The 32-in-32 Series is an annual event here at DobberProspects! Every day in July we will be bringing you a complete breakdown of a team’s Draft, and insights into their off-season movements thus far. Following this up in August, we will dive into every team’s prospect depth chart with fantasy insights and implications for the upcoming seasons. Check back often, because we plan on filling your hockey withdrawal needs all off-season long!
Draft Review After missing out on the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season — an eternity for Red Wings fans after qualifying for the 25 previous ones — General Manager Steve Yzerman showed up to the 2023 draft in Nashville armed to the teeth with 11 picks. That included five picks in the top 43. Many analysts predicted that the Wings would try to upgrade the current team by dealing some of those picks for a productive goal scorer but that didn’t materialize duringthe draft. Yzerman left Nashville with 11 new prospects as the team’s rebuild continues.
Detroit has now picked in the top ten for seven consecutive years after not having a pick that high since they drafted Martin Lapointe at number ten in 1991. Their playoff drought is the longest in team history since the 1970’s and the second longest active streak in the NHL today behind only the Buffalo Sabres. But cheer up Wings fans, “The Captain” is cooking. He continues to build through the draft while setting up the Wings future for the long haul. Two weeks after the draft, Yzerman landed former 40-goal scorer Alex Debrincat in a trade with the Ottawa Senators and then signed the Michigan native to a four-year, team-friendly extension. This was the bold move that the team desperately needed after finishing 24th in scoring last season.
The Wings wasted no time in going off the board early with the ninth-overall pick, center Nate Danielson. Not many analysts projected Danielson going that early. The 6-2 center from the Brandon Wheat Kings is a jack-of-all-trades type of player. Size and strength were key attributes that Detroit has been looking for, and the team feels they got that with the 18-year-old. After the pick, Yzerman talked to ESPN about the selection: “We’re still in a rebuilding phase, we’re still in a collecting assets through the draft…we’re still there…. we’re not at a point where we feel like, hey we can really go for it so to speak. We’re progressing and I hope to be there sooner than later.” On Day Two of the draft, Yzerman swung a deal with his old friend — Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland — and acquired forwards Kailer Yamamoto and Klim Kostin for future considerations. Yamamoto was subsequently bought out of his contract, while Kostin signed a two-year deal with the club. More on that coming up.
Draft Recap: The Kids Are Alright
Round 1, 9th Overall – Nate Danielson, Center The Red Wings were looking for scoring at 9th overall, so I was a little confused when they selected Danielson, especially when you consider the other names that were still on the board. But then again, it’s Yzerman, so we shouldn’t be too surprised. Last season the Alberta native led his team in scoring with 33 goals and 45 assists in his third season playing for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL. He also served as the team’s captain. When I heard number one overall pick Connor Bedard say that Danielson was one of the toughest players he had to play against, I started to understand the type of player that Yzerman was looking for.
“I think just that I’m a well-rounded player,” Danielson admitted. “I play well in all areas of the rink. Offensively very skilled, defensively I’m responsible. I think just that all-around game was a big part of it.” The smooth skating center plays a complete 200-foot game, and his compete level is top-notch. Sound like an Yzerman pick now? He’ll most likely play one more season for the Wheat Kings before heading to Grand Rapids in the AHL. He has high offensive upside and it would not shock me if he becomes a second to third line center with the team in three to four years. All in all a safe pick.
Round 1, 17th Overall – Axel Sandin Pellikka, RD Another Swedish defenseman drafted by the Wings. Color me shocked. Yzerman is no stranger when it comes to drafting defensemen from the SHL, and that’s exactly what he did with pick number 17. Sandin Pellikka is a right-handed defenseman — who is an extremely smooth skater with a high hockey IQ — and may be the most gifted offensive rearguard in the entire draft. The 5-11 puck-moving defender played 22 games with Skelleftea AIK of the Swedish Hockey League this past season, recording two goals and five points. This followed a sensational season with the Skelleftea AIK Jr. club, where he registered 16 goals and 36 points over 31 games.
Sandin Pellikka is smart with the puck and has been compared to Kris Letang and Quinn Hughes; a reliable puck-moving defender that can create offense from the backend with a high compete level. His lateral movement with the puck is off the charts. He can quarterback your power play and also help kill off penalties. Sandin Pellikka breaks the norm of Yzerman drafting big, heavy defensemen. But he won’t rely on his physical play as much as he will his skating and vision. Sandin Pellikka projects as a top-four NHL defender and should fit in nicely with Moritz Seider and Simon Edvinsson for the next decade. He instantly becomes Detroit’s top right-handed defensive prospect.
Round 2, 41st overall – Trey Augustine, G The Detroit Red Wings began the second day of the 2023 NHL draft by adding to the goalie pipeline – selecting local goaltender Trey Augustine with the 41st overall pick. He was the first of nine picks by the Wings on Day 2. The 6-1 netminder, a native of South Lyon who is committed to play as a freshman at Michigan State, is a product of USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program. He posted a 2.21 goals-against average and .925 save percentage in 32 games this past season while posting a 24-1-2 record. In the World Junior Championships for Team USA, Augustine had a .891 save percentage and a 2.85 GAA in six games, winning four as the USA took home the gold. He instantly slots in as the Wings number two goalie prospect behind Sebastian Cossa.
Round 2, 42nd overall – Andrew Gibson, D
The Detroit Red Wings selected Andrew Gibson with the 42nd pick in the 2023 NHL Draft from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League. He delays, manipulates opponents with deception (even on pass receptions), uses the inside, and looks for activation opportunities after passing. Subtle plays – like a quick pump fake on reception, or angling his body away from his target – drive his value according to Elite Prospects. Injuries limited Gibson to just 45 games this past season. His offensive production did not stand out with seven goals and 21 points but that’s not the strength of his game. He’s a big body (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) who plays a mean, physical style. He skates well for someone his size but Gibson projects to be a bottom pairing defender, with a nasty mean streak.
Round 2, 47th overall – Brady Cleveland, D This pick had the majority of Red Wings fans scratching their heads. The defenseman was selected by the Red Wings with the 47th-overall pick. A member of the gold medal-winning United States team at the U-18 World Championships, Cleveland was projected to be a late second-round, early third-round pick. A big bodied defenseman at 6-5, Cleveland will not be looked at as a point-producing defenseman as he only posted 6 assists in 55 games with the NDTP. The left-handed defender welcomes the physical style of play with open arms which should help endear him to Wings fans and fill a much needed role in the organization. The 18-year-old has already announced his commitment to playing with the University of Wisconsin Badgers for the 2023-24 season. He is considered a project at this point but with his size and physical assets he could be that diamond in the rough that Yzerman has been searching for. He wants that Radko Gudas type player – also an Yzerman draftee in 2010 – to help stir the pot.
Round 3, 73rd overall – Noah Dower-Nilsson, LW
“O brother where art thou?”. With the 73rd overall pick, the Red Wings selected a familiar name. Noah Dower-Nilsson is the brother of current Red Wings prospect Liam Dower-Nilsson who was drafted by Detroit in the 5th round of the 2021 draft. The Swedish left winger has some very intriguing offensive skills and is smart with the puck. He plays an intense game with a very high compete level which helps him excel on the forecheck – another trait that Detroit values. The 18 year-old appeared in 37 games for Frolunda’s junior team, registering 26 goals and 54 points. The left handed shooter dominated at the under-18 level with eight goals and 18 points in seven games. He will likely need some seasoning in Europe before coming over to the U.S, and I wouldn’t expect to see him in the NHL before the 2026-2027 season. He could end up being one of the “steals of the draft”.
Round 4, 117th overall – Larry Keenan, D The Wings went big again in the fourth round drafting another big, heavy defenseman. Noticing a trend? The 6-3, 185 pound defender is an excellent skater with speed who plays an aggressive 200-foot game. The question mark on Keenan is how well his defensive game will transfer to the professional leagues. He played at Culver Military Academy prep last season, but will skate for the Penticton Vees of the BCHL this season. Keenan has committed to Umass for the 2024-2025 season.
Round 5, 137th overall – Jack Phelan, D The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. But it’s not insane to think that the Wings are gambling on ONE of these big bodied defenseman to pan out.The Wings went back to the well with Phelan. In 59 games with the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL he registered just a goal and 4 assists. Once again, Detroit is not expecting big offensive numbers out of the 19-year-old but they are excited about his potential size. At 6-2, 185 pounds, Yzerman takes another swing at a boom or bust prospect. He has committed to Wisconsin for the 2024-2025 season.
Round 5, 147th overall – Kevin Bicker, F
The 18-year-old German is a 6-1, 181 pound skilled power forward who will “punch you in the face”. He was excellent in the World Juniors with 3 goals and 2 assists in 5 games. He’s got some upside offensively and skates very well. He put up a point per game with the junior Mannheim club with 21 points in 20 games. He then added 16 points in ten games during the playoffs including ten goals. He is committed to Lowen Frankfurt of the DEL for the upcoming 2023-2024 season.
“Bicker plays fast, but doesn’t overextend, he applies intense pressure, but only after eliminating the puck carrier’s options. Comes across the hips to force dump-ins or get the steal. Has some playmaking touch. Deceptive and precise, his passes bypass defenders and connect with teammates in the slot”. -EliteProspects 2023 NHL Draft Guide
Round 6, 169th overall – Rudy Guimond (G) In the sixth round, the Wings added more depth to their goaltending pipeline. Guimond was a prep standout for Taft School in Connecticut. The 18-year-old played USHS-Prep and 18U AAA last season, posting a 0.940 and 0.939 save percentage. Another large goaltender at 6-4, Guimond has committed to Yale for the 2024-2025 season but will play with the Cedar Rapids Roughriders of the USHL for the upcoming one. He is considered a long-term depth prospect at this point.
Round 7, 201st overall – Emmitt Finnie (F) With their final pick in the 2023 draft, the Wings selected the Canadian forward from the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL. Finnie put up nine goals and 26 assists in 64 games with the club. He has a high end work ethic and also has that compete level that Yzerman craves. The 18-year-old still has WHL eligibility as he is a long term project for the Wings organization. The 6-1 170 pounder really showed his talent in the Kelly Cup last year, playing in 14 games and putting up seven points (four goals and three assists) and was a +5 in the tournament.
Offseason Moves With close to 30 million in cap space, the Red Wings hit the ground running on the first day of free agency by addressing the needs for a right-handed defenseman and a backup goalie. Justin Holl will slot in as a second to third pair defender for the Winged Wheel. Goalies James Reimer and Alex Lyon were also added as much needed insurance behind starter Ville Husso. Yzerman then added some secondary scoring via free agent Daniel Sprong with a one-year deal. He’s coming off a 21 goal and 25 assist campaign with the Seattle Krakken. Shayne Gostisbehere adds more offensive fire power on the back end and can also quarterback the power play. J.T. Compher got the biggest deal with five years at $25 million and can play a top-six role at center or wing. The 6’0, 190 pound forward is also a Michigan alum and has played with both Dylan Larkin and Andrew Copp – both former Wolverines. Christian Fischer is another depth signing who can slot in at a bottom six role. The Chicago native recorded 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists) in 80 games last season with Arizona. He projects as a 4th line center.
Incoming: Alex Debrincat (F), Justin Holl (RD), James Reimer (G), Alex Lyon (G), Daniel Sprong (F), Klim Kostin (F), Brogan Rafferty (D), Tim Gettinger (F), J.T. Compher (F), Shayne Gostisbehere (LD), Christian Fischer (F), Nolan Stevens (F)
Re-signed RFA’s: Joe Veleno (F), Gustav Lindstrom (D), Matt Luff (F)
Outgoing: Alex Nedeljkovic (G), Filip Zadina (F), Adam Erne (F), Victor Brattstrom (G), Robert Hagg (D), Jordan Oesterle (D), Jasper Weatherby (F), Pius Suter (F), Alex Chiasson (F), Magnus Hellberg (G), Chase Pearson (F), Dominik Kubalik (F), Donovan Sebrango (D)
Just What the Doctor Ordered In a highly anticipated move, the Red Wings landed Michigan native and former 40-goal-scorer Alex Debrincat in a trade with the Ottawa Senators. Detroit hasn’t had a 40-goal scorer since Marian Hossa in 2008-09. Debrincat has hit that mark twice in the last five years and should slot right in on the top line with Dylan Larkin. This was the blockbuster move that the Wings needed to make. Get a guy who knows how to put the puck in the net. Does this move guarantee a spot in the postseason? No. But it sure is a MAJOR STEP in the right direction. Yzerman only gave up one significant piece in the trade in Dominik Kubalik. The trade also included a first- and a fourth-round pick in 2024, as well as prospect Donovan Sebrango. The team immediately signed The Cat to a four year extension with an AVV of $7,875,000.
Red Wings Acquire Klim Kostin and Kailer Yamamoto from Edmonton for future considerations. The good old “future considerations” trade. Detroit basically took on a salary dump from Edmonton as they bought out Yamamoto right away. Kostin was the main target. The 6-3, 190 pound winger gives Detroit some much needed “sandpaper”. The 24 year old former first round pick brings a physical edge that the Red Wings were lacking. He will add some secondary scoring and can slot almost anywhere in the lineup. Last season he registered 11 goals and ten assists with the Oilers while playing up and down on all four lines.
J.T. Compher: Come on down Compher signed a five-year contract with the Red Wings that will see him earn $5.1 million annually. The Avalance wanted to keep him in Colorado, but they could not afford to retain the 28-year-old who was in line for a significant raise. He played a pivotal role in the Avalanche’s title-winning campaign in 2021-22 scoring a career-high 18 goals in the regular season. He combined his strong two-way game with eight points in 20 playoff games to help the Avs capture the third Stanley Cup in team history. He’s a former Wolverine who has played with Dylan Larkin and Andrew Copp. Copp, Compher and Larkin spent one season together at Michigan, where in 2014-15 they guided the Wolverines to a 22-win campaign that ended with a conference championship game loss to Minnesota.
Justin Holl Fills the Right-Side D Holl, 31, played last season with the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he registered two goals and 18 points in 80 games. Holl has played his entire six-season career with the Maple Leafs, recording 11 goals and 82 points in 285 games. If Moritz Seider stays with Jake Walman, right-shot Holl may end up in the second pairing, possibly with Ben Chiarot. While Chiarot is a left-shot defenseman, he can play either side. Left-shot Olli Maatta could also end up with Holl. Not the flashiest of signings but a fresh start for the veteran. Holl is a defensive defenseman and doesn’t project to add much offensively for Detroit – think a much younger Marc Staal who recently played for the Wings.
The Ghost Bear “Gets Inked” by the Wings This one was the head scratcher for us but it definitely makes sense from an offensive standpoint. Gostisbehere finished last season with the Hurricanes after stops in Philadelphia and Arizona during his nine-year career. He registered 13 goals and 28 assists in 75 games for both the Coyotes and Canes last season. He was considered one of the better puck-moving defenseman in this year’s free agent crop and can help Seider quarterback the power play if need be. The 30-year old veteran adds to the left-side defense on a depth chart that already includes Ben Chiarot, Olli Määtta, Jake Walman and Simon Edvinsson.
Red Wings Sign Daniel Sprong Not the prolific goal scorer the Wings are lacking but he brings that much needed secondary scoring. At 26, he also fits in the Wings timeline. Last season with Seattle, Sprong put up 21 goals and 25 assists for the Kraken in 66 games. The Red Wings ranked 24th in scoring last season with an average of 2.89 goals per game. Yzerman said he planned to look for additional scoring this offseason but Sprong should fit in as a second to third line winger.
Backup Goaltending Addressed Yzerman wasted no time in his search for a backup to Ville Husso by inking James Reimer ( 1yr, 1.5mil AAV) and Alex Lyon (2yrs, 900k AAV). Lyon will most likely spend time in Grand Rapids and help mentor 2021 first-round draft choice Sebastian Cossa while adding depth for the team. Lyon helped the Panthers reach the Stanley Cup finals this past season. Lyon (6-1, 201 pounds) started the first three games of the Florida Panthers’ first-round series against the Boston Bruins. Reimer, a 35-year-old with 476 NHL games on his resume, was signed for one year and projects to be the number two goaltender heading into the season while giving the team that veteran depth should Husso struggle.
From the desert to the D Fischer, 26, was set to become a restricted free agent but was not tendered a qualifying offer by the Arizona Coyotes, with whom he had played his entire NHL career. The Chicago native recorded 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists) in 80 games last season with Arizona. Fischer has 111 points (56 goals, 55 assists) in 398 career games since being selected by the Coyotes with the 32nd overall pick of the 2015 NHL draft. He will most likely appear in a bottom six role for the Red Wings and has some limited offensive upside. He is however reliable in the face-off circle and will be a key asset for late game defensive zone draws.
Red Wings re-sign Luff and Lindstrom Detroit also re-signed right wing Matthew Luff to a one-year, two-way deal and defenseman Gustav Lindstrom to a one-year contract. Both were set to become unrestricted free agents and are considered nothing more than depth pieces in the organization.
Goodbye Z The Red Wings decided to part ways with former first round pick Filip Zadina with a mutual contract termination. The once highly touted prospect did not develop as a dynamic goal scorer for the Wings after they drafted him sixth overall in 2018. He has appeared in 190 games with the Red Wings over the past five seasons, registering 28 goals and 68 points. Zadina has never reached his offensive potential and it remains to be seen if he ever will. A fresh start is exactly what he needs.
Possible 2023-2024 Graduates Carter Mazur The Wing’s third-round pick from the 2021 draft is a strong possession, two-way forward who shoots and hits. Mazur joined the Griffins for the final handful of games during the 2022-23 season and finished the short campaign with six points in six games. He also totalled 37 points and 32 penalty minutes in 40 contests at the University of Denver. Then he really excelled at this year’s World Championships for Team USA in front of Wings head coach Derek Lalonde, who was an assistant on the team. If he can build on his late season momentum, I could see him sneaking in a few games with Detroit this year.
Elmer Soderblom The 6-8 behemoth had a very encouraging first year in North America, which saw him start the season with the big club. He played 21 games for the Red Wings, and then 20 for the Griffins of the AHL after he was sent down in January. He then suffered an undisclosed injury that wiped out the rest of his season. He didn’t play a game after March 10. Soderblom had five goals with the Red Wings and five more for the Griffins. The 2019 sixth-round draft pick didn’t look out of place in Detroit and GM Steve Yzerman is excited about his future with the club. “I have a good idea of what he is as a player,” Yzerman said. “Is there room for growth? Absolutely. I still think he has tons of potential.” The 21-year-old still needs to work on his skating as he gets familiar with the smaller ice surfaces over here, but no one in the organization is denying his possible impact. He could be the net front presence the Wings have lacked since Tomas Holmstrom retired. It remains to be seen if he will start the season in Grand Rapids or Detroit.
Simon Edvinsson The Wings 2021 sixth-overall pick had a successful first season in his North America debut. Edvinsson played the majority of the season with Grand Rapids. He registered five goals and 22 assists in 57 games with the Griffins and was an anchor on their defense. The smooth-skating Swede also got in nine games with the big club adding two goals during that span before a shoulder injury ended his season prematurely. He went under the knife this summer which may delay his start to the 2023-2024 season. But make no mistake, the 6-4 defender will be in the Wings lineup much sooner than later. Detroit signed puck-moving defenseman Shayne Gosthisbehere to take his spot in the meantime.
SUMMARY “Don’t Give Me Hope” The Yzerplan took major steps this summer, in what could be considered one of the most exciting off-seasons for the team in over a decade. The Wings landed their big fish in Debrincat without giving up any major long term assets. They addressed their depth and toughness while also finding adequate backups for Ville Husso. The draft brought in an abundance of right-handed defensive prospects to add to their already stacked left-handed side. In two to three years we could be looking at one of the most talented defensive lineups in the league. It almost feels like Yzerman has his core for this team but they will definitely need time to gel. How long? That remains to be seen. After seven tough years, it’s okay to be excited again Red Wings fans. Let it out. Detroit will compete this season and could challenge for a playoff spot if things go their way. I learned a long time ago to never doubt Steve Yzerman and I’m not gonna start to now. Trust the Yzerplan.
Keep an eye out for the August 32-in-32 series where we will dive deeper into the Red Wings depth charts and prospect risers and fallers heading into the upcoming season. Until then you can stay up to date on each Red Wings prospect by following the link below:
On this episode: Pat is joined by Ben to discuss prospects in the Atlantic Division who have a chance to make the roster to start, have cups of coffee, or may be up after the trade deadline. This talk is to help fantasy hockey GMs decide on prospects to add, watch or invest in for […]
On this episode: Pat is joined by Ben to discuss prospects in the Metro Division who have a chance to make the roster to start, have cups of coffee, or may be up after the trade deadline. This talk is to help fantasy hockey GMs decide on prospects to add, watch or invest in for […]
On this episode: Pat is joined by Ben to discuss prospects in the Central Division who have a chance to make the roster to start, have cups of coffee, or may be up after the trade deadline. This talk is to help fantasy hockey GMs decide on prospects to add, watch or invest in for […]