The Detroit Red Wings have spent the first half of the 2023-24 season flirting with playoff contention. Because of this, a lot of focus has been placed on the performance of the players on the NHL roster. This, of course, means that less attention has been placed on the Red Wings’ many prospects playing all over the world – which is curious considering the team is still in the building phase of their competitive cycle.
Some prospects are easier to track than others. The best prospects pop up throughout social media as they make highlight plays and play in big roles for their teams. Others, for one reason or another, fade into the background and really only pop up in large-scale prospect articles like this one.
But as we all know, when it comes to prospect pools, quality and quantity are both important, and the players that fall into each category shift as each year passes. That’s why we re-rank the Red Wings’ top-25 prospects every six months or so.
Without further ado, here are the Red Wings’ top-25 prospects midway through the 2023-24 season.
25. (D) Jared McIsaac – 2018, 36th Overall
2023-24 Stats: Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL) – 15 Games Played (GP), 1 Goal (G), 4 Points (P)
Previous Rank: 14
It wasn’t that long ago that Jared McIsaac was considered part of a haul of prospects the Red Wings got in the early parts of the 2018 draft. After drafting forwards Filip Zadina, Joe Veleno and Jonatan Berggren, the Red Wings selected the Canadian defenseman early in the second round despite some scouting sources categorizing him as a first round talent. Since then, things haven’t gone Detroit’s way when it comes to this draft class, and McIsaac is a part of that disappointment.
McIsaac, a two-way defender that suffered through some big injuries throughout his development, has found himself going in and out of the Griffins’ lineup this season after holding down a consistent role since he went pro in 2021. It’s a classic case of his development stagnating while others in the prospect pool surpass him. I still think he can be a useful player under the right circumstances, but this is probably the last time his name is included in an article like this.
24. (D) Antti Tuomisto – 2019, 35th Overall
Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL) – 19 GP, 3 G, 8 P
Previous Rank: 24
Antti Tuomisto has finally brought his game to the pro level in North America. After two seasons at the University of Denver, he spent last season back home in Finland. After the 2022-23 season, he signed a two-year entry-level contract (ELC) with the Red Wings.
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Tuomisto has proved this season that he can contribute at both the ECHL and the AHL level (he played a few games with the Toledo Walleye on a conditioning stint.) He boasts a powerful shot from the point, and it looks like his North American struggles in college did not follow him to the pro level. However, he doesn’t stand out enough in the AHL to warrant a higher ranking, and with another wave of blue line prospects poised to join the Griffins in the coming years, I’m not sure that he ever will stand out among the crowd. It looks like he’ll have a long, productive professional career, but I’m not convinced the NHL is in his future. As it is, he provides quality depth in this prospect pool and healthy competition in Toledo and Grand Rapids.
23. (RW) Alexandre Doucet – Undrafted
Toledo Walleye (ECHL) – 24 GP, 7 G, 19 P
Previous Rank: 19
In baseball, a player that seems too good to play in the AAA minor league but not quite good enough to play in the big leagues is called a “quadruple-A” player. That’s not limited to baseball, however, as we see examples of that kind of player throughout the game of hockey. In Alexandre Doucet’s case, we have someone that might be considered a “double-and-a-half-A” player – he seems to be too good to play in the ECHL, but not quite at the level required to thrive in the AHL.
With the Walleye, Doucet displays the offensive abilities that allowed him to put up 115 points in 70 games in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) last season. He’s shifty with the puck on his stick and he seems to be just as adept at putting the puck in the back of the net himself as he is at creating opportunities for his teammates. Whether it’s the speed, size or skill level of the AHL that he hasn’t quite caught up to yet, he still has plenty of runway ahead of him in terms of developing his skill and size. There still might be a player here, but there’s no reason to be overly excited…yet.
22. (D) Eemil Viro – 2020, 70th Overall
Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL) – 12 GP, 1 G, 1 P
Previous Rank: 17
Consistent playing time was a slight issue for Eemil Viro last season, but that was maybe to be expected given the amount of talent Grand Rapids had on the blue line as well as his style of play. He’s an invisible eraser – a player that is at his best when you don’t notice him because he makes simple, smart plays and stays within his limits. While that remains true this season, he has also fallen victim (yet again) to a blue line with too many bodies on it.
Viro has never been a high-upside prospect, but he can still develop into a reliable pro in North America. The Finnish prospect has one more year on his contract past this season, but the Griffins are going to continue seeing new faces on the blue line over the next few years. He needs to find a way to assert himself and lock down big minutes in Grand Rapids, otherwise he’ll find himself on the periphery of the Red Wings’ future, and that would almost certainly lead him back to Finland.
21. (C/RW) Theodor Niederbach – 2020, 51st Overall
MoDo Hockey (Swedish Hockey League) – 36 GP, 5 G, 8 P
Previous Rank: 21
Speaking of AAA players, Theodor Niederbach might be the Swedish equivalent of what Doucet is going through. Last season in the Swedish equivalent of the AHL, he recorded a solid 18 points in 31 games and showed off his ability to create space for his teammates and facilitate in the offensive zone. This season he has returned to the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) and is on pace for an underwhelming 11 points in 51 games. Good enough to play in the SHL, but not quite good enough to thrive.
Niederbach reminds me a bit of former Red Wing forward Valtteri Filppula in that he’s a soft-skilled, European centerman that looks to pass whenever he has the opportunity. Filppula eventually learned the ruggedness that it takes to endure an 82-game season in the NHL, but I’m not sure that Niederbach will ever get to that point. His development to this point has been like trying to get a small car over a snowy, slippery hill: he gets some momentum going, but then he gets stuck halfway up the hill and has to fall back down and try again.
20. (LW/C) Noah Dower Nilsson – 2023, 73rd Overall
Frölunda HC (SHL) – 4 GP, 1 G, 2 P
Previous Rank: 20
Noah Dower Nilsson has been limited this season after having shoulder surgery done back in the summer and then enduring another setback regarding his health earlier this month. To that point, he has played less than 10 games to this point in the season and hasn’t been able to assert himself in the lineup. That being said, he is just a full recovery away from regaining his status as one of the more exciting prospects in this pool.
When healthy, Dower Nilsson displays raw offensive skill and the ability to put the puck in the back of the net in a variety of ways. Assuming he returns to full health soon-ish, he should be able to reestablish himself as a scorer over in the Swedish leagues. Shoulders can be a tricky thing, however, and his health is definitely something to monitor for the rest of this season.
19. (D) Anton Johansson – 2022, 105th Overall
Leksands IF (SHL) – 31 GP, 3 G, 7 P
Previous Rank: 25
Anton Johansson has continued to move in the right direction since the Red Wings took him in the fourth round of the 2022 draft. The tall, lanky defender was already making a name for himself in the Red Wings community due to his size, defensive acumen, and the fact he is Swedish like many of Detroit’s prospects. Following the recent World Junior Championship tournament, however, he is probably now on many people’s radars.
Johansson doesn’t always play with a mean streak, but he is a force to be reckoned with when he does. When he’s not imposing his size on the opposition, he doesn’t take many chances with the puck on his stick. He moves it up to the forward group with a smooth outlet pass, and he usually tries to move it or put it on net in the offensive zone. If he can harness his size and aggression, he has an outside chance of developing into bottom-pairing bully that can be relied on in defensive situations. He’s on a good trajectory, he just needs to maintain it.
18. (LW) Dylan James – 2022, 40th Overall
University of North Dakota (NCAA) – 26 GP, 5 G, 12 P
Previous Rank: 18
Dylan James is one of those prospects that you almost forget about, and it’s not necessarily his fault. Most of the guys ranked ahead of him here are the ones that dominate headlines and conversations, and some of the guys ranked behind him are just more well-known due to the amount of time they have spent in Detroit’s system or a defining feature in their game. However, the former second round pick also hasn’t done enough to really stand out from the crowd since the Red Wings drafted him back in 2022.
In his second season with the University of North Dakota, James is making steady progress. He is finding new ways to make an impact on a game-to-game basis, whether it’s creating an offensive opportunity or making a physical play. He hasn’t taken the big step forward this season that I would have liked to see, so he might be a prospect that either takes a bit longer to blossom, or his ceiling isn’t going to be as high as some scouts thought during the 2022 draft cycle. Until I see more from him, he’s going to be stuck in this range of the ranking.
17. (C/W) Liam Dower Nilsson – 2021, 134th Overall
IF Björklöven (HockeyAllsvenskan) – 39 GP, 10 G, 20 P
Previous Rank: 23
This is a fairly big jump for Liam Dower Nilsson after falling back five spots in the previous ranking. Here he is, back in the top-20, due to his relative consistency this season and a certain level of confidence that wasn’t present last season.
Unlike his brother, this Dower Nilsson has been able to stay healthy this season and display a lot of the tools that made him such an interesting pick back in the 2021 draft. His two-way ability with give him longevity as a professional hockey player, but his goalscoring ability seems to have taken a step forward this season. He has often been more of a playmaker to this point in his career, but he seems to have developed a bit of a nose for the net this season. If his season continues the way it has gone so far, he will belong on your radar if he isn’t on it already.
16. (C) Redmond “Red” Savage – 2021, 114th Overall
Michigan State University (NCAA) – 26 GP, 8 G, 24 P
Previous Rank: 17
Sometimes all you need is a change of scenery. After two subpar seasons at Miami University (Ohio), “Red” Savage transferred to Michigan State University during the offseason, and his game has seemingly reached another level while playing with the Spartans. While displaying his usual maximum effort play style, he has found ways to contribute at both ends of the ice and make a difference in an elevated role for a rejuvenated hockey program in East Lansing.
Savage is an effective forechecker that uses his feet to gain an edge on opposing defenders. He isn’t necessarily a finesse player himself, but he’ll put up a lot of points if given the opportunity to do his thing alongside those types of players. Though he is showing shades of his game that were previously only hinted at, he still projects as a bottom six forward that provides a spark through hard work and clutch contributions. It wouldn’t surprise me if he joins the Griffins once the Spartans conclude their season.
15. (LW) Cross Hanas – 2020, 55th Overall
Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL) – 32 GP, 3 G, 7 P
Previous Rank: 10
I was very excited for Cross Hanas entering this season as the native of Texas looked promising in his 30 games with the Griffins last season, posting nine goals and 17 points along the way. This season, the 22-year-old winger hasn’t been as effective and, at times, looks lost in the shuffle among the forwards in Grand Rapids.
Hanas is at his best when he plays with confidence. When he’s feeling confident, he controls the puck well and looks to attack with each possession. He plays with an edge that can sometimes land him in penalty trouble, but that level of engagement is what sets him aside from other wingers in this pool of prospects. That being said, he has looked sheepish throughout this season, and has seemingly struggled to establish chemistry with any of his linemates. A strong second half will put him right back on track, but it’s a shame to see him take a step back in the first half of this season.
14. (D) Andrew Gibson – 2023, 42nd Overall
Soo Greyhounds (Ontario Hockey League) – 46 GP, 7 G, 31 P
Previous Rank: 16
Andrew Gibson is a highly active defenseman that is enjoying a productive season in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). He gets a moderate bump up the rankings this time around, but he’s on a great trajectory if he can continue doing what he has been doing this season.
Gibson competes all over the ice, and looks to make a difference in the offensive end. Though his two-way game is still developing, his play in the defensive end does seem to have improved over his draft season. I don’t think he’ll be a defender that has to be sheltered once he goes pro, and his compete level is one of the biggest reasons why. His skating can be a bit clunky at times; his improvement in that area (or lack thereof) could be what ultimately determines his ceiling at the pro level.
13. (D) Shai Buium – 2021, 36th Overall
University of Denver (NCAA) – 25 GP, 5 G, 22 P
Previous Rank: 15
You better get used to hearing the name Buium for the next few months. Not only is Shai making big strides in his Junior season at the University of Denver, but his brother and teammate, Zeev, is a top prospect in the 2024 draft class. Though most people have their eyes on his brother, Shai looks to be making the strides you hoped he would take after a so-so sophomore season.
Buium plays with controlled confidence. He makes good reads with the puck, and he moves it and himself smoothly and efficiently. He has been effective at both ends of the ice this season, and his continued growth as a two-way defenseman should pave a path that leads to the NHL. It is, however, a bit easy to wonder about how high his ceiling is, especially when watching him play on the same team as his younger brother.
12. (LW/RW) Elmer Söderblom – 2019, 159th Overall
Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL) – 35 GP, 5 G, 17 P
Previous Rank: 9
This one stings a bit because Elmer Söderblom was so close to losing rookie status a year ago that he was completely left of last season’s midseason rankings. Since then, however, he made his way back to Grand Rapids and, to be honest, he hasn’t done enough to warrant any additional looks with the Red Wings.
For a player with 21 games of NHL experience under his belt, Söderblom has looked incredibly lost at times this season in the AHL. He worked his way onto the Red Wings’ roster to start last season, but that same effort level is often missing this season with the Griffins. A player with his combination of size and skill should be the hardest player on the Griffins’ roster to go up against on any given night, but that just hasn’t been the case. When he’s on his game, you see the player he can be, but given the level he’s playing at, his overall ceiling is really starting to come into question. A strong finish to the season would put things back on track, but there needs to be some changes for that to happen.
11. (G) Trey Augustine – 2023, 41st Overall
Michigan State University (NCAA) – 23 GP, 15-5-2, 3.11 GAA, .912 SV%
Previous Rank: 13
It is becoming harder and harder to temper excitement about Trey Augustine. The Michigan-native is in his first season with the Michigan State Spartans, and he is having the type of year fans hoped for when the Red Wings made him their first pick in the second round of the 2023 draft.
Not only is Augustine shining as the Spartans’ go-to guy as a freshman, but he also backstopped Team USA to a gold medal at the World Juniors earlier this month. At 6-foot-1, 179 pounds, his size isn’t imposing in the crease, but he knows where to be to make the first stop, and he generally tracks the puck very well. Goalies are notoriously hard to project, but it appears early on that he’s a “high-floor” goaltender that should be gaining national attention over the coming years. He’s a quality goaltending prospect that has a lot of runway in front of him.
10. (C) Amadeus Lombardi – 2022, 113th Overall
Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL) – 37 GP, 3 G, 12 P
Previous Rank: 11
Amadeus Lombardi has had an interesting first season in the AHL. He consistently displays the speed and skill that made him rise up these rankings fairly quickly last season, and that effort has resulted in consistent playing time in the Griffins’ top nine. He started the season as the team’s second line center, a role that he still fills on occasion, but has since slid down the depth chart a bit, mostly due to the play of other players in the lineup. However, his production level isn’t where many had hoped it would be at this point, and it is clear that parts of his game have yet to translate at this level.
In the last rankings, I compared Lombardi to former Red Wing Andreas Athanasiou, another fourth round pick whose game is built on speed and skill. Six months later, I feel even better about that comparison as Lombardi has not done anything this season to suggest that he will be better or worse than the player Red Wings fans used to refer to as “Greased Lightning”. I see a player that can bring you out of your seat with a great individual effort, but struggles to convert those exceptional plays into goals. For what it’s worth, Lombardi seems to be a lot better at utilizing his teammates than Athanasiou was at his age.
9. (LW) Dmitry Buchelnikov – 2022, 52nd Overall
Admiral Vladivostok (Kontinental Hockey League) – 44 GP, 10 G, 22 P
Previous Rank: 12
Honestly, Dmitri Buchelnikov probably deserves to be a little bit higher than this based solely on his efforts this season. He is doing a lot of good things, and he’s doing them in what is arguably the second-best hockey league in the world. We have been talking about raw potential with this player since the moment the Red Wings unexpectedly selected him in the second round of the 2022 draft, but this is the first season where that potential seems to be turning into projectability.
Buchelnikov is an offense-first winger that always looks to create a scoring opportunity whenever he is on the ice. He has produced at a steady pace this season as a 20-year-old in a men’s league. Finding the right guys for him to play with could be the trick to unlocking his full potential as he does seem like a player that can’t do it all on his own. He is still under contract with his Russian club for another season; his murky NHL timeline is what ultimately holds him back from being ranked even higher on this list.
8. (D) William Wallinder – 2020, 32nd Overall
Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL) – 37 GP, 3 G, 7 P
Previous Rank: 7
If you aren’t convinced that there is a learning curve going from European hockey to the North American game, look no further than William Wallinder. The first pick in the second round of the 2020 draft has enjoyed moderate success in his first AHL season, and that has allowed him to be overshadowed by some of the Red Wings’ other defensive prospects in Grand Rapids and overseas.
When Wallinder is at his best, he has some Moritz Seider in his game. By that, I mean he reads the play as well as he moves the puck, and he uses his size to maintain possession and clog up shooting lanes. By no means is he a physical player like Seider can be, but his frame is one of his best assets – he just hasn’t quite figured out how to use it here in North America. Wallinder has always been seen as a long-term “project” going back to his draft season, so there isn’t reason to panic about his lack of substantial success in the AHL this season. However, you would like to see him gain some momentum in the final months of the season just to ensure his development stays on track.
7. (G) Sebastian Cossa – 2021, 15th Overall
Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL) – 19 GP, 9-7-3, 2.75 GAA, .907 SV%
Previous Rank: 8
To understand Sebastian Cossa’s first full season in the AHL is to understand that a statline and box scores never tell the whole story. While his numbers don’t exactly jump out at you, one important bit of context is that a couple of bad team games have heavily weighed down his numbers; his save-percentage alone is well north of .910 if the Griffins’ defensive structure was better at the first month of the season. Factor in the fact that he has asserted himself as the team’s “1A” in goal this season, and I think there are a lot of reasons to be excited about this goalie, even if naysayers have their eyes on a prospect in the Minnesota Wild’s system.
Going back to his final season in the Western Hockey League (WHL), Cossa has shown a tendency to get better over the course of a given season. Even last season with the Toledo Walleye of the ECHL, the first half of his season was so underwhelming that fans and pundits across the league were starting to jump ship on him. But once we rang in the new year, he started winning games and was eventually named the ECHL’s Goalie of the Week in late February/early March. We’re seeing a similar trajectory this season as he seems to be getting better as the Griffins’ season goes along. If the AHL playoffs started right now, I would bet that he gets the start in Game 1 – that’s an encouraging sign for a prospect that should still be considered the Red Wings’ “goalie of the future”.
6. (D) Albert Johansson – 2019, 60th Overall
Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL) – 33 GP, 4 G, 13 P
Previous Rank: 6
Albert Johansson is an interesting prospect to rank for a litany of reasons. First and foremost, he is arguably the Red Wings’ most NHL-ready prospect. He was close to being called-up last season before he went down with a season-ending injury, and after a slow start this season, he seems to be knocking on the NHL’s door again. Second, he is one of the oldest players listed here at 23 years old, so there isn’t the same amount of developmental runway here as there is with other young defensemen on the Griffins’ roster.
Johansson is perhaps the most mature of the Red Wings’ blue line prospects, and not just because of his age. He plays a reserved two-way style that translates well in a variety of roles. He has proven he can be effective on both sides of the blue line, and it seems like he is gaining a better understanding of how to produce points in his second season in North America. He doesn’t have the same level of upside that the players ranked ahead of him have, but he might be the prospect that needs a look in the NHL more than any other in Detroit’s system.
5. (LW) Carter Mazur – 2021, 70th Overall
Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL) – 33 GP, 11 G, 20 P
Previous Rank: 3
It’s crazy to think where Carter Mazur might be if he hadn’t endured an injury during the Traverse City Prospects Tournament. A lot of folks who track Red Wings prospects, myself included, expected that the native of Jackson, Michigan would make a strong push in training camp for an NHL roster spot following a successful collegiate career with the University of Denver. Instead, the scrappy winger was forced to recover and then join the Griffins once their season was already underway.
Since joining the Griffins, Mazur has performed as expected. After securing five points in his first five games, he hit a bit of rut as the whole team seemed to struggle to find their footing. He is at his best when he is providing a spark for his team with his high compete level and his ability to create and convert on offensive opportunities. I’d like to see him embrace a little more nastiness over the rest of the Griffins’ season and (hopefully) into the playoffs, but right now there’s not much to complain about. He’s a great prospect that probably deserves more recognition.
4. (C/LW) Marco Kasper – 2022, 8th Overall
Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL) – 39 GP, 6 G, 20 P
Previous Rank: 2
Marco Kasper gave some of us a scare at the start of this season. After jumping straight to the NHL from the SHL late last season, there was an underlying expectation that the Red Wings’ top pick in the 2022 draft would either start the season in Detroit or excel early on with the Griffins. He fell short of making the Red Wings’ roster, however, and the start to his season in Grand Rapids was underwhelming to say the least.
Since late December, Kasper has taken his game to another level. He always displayed his trademark compete level, but it wasn’t until the last month or so that his hard work started yielding tangible results. He has moved all over the Griffins’ lineup as head coach Dan Watson continues to experiment with his lineup, but Kasper seems to have settled into the second line center role in Grand Rapids. He looks more and more like the player we all got excited about last season with each passing game, and he was even named the AHL’s Player of the Week for the week ending in Jan. 21. The only reason he fell a few spots in this ranking is because of how impressive the three players ranked ahead of him have been.
3. (C/RW) Nate Danielson – 2023, 9th Overall
Western Hockey League (2 Teams) – 32 GP, 14 G, 34 P
Previous Rank: 5
From the moment Nate Danielson was still on the Red Wings’ roster after players like Kasper and Johansson were sent to the AHL, I knew he was going to rank higher this time around than he did back in the summer. In a short period of time, Danielson has proven that not only is he one of Detroit’s best prospects, he is also one of their most NHL-ready.
The former captain of the Brandon Wheat Kings was recently traded to the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL. With the Winterhawks, he has continued his strong scoring pace and two-way play. He showed his versatility as a right winger at the World Juniors with Team Canada by playing a mature game and finding ways to contribute without being relied on as a key offensive piece. He’s a future two-way stud – the biggest question that remains is just how high his ceiling is. People that love him will tell you he’s a future top line center; skeptics will say he’s a future third line defensive center. Personally, I just hope that the Red Wings and their developmental staff don’t muffle his offensive abilities over the coming years.
2. (D) Axel Sandin Pellikka – 2023, 17th Overall
Skellefteå AIK (SHL) – 25 GP, 9 G, 13 P
Previous Rank: 4
Last time around, it was perhaps a bit of a hot take to rank Axel Sandin Pellikka ahead of Danielson given that the Red Wings clearly had/have Danielson ranked ahead of the Swedish defender. Since then, however, Sandin Pellikka has proven why he probably should have been taken a lot sooner than 17th overall. Simply put: the kid has the potential to be something very special.
No matter what level Sandin Pellikka has played at this season, he has been a standout for his team. At the World Juniors, he was named the top defenseman by the Internation Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). In the SHL this season, he currently leads all defensemen in goals. He makes an impact all over the ice, but his offensive abilities set him apart from many other defensive prospects across the hockey world. Kris Letang was often brought up by scouts as a comparable for him, and this season has done nothing but add fuel to the idea that the Red Wings got an absolute steal in taking him at 17th overall.
1. (D) Simon Edvinsson – 2021, 6th Overall
Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL) – 36 GP, 6 G, 22 P
Previous Rank: 1
When a prospect has held down the top spot in these rankings for as long as Simon Edvinsson has, the question must be asked: when is he going to get an extended look in the NHL?
Though there are times where Edvinsson falls victim to being over-aggressive in the AHL, he generally looks like one of, if not the best player on the ice. He is learning how to use his size in the North American game, and that could be the secret to unlocking his true potential as a minute-munching defenseman in the NHL. I would argue that he has been ready to take on the NHL for a while now, but the best argument I can make for keeping him in Grand Rapids is that the Griffins would have a hard time replacing him for their own playoff push. That might be the best compliment a player in his position can receive.
Top Prospects by Position
|Liam Dower Nilsson
|Noah Dower Nilsson
|Axel Sandin Pellikka
- (LW/C) Maximilian Kilpinen
- (G) Jan Bednář
- (F) Emmitt Finnie
- (D) Cooper Moore
- (LW/C) Chase Bradley