With all of the focus seemingly on Connor Bedard, who will undoubtedly be dawning a Chicago Blackhawks jersey seconds following the start of the 2023 NHL Entry Level Draft, the Detroit Red Wings, currently slated to pick ninth, have options.
Michigan’s Adam Fantilli is the perfect consolation prize and would easily be the first overall pick in just about any of the recent drafts. Fantilli is a lock to land in Anaheim with the Ducks. That leaves the Columbus Blue Jackets on the clock, and this is where Leo Carlsson likely goes. Detroit Red Wings fans that followed the World Championships are familiar with Carlsson, as he centered a line that consisted of Lucas Raymond and Jonatan Berggren for a bit.
So with the top-three draft prospects plugged into their expected destinations, this is where Steve Yzerman and the Detroit Red Wings need to trade up if they hope to secure Will Smith. The San Jose Sharks currently sit with the No. 4 overall pick in the draft, and while a player like Matvei Michkov is an intriguing prospect often coined as the next Nikita Kucherov, the rebuilding Sharks may be eager to select a prospect that can help them right away. Michkov is expected to remain in Russia for the next couple of seasons before defecting to North America. A player like Will Smith will undoubtedly entice the Sharks.
The Detroit Red Wings should consider trading up for Will Smith.
Will Smith is a dynamic center and precisely the type of player the Detroit Red Wings need. Detroit did spend a premium pick last season on center Marco Kasper, but the Red Wings have a multitude of issues down the middle of their lineup.
Adding another top-center prospect won’t be the worst idea if the opportunity arises. I don’t have a crystal ball, and I can’t tell you for certain that Kasper will become a top-two NHL center. Yes, we have hope that will be the case, but continuing to add to the prospect pool, especially down the middle of the lineup, is always a positive. Perhaps Smith can be Yzerman’s latest version of Brayden Point?
Smith, 18, has excelled playing for USA Hockey’s national development program. The skillful center has recorded 15 goals and 42 points over 20 games in the program this season. This followed a 14-goal, 28-point campaign over 36 games last season.
In a recent article published by The Athletic (subscription), Dan Muse, Smith’s Under-18 coach, called his game “outstanding.”
“His hockey sense and the ability to anticipate the next play and what the defenders are going to do in order to manipulate defenders just with the head fakes and the general deception, he combines it to make himself a player that’s really hard to play against and a guy who can really create space for himself and his teammates,” Muse said. “Then you combine that with the skillset that he has and he can execute plays whether it’s in tight areas or in time and space. He just does such a good job getting to that space in order to position himself to make it harder to play against.”
The 18-year-old has silky-smooth hands with an above-average shot and is dedicated to growing into the type of player that makes others around him better. Smith has committed to play at Boston College next season.
If Steve Yzerman and the Detroit Red Wings want to make a splash on draft day, packaging up the ninth overall pick with pick No. 17 acquired from the Vancouver Canucks via the New York Islanders in the Filip Hronek deal to go get a potential future top center in Smith would be exciting.
The Detroit Red Wings also have three second-round selections this year and two firsts next year, so they have plenty of draft capital to get a deal done.