It’s no secret the Red Wings have been in rebuild mode for years now. GM Steve Yzerman has made it clear that he believes in building through the draft, and this year, he’ll have twelve opportunities. However, if Detroit wants to end the rebuild sooner than later, they need to start by taking some swings in this draft.
In a draft without a supposed franchise player, the safest bet has become the consensus number one: Owen Powers. He’s not the superstar talent that the NHL has had at the number one spot through previous years (The Connor McDavids, Auston Matthews and Jack Eichel types), but he’s sifted towards the top because of his higher floor. Powers is a great fit for an organization looking for a safe, solid defenseman to build a defensive core around (Looking at you, Buffalo).
Because many prospects had altered or cancelled seasons due to Covid-19, many of the prospects near the top are placed there because of the safety they provide. But if you’re the Red Wings, the focus this year can’t be safety, it needs to be upside.
More Elite Talent
To oversimplify Detroit’s rebuild, what they are lacking now is elite talent. The Wings’ prospect pipeline is already stuffed with solid players that will land in the NHL within a few years. Joe Veleno already found his way onto the roster this year, and a few others will make the jump to Detroit next season.
The problem is, many of these players are similar to Veleno: good (Or great) hockey players that will provide excellent depth, nothing game breaking. The only forward that looks to have true elite first-line potential is Lucas Raymond. The rest will likely slot comfortably into the Wing’s middle and bottom lines.
This year, there aren’t any surefire elite, game-breaking prospects, even as high as the number one overall pick. However, there are players that show flashes of it. Players like Kent Johnson, Dylan Guenther and William Eklund all have bits and pieces of a top-end talent, but each player also has a risky low-floor. Essentially, each could very well be a bust.
On the flipside, you have a player like Matthew Beniers; not much elite upside, but already projected as a very solid NHL center.
At this point in the rebuild, Detroit should not be drafting for low-floors, the need to start swinging for the fences. Although this year’s draft presents challenges, it should not change the draft philosophy: draft for upside. It might be riskier for the Red Wings to draft Johnson over someone like Simon Edvinsson, but it could be the swing-for-the-fences move that ends up with a home run.
The Red Wings don’t lack depth: they lack league leaders. Here’s to hoping Yzerman can continue to work some magic and knock one out of the park.