well. Those type of home run swings are what you want to see in the middle rounds. Looking back at the 2017 draft, the picks of Cole Fraser and Reilly Webb were baffling because neither had high upside. Their change in philosophy has been evident, as seen with the draft pick of Otto Kivenmaki a year ago in the 7th round.
Elmer Soderblom was another intriguing pick. While he is a behemoth — standing in at 6’7” — he is another home run swing. He has high-end skill and was once considered a top-62 talent. He just happens to be a huge, but he is not a safe pick by any means. In fact, I’d call him one of the biggest projects in the entire draft.
The defense was also addressed. This draft was pretty consistent compared to past ones when it comes to blue-liners. Detroit likes to target defensemen with size. All five of the D-men they drafted are 6’0” or taller. The last time the Wings have taken a sub 6-foot defensemen was Vili Saarijarvi in 2016. The last 17 defenders they’ve taken have been 6’0” or bigger, with 12 of them being at least 6’2”.
The defenders Steve Yzerman & co. chose all fit into a similar mold. They went bold by taking Moritz Seider 6th overall because of his all-around game and untapped offensive potential. If Seider becomes the top-2 D-man they’ve coveted for so long, no one will be criticizing his draft slot.
Antti Tuomisto plays a similar style of game to Seider. Solid puck mover with size and plays with an edge, although doesn’t have the offensive abilities of Seider. Albert Johansson, Cooper Moore, and Gustav Berglund do the same as well, albeit, not to the same extent. The critique I have with this group is there is not a pure bet on skill and upside, something I thought they could have gotten with a player like Billy Constantinou, Dom Fensore, or Jordan Spence. They aren’t “safe” picks per say, but I feel they left some upside on the table. None of them posses a high-end offensive ability.
But that doesn’t mean risks weren’t taken. I always like a little risk in a draft, although they didn’t take the traditional ones that benefit long-term. Seider is the highest drafted player out of the DEL (and the first taken in the top round) ever, so no player has ever been in his position. Do they send him back to Germany, an unknown developmental league? Tuomisto reportedly wants to come to North America to play college hockey next season, but is currently uncommitted. That is something that needs to be sorted out, or else he’ll return to a rough situation in Assat. Grewe has a history of concussions, which obviously isn’t ideal.
Speaking of the Grewe concussion history, he missed a portion of this past season because of one. Based on comments from European scout Hakan Andersson, I believe this is the play where Grewe sustained the concussion:
Hopefully this won’t be a reoccurring issue with Grewe. That might be a tough task, however, as he likes to play a free wheeling style.
My overall takeaways from the Red Wings 2019 draft class is they targeted feisty, skilled players. They added kids who will make them a more intimidating team. Players who give them an identity. While they didn’t fully commit to bruising, physical hockey, these players have some tenacity in their games. None of the players have major concerns that would lead you to avoid them, and there was some upside. At the same rate, I thought they lost some value in where they took some of these players. With the way the board was setting up, they may not have had much of a choice, but that still doesn’t change the value they got.
If I were to grade the Red Wings 2019 draft, I’d give them a solid C to C+. Could have done better, could have done worse. I don’t think any of these selections will blow up in their face either. Some of the picks have potential to blossom and make this an A class, but that is a big if.