Detroit — The star quality of the NHL Entry Draft is generally in the first round.
It features the hyped, much-talked-about prospects with the gaudy offensive numbers and experience of being on numerous national teams.
But there’s talent to be snared well past the first round.
The Red Wings, once again, will have plenty of chances to draft and cultivate talent on July 23-24. Detroit has 12 picks in the draft, with two in the first round and 10 in Rounds 2-7, including three in the second round.
General manager Steve Yzerman built his former team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, into a perennial Stanley Cup contender in that Saturday portion of the draft.
Watch the Stanley Cup Finals and look at the Lightning’s lineup. You see names like Nikita Kucherov (2011, second round), Brayden Point (2014, third round) and Ondrej Palat (2011, seventh round) to name a few. None of those players were top picks, but they developed into NHL stars.
Looking back at the Red Wings during their 25-year playoff run, players such Nicklas Lidstrom (1989, third round), Henrik Zetterberg (1999, seventh round) and Pavel Datsyuk (1998, sixth round) went on to stellar careers.
This year’s draft will be fascinating to watch. Many junior players had seasons cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. Scouting was impacted, and opinions on players could be wildly different from team to team.
The opportunity to pluck a player who should have gone higher in the draft will be there.
“You can look it at two ways,” Yzerman said. “It’s potentially tougher to find people or you might find a gem later that didn’t play much, that maybe one of your scouts saw a year ago and said, ‘I’d really like to pick this player.’ I do think there will be some really good players that, for whatever reason, are picked later in the draft.”
Let’s examine this year’s second round and highlight players who appear to be good fits for the Wings:
► Zach Dean, center/wing, 6-foot, 183 pounds, Gatineau (QMJHL): There’s a good chance Dean might be available when the Wings pick and he is considered a player who could develop into a steal.
Nobody has doubted Dean’s talent level. It’s just that consistency has been an occasional issue and production isn’t what was expected. Dean had 20 points in 23 games in the Quebec junior league this season, which are good but not eye-popping numbers. He just needs to put it all together.
► Dylan Duke, center/wing, 5-10, 181, U.S. National Team Development Program: Many evaluators believe Duke has the determination and competitiveness to someday reach the NHL, never mind the obstacles put before him. Duke is headed to Michigan, where he’ll have ample opportunity to develop his skill level.
Duke’s skating has consistently gotten better, and his defensive game is more than acceptable given he takes no breathers on the ice. What Duke lacks in pure offensive ability is evened out by his ability and willingness to get to the net.
► Logan Stankoven, center/wing, 5-8, 170, Kamloops (WHL): Depending on who is evaluating, there are some scouts projecting that Stankoven could sneak late into the first round.
But Stankoven could well last into the second round and if he does, he’s the type of big-motor guy who could interest the Wings. Stankoven is only 5-8, but that hasn’t stopped him because of his feistiness on the ice and the fact his offensive skills are in the first-round category.
► Anton Olsson, defenseman, 6-foot, 183, Malmo (SHL): He’s not exciting or flashy on the ice, but Olsson plays the type of safe, confident and mobile game that coaches love.
Olsson has the ability to skate the puck out of danger and make good first passes. He’s also good defensively and is a defenseman who’s rarely out of position.
He’s not overly physical, but Olsson doesn’t back down either. If there’s a concern, or an area that needs to improve, it’s his foot speed.
► William Stromgren, left wing, 6-3, 176, MODO J20 Nationell (Sweden): He seems to be a prototypical Wings prospect. Stromgren is coming out of a good Swedish program and has intriguing offensive talent but needs time to mature physically.
There are some aspects that make Stromgren a potential first-round candidate, mostly his 6-3 frame and his puck-handling ability. His passing is definitely first-round worthy.
But despite the size, Stromgren doesn’t play much of a physical game and needs to build his strength. The speed and quickness is average.
► Aidan Hreschuk, defenseman, 5-11, 187, NTDP: The defensive partner for Luke Hughes this past season, Hreschuk played the complementary role well and many scouts can see him continuing that type of role into the NHL
It would be surprising to see Hreschuk (Boston College) catapult into the first round, as his size and overall skill level don’t jump out at anyone. But he’s good with the puck on his stick, has good instincts on the ice, and makes an acceptable first pass.
Hreschuk doesn’t excel in one area but does a lot of things well.
► Jack Peart, defenseman, 5-11, 181, Fargo (USHL): Say hello to Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey, a title which will get a hockey player noticed given the quality of hockey in the state.
Peart is an intriguing prospect. He’s 5-11, can skate with the puck exceptionally, and likes to drive the play with his offensive ability.
What Peart lacks in physical play, he makes up for with a smart, active stick and a competitive desire to end plays in his zone. Headed to St. Cloud State (Minnesota), Peart is a high-ceiling prospect for the second round.
► Liam Dower Nilsson, center, 6-foot, 176, Hanhals IF (Sweden): The skill level doesn’t overly excite you, but Dower Nilsson has the leadership qualities (captained Sweden’s Under-18 team) and defensive ability to be a useful part of an NHL lineup.
Dower Nilsson is an effective forechecker who disrupts passes and is strong on pucks. He’s also a good passer and has a keen ability to find open teammates.
But his pure offensive skill is a bit average at this point, which will likely keep him in the second round and potentially make him a steal.