With the eighth-overall selection in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft the Detroit Red Wings will have plenty of excellent prospects to choose from. The 2022 Draft class is not the strongest, though there will still be multiple great choices remaining when Steve Yzerman takes the stage in Montreal. Though it is fair to assume that the Red Wings’ front office will select the prospect that they deem to be the best player available, it is no secret that their greatest need is for dynamic offensive talent, especially at the center position.
One player who I would love to see the Red Wings select at eighth overall is Austrian centerman Marco Kasper. Kasper will likely become only the fourth Austrian player to be drafted in the first round of the NHL Draft, and the first since countryman Marco Rossi was selected ninth overall in 2020 by the Minnesota Wild.
Kasper is one of the rare forward prospects who is 6-foot or taller who is actually a power forward. Many NHL general managers salivate at the thought of drafting tall players because of the potential for them to play a gritty power-forward-type game even when that is not at all how they play. Think Connor Geekie or Quinton Byfield; they are great players who are tall, but not power forwards. However, Kasper properly fits the bill here as a quick, strong, tenacious, two-way force who excels at driving to the net and taking away the goalie’s vision with well-positioned screens.
He is an excellent skater with top-end speed, which he could often be seen using while trying to put together end-to-end rushes all on his own. As a 17-year-old in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), not only did Kasper not look out of place, but he stood out more times than not. His skating is a clear strength that allows him to compete at a professional level against grown men. He only managed to score nine points in 46 SHL games this season, though that misses the valuable context that he was second in SHL scoring among U18 players and eighth among U20 players.
Kasper is not the sort of player that a team drafts with the expectation of him becoming a 70-plus-point player in the NHL. His game isn’t currently suited for elite offense, though his solid defensive game and high levels of effort and creativity on offense make him a safe bet to be a really good second-line player who could possibly move higher up the lineup if his offensive game develops further. Kasper is an excellent player in tight spaces, battles along the board, fighting for rebounds or making tight passes to teammates in the slot.
As is the case with many young players, Kasper was forced to earn his ice time on an excellent Rögle BK team by proving to the coaching staff that they were better with him on the ice. He succeeded in convincing them of this as his ice time slowly increased throughout the season, culminating in multiple 16-plus-minute games over the final stretch of regular-season games. Kasper is set to return to Rögle again next season, and with an increased role and another year to mature physically, I feel safe predicting that he will score over 20 points in the SHL next season.
“Kasper has a strong 6-foot-1 frame, isn’t afraid to attack the hard areas, and can win some battles versus men as a 17-year-old. Kasper attacks with speed and skill, and while he can pull up to make a play or use his hard shot.” – Corey Pronman, The Athletic, (from ‘NHL Draft 2022 top 127 prospects: Juraj Slafkovsky leads Corey Pronman’s list’, The Athletic, May 31, 2022)
Related: 2022 NHL Draft Guide
“Kasper is one of my favourite prospects in this class. He has everything that you want in a power forward. The grit, the decision making and the speed. Kasper has the potential to be a top-six forward in the NHL and his grit will intrigue plenty of teams. If an NHL team is looking to obtain a well-rounded power forward who can be annoying in high danger situations with his reach, Kasper is the guy.” – Josh Tessler, Smaht Scouting
“He’s an advanced 200-foot centre who has fit in playing a regular shift in the SHL and has played well during Rögle’s Champions Hockey League segments. I don’t see game-breaking skill or finishing, per se, but he’s a strong skater who plays with pro pace, plays on the interior, and makes plays all over the ice. He projects as a contributing NHL player.” – Scott Wheeler, The Athletic (from ‘Wheeler: Top 64 prospects for the 2022 NHL Draft at midseason’, The Athletic, Feb. 14, 2022)
The Risks of Selecting a Draft Riser
Kasper is one of the biggest draft board risers over the course of this season, going from a fringe first-rounder to where he is now as a near lock for the top-20 with the potential to go much higher.
Each year there are players who slowly rise up draft boards all year and then take an even bigger leap on draft day. Remember Dawson Mercer going from mid-round pick to late first-rounder before being selected at 18th by the New Jersey Devils? These picks are often heavily influenced by recency bias as prospects finish off their seasons in their league’s playoffs or at the U18 WJC or the Senior Men’s World Championships. This can be a risk as some players can show that they are mediocre all season and then get selected way too high because they had an excellent two weeks in a tournament.
There is precedent for this Red Wings’ front office taking such a player with a high pick, just look at Moritz Seider and how well that pick went. Though he had been gradually rising all season, nobody was prepared for him to be drafted sixth overall in a draft that was so loaded with talent in the US National Team Development Program. The idea of Kasper being a top-15 pick in this year’s draft has been slowly building steam all season while he played in the SHL, but his performance at the World Championship tournament for Austria may have sealed his status as a possible top-10 selection.
Kasper had an excellent performance in the SHL playoffs this season with six points in 13 games. Obviously, that is a small sample size, but he doubled his points-per-game rate from the regular season in those 13 games and managed to maintain that momentum as he joined Team Austria in May for the World Championships. His highlight-reel assist off the rush against the Americans (in the video above) was an excellent example of the threat that Kasper’s decision-making and speed make him.
How Would Kasper Fit in Detroit?
The Red Wings’ need for a top-six centreman has been well documented as it has become abundantly clear that Pius Suter is not a long-term solution as the team’s 2C. Kasper would immediately become the team’s best prospect at center (with Joe Veleno graduating this year to the NHL) and would seriously improve the outlook of the team’s top-six forward group. The team is unlikely to land a defender at eighth overall who would be worth the selection as Detroit’s prospect pipeline is chock-full of excellent defensive prospects. However, if by some fluke two or three teams end up passing on either David Jiricek or Simon Nemec (which could happen, just look at Quinn Hughes in 2018), I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Red Wings solidify their top four on the right side for the next decade.
Kasper could easily compete for the role of top-six center in Detroit in just a few short seasons as his skating and compete level will make him an excellent complementary piece to some of the great wingers on this Detroit team like Lucas Raymond or even Jonatan Berggren.
Why Kasper Should Be Selected Eighth Overall
Selfishly I want the Red Wings to select Kasper so that I can be the one credited with coming up with his nickname of “Ghost.” Kasper the Friendly Ghost has a nice ring to it, plus you could say that trying to nail him down while he’s in the offensive zone is like trying to catch a ghost with your bare hands. I don’t know, just spit balling here.
Related: Red Wings 2022 Draft Coverage
On a more serious note, I believe that Kasper is going to be a solid NHL centreman who I am confident will, at the minimum, become a great middle-six center on a good team. The higher-end projection for Kasper’s career is also truly exciting as he has the potential to be an absolute monster all over the ice. Through his exceptional work ethic both on and off the ice, Kasper has improved as a player significantly this season and considering he just turned 18, he has plenty of time to grow.
Other Red Wings Draft Targets
Though Kasper may not be my ideal choice at eighth overall, I would certainly be intrigued by the selection and would be more than a little excited to see him alongside Berggren or Raymond in a few seasons. His success in the SHL at 17 is incredibly impressive as he is only going to get better from here on out.
How would you feel about the Red Wings selecting Marco Kasper at eighth overall this year? Do you think his all-around game offsets his lack of elite offensive potential? Do you think I should try to trademark “Kasper the Friendly Ghost” merchandise so I can sell it to the Red Wings when they inevitably want to buy it from me? Sound off in the comments below!
Logan is a sports writer for the Detroit Red Wings as a member of The Hockey Writers team. He loves reading about statistics and advanced analytics, and discovering how they can enrich his hockey analysis and writing. Logan also writes about more general hockey topics on his blog https://www.crashthecrease.blog.