Grading Detroit Red Wings’ 2020 NHL draft class: Lucas Raymond should be pillar of rebuild

Detroit Free Press

Helene St. James
 
| Detroit Free Press

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Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman expressed hope after the 2020 NHL draft that he increased the odds that “a few of them become NHL players,” by making 12 selections.

The ones that are likeliest to drive the rebuild in a few years are winger Lucas Raymond, defenseman William Wallinder and center Theodor Niederbach. They project as high-impact players, gifted skaters with elite skill sets and high hockey IQ.

They’re the primary reason Yzerman earns an A-minus for his second draft since he was named GM in April 2019. He made three trades to add to the 10 picks with which he entered the two-day event and add one more to his haul in the 2021 draft.

[ Wings’ draft class 2020: Plenty of fresh faces and one familiar one ]

The 2020 class numbered Raymond at No. 4, Wallinder at No. 32, Niederbach at No. 51, forward Cross Hanas at No. 55, defenseman Donovan Sebrango at No. 63, defenseman Eemil Viro at No. 70, forward Sam Stange at No. 97, goaltender Jan Bednar at No. 107, defenseman Alex Cotton at No. 132, defenseman Kyle Aucoin at No. 156, forward Kienan Draper at No. 187 and forward Chase Bradley at No. 203.

Raymond is the type of player who does everything well, and it’s tempting to already picture him on a line with Filip Zadina. Raymond (5-foot-11, 170 pounds) is already a good forechecker and crafty with the puck (and at stealing it) and will only get better as his body matures. He’s on a good development path where he is, playing with Frolunda in Sweden’s top hockey league.

On the subject of projecting way ahead, I’m excited about Wallinder (and not just because his name sounds like he should be a detective in a Nordic noir crime show in his spare time). Wallinder sizes up nicely with Yzerman’s first pick in the 2019 draft, defenseman Moritz Seider. Both are 6-4, weigh around 200 pounds and are excellent skaters. Seider shoots right and Wallinder, left. These two could anchor Detroit’s blue line corps for a decade. 

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The defense depth was further bolstered by Sebrango, Viro and Cotton. Sebrango looks like an old-school hockey player, the type that’ll take what physicality an opponent doles out and return twofold. He’s got a nose for the offensive side of the game, too, as does Viro.

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How Donovan Sebrango found out he was drafted by Red Wings

Detroit Red Wings draft pick Donovan Sebrango on a Zoom call, Oct. 7, 2020.

Adding those guys to last year’s crop of Antti Tuomisto and Albert Johansson, Yzerman has greatly improved the Wings’ depth at that position.

Niederbach is a smart, two-way playmaker, potentially someone who can play in the top six. 

Bednar (6-4, 196 pounds) could be the sleeper pick of the later rounds. He’s athletic for a goaltender and plays with a lot of confidence. He arguably already can be considered one of the top goaltender prospects in the organization, because that’s a very weak area. None of the ones in the fold — Filip Larsson, Keith Pretruzzelli or Victor Brattstrom — are remotely anywhere near even being considered for a job in Detroit. Bednar won’t be seen in North America for a while, but at least he brings fresh hope to the franchise.

We won’t know how good this draft class really is for two, three, probably five years, but in the immediate aftermath, Yzerman looks like he’s bolstered the rebuild.

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. 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.

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Red Wings prospect Eemil Viro glad to be drafted by “the Y name”

Detroit Red Wings draft pick Eemil Viro on a Zoom call, Oct. 7, 2020.

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