Detroit Red Wings’ Steve Yzerman: This is why I drafted Marco Kasper at No. 8

Detroit Free Press

MONTREAL — The more Steve Yzerman and Kris Draper saw of Marco Kasper, the more convinced they became he was the right player for the Detroit Red Wings.

“We like everything about the way he plays,” Yzerman said Thursday after selecting Kasper at No. 8 overall on the first day of the 2022 NHL draft at Bell Centre. “He has good size, he’s a good skater, he’s got good hockey sense. I think he’s a centerman but I believe he can play anywhere at the three forward positions.

“He’s not super flashy, he just make the right play. He can make a pass, he’s got a good shot, can carry the puck up the ice. He’s not flashy, he’s very efficient. He’s really fundamentally sound. He plays very simple — he drives hard to the net, drives down the wing, can take the puck to the net, and also pull up and look for the late guy. He’s an all-around player.”

THAT’S WHAT HE SAID: Red Wings’ 2022 first-round pick Marco Kasper is ‘a really competitive player

Kasper (6 feet 1, 187 pounds) marks the fourth straight year Yzerman has dipped into the European market for his first-round pick, following Germany’s Moritz Seider in 2019 and Swedes Lucas Raymond and Simon Edvinsson in 2020 and 2021, respectively.

Kasper left his native Austria at 16 to play in Sweden, where he rose through the ranks with Rögle to play for the top-tier Swedish Hockey League squad. (He also bothered to learn Swedish, even though he could have gotten by with English.) He had 11 points in 46 games in the regular season, six points in 13 playoff games — and also posted two assists at the World Championship. That’s an impressive resume for a teenager competing against men.

“It certainly helped,” Yzerman said. “Our scouts really have liked him all year. In the playoffs in particular, he played very well, and that was really encouraging for us.”

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Draper, the Wings’ director of amateur scouting, estimated he’d seen Kasper play a dozen times. Kasper’s compete level stood out, especially in the playoffs.

“It was an incredible atmosphere in Farjestad and to me, he was one of the best players on the ice as a 17-year-old kid,” Draper said. “He just seemed to embrace that moment. It seemed as the games got bigger, he got better. Talking to Rögle, the coach and general manager, they were very complimentary of how he responded in any situation. For a 17-year-old kid that started on the fourth line, next you know he’s on the power play and he’s getting some key minutes, and he earned it. He wanted to get better and he did. So the intensity that he plays with, his compete and work ethic is off the charts. We really like his skill set.

“We’re excited to get him. Saw him at the World Championship playing against men, you got a little nervous that he might not be there at eight. It worked out well for us and we have a really good prospect that we’re excited about.”

Kasper is under contract with Rögle, but Yzerman said he wasn’t sure if Kasper would stay there or play in Grand Rapids next season. That may come to light next week, when the Wings bring Kasper to Detroit for development camp.

“The first thing we’d like to do is sit down with Marco and talk to him about what he wants to do,” Yzerman said. “We have a good relationship with the people in Rögle, it’s a great program. We’ll take it a step at a time.”

The Wings would have more say over whether Kasper plays center or wing in Grand Rapids, and ultimately the center position is where they want him  to thrive. After drafting two defenseman and a goaltender with his first-round picks in 2019 and 2021, Yzerman addressed the need for a middle man in choosing Kasper.

“He’s a Detroit Red Wing now,” Yzerman said. “I like every part of his game. I think he’s a strong skater, I think he moves the puck well, I think he sees the ice well. I love how hard he competes and drives to the net. I wouldn’t point to one part of his game that really stands out — he’s just good at everything. A well-rounded player for 18 years old.”

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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