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Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Red Wings Midseason Prospect Stock Report: AHL

Let’s face it: This Red Wings season is a lost cause. The NHL team sits in the cellar of the league standings and most fans have already turned their attention to the Draft Lottery in April. There isn’t much excitement in many of the team’s games and it is easy to get a general feeling of gloom. That’s why it’s important to keep an eye on the organization’s prospects, to examine the Red Wings of the future across a plethora of professional and junior hockey leagues. And in helping you do so, I present to you the WingsNation midseason prospect stock report. We here at WingsNation have kept a spreadsheet going of the stats of every Red Wings prospect and editor-in-chief Cameron Kuom has been issuing monthly updates on the prospects.

What I am attempting to do over the course of three articles is to tie it altogether, giving a small blurb on every single prospect, indicating whether their season has exceeded expectations (stock up), met expectations (stock steady), or fallen short of expectations (stock down). These will be based on a combination of statistical performance, written anecdotes, video scouting, and in some cases, scouting with the help of other sources, particularly our friends at Griffins Nest, who have a far better sense of on-ice intangibles and development when it comes to AHL prospects than I do. Combining all of these factors, my goal is to give the readers a sense of where every prospect in the system stands halfway through the 2019-20 season.

Today we have prospects playing in the AHL up. This is the second part of a three part series. Part one can be read here.

Joe Hicketts, D

Team Age GP G A P
Grand Rapids (AHL) 23 28 1 15 16

I was hesitant to include Hicketts on this list because it’s more or less evident to me what the 23-year-old is at this point in time: A career AHLer. He’s played 22 NHL games over three seasons, including six this year and has never showed the ability to consistently hack it as an NHL player. On the flip side, his offensive production in Grand Rapids remains stellar and there’s no reason to think that the fan favorite won’t be able to play in the AHL for a long time. But the NHL? That’s probably never happening.

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Stock: Down, by default

Taro Hirose, LW

Team Age GP G A P
Detroit (NHL) 23 23 2 5 7
Grand Rapids (AHL) 23 14 4 6 10

Hirose was unable to keep up his strong NHL pace from the end of last year during the first few months of the season in Detroit and so he was sent down to Grand Rapids. His offense has looked strong, leaving him in the unenviable position of being among the top offensive players in the AHL but not good enough to stick in the NHL right now. It seems as though the Michigan State product will get a call-up to the Red Wings again at some point this season, but for now, the 2019-20 campaign has been a harsh smack of reality for those that thought Hirose was a bonafide NHLer.

Stock: Down

Ryan Kuffner, LW

Team Age GP G A P
Grand Rapids (AHL) 23 24 6 2 8

Kuffner has spent the entire season in Grand Rapids, where he has been able to bank some goals but has not made a huge impact offensively altogether. After signing as an undrafted free agent out of Princeton and going pointless in 10 NHL games last Spring, Kuffner has yet to really make his mark in pro hockey. He’s had some strong moments on the Griffins’ powerplay but his career in pro hockey overall has not left much confidence that he’ll be a piece of Detroit’s future.

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Stock: Down

Filip Larsson, G

Team Age SV% GAA Record
Grand Rapids (AHL) 21 .843 4.01 2-5-0
Toledo (ECHL) 21 .886 3.04 1-2-0

To say that Larsson’s transition to pro hockey has been a bumpy one would be putting it lightly. He’s made just 10 starts across both the AHL and ECHL in a year that has included a demotion and injuries. All that said, we should not panic. There is a lot of adjusting to do and while this has been far rockier than anticipated, we must be patient, especially with a goalie like Larsson.

The folks at Griffins Nest have called out inconsistency as the biggest concern with Larsson, as it’s easy to tell when the netminder is off his game, often leading to an avalanche of goals. The most important trait to look for in the second half of the season will be whether Larsson can stay healthy for a more extended period and become a more consistent player. For now, it’s a stock down but there is still plenty of time for Larsson. 

Stock: Down

Gustav Lindstrom, D

Team Age GP G A P
Grand Rapids (AHL) 21 37 0 4 4

Lindstrom was a surprising pick in the early 2nd round of the 2017 NHL Draft and he had a solid but unremarkable career in Sweden the last two years. This season in Grand Rapids has been no difference, with Lindstrom establishing himself as a defensive, stay-at-home defender. The folks at Griffins Nest have noted his troubles adapting from the European style of play to the AHL. While he is a physical player, he also has a small sample size with limited ice-time and it’s unclear if his offense will ever flourish.

As a result, it’s tough to know what his projection is at this point, or if the Red Wings’ new leadership team values him as much as the Ken Holland/Tyler Wright group did, but the goal now probably should be to be a 3rd pair NHL player. That, however, will probably be a bit down the line, as Lindstrom is not NHL ready at this time. 

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Stock: Steady

Chase Pearson, C

Team Age GP G A P
Grand Rapids (AHL) 22 33 4 5 9

In his first year in the AHL after 3 years of college hockey, Pearson is classified as a defensive center prospect and so his low offensive output is not totally unexpected. Griffins Nest have remarked that Pearson’s biggest issue has been fighting for playing time on such a talented AHL roster, but there is optimism about his style of play, being placed into the bucket of prospects alongside Christoffer Ehn and Dominic Turgeon as a future fourth-line center option. His face-off game is strong and maybe his most prominent redeeming quality, but it would be nice to see him produce more offensively to really stand out in that competitive battle of bottom-of-the-lineup players.

Stock: Slightly down

Michael Rasmussen, C

Team Age GP G A P
Grand Rapids (AHL) 20 10 2 7 9

This season takes the cake for the most frustrating of any prospect, because Rasmussen in the AHL was going to be a fascinating experiment after his bumpy year in the NHL last season. Unfortunately, after a stellar first few games on the Griffins’ top line, Rasmussen has been dealing with an undisclosed injury that has held him out a long time. The good news is that Rasmussen is still young- he turns 21 in April- and power forwards take longer to develop in general.

So this season isn’t going to destroy his development or anything, it’s just very frustrating for Red Wings fans who were looking forward to this season from the big man. There are murmurs that he could return within the next few weeks and that would be huge for his own development. 

Stock: Steady

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Moritz Seider, D

Team Age GP G A P
Grand Rapids (AHL) 18 28 1 11 12
Germany (WJC) 18 7 0 6 6

Seider continues to play his strong, physical style of defense while adding a nice amount of offense to it. While his offensive stats dipped after the first powerplay unit in Grand Rapids cooled off from its scorching start, offense still isn’t Seider’s main calling. Instead, Seider makes his presence known through being an eraser in the defensive end, who is logging heavy minutes in Grand Rapids as an 18-year-old against men.

You can search through hockey prospect twitter to find a litany of clips of Seider playing great defense or leveling people and that’s the name of his game. His offense flourished yet again in a prospect setting with 6 assists in 7 games at the WJC, but again it was the other factors that proved even more impressive. His leadership drew great praise from his teammates.

And, incredibly, he was on the ice for just 1 of the 11 even strength goals that Team Germany allowed in the group stage despite playing over 25 minutes per game, the most of any player in the tourney. That’s how much better Seider made Team Germany when he was on the ice. With some calling him the clear-cut best defender in the tournament and others going so far as to call him the best prospect not currently in the NHL, Seider’s stock continues to rise. Don’t be surprised if he gets a look at the NHL later this season, with a full call-up next season.

Stock: Up (way up since draft day)

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Givani Smith, RW

Team Age GP G A P
Detroit (NHL) 21 8 0 1 1
Grand Rapids (AHL) 21 22 4 9 13

After a tough first year in the AHL, Smith’s offense has picked up and he’s even gotten a few games in Detroit this season. Smith has now equaled his point total from a year ago in ⅓ the games, and this is with a recent slump.

According to Griffins Nest, one of the big changes in Smith’s game over the past year has been restraining himself, being smarter about staying out of the penalty box and focusing on playing a more skillful game. Others have noted an improvement in Smith’s skating, and with slightly more offense combined with his tough, physical style of hockey, there may still be some hope for Smith as a potential member of a future Detroit fourth line. It may not be necessarily likely, but as the folks at Griffins Nest called it, Smith has been one of the bright spots for the Griffins this season. 

Stock: Up

Evgeny Svechnikov, RW

Team Age GP G A P
Grand Rapids (AHL) 23 28 5 8 13

This is a make-it-or-break-it season for the now 23-year-old winger who lost all of last season to a devastating ACL injury. Despite a strong beginning to the season, Svechnikov has struggled to produce for the Griffins like he did in his Grand Rapids rookie season (51 points in 74 games in 2016-17), and no small part of that is the simple fact of it taking awhile to readjust after missing a full year of hockey.

Svechnikov got a small taste of Detroit early in the season, but was not used well and it’s unclear if Yzerman thinks as highly of the Russian as the previous regime, who used a first round pick on him, did. Svechnikov entered the year needing to entrench himself in the Wings’ future plans and has not done so thus far offensively. However, Griffins Nest have noticed his strong effort and willingness to compete at both ends as a Tyler Bertuzzi-type “pest”, and the hope has to be that Svechnikov can start to translate that effort onto the score sheet. 

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Stock: Steady

Dominic Turgeon, C

Team Age GP G A P
Grand Rapids (AHL) 23 37 6 8 14

Turgeon is having an okay third season in Grand Rapids, with his 13 points in 34 games being a pace that would place him in between his promising first season and disappointing second season. As mentioned above, he is in a battle with Ehn and Pearson for the hope of being a future fourth line center and there hasn’t been a ton to jump off the page this year that indicate Turgeon is the best suited for that responsibility. Set to turn 24 in February, he’s in the unfavorable position of falling behind Ehn and Pearson on the prospect depth chart.

Stock: Steady, but not good

Joe Veleno, C

Team Age GP G A P
Grand Rapids (AHL) 19 29 5 7 12
Canada (WJC) 19 6 1 5 6

Transitioning from the QMJHL to the AHL is not easy, and Filip Zadina’s season a year ago (and Anthony Mantha’s before then) can attest to that. That is the growing pain with which Veleno has been dealing with since arriving in Grand Rapids and so patience is necessary. The 12 points in 29 games does not look good, but it’s worth noting that Veleno closed out 2019 with 10 points in his last 17 games after a very slow start, where he was by all accounts, still adjusting to the different style of play in the AHL.

Veleno continues to play an all-around game and our friends at Griffins Nest have particularly lauded his on-ice intelligence as noticeably higher than other AHL rookies. Veleno’s defensive and faceoff responsibilities have also earned him praise in the AHL. The expectation should be a strong second half of the season from Veleno, and whether he can really start to separate himself in the AHL will be something to watch. For now, though, his stock is steady because of transition costs. 

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Stock: Steady

Filip Zadina, RW

Team Age GP G A P
Detroit (NHL) 20 19 5 6 11
Grand Rapids (AHL) 20 20 7 6 13

With Anthony Mantha dealing with prolonged injury issues, Filip Zadina has finally gotten his chance in the NHL and is making it work. With 10 points in 18 NHL games this year, it looks like Zadina may well be graduating from this prospect report sooner rather than later. He got off to a slow start in October with the Griffins, but then went on a tear with 12 points in 12 games, leading to his late November call-up. Since arriving to the show for a second time, Zadina has looked like a far better and more comprehensive hockey player than he did in March, forechecking, playmaking, and playing defense, turning himself into more than just a shooter. At this point it feels like Zadina will probably play the rest of the year in Detroit, and this could be the last time the former #6 overall pick appears on a prospect report. 

Stock: Up