Red Wings have choices with No. 8 pick as draft approaches

Detroit News

Detroit — In a week the Red Wings will be on the clock with their first pick in the NHL Entry Draft.

The Wings will pick eighth overall, early enough in the draft to grab a player who could help the team some day win games.

But who will that player be?

Good question. There are so many variables in play, including the recent speculation that Montreal, picking first and supposedly locked into selecting center Shane Wright, may now be considering wing Juraj Slafkovsky, who had been the consensus second pick to New Jersey.

If that were to happen, there would be a flurry of trade speculation as New Jersey doesn’t really need another center and many teams could be interested in moving up in the draft — maybe, possibly, even the Red Wings.

But that speculation is for later. The Wings are focused for the No. 8 pick and a handful of talented players have been expected to be around that spot when the time comes to select.

Here are six players to keep an eye on from the Wings’ perspective:

Matt Savoie (center, 5-foot-9, 179 pounds, Winnipeg, WHL): There appears to be a growing sense among some national draft analysts that Savoie could land into the Wings’ lap, which the organization probably would be thrilled with.

His size is a concern, and that may steer some teams away from Savoie, but there’s no question he has offensive skill. Savoie had 90 points (55 assists, 35 goals) in 65 games on a real good team.

Savoie could be the fastest player in this draft class, and he makes plays at high-end speed. Savoie would fill a hole at second-line center for the Wings down the line, although there are some scouts who feel he is a wing in the NHL.

Cutter Gauthier (center/left wing, 6-3, 194, United States National Team Development Program): Gauthier’s stock appears to be rising, and at this point, it would be a mild surprise if he falls to the Wings.

But Gauthier could, and he checks a lot of the ingredients the Wings are searching for.

Gauthier scored 53 goals between two teams last season, has the size to play power forward and has the skill set to play center.

Marco Kasper (center, 6-1, 187, Rogle BK, Sweden): He was an early favorite to land with the Wings in many mock drafts but that has cooled now. Some projections have Kasper falling to near the 10 spot.

There are scouts who feel Kasper’s offensive upside is limited and his size is scaring people off. But Kasper’s maturity and hockey sense are big attributes, along with his versatility to play a scoring or checking role.

Jonathan Lekkerimaki (right wing, 5-11, 172, Djurgardens, Sweden): You can never discount the Red Wings’ Swedish scouts unearthing a potential gem and Lekkerimaki has the attributes to be an impact player.

He had 20 goals in 26 junior league games and scored seven in 26 games playing the men’s league. The lack of size is a concern to some, but Lekkerimaki’s shot is elite and he competes hard. There’s a growing sense he’ll be drafted in the top six or seven.

Frank Nazar (center/right wing, 5-10, 174, USNTDP): This would be one of those feel-good stories, as the Mount Clemens native grew up a Wings fan, played at Plymouth Township-based USNTDP and is headed to Michigan.

Nazar scored 28 goals last season and he’s effective at both ends of the rink. The Wings might be pulling a surprise here if they get Nazar, as many recent mock drafts have Nazar going in the teens.

Joakim Kemell (right wing, 5-11, 176, Pelicans, Finland): Kemell’s season ended prematurely with a shoulder injury, but that isn’t scaring scouts. If Kemell is still available for the Wings at No. 8, that might be a pleasant surprise.

Kemell understands how to score goals, he has elite skating and puck-handling, and his only drawbacks are a lack of size and tendency to disappear at times. But his dynamic ability make him a near certainty to be drafted rather high.

Twitter: @tkulfan

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