Red Wings 2024 First Round Draft Targets: 5 Forwards

The Hockey Writers

The 2024 NHL Entry Draft is just under two weeks away now. Though the order of the last two picks is still pending the result of the Stanley Cup Final, we mostly know where every team is picking and which players could and should be available at each selection.

The Detroit Red Wings, as you probably already know, hold the 15th pick in this year’s festivities. This is their first time picking outside the top-10 since 2016, but the organization still expects to add a quality talent with the pick. After all, it was exactly 10 years ago that the Red Wings selected a kid named Dylan Larkin with the 15th pick, and we know how that worked out for the club.

While it would be foolish to expect that the player selected this year will become another Larkin, there are plenty of prospects projected to be available that could become a pillar of the future in Detroit. Their scouting team’s objective is to identify these players and make sure that they get the best one when it’s their turn to pick.

For my money, these are a few of the forwards they should consider at 15th overall.

(C/RW) Konsta Helenius

We’ll start with a prospect that probably has the lowest chance of being available out of the prospects suggested here. Konsta Helenius was something of a Finnish phenom this season while playing against men in Finland’s top league. He 14 goals and 36 points through 51 games and then followed that up with two goals and six points in six playoff games. The kid can flat-out produce, and the way he does it should translate as he moves up the ladder.

Related: 2024 NHL Draft Guide

Helenius is keenly aware of where everyone is on the ice, and that translates at both ends of the ice. While he would much rather dissect opposing defenses, he moves himself into the dangerous areas as both an attacker and defender. He isn’t afraid to go to the net, and he constantly finds ways to create offense. He probably won’t be a prolific scorer in the NHL, but his pure playmaking ability and hockey IQ makes him a threat to become a potent top six producer for years to come. He probably shouldn’t be on the board when it’s the Red Wings’ turn to pick, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility, especially if there’s a run on defensemen early on in the draft.

(RW) Michael Brandsegg-Nygård

Here’s the thing: Michael Brandsegg-Nygård has been connected to the Red Wings a lot throughout this draft cycle, and for good reason. His game is centered around a lot of what the Red Wings lack, including an imposing forecheck and strong decision-making. He plays a physical, mature game that should help him develop isn’t a high-effort, high-collision winger at the NHL level. The Athletic‘s Corey Pronman compares him to former Red Wing Tyler Bertuzzi, and I think that’s a fair comparison. (From “NHL Draft 2024 rankings: Macklin Celebrini leads Corey Pronman’s top 129 prospects”, The Athletic, 5/28/24).

2024 NHL Draft Guide banner

Brandsegg-Nygård fits the profile of forwards the Red Wings have taken early in recent drafts. Like Marco Kasper and Nate Danielson, the Norwegian winger’s compete level is one of his most appealing traits. He plays a mature brand of offense, and his shot is promising enough to project him as a consistent scorer in the NHL. But as was the case with Kasper and Danielson, it is fair to question if Brandsegg-Nygård’s upside will be the highest of players still on the board at 15th overall. Regardless, he plays a game that fans will fall in love with and he should become a useful NHLer for years to come.

(C) Michael Hage

10 years ago when the Red Wings selected Larkin, he was a centerman committed to play for the University of Michigan in the Fall. Detroit has a chance to repeat history later this month, and though this center isn’t from Michigan like Larkin is, he does profile similarly to the Red Wings’ captain.

With 33 goals and 75 points in 54 games, Michael Hage had the fourth-most points in the United States Hockey League this season. After being limited to just 13 games last season due to a shoulder injury, he roared back into action this season, and was one of the hottest prospects in this draft class down the stretch with 27 points in his final 14 games. He already possesses NHL size at 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, and his shot is already good enough to score on professional goaltenders. If he hits his ceiling, he’ll be a top-line center that can do a little bit of everything; I think his floor is a bottom six winger with good offensive touch. After spending this season with the Chicago Steel as well as his plan to join Michigan next season, I think his development is in good hands at least to start. If nothing else, he’s an easy kid to cheer for given how he handled his father’s passing last summer.

(RW) Beckett Sennecke

In THW’s First Round Mock Draft, the Red Wings walked away from the event with winger Beckett Sennecke wearing the winged wheel. While I did not make the pick, I don’t disagree with it. Depending on who you ask, he’s either one of the five best forwards in this year’s class, or he’s a couple tiers down in that “borderline elite” category. Either way, he’s another forward that would be a welcome addition to the Red Wings’ prospect pool.

Related: What Can Red Wings Fans Expect From the 15th Overall Pick?

In terms of pure talent, Sennecke may very well be one of the top forwards available in this draft. He handles the puck extremely well, and isn’t afraid to make a defender look silly in his pursuit of open ice. At 6-foot-2, 181 pounds, he’s a bit lanky and would absolutely benefit from adding muscle to his frame. He has the tools to play the “heavy skill” game that teams long for, and he has the confidence to play that style too. He plays a little too much “hero puck” though, and that quirk in his game will either have to be corrected or embraced – the Oshawa Generals, his junior team, opted to embrace it. He has the potential to become the focal point of a team’s offense.

(LW) Cole Eiserman

Cole Eiserman is another player that may not be available when the Red Wings make their pick, but there seems to be enough collective doubt about him that there’s a decent chance he will be. If he is available, the Red Wings should consider him not only because it would be fun to hear Steve Yzerman call Eiserman’s name, but because he’s one of the few forwards in this class that has a chance to be truly special.

Cole Eiserman USNTDP
Cole Eiserman, USNTDP (Rena Laverty / USA Hockey’s NTDP)

Eiserman is probably the most talented goal-scorer in this draft. He possess a high-end shot and he knows how to use it. But what is perhaps a little underrated is his overall playmaking ability. He knows where goals are scored, and his strong offensive instincts allow him to look for opportunities to create for his teammates. He’s a shooter first and a passer second, don’t get me wrong, but he may very well develop into a power play quarterback just because of how well he sees the ice offensively. While his defensive game does need some work, he just needs to be average defensively to become a viable threat in the NHL. He was once considered a top-five talent in this year’s class, and I’m willing to bet that he’ll enter next season with a chip on his shoulder depending on how far he falls down the draft board.

Honorable Mentions

  • If Berkly Catton is available at 15th overall, you take him. He is undersized and that does raise some questions, but people said the same thing about Zach Benson last year and he responded by making the Buffalo Sabres’ roster out of training camp. Catton possesses high-end speed and skill and would provide a different look to the Red Wings’ offensive prospects the same way that Axel Sandin Pellikka provides to their blue line group.
  • Tij Iginla clearly learned from his dad. He’s another player whose game should translate well come playoff time. He attacks the puck well and he’s always looking to make something happen. I am confident that he’ll be a good pro one way or another.

Final Word

Each player here provides something different from the rest. The Red Wings would probably be happy to add any of these guys, as they should be. But if it were up to me, my top options would be:

  1. Helenius
  2. Sennecke
  3. Hage

The Red Wings may be selecting in the front half of the NHL draft for the last time in a while, so they absolutely must maximize this pick. After selecting centers with their top pick in back-to-back drafts, Detroit should probably prioritize selecting a winger with high upside – unless a centerman falls that is too good to pass up. Helenius would be an example of that, and even then he has spent some time on the right wing in the past. Sennecke could develop into the exact type of winger the Red Wings need, and Detroit has had success with players like Hage in the past, but I think Helenius’s upside would be too good to pass up if all three were available.

If nothing else, let this article be proof that the Red Wings should have at least a couple quality options available to them when they are on the clock with their first pick.

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