With 5 of first 43 picks, Red Wings look to build through NHL Draft

Detroit News


Detroit — If you’re a Red Wings fan, get ready to buckle in for what should be an exciting few days.

Detroit — If you’re a Red Wings fan, get ready to buckle in for what should be an exciting few days.

With the first round of the NHL’s Entry Draft Wednesday (7 p.m. on ESPN), rounds two through seven on Thursday (11 a.m. on NHL Network), then the start of unrestricted free agency on Saturday, there’s expected to be an avalanche of news, trades, signings and speculation.

The Red Wings are expected to be in the midst of it.

General manager Steve Yzerman has 10 draft picks overall, including five in the first 43 selections. The Wings are slated to pick ninth (their own pick) and 17th (from the New York Islanders via Vancouver) Wednesday and have three consecutive picks Thursday (No. 41 (own), No. 42 (from St. Louis) and No. 43 (from Vancouver).

But, will the Wings keep all of them? There are rampant rumors Yzerman will package some of those picks — and maybe a player from the organization — in a trade for a proven goal-scorer.

The likely target is Farmington Hills native Alex DeBrincat, who will be dealt by the Ottawa Senators after telling the team he’s not signing a long-term contract.

DeBrincat, 25, had 27 goals and 66 points with Ottawa last season, but twice scored 41 goals in Chicago, where he played the first five seasons of his career. DeBrincat, a Farmington Hills native, has 187 goals in 450 career games and would immediately energize the Wings’ goal-scoring ability.

Yzerman didn’t address any specific trade plans last week during his media conference previewing the draft. But Yzerman did say the Wings’ draft picks are important collateral that can bring the organization important and needed assets.

“I’m not worried about having too many picks,” Yzerman said. “At some point, we hope to have a really good nucleus, but the reality is that somewhere along the way, they don’t all play. Maybe you don’t have room for them all, one player hasn’t developed the way you hoped, so you take another at that position or trade and acquire to fill that void.

“If you don’t have a good team, you better have a lot of draft picks, because how are you going to get better?”

If the Wings were to make a trade, Yzerman mentioned it would have to be a player in the 18-to-27 age range that would fit in with captain Dylan Larkin (who turns 27 on July 30) and the younger Wings core.

“I’m trying to build a nucleus of young players that’s going to be the core of the team for a significant period of time,” Yzerman said. “If we give up those pieces, and these draft picks, there is no guarantee they’re going to turn into that. We have to feel the player we’re acquiring is going to be a part of that core for a long time.

“It doesn’t make sense to give up pieces that we need to build a core, and in three or four years, that player has retired or moved on and we still don’t have that core in place.

“We’re still not there, in my opinion, to have that core to be a Stanley Cup contender. We’ll see how this offseason goes. We have work to do as an organization to build the depth of the core, and I’d like to do that ideally with younger players that are going to be here for a long time.”

Over the next two days, the Entry Draft will be another significant part of strengthening the organization.

The Wings have those two first-round picks in what is being viewed as a talented overall class.

“Ultimately, draft classes seem to be measured, good or bad, basically on how good it is at the top, and this year looks very good at the top,” Yzerman said. “As we go through our meetings and talk about the players and create your list, we sit down at the end of it and we’re optimistic at pick 43, we’re going to get one of this group of players. Today, it looks like a pretty good draft. Time will tell. We feel good about not only having those three (second-rounders), but our third-round pick and beyond that.”

Connor Bedard has been the expected No. 1 pick for several years and will be selected by Chicago, who won the draft lottery last month. After Bedard, a group consisting of Adam Fantilli (Michigan), Leo Carlsson, Will Smith and Russian Matvei Michkov are expected to be selected in some order.

“It’s going to be really interesting,” Yzerman said. “Two, three, four, five, I don’t know where these guys go. It’s going to be an exciting hour, hour-and-a-half to get these eight or nine picks out of the way.”

The Wings seemingly could use more goal-scoring potential in the organization, be it at center or wing, while the defense appears to have some depth to it after the last several drafts.

But, don’t expect the Wings to target a specific position group early.

“I don’t think we’re at a point — and I’m not sure it’s ever really the right thing to do — to target a specific position,” Yzerman said. “Things change from year to year. We’ll go with who we think the best prospect is at that point in the draft.”

2023 NHL Entry Draft

▶ When: Wednesday (Round 1) and Thursday (Rounds 2-7) at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville

▶ TV: Wednesday — 7 p.m., ESPN; Thursday —11 a.m., NHL Network

▶ Red Wings: Detroit has five of the first 43 picks in the draft — ninth, 17th, 41st, 42nd and 43rd — and 10 picks overall.


Twitter: @tkulfan

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