Defenseman William Wallinder ‘feels good’ about heading list of Red Wings’ Day 2 selections

Detroit News

Ted Kulfan
| The Detroit News

Detroit — The Red Wings stayed in Sweden with their first several picks of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft — then went for a reach from Texas.

After picking forward Lucas Raymond on Tuesday in the first round, the Wings selected defenseman William Wallinder and center Theodor Niederbach with their first two picks in the second round Wednesday.

With their third second-round pick, at No. 55 overall, the Wings took left wing Cross Hanas.

The stockpiling of draft picks enabled the Wings to take defenseman Donovan Sebrango with their first pick in the third round (63rd overall), a rangy puck-mover who projects as more a defensive defenseman, and after trading with Minnesota, and moving five spots back, the Wings took Finnish defenseman Eemil Viro with the 70th pick overall, in the third round.

In the fourth round, with two selections, the Wings took forward Sam Stange, a 26-goal scorer in Sioux City (USHL) last season who is headed to the University of Wisconsin, and goaltender Jan Bednar with pick No. 107.

The Wings landed a potential late bloomer, defenseman Alex Cotton, with the 132nd pick (fifth round), a player who wasn’t drafted last year though draft-eligible, and returned to junior hockey and flourished, especially offensively (20 goals, 67 points).

Defenseman Kyle Aucoin — son of former NHL defenseman Adrian Aucoin — was selected with the first pick in the sixth round (156th overall). Aucoin is head

In the seventh round, the Wings drafted forward Kienan Draper, son of former Wings forward — and current director of amateur scouting — Kris Draper, who is headed to Miami (Ohio) next season and forward Chase Bradley, who will play at Northeastern.

The first pick Wednesday was a guy many scouts projected to go higher.

With the first pick of the second round, the Red Wings selected Wallinder, a player many NHL mock drafts had going in the first round.

“Of course I was nervous,” Wallinder said of waiting around Wednesday, during a Zoom interview with reporters. “But I was not too upset. I know it doesn’t matter if you go in the first or second rounds. There’s a lot of good players, and the only thing that matters is what you do after the draft. You still keep working hard and going for it. You can’t stop working because you didn’t go in the first round.

“So it really doesn’t matter (where you are drafted); it just feels good to be a player for the Detroit Red Wings.”

Wallinder admitted he had plenty of communication with the Wings through the process, so he had an inkling they were interested.

“I talked to them (a lot),” Wallinder said. “I could see it coming, and it feels good.”

A 6-foot-4 191-pound defenseman who was generally rated in the top-20 of most mock drafts, Wallinder is a mobile defenseman who is stronger offensively than defensively. but will be given time to mature and grow physically.

“I’m working a lot on my positioning in the defensive zone,” Wallinder said. “I have improved it a lot and I’m just trying to get better at things. That’s important, to be good at everything.”

More: Niyo: Everybody loves Raymond, but especially the Red Wings

Wallinder was the second consecutive Swede chosen by the Wings, having picked forward Lucas Raymond Tuesday with their first-round selection.

Not to mention, the long list of Hall of Fame-caliber Swedish players who have played for the Wings, including defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom.

“I know about them, I watched them when I was younger,” Wallinder said. “Everyone knows who Lidstrom is; he’s the best Swedish defenseman who ever played.”

Niederbach (5-foot-11, 172-pounds) is a center who was the leading scorer on his junior team after missing all of 2018-19 with a knee injury.

The Wings have been looking for smart, instinctive players and scouts rave about Niederbach’s decision-making on the ice. His passing ability is considered a strength, and his ability to find open men on the ice.

Some scouts are nervous about his average speed, though Niederbach’s knee injury might have contributed to that.

Niederbach stressed the knee problems are behind him.

“I feel real good now, the injury doesn’t bother me now,” Niederbach said. “The start of last season was special because I didn’t know what to expect from myself. But the season went real well and I feel much stronger now and hopefully I can do even better.”

Still, missing an entire season was difficult mentally.

“It was real tough to know you’re going to miss a whole season of hockey,” Niederbach said. “Especially when you have moved to a new club and new town, so it was real tough, especially in the beginning. But after six or seven months, when I went on the ice again, you can say I saw the light in the darkness.

“This summer I could train real well, did everything health wise, and I feel much stronger now than last season.”

Hanas is a 6-foot-1, 167-pounder from Highland Village, Texas, who had 22 goals and 27 assists (49 points) in 60 games for Portland (WHL).

Most mock drafts had Hanas listed as a probable third- or fourth-round pick, but generally liked his goal-scoring potential and ability to make big plays.

A Texan with Canadian roots in his family, Hanas grew up in the game in the Dallas Stars’ youth league and was friends with sons of former Dallas Stars players Joe Nieuwendyk and Stephane Robidas.

“Dallas area hockey is actually growing and there’s a lot of real passion for the game,” Hanas said. “For me, obviously, I have some Canadian roots and have a lot of people who played hockey in my family so it was always in my blood. But here in Dallas, we have a lot of great coaches and it’s awesome.”

Free-agent news 

The Wings did not qualify restricted free agents defenseman Madison Bowey and forwards Brendan Perlini and Christoffer Ehn.

They did qualify Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi and Adam Erne. They are negotiating long-term deals with Mantha and Bertuzzi.

Bowey and Ehn were mild surprises to be declined, and headed to unrestricted free agency Friday.

Obtained in a trade for defensemen Nick Jensen in 2019, Bowey, 25 ,never found the consistency needed to earn a permanent spot in the lineup.

Bowey had 17 points (three goals, 14 assists) in 53 games last season, ranking only behind Filip Hronek among defensemen.

Seider to Sweden 

General manager Steve Yzerman confirmed that defenseman Moritz Seider will leave his German team and play in Sweden, in the coming days or weeks.

The German pro league has suspended games until December. Going to Sweden will enable Seider to continue playing and developing.

Yzerman said he will get into specifics later, given certain things weren’t official.

Being Seider will play in Sweden, he’ll most likely remain there the entire season given the Swedish Elite League is preferring prospects play there entire season rather than leave for the NHL whenever the regular season begins in either the NHL or minor league American League.

Another Draper 

Kris Draper was proud to see his son Kienan drafted but noted all the work is ahead of the younger Draper.

Draper and Yzerman both confirmed area scouts pushed to select the younger Draper, who was on the Wings’ board.

“He’s continued to get better, and he’s earned his position on our draft board by getting better,” Kris Draper said.

Twitter: @tkulfan

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