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Ten possible Wings first-round targets

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Rochester native Max Jones of the London Knights is one of the players who the Red Wings might be targeting in the first round of the NHL Draft Friday.

Go through the gallery to see a breakdown of 10 players expected to be available when the Red Wings make their first selection at No. 16, by Ted Kulfan and Mark Falkner of The Detroit News. Mobile users can go HERE.

Detroit – The Red Wings don’t have a draft pick in Friday’s first-round of the draft in the top 10.

Or top 15.

But at pick 16 of the first round, and then again at No. 46 when Saturday’s second-round begins, they’re confident they’ll find productive players.

Tyler Wright, the Red Wings director of amateur scouting, believes this is a deep draft.

“We’re confident that at where we pick, both at 16 and 46, we’ll have our pick of two good players,” Wright said. “This draft, from picks 10 to 30, there are a lot of interchangeable players who could go anywhere within those picks.”

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The Red Wings will have a pick in each of the seven rounds except for the third round, a pick that was sent to New Jersey in the trade for defenseman Marek Zidlicky at the deadline two seasons ago.

The first round will be held Friday at Buffalo’s First Niagra Center, with the remainder of the draft completed Saturday.

What will the Red Wings look to get?

Rather than look at it from a positional standpoint, Wright wants to simply pluck talent for the organization.

“I know it’s a cliche, it’s a bad cliche, and fans get frustrated hearing it,” Wright said. “But we’re going to get the best player available.

“That’s how you have to go about it. A team might be well stocked at center, but if there’s a good center available, you’re going to get him.

“At the end of the day, you want to get talent into the organization, and these are assets.”

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In the past, the Red Wings have always been able to strike gold in the later rounds, finding players such as Henrik Zetterberg (7th round), Pavel Datsyuk (6th round), Gustav Nyquist (4th round) and Alexey Marchenko (7th round) are just some recent Red Wings found in the latter rounds.

It’s important, said Wright, to maintain that sort of success.

“There will be players, there always are, who’ll be picked in the fourth, fifth, sixth rounds in this draft and go on to have successful careers,” Wright said. “We have to find those players. That’s the challenge that’s been put on us.”

Three players seemingly stand out from the rest in this particular draft.

Arizona native forward Auston Matthews is expected to go No. 1 to Toronto, while Finland natives Patrik Laine (Winnipeg) and Jesse Puljujarvi (Columbus) are expected to follow in the next two spots.

All three project as impact offensive players, some scouts believing Laine could easily turn out to be a better player than Matthews.

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The Red Wings will have  plenty to choose from at pick No. 16.

Forwards Michael McLeod, Kieffer Bellows and Max Jones (Rochester), along with defensemen Jake Bean and Charles McAvoy are some of the players linked to the Red Wings in many mock drafts.

“Obviously a lot of it depends on who slides down, but we feel there will be good players available,” Wright said.

Nowadays, with free agency movement relatively limited to years gone by in the NHL, and trades extremely difficult to complete, drafting and developing young talent has never been more important.

“Having good, young players on your roster, finding and drafting players, it’s extremely important in this (salary) cap world,” Wright said. “At the end of the day, you need that flow of talent in your organization.”

Wright was a first-round pick himself in the 1991 Entry Draft by Edmonton.

But when Wright scouts this crop of players, talks to them at the draft combine, he sees a different type of young player entering the NHL when compared to his playing days.

“They’re bigger, better, faster,” Wright said. “They just are, no doubt. You talk to them during the interview process, they’re aware of what is going on around the league.

“It’s a different age.”

NHL Entry Draft

WHEN: Friday’s first round, 7 p.m., Saturday rounds 2-7, 10 a.m.

WHERE: Buffalo’s First Niagra Center.

RED WINGS: The Red Wings will pick 16th, 46th, 106th, 136th, 166th, 196th.