Wings boast 5 on ESPN’s top 50 prospects list

The Detroit News

The Red Wings’ collection of prospects appears to boast both quality and quantity.

ESPN came out with its midseason list of top 50 NHL prospects (pay site) Thursday and, though the Red Wings couldn’t crack the top half of the list, no team matched their five representatives, led by 19-year-old Cape Breton center Evgeny Svechnikov at No. 30.

“Svechnikov has a lot of desirable elements to his game,” ESPN’s Corey Pronman wrote. “He’s a big, sturdy forward with fantastic puck skills, a good shot, a competitive fire battling for pucks and a lot of offensive creativity. His lackluster (world junior championship) exposed some of the areas he needs to work on, such as his foot speed and defensive play. He’s a player who bleeds upside, but might need a decent amount of time at the AHL level to round out his game.”

Following Svechnikov on the list for the Red Wings is defenseman Joe Hicketts, 19, at No. 34; center Axel Holmstrom, 19, at No. 35; defenseman Vili Saarijarvi, 18, at No. 40, and left wing Anthony Mantha, 21, at No. 48.

Hicketts, Saarijarvi and Mantha all moved up from the Pronman’s preseason rankings.

Michigan sophomore defenseman Zach Werenski, who was drafted No. 8 overall last season by the Columbus Blue Jackets, came in at No. 5, jumping 14 spots from Pronman’s preseason rankings.

“Werenski was the best defenseman at the WJC (a rare feat for an underage player) and has continued to be a force in the Big 10 this season for Michigan,” Pronman said. “His hockey sense is elite; he shows the ability to move the puck from the blue line with the best of them. Werenski understands how to evade pressure and move the puck into open spaces very well, on top of being very mobile and having a good stick defensively. His main weakness is his toughness, as he can be a little light on his checks at times.”

Werenski is joined on the list by Michigan teammate Kyle Connor, a left wing whose rights are owned by the Winnipeg Jets. Connor checks in at No. 33.