The Next Generation

Cue corny “Wind Beneath My Wings” reference…


The Red Wings have become semi-famous for unearthing hidden gems in the draft throughout the years (though their recent draft efficiency isn’t anything to write home about), and although they gained a reputation for trading away their future for immediate success, they have quite a stable of promising prospects to look forward to.

Now, I won’t pretend to know as much about each of the prospects as Kyle from Babcock’s Death Stare, the chaps at Red Wings Central or Hockey’s Future – all of whom do a wonderful job analyzing and breaking down the Griffins and beyond. But, we here at The Production Line watch the prospects very closely and keep up as much as possible throughout the season.

That said, don’t take this list as a ranking, per se, it’s more of a organizational timeline of when you may be seeing the following names in red and white.

NHL-Ready

1. Darren Helm (C) – all the makings of a folk hero.
2. Jonathan Ericsson (D) – Babcock’s been itching to have him in the lineup for a few seasons – and he will be, full time, in 09-10.
3. Justin Abdelkader (C/LW) – performed more than admirably in the playoffs – scoring two goals in the Final, but may find himself in Grand Rapids again.
4. Jimmy Howard (G) – now or never, eh, James?

Potential 2010-11 Red Wings
5. Jakub Kindl (D) – an NHL talent, but has a real plus/minus problem on the farm. Will serve as the top defensive call-up this season.
6. Dick Axelsson (W) – finally coming to North America to showcase supposed NHL talent.
7. Mattias Ritola (W) – fit in nicely in spot call-up work in ’08.
8. Johan Ryno (W) – coming BACK to North America, will have to impress to earn another shot from the Wings after coming oh-so-close in ’07.

2 or 3 Years Out
9. Daniel Larsson (G) – he’ll either flat out steal a job from Jimmy Howard or exhaust his waiver options, as is the Wings way.
10. Logan Pyett (D) – big defenseman getting used to the pro game.
11. Cory Emmerton (C) – takes on a leadership role in prospect activities, coming along but is definitely buried behind some veterans on the depth chart.
12. Sergei Kolosov (D) – if there’s some growth on the farm, there might be room for him when the current blueline goes to pasture.

4 or 5 Years Out
13. Thomas McCollum (G) – very clearly the goaltender of the future.
14. Brian Lashoff (D) – savvy free agent signing looked great at this year’s strength and development camp.
15. Jan Mursak (W) – high-end talent took a step backwards spending so much time in the Grand Rapids press box.
16. Tomas Tatar (W) – who knows what path he’ll take…
17. Sebastien Piche (D) – another savvy pick-up will have to get used to the tempo of the pro game.
18. Francis Pare (C) – QMJHL MVP isn’t big, but he knows the game.

Potentially Further Out, But Still Very Exciting…
19. Brendan Smith (D) – as close to a bluechip blueline prospect the Wings have had in some time.
20. Landon Ferraro (W) – it may be a process – or it may be painless – either way he’s the only forward the Wings have taken in the first round (or early second) in a generation.
21. Gustav Nyquist (W) – lots of college eligibility left, and some years of the AHL between now and Motown.
22. Joakim Andersson (W) – will stay in Sweden again this season and has a potentially very long – but possible – road to the NHL.
23. Brent Raedeke (W) – like Lashoff, a clever move to tie him up. Just a matter of how well the undrafted player develops and how many forwards he can jump past.
24. Stephen Johnston (C) – a guy who will excite the Joe, should he ever get there, the Wings have a decision to make regarding his future next summer.
25. Gleason Fournier (D) – will continue to play Junior, one to watch.
26. Max Nicastro (D) – jumping to college hockey next season, could be 6-7 years away from the NHL.
27. Andrej Nestrasil (W) – the Wings are very high on him, he’ll be playing in the QMJHL in 09-10.

Borderline…
28. Nick Oslund (W) – playing college hockey in a program not known for its pro alumni.
29. Travis Ehrhardt (D) – great depth signing, may find it difficult to jump the prospects above him.
30. Nick Jensen (D) – luckily, the Red Wings have five years to evaluate whether they’d like to sign him, and then another three or four to play him in the AHL, if they choose to.
31. Adam Almqvist (D) – playing in a second-tier league overseas, will hopefully begin to blossom now that he’s a draft pick. It’s happened to Wings picks before — and from lower tiers.
32. Jesper Samuelsson (W) – having trouble staying in the Swedish Elite League.

Long Shots
33. Jordan Pearce (G) – not to knock his skill, he’s just got a lot of guys to leapfrog to play goal for the Wings.
34. Mitchell Callahan (W) – might not want to sign a fighter when upon his deadline. Should be an interesting call in 2011.
35. Jamie Tardif (W) – most likely signed to guarantee his place on the Griffins.
36. Julien Cayer (W) – very raw prospect with three more years to impress.
37. Anton Axelsson (C) – supposedly not interested in coming to North America.
38. Bryan Rufenach (D) – needs a hell of a Junior year at Clarkson to open some eyes.
39. Nils Backstrom (D) – highly unlikely to be signed.
40. Gennady Stolyarov (C) – may be stuck in Russia his entire career, but there’s something there.

4 thoughts on “The Next Generation”

  1. The All-Sabres Prospect Team:

    G: Johnas Enroth
    D: Chris Butler
    D: Tyler Myers
    C: Tyler Ennis
    W: Nathan Gerbe
    W: Tim Kennedy

    Not to mention their first three draft picks last month:

    -Zack Kassian is a special, and very large, talent.
    -Brayden McNabb is wonderful value for a third round pick.
    -Marcus Foligno, son of former Sabre great Mike.

  2. Brent Gretzky definitely "was in" the NHL, but definitely only because the Lightning wondered what "GRETZKY" would look like on the back of their jersey…

    The father/son thing has worked out just fine for the Brett Hulls of the world, and Mike Foligno's older son, Nick, is already a bonafide NHLer, so there's a couple of connections for Marcus.

    Don't lose faith before they turn 18, man!

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