The Grind Line: Thoughts on Red Wings’ 2023 Draft Class

The Hockey Writers

What’s The Grind Line? Apart from the once-famous line of Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, and either Joe Kocur or Darren McCarty, The Grind Line is also The Hockey Writers’ weekly column about the Detroit Red Wings. This week, Tony Wolak, Devin Little and Matthew Zator are the muckers who make up THW’s forechecking unit and sound off on Red Wings topics.

The 2023 NHL Draft is officially in the books. The Red Wings, led by general manager Steve Yzerman, made 11 picks including Nate Danielson, the team’s top pick at ninth overall. Joining the center Danielson was fellow first round draftee Axel Sandin Pellikka, a defenseman from Sweden. All together, the Red Wings added two centermen, two left wingers, five defensemen, and two goaltenders. Their prospect pool, already one of the deepest in the NHL, just got a whole lot deeper.

Related: Red Wings’ 2023 Draft Class Provides Depth & Debate

While quantity of prospects is important, quality is just as, if not more, important. So how did the Red Wings fare in this year’s draft in terms of adding quality prospects to their organization? That’s the question our panel of Red Wings writers is here to answer.

Here are our thoughts on the Red Wings’ 2023 draft class.

Tony Wolak: Playoff Competitors & Sneaky Upside

After Day 1, I realized something. If the Red Wings drafted Sandin Pellikka at No. 9 and Danielson at No. 17, no one would have batted an eye. Sure, I would have preferred Dalibor Dvorsky over Danielson, but Detroit still got great value in the first round.

Axel Sandin Pellikka Detroit Red Wings
Axel Sandin Pellikka, Detroit Red Wings (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Danielson, Sandin Pellikka, Trey Augustine, and Andrew Gibson immediately slot into Detroit’s top-10 prospects. In addition, they also grabbed a few players in the later rounds—Noah Dower Nilsson and Larry Keenan, in particular—who have intriguing skill sets and could develop into hidden gems in time.

I was surprised to see Brady Cleveland drafted so high. I get it, though. He’s exactly who you want on the third pair come playoff time. It was nice to see the Red Wings load up on goalies too – Augustine has a very high ceiling and Rudy Guimond has a long development path ahead of him.

Devin Little: 2023 Draft Puts the ‘D’ in Detroit

To Tony’s point about nobody batting an eye if the Red Wings’ top two picks were flipped, Sandin Pellikka wouldn’t have been my favorite pick at ninth overall, but I would have appreciated it for the bold swing on high upside that it would have been. Instead, the Red Wings snagged him at 17th overall, and I think that may be one of the best picks in the draft in terms of value versus draft position. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I like Detroit’s pick at 17 a bit more than I like their pick at nine, tough I do think Danielson should become a quality NHL player.

Related: Grading Every First Rounder in the 2023 Draft


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But, as you know, Sandin Pellikka wasn’t the only defenseman the Red Wings added. They added four other defensemen over the course of the draft, including two in the second round. This was a bit surprising considering the strength of their prospect pool coming into the draft was on defense. While they did need to add some right-handed defenders to the mix, I wasn’t expecting them to add so many blueliners in what was widely considered to be a forward-heavy draft.

All things considered, this is a well-rounded draft class that could yield four or five NHLers when all is said and done. I’m still just a little puzzled by some of the decisions made, and I’m wondering when this roster is going to get the jolt that it needs to take the step they want to take.

Matthew Zator: A Little Bit of Everything

I absolutely love the Red Wings’ first three picks of the 2023 Draft. They got one of the most complete centers in this class in Danielson and arguably the best offensive defenceman in Sandin Pellikka. And to round it off, they selected, in my opinion at least, the best goaltender in Augustine who was ranked 32nd by Peter Baracchini in his final rankings.

The rest of Day 2 was impressive too as Andrew Gibson and Noah Dower Nilsson have interesting upside while Keenan has some NHL pedigree and intriguing size and mobility. All in all, another Yzerman-led draft class that will be interesting to follow in the coming years – especially in the goaltending department as Augustine and Sebastian Cossa could potentially be battling for the same job in a few seasons.

Now it’s your turn! Let us know your thoughts on the Red Wings’ 2023 Draft in the comments section down below!


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