| Detroit Free Press
Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman talks draft, free agency – and yoga
Detroit Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman in a Zoom call on Oct. 1, 2020.
The last time the Detroit Red Wings picked fourth in a draft was in 1983, right after Mike Ilitch had bought the team and installed Jimmy Devellano as general manager.
Nearly four decades later, the man the Wings drafted that day has to hope his selection in 2020 does even a fraction of what he did for the franchise during his Hall of Fame career.
Steve Yzerman has a chance to add a player who will move the needle on the rebuild — who will help lead the team toward being a contender again. In addition to the fourth overall selection, the Wings have three picks in the second round and 10 in total.
The draft, delayed by more than three months because of COVID-19, will take place virtually, with Round 1 on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN) and Rounds 2-7 on Wednesday (11:30 a.m. ET; NHLN). Yzerman will be ensconced in a conference room along with select members of his inner circle, but most of the Europe- and Canada-based staff will join via Zoom.
The long delay has allowed for extra preparation.
“Our scouts within their area certainly had a lot of time over the course of the summer to go back and watch and review,” Yzerman said. “And then one, not only to reaffirm their beliefs but two, over the course of time, just to kind of refresh their memories and prepare.”
Yzerman plays his cards close to his chest, but he did say Oct. 1 that the Wings won’t determine their first selection based on position, but on the player they deem the best available.
Alexis Lafreniere is the consensus pick to be chosen first overall, and fellow forwards Tim Stützle and Quinton Byfield are projected to be the next two players drafted. If one of them is available after the New York Rangers (first pick), the Los Angeles Kings (second) and the Ottawa Senators (third) make their picks, that’s who the Wings should select.
Presuming those three players are gone, here’s who I would select — in order — at fourth overall:
1. Marco Rossi
He is an incredibly gifted playmaker, a center with an eye for creative passes. Rossi (5-foot-9, 183 pounds/) led the Canadian Hockey League (the organization that encompasses the Ontario Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Western Hockey League) with 81 assists and 120 points in 56 games. He’s an unselfish player who makes those around him better, and projects to slot in nicely on a line with Filip Zadina.
2. Jamie Drysdale
I had a hard time not putting him first because he’s the top-ranked defenseman in the draft by the NHL’s Central Scouting bureau, and projects as a futureNo. 1. Drysdale (5-11, 175) is a mobile puck mover with an eye for outlet passes and he’s good defensively, too. He shoots right, and the Wings already have offensively gifted right-side defensemen either in the lineup or in the system in Moritz Seider, Filip Hronek and Antti Tuomisto.
3. Cole Perfetti
He’s another highly skilled center. Perfetti (5-10, 177) produced 111 points (37 goals, 74 assists) in 61 games with Saginaw. He has great vision and is a threat to shoot and to pass. He’s a well-rounded high-hockey-IQ guy who could form a formidable 1-2 punch down the middle with Dylan Larkin.
4. Jake Sanderson
The rangy defender (6-2, 185) is a strong skater with sound defensive instincts and leadership qualities (he captained the USA Hockey National Team Development Program U-17 and U-18 teams the past two seasons). Sanderson shoots left, so he further appeals in shoring up that side of the defense. Potentially Sanderson, Seider and Hronek would power the Wings defense for the next decade-plus.
5. Alexander Holtz
The 18-year-old right wing played most of last season in Sweden’s top league, producing 16 points in 35 games with Djurgarden, best among players 18 and under in the SHL. Holtz (6-0, 192) is a bit unusual for a European in that he has a shoot-first mentality. He shoots right, which the Wings need, and he has a hard, accurate shot.
6. Lucas Raymond
The 18-year-old left wing (though he shoots right) also played most of 2019-20 in the SHL, registering 10 points in 33 games with Frolunda. Raymond (5-11, 170) is another high-hockey-IQ guy, plays with physicality, and is responsible in his own end.
7. Yaroslav Askarov
He’s the top-ranked goaltender in the draft, and the Wings do need someone to be their no. 1 guy, but I have hard time passing on a skater at fourth.
Contact Helene St. James at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings will be published October 13 by Triumph Books. To order, go to Amazon or Barnes & Noble.