Detroit Red Wings 2018 NHL draft review: Top picks poised to boost rebuild

Detroit Free Press

This is the third of a five-part series examining recent Detroit Red Wings drafts, leading up to the 2021 virtual event, scheduled for July 23-24.

The Red Wings look like they’re going to get a boost from their 2018 NHL draft class over the coming seasons.

There was a great deal of excitement for the Wings at that draft, with their highest pick in three decades and four selections among the first 36 spots.

They had no luck in the draft lottery for a second straight year, bumped back from fifth to sixth because the Carolina Hurricanes moved up nine spots to win the second overall selection. It was the highest the Wings had picked since drafting Keith Primeau at No. 3 in 1990.

CHAMPS: New Free Press book commemorates Red Wings’ 1997 Stanley Cup title

The Wings had two first-round picks, after trading Tomas Tatar at the deadline for the Vegas Golden Knights’ first-round pick, No. 30. The Wings picked again at No. 33 thanks to the Brendan Smith trade from the 2017 deadline, and had their own pick again three spots later.

Their first pick, Filip Zadina, already has established himself in the Wings’ lineup. Joe Veleno returned from a stint in Sweden and showed he’s ready to be a full-timer next season. Jonatan Berggren turned heads in Sweden and is poised to come to the U.S. — either by starting the season in Detroit or by adjusting to North American hockey in Grand Rapids. Jared McIsaac looks ready to make up for all the time spent recovering from injuries since being drafted.

Here is a closer look at each selection.

BLASTS FROM THE PAST

2016: Still waiting for class to greatly impact rebuild

2017: A new chapter for the franchise begins

Round 1: F Filip Zadina

Drafted: No. 6 overall.

Draft year: 44 goals, 38 assists in 57 games with Halifax (QMJHL).

Scouting report: High-end forward with elite playmaking skills.

Buzz: Zadina (6 feet, 190 pounds) was loaned to HC Ocelari Trinec in the Czech Republic last fall. He did well, recording 14 points in 17 games and earning confidence from having spent the long offseason in the gym. The 21-year-old looked noticeably more physical when he returned for the NHL season, chasing down pucks rather than waiting for a teammate to feed him. He looked good coming out of training camp, but came down with COVID-19 in the opening week and spent two weeks in quarantine. Zadina’s numbers weren’t great — six goals, 13 assists in 49 games — but he looked like a more complete player, and that’s what Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman wanted to see at this stage of development.

In hindsight: Zadina had been projected to go as high as third, behind Rasmus Dahlin (No. 1, Buffalo Sabres) and Andrei Svechnikov (No. 2, Carolina Hurricanes), so when he dangled there at No. 6, the Wings pounced. But defenseman Quinn Hughes (No. 7, Vancouver Canucks) was the 2020 Calder Trophy runner-up and leads his draft class with a .75 points-per-game average. He ranks fourth with 97 points in 129 games; Zadina has 37 points in 86 games.

Round 1: F Joe Veleno

Drafted: No. 30 overall.

Draft year:: 22 goals, 57 assists in 64 games with Saint John and Drummondville (QMJHL).

Scouting report: Terrific playmaker who can operate in tight areas.

Buzz: Veleno (6-1, 194) was earmarked for a second season with Grand Rapids, but when it became evident the pandemic would delay hockey leagues in North America, he was loaned to Malmo in the Swedish Hockey League. Veleno used last year’s long offseason to gain strength, and translated that into a more physical, dominant performance. He recorded 11 goals and nine assists in 46 games, and returned to Michigan once his season in Sweden was over. Veleno made a favorable impression in five games with the Wings, scoring a goal and looking like he belonged in the lineup.

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Round 2: F Jonatan Berggren

Drafted: No. 33 overall.

Draft year: 18 goals, 39 assists in 38 games with Skelleftea’s junior league club.

Scouting report: Nice blend of speed and skill and playmaking ability.

Buzz: Berggren (5-11, 183) was beset by injuries (back, shoulder) the first couple years after being drafted, but that down time allowed him to spend time in the weight room, and the results showed this season. He recorded 12 goals and 33 assists in 49 games for Skellefteå in the SHL. He’s coming to North America to earn a spot this fall.

Round 2: D Jared McIsaac

Drafted: No. 36 overall.

Draft year: 9 goals, 38 assists in 65 games with Halifax (QMJHL).

Scouting report: Smart, mobile puck mover.

Buzz: His development has been stalled by multiple shoulder injuries. McIsaac (6-1, 196) was loaned to HPK in Finland’s top league last fall but didn’t last a game. He underwent surgery, which wiped out most of his season, but he did squeeze into 10 games for Grand Rapids. There’s much to like about McIsaac because of how well he skates and how hard he is to play against; maybe he’ll finally get a chance to show it.

Round 3: D Alec Regula

Drafted: No. 67 overall.

Draft year: 7 goals, 18 assists in 67 games with London (OHL).

Scouting report: Defensive type who can play against opposing top line.

Buzz: Regula was included in a rare trade that hasn’t worked in Yzerman’s favor. In October 2019, Yzerman sent Regula (6-4, 207, shoots right) to the Chicago Blackhawks for former first-round pick Brendan Perlini. Regula, 20, recorded four points in 16 games for Chicago’s AHL team this season, and appeared in three games for the Blackhawks. Perlini recorded four points in 39 games in 2019-20 with the Wings and spent last season playing in Switzerland.

Round 3: D Seth Barton

Drafted: No. 81 overall.

Draft year: 6 goals, 27 assists in 49 games with Trail (BCHL).

Scouting report: Very good skater, good size, good puck mover.

Buzz: Barton (6-2, 185) improved in his third year at Massachusetts-Lowell, recording 11 points in 20 games. The right-shot defender joined Grand Rapids in May and earned one assist in four games.

Round 3: G Jesper Eliasson

Drafted: No. 84 overall.

Draft year: 1.93 goals-against average, .930 save percentage in 19 games with Troja-Ljunby in Sweden’s junior-2 level.

Scouting report: Underrated talent, hard worker.

Buzz: Eliason (6-3, 209) was expected to play in the SHL with Farjestad in 2020-21 but was loaned to EC Salzburg, a top-tier league in central Europe. Posted a 2.65 GAA and .916 save percentage in 13 games and a 2.30 GAA and .916 save percentage in four playoff games. Slated to play for Farjestad next season.

Round 4: F Ryan O’Reilly

Drafted: No. 98 overall.

Draft year: 21 goals, 13 assists in 45 games with Madison (USHL).

Scouting report: Good around the net.

Buzz: Recorded three goals and 10 assists in 23 games for Arizona State University this season.

If the name sounds familiar: In 2009 the Colorado Avalanche drafted a forward named Ryan O’Reilly at No. 33. He has multiple 20-goal seasons, and in 2019 won a Stanley Cup championship with the St. Louis Blues, plus the Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP) and Selke Trophy (best defensive forward). The Wings could have had him, too — they held the 32nd pick in that draft, but chose Landon Ferraro, who appeared in 17 games before being placed on waivers in 2016.

Round 6: G Victor Brattstrom

Drafted: No. 160 overall.

Draft year: 1.93 GAA, .918 save percentage in 15 games with Timra (Sweden-2).

Scouting report: Technically sound.

Buzz: Brattstrom (6-5, 198) posted a .903 save percentage and 2.20 GAA in 38 games with KooKoo in Finland’s top league in 2020-21 and a .790 save percentage and 4.00 GAA in one playoff game. Loaned to the Finnish team after playing for Timra in Sweden. (That club was demoted after failing SHL qualifiers in 2019.)

Round 7: F Otto Kivenmaki

Drafted: No. 191 overall.

Draft year: 11 goals, 20 assists in 37 games with Assat jr. (Finland).

Scouting report: Small at 5-8 but skilled and smart.

Buzz: He has been doing well in Finland’s Liiga the past two seasons. Posted six goals and 12 assists in 29 games in 2020-21, improving his points-per-game average to .62. Slated to play for the Lahti Pelicans in Finland next season.

Need something to read?

What: “The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings.”

Author: Helene St. James, who has covered the Red Wings at the Detroit Free Press since 1996. Foreword by Chris Osgood, winner of three Stanley Cups as a Wings goaltender.

Publisher: Triumph Books.

Pages: 336 pages (paperback).

Price: $16.95.

Availability: Available in leading bookstores and online from booksellers, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

About the book: “The Big 50” brings to life the men and moments that made the Red Wings such a dynamic and iconic franchise for nearly a century. The book features never-before-told stories about the greats such as Howe, Yzerman, Lidstrom and Lindsay, the near-greats beloved by fans and the great memories of Fight Night, the Fabulous Fifties, the Team for the Ages, the Grind Line, The Joe and much more.

Get it signed! For a personalized copy of “The Big 50,” contact St. James at hstjames@freepress.com

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.

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