Why Matthew Savoie could make sense for Detroit Red Wings at No. 8 in NHL draft

Detroit Free Press

Among general manager Steve Yzerman’s possible options when he makes his first selection in next month’s draft is an elusive dynamo with silky smooth hands and elite playmaking abilities.

Asked about Matthew Savoie at the NHL combine, Conor Geekie described his Winnipeg Ice teammate as “probably the fastest player I’ve ever played with. Sometimes I even get lost trying to find him for a pass.”

The Detroit Red Wings don’t have a premier center in their prospect pool, and Savoie would fill that need. He’s a cerebral, offensively gifted spark plug adept at creating time and space for himself and his linemates and deceptively good at maneuvering the puck through the neutral zone.

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The Wings hold their first pick at the July 7-8 draft in Montreal at No. 8, out of range for centers Shane Wright and Logan Cooley, and winger Juraj Slafkovsky, who are projected to be the top three players selected. If Cutter Gauthier and Marco Kasper also are off the board by the time the Wings pick, Savoie offers much to like.

Though the 18-year-old is on the smaller side at 5 feet 9 and 179 pounds, Savoie is an unrelenting player whose knack for offense showed in the 1.38 points per game he recorded in the Western Hockey League this past season. He scored 35 times and set up teammates 55 times. Savoie said he models his game after Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brayden Point, because, “He’s a smaller guy, likes to possess the puck. He’s fast, and I think he plays the game the right way.”

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Savoie’s chief selling points are his offensive abilities and his skating: “I think this is what makes me stand out as a player,” he said. “I think I have good vision in the offensive zone, and can make good plays. I’m always looking for whoever has the best chance to score. Those are my biggest assets as a player.”

The Wings benefited last season from the arrivals of 2019 first-round pick Moritz Seider (who won the Calder Trophy) and 2020 first-round pick Lucas Raymond. Simon Edvinsson, the team’s first pick from 2021, is expected to make the team this fall. None of them went straight from the draft to the NHL, and Savoie doesn’t project to be an immediate arrival, either. (Of the players who could be available to the Wings, Kasper has the advantage of having played against men, in the Swedish Hockey League. That’s the same path taken by Seider, Raymond and Edvinsson.)

Savoie might be ready in a year, but Yzerman has shown he isn’t going to fast-track his prospects.

There’s great potential in Savoie: He’s not afraid to drive to the net, go into corners or the middle of the ice, because he’s confident in his skating and his agility. He’s got an NHL-caliber shot. His vision is top -notch, and overall, he reacts well in tough situations. In 10 playoff games this spring, he delivered six goals and six assists. He knows when to take the shot himself, and when to pass to a teammate who has a better opportunity.

It’s a gamble to predict a teenager will be a sure-fire top-liner, but Savoie certainly has the skill set that the Wings need in their rebuild.

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. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

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