Wings address defense on second day of draft

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — Maybe the talk about a lack of a right-handed-shooting defenseman is finally going to die down.

It might, after the Red Wings picked two of them in Saturday's NHL Entry Draft in Sunrise, Florida, along with a tall goalie, and two wingers who are sons of former NHL players.

Like every other NHL team after Saturday morning's draft, the Red Wings were pleased and excited to think about the future.

"You want to take the best player and address needs at the same time," said Tyler Wright, the Red Wings' director of amateur scouting. "We're pretty excited. We felt we addressed a lot of needs. Everyone is always excited when they leave the draft.

"But we have a lot of developing to do."

The Red Wings opened their weekend Friday by selecting forward Evgeny Svechnikov with the 19th pick overall in the first round.

Saturday, they drafted two forwards, two (right-handed) defensemen, and a goalie.

Vili Saarijarvi (third round, No. 73 overall) and Patrick Holway (sixth round, No. 170) were the two defensemen, each of whom will be able to provide some balance between lefty and righty defensemen in the mainly lefty-shooting organization.

"It's been widely talked about and you guys have talked about it extensively, and we have to," Wright said. "If you don't draft any right-handed defensemen, you don't have any in your system.

"We like these players and we kind of pushed them up in our list to be able to draft them."

Both are interesting prospects.

Saarijarvi is a smallish (5-foot-9, 163 pounds) player who is a good skater and is dangerous with the puck on his stick.

He had six goals and 17 assists in Green Bay (United States Hockey League), and has all the attributes an offensive defenseman should have.

Saarijarvi is a good passer, carries the puck up the ice, can make a good first pass, and can quarterback the power play.

Obviously size is a factor, but Saarijarvi is extremely competitive and doesn't back down from bigger opponents.

"He was too dynamic at that position (not to be picked)," Wright said.

Holway is an intriguing project.

A two-sport star in high school, Holway was also an elite lacrosse player.

But Holway has committed to hockey — he'll play at Maine next season — and excelled at the midget level in New England, this past season starring for the Boston Advantage under-18 team (eight goals, 11 assists in 34 games).

Holway is 6-foot-4, 200 pounds and is an elite skater, plays physical and has a hard (right-handed) shot.

"He's played a lower level of midget hockey in Boston," Wright said. "He might need a little bit of time but he's a big kid who can skate and has good hockey sense.

"He's the full package. He just hasn't played at a high level."

Goalie Joren Van Pottelberghe was a fourth-round pick, 110th overall — a player the Red Wings felt would go higher.

Some scouting services had Van Pottelberghe going in the third round, and one of the top five European goalies available.

Van Pottelberghe, a native of Switzerland, played junior hockey in Sweden last season and the 6-foot-2, 187-pound goalie excelled in the playoffs, with a 1.92 goals-against average and .915 save percentage for Linkoping.

"Hakan (Andersson, the Red Wings' Swedish scout) was very high on him, we had him high on our list," said Wright, who added the Red Wings considered drafting Van Pottelberghe in the third round but couldn't resist Saarijarvi at that point.

The two forwards the Red Wings drafted were Chase Pearson (fifth round, No. 140) and Adam Marsh (seventh round, No. 200).

Pearson is the son of former NHL forward Scott Pearson, who played parts of 10 seasons in the NHL with five teams.

The younger Pearson is a 6-foot-2, 189-pound winger who scored 12 goals in 57 games at Youngstown (USHL).

Pearson will join Holway at Maine next season.

Marsh is the son of former NHL and World Hockey Association player Peter Marsh.

A Chicago native, Marsh left his Chicago area midget team after a dispute and landed with Saint John in the Quebec junior league where he scored 24 goals and 44 points in 60 games.

Marsh is small (6 feet, 160 pounds) but plays fearlessly, is aggressive, and is considered a natural goal-scorer.

Some mock drafts had Marsh going a round or two higher.

"This is a guy who we thought would be gone," Wright said. "We talked about him in the sixth but we went with the defenseman with the right-handed shot. In the seventh, he was a no-brainer for us."

The majority of these Red Wings draft picks will take part in the organization's development camp July 3-7 in Traverse City.