It’s official, Marco Kasper has been recalled from his loan to Rögle BK of the SHL and is returning to Detroit. The 2022 eighth overall pick’s SHL season recently concluded after a hard-fought playoff run by both Kasper and fellow Red Wings prospect William Wallinder, and Wallinder signed his entry-level contract (ELC) shortly thereafter. However, Kasper had already signed his and was simply loaned to Rögle for this season.
After his league play finished, Kasper spoke about the importance of playing for Austria at the upcoming Men’s World Championships as well completing high school in Sweden this year, leading me to question if there was any chance he’d come stateside before the offseason. It took just a few days following the announcement that Wallinder was signed and would report to the Grand Rapids Griffins for Detroit to make it official that Kasper was coming over as well.
So who is Marco Kasper and what can Red Wings fans expect from him this season and going forward? Let’s take a closer look.
Who is Marco Kasper?
Marco Kasper was an unknown at the start of his draft year, steadily rising up draft boards the entire season until he was a consensus first round pick with a chance of going in the top-16. I was relatively high on Kasper last year, and I even thought that taking him at eighth overall would be a bit of a reach. Boy was I wrong. The biggest (and only) gripe people had with Kasper’s game was that it didn’t seem like he would have much offense to give, especially not in the NHL, though Steve Yzerman made it clear at the 2022 Draft that the team believed he had much more offense.
Related: 2023 NHL Draft Guide
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Kasper is a two-way center who plays with a ton of energy and patience, earning him a consistent role as the second or third line center for Rögle despite being just 18 for the length of the season. He was able to earn and hold down that spot because of his remarkably mature, mistake-free game which is incredibly uncommon for players of his age. Kasper is great in board battles and constantly makes plays in the middle of the ice which leaves no doubt he will be a center in the NHL.
While he has shown a lot more offense this year than most expected, Kasper doesn’t have the high-end skill or finishing to be a flashy top-line player. What he does have is a well-rounded set of tools that he uses to consistently drive play in his team’s favor. How often do you see an 18-year-old driving play and winning over 50% of his faceoffs in one of the world’s best professional hockey leagues? The answer: very, very rarely.
What to Expect From Kasper This Year
Since Kasper was signed by Detroit shortly after the 2022 Draft and subsequently loaned to Rögle, when his loan period ended he was always going to officially return to the Red Wings roster. However, that doesn’t mean he’s going to spend the rest of the 2022-23 season in Detroit, in fact, I think it’s fairly likely that he is sent down to Grand Rapids to play out the final few games of the AHL season with his long-time teammate Wallinder as well as another one of Detroit’s top prospects Carter Mazur who also recently signed an ELC.
I think it makes sense to give those three guys some games with lower stakes and give them a chance to adapt to the North American professional game together. Whether he plays in Detroit or Grand Rapids to close the season, Kasper can be counted on to work incredibly hard, drive play through transition, and outwork his opponents at just about every turn.
It’s entirely likely though that he sticks with the NHL squad for their final few games, since his track-record as a play-driving centerman in a difficult pro league could be enough for the team to give him a shot in the NHL. If Kasper plays at least one NHL this season he would be just the fifth prospect from the 2022 Draft to do so, with the others being Juraj Slafkovsky (39 GP), Shane Wright (8 GP), David Jiricek (2 GP) and Owen Beck (1 GP).
What to Expect Going Forward
I believe Kasper will spend much of next season in the AHL, much like Simon Edvinsson did this year after coming over from the SHL, mainly because there isn’t a whole lot of space for him down the middle in Detroit. Dylan Larkin, Andrew Copp, Michael Rasmussen, and Joe Veleno are all on the NHL roster at center, a fairly tough group to crack for an 18-year-old. I wouldn’t be too surprised to see him earn a spot as the team’s third-line center by the end of next season with someone, most likely Copp, moving to the wing, but that would likely be on a late-season NHL stint.
Kasper could very well earn a spot on the NHL roster out of training camp, much like Lucas Raymond did in 2021-22, but I think he would be well served by earning some extra minutes and responsibility in the AHL. I have no doubt that Kasper will be a full-time NHL center by the start of the 2024-25 season at the latest.
What Could Kasper Become?
His ultimate potential is a world-class second-line center or a fringe first line center. At the time of the 2022 Draft I thought his potential was more as a good 2C or a great 3C, with the only thing holding him back being a lack of high-end offense. Kasper’s offensive potential took a serious step forward this year and I can clearly picture him as the second-line center behind Larkin.
Kasper has the skill, strength, skating, and compete to be a top-six NHL center and he would be a great complementary piece for the team behind Larkin, capable of pitching in on both special teams and being a driver on his own line. He will most likely be a very versatile center who can fill in any spot of the depth chart on any given night. I’d still like to see a bit more offense from him as the primary scorer (though I don’t doubt he could grow into that), and as a result I currently see him as a 60-70 point scorer in his prime, though his primary value won’t even be from those assists. I think he could be something like Joel Eriksson Ek someday, a centre whose primary value isn’t offence, but can still produce at a good rate.
Prospects Prepared for Professional Play
Regardless of where Kasper plays for the next couple of weeks, it is remarkable to see the group of talented young players that this franchise has accumulated over the last few years with four of their five most recent first round picks currently in Detroit (Mo Seider, Raymond, Edvinsson, Kasper) and their fifth (Sebastian Cossa) well on his way.
Kasper is the most recent of these picks so it is a testament to the quality and competence of the Red Wings’ amateur scouting and player development teams, as well as to Kasper’s own maturity and growth that he is already making the transition to North American pro hockey. Hopefully we get the chance to watch him make his NHL debut before the season is out, but I’m happy to wait it out if the organization thinks that a few AHL games would do him more good. Either way, I’m very excited for what Kasper can bring to this Red Wings team in the short and long term.