Now that they know where they pick, the Detroit Red Wings can narrow their list of which top prospects they most covet to boost the rebuild.
The short answer is the best player available when general manager Steve Yzerman announces the sixth selection at the NHL draft, which will be held virtually July 23-24. The Wings’ position held steady in this week’s draft lottery, which makes a change from a four-year streak of being pushed back.
In his first two years as GM, Yzerman chose defenseman Moritz Seider with the sixth pick in 2019, and forward Lucas Raymond with the fourth pick in 2020. The Wings are not, Yzerman reiterated this week, in a position to draft specific to a position because “we need help in every area.”
While it has been challenging to scout over the past year because the pandemic wreaked havoc on leagues everywhere, Yzerman has confidence the Wings are ready.
“Wherever there was hockey being played, we tried to have people there,” he said. “Or have access to watch video. Every team is in the same boat. We have to try to find some players based on what we’ve seen. At this stage we are as prepared as we can be.
“I’ve seen most of the kids that are in the top 10, that we think are in the top 10. You’re going to get a pretty good prospect. We’ll go from there.”
Here are six picks that make sense at sixth:
F William Eklund
Eklund (5 foot 10, 176 pounds) had 11 goals and 12 assists in 40 games with Djurgarden, and was named rookie of the year in the Swedish Hockey League. He’s equal parts speed and skill, and sees the ice well. An injury during an exhibition prevented him from playing for Sweden at the World Championship.
F Dylan Guenther
Guenther (6-1, 175) scored 12 goals, six of them on power plays, among 24 points for the Edmonton Oil Kings (Western Hockey League). He’s an agile scorer who likes to shoot the puck and has a knack for stepping up at key moments.
D Luke Hughes
He’s the third and, sadly, last of the Hughes brothers. (The Wings passed on Quinn in 2018, and missed out on Jack in 2019). He’s 6-2, 184 pounds, and recorded 34 points in 38 games with the NTDP U-18. He’s committed to play at Michigan, which is the same path Quinn took after being selected at No. 7 by the Canucks. He’s a good skater who plays a smart, well-rounded game.
F Kent Johnson
The Wings need a No. 1 center, and Johnson could fit that bill. He’s 6-f1, 184 pounds, and while he played left wing this season at Michigan, he’s a natural middleman. Johnson recorded nine goals and 18 assists in 26 games, and led the team with three power play goals. He’s a good skater with a high hockey IQ, a creative sniper who makes his linemates better.
F Mason McTavish
McTavish (6-1, 207 pounds) is a powerful skater and solid two-way player who scored nine goals and two assists in 13 games while on loan to EHC Olten in the Swiss League, adding seven points in four playoff games. He filled in as captain for Canada at the World Juniors, where he produced five goals and six assists in seven games.
G Jesper Wallstedt
The Wings don’t have a high-end super-promising goaltending prospect, and Wallstedt could change that. He’s 6-3, 214 pounds, and hails from Vasteras, Sweden. He’s nimble on his skates, and plays with a calm beyond his 18 years. He posted a 2.23 goals-against average and .908 save percentage in 22 games with Lulea in the Swedish Hockey League.
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 is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.