Red Wings should have their pick of talented, versatile forwards in NHL draft

Detroit News

Detroit — There are less than two months remaining until the NHL Entry Draft, which is good for the Red Wings and the teams selecting around them.

Because for now, there is little clarity among a stable of potential first-round picks who could be selected anywhere in the top 10 or 15 picks.

The Wings are picking eighth on July 7 in Montreal, and general manager Steve Yzerman and his staff will have their choice of numerous intriguing prospects.

If at all possible, the Wings appear likely to want to add a forward, preferably a center with some size — then again, what organization wouldn’t?

The Wings are deep in defensive prospects, but if a defenseman that they like falls, they will gladly select him. But the Wings are comparably slimmer in the amount of quality forward prospects they possess, so a center or wing is possibly where they go.

Here are 10 forwards who have been linked to the Wings, make sense for where the Wings are drafting and are suited for what the Wings are looking for or need in their depth chart.

This is a first look at this process. Don’t be surprised, given the fluidity of the draft process and likely rises and falls of certain players, if this list changes in the weeks ahead.

Possible Wings targets

Cutter Gauthier: center/left wing, 6-foot-3, 194 pounds, United States National Team Development Program: If Gauthier falls to the Wings, you would think they’d grab him, being that he is projected to go in the top five or six selections. With his size, Gauthier is projected to be an NHL power forward and he has a dangerous shot, as evidenced by his 53 goals in 76 games between two teams last season. Gauthier can play either wing or center, which the Wings would love. Gauthier is committed to Boston College.

Conor Geekie: center, 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, Winnipeg (WHL): Geekie certainly fits what the Wings need, or would like — a big center with skill and size. But the fact Geekie “only” had 70 points (24 goals) in 63 games this season, somewhat of a disappointing season on a good Winnipeg team, mystified some scouts. There are those scouts, also, who feel Geekie is best suited to be a draft pick somewhere in the teens, not sold on his overall skill level.

Brad Lambert: right wing, 6-feet, 180 pounds, Pelicans-Liga (Finland): Interesting player. Lambert has as much speed as anyone in this class, he can beat defenders one-on-one, and he’s a dangerous stickhandler. But Lambert only had four points in 25 games playing in a Finnish men’s league, and there’s been criticism of not using his linemates enough. Lambert is raw, and there are wrinkles to iron out, but the payoff could be big.

Marco Kasper: center, 6-foot-1, 187-pounds, Rogle BK (Sweden): For a few reasons, Kasper is an early favorite among many mock drafts for the Wings. An Austrian playing for a popular Swedish program that has developed many Wings recently (including Moritz Seider), Kasper would be a fit. Kasper isn’t big physically, but he competes hard and has good sense, characteristics the Wings cherish. He will need time to develop physically.

Joakim Kemell: right wing, 5-foot-11, 176 pounds, Pelicans (Finland): Kemell was projected to go higher earlier in the season, and he still could. A shoulder injury kept Kemell out of the lineup for a month, and he slipped in some scouts’ minds afterward. Still, Kemell scored 15 goals in Finland’s men’s league as a rookie. Kemell’s skating and stickhandling are great, but his physicality (or lack thereof) and defense are areas that need to be improved upon in the next couple of years.

Jonathan Lekkerimaki: RW, 5-foot-11, 172 pounds, Djurgarden (Sweden): Another pick that is being projected toward the Wings, mainly because of being a Swede and the attributes Lekkerimaki brings. He’s offensively gifted, dominating the junior Swedish league with 35 points (20 goals) in 26 games. Even playing against men, he had seven goals in 26 games. The size is a concern, but you can’t deny the offensive ability.

Frank Nazar: C/RW, 5-foot-10, 174 pounds, USNTDP:  The Wings have had plenty of opportunity to scout Nazar, playing at Plymouth Township-based USNTDP, and he’s headed to Michigan in the autumn. Nazar has played plenty of center, and he’s already playing the type of two-way game that projects well to the pro level. He’s competitive, and plays with speed. He could be a good fit for the Wings.

Matt Savoie: C, 5-foot-9, 179 pounds, Winnipeg (WHL): The size is a concern, but again, this is an explosive offensive player who could potentially fill a large need for the Wings. Savoie had 90 points (55 assists) in 65 games on a talented team. Savoie could be the fastest player in this draft class, and he plays hard and with an edge. Would the Wings, who need some size going forward, be willing to overlook Savoie’s size to go with his pure offensive ability?

Jimmy Snuggerud: RW, 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, USNTDP: He scored 26 goals in 59 games at USNTDP and has one of the more accurate shots in this class. Snuggerud comes from a hockey family —  he’ll be the third generation to play for the national team and collegiately at Minnesota. His dad, Dave, was an NHL forward. Snuggerud isn’t a great passer, and some scouts aren’t sold on his ceiling, but it would be a shock if Snuggerud falls much in the first round.

Danila Yurov: RW, 6-foot-1, 180-pounds, Magnitogorsk (KHL): He dominated the junior league, but when Yurov was moved up to the KHL he struggled, with no points in 21 games. Still, there aren’t many scouts who are concerned, noting Yurov’s vision on the ice and powerful skating. A big concern nowadays will be how quickly, and smoothly, Yurov can get to North America to play professionally.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

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