Entering the 2017-18 regular season, the Detroit Red Wings’ farm system was considered one of the weakest in the league after years of success and not drafting very high. Who were the top-ranked prospects in the organization, and where are they now? Here’s a look.
At 6-foot-6, Michael Rasmussen had a solid offensive skill set with 55 points in his draft year of 2016-17. This helped him get selected ninth overall by the Red Wings. He improved on that 2016-17 junior season with the Tri-City Americans in the Western Hockey League (WHL) and made the jump to the Red Wings’ lineup in the 2018-19 season. He appeared in 62 games in his rookie season and totaled 18 points.
He has continuously improved on his statistical numbers and has been a mainstay in the lineup for over four seasons with the Red Wings. Last season, he fought the injury bug, missing the remaining 23 games of the regular season due to a knee injury. But the organization is hoping he will make the jump to becoming a full-time, top-six forward and be a key part of the team’s future.
Many were concerned about Tyler Bertuzzi’s health leading up to the 2013 Draft, which is why he landed with the Red Wings in the second round. In the 2013-14 season, he fought the injury bug yet again and only played 29 games for the Guelph Storm in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). He managed to stay healthy in his last junior season and tallied 98 points in 68 games for Guelph.
After a strong showing for the Grand Rapids Griffins in the 2016-17 season, when he earned the Most Valuable Player Award (MVP) in the playoffs, the Red Wings gave Bertuzzi a shot at the NHL lineup, and he stuck with the team until he was traded to the Boston Bruins last season.
When healthy, he had played a vital role for Detroit, adding grit and goal-scoring to the lineup and creating a strong duo with Dylan Larkin. But he continues to fight the injury bug, having missed 97 regular-season NHL games. This summer, he signed as a free agent with the Toronto Maple Leafs on a one-year contract.
Coming off a season in 2014-15 where he tallied 32 goals and 78 points in 55 games in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), Evgeny Svechnikov was touted as a high-end goal-scorer, which is what led the Red Wings to draft him 19th overall in the 2015 Draft.
His offensive prowess never made the translation to the NHL, however, and he never spent a full season in a Red Wings jersey, maxing out at 21 games in 2020-21, when he put up three goals and eight points.
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After the 2020-21 season, Svechnikov left the Red Wings and spent the last two seasons with the Winnipeg Jets and San Jose Sharks, playing 131 games but only scoring 15 goals. He is now playing in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) with Ak Bars Kazan.
After being selected by the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL in the Import Draft in 2016, Filip Hronek adjusted well to the North American style, totaling 61 points before he was drafted in the second round by the Red Wings in 2016.
He became a fast-rising prospect in the Red Wings organization once he made the jump to the American Hockey League (AHL). He became a full-time NHLer in the 2019-20 season and became one of the team’s best defensemen, albeit on a rebuilding team.
Hronek was traded last season to the Vancouver Canucks for a combination of draft picks, including the selection the Red Wings used to draft defenseman Axel Sandin Pellikka in 2023.
Heading into the 2015 Draft, Vili Saarijarvi was touted as an offensive-minded defenseman and was drafted in the third round by the Red Wings. He then made the move from the United States Hockey League (USHL) to the OHL and joined the Flint Firebirds, where he continued his offensive success, tallying 43 points in 59 games.
But his game was unable to translate to professional hockey after making the jump in the 2017-18 season. He struggled out of the gates with Grand Rapids and was eventually sent down to Toledo in the ECHL. The AHL is the highest level Saarijarvi has reached in his professional career, and he was traded to the Arizona Coyotes in 2019 for goalie Eric Comrie.
Seen as a tough player who also possessed a goal-scoring touch in juniors, Givani Smith was taken by the Red Wings in the second round of the 2016 Draft after a season with the Guelph Storm where he put up 42 points and 146 penalty minutes (PIMs).
Smith made the jump to professional hockey, joining the Griffins in the 2018-19 season before suiting up for the Red Wings the following season. His offensive game struggled with the transition, and he was used as a bottom-six forward and enforcer more than anything else.
He spent most of his time with the organization bouncing back and forth between Detroit and Grand Rapids before being sent to the Florida Panthers in a 2023 trade.
The Red Wings hoped that Dennis Cholowski would become one of their defensemen of the future after drafting him in the first round in 2016, but it never materialized.
Cholowski was touted as an offensive defenseman after playing in the Western Hockey League (WHL) in 2017-18, but he also struggled to translate his game to the NHL level. Like Smith, he also spent most of his time bouncing back and forth between Detroit and Grand Rapids. He departed the organization in the 2021-22 season.
The Red Wings’ prospect pool heading into the 2017-18 season didn’t produce more than a couple of full-time NHLers. Thankfully, general manager Steve Yzerman has been able to replenish the pool since then with high-quality young players who are on track to make some noise with the team in the near future.