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Holland sees draft as netting long-term yield for Wings

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Brandon Wheat Kings center Nolan Patrick is considered one of the top prospects in the NHL draft.

Detroit — The Red Wings can’t catch a break.

They finally have a top-10 pick in the NHL draft — and this year’s talent pool isn’t really considered a gold mine.

Yes, pretty much the luck the Red Wings organization has had lately.

The NHL draft, which takes place June 23-24 in Chicago, doesn’t appear to have the generational talents or future stars who can quickly change the immediate future of a team — think, Connor McDavid or Sidney Crosby.

But, there is depth and some fine players who’ll strengthen a roster.

It might just take them some time to develop before making it to the NHL.

“There’s a lower ceiling,” said Ryan Kennedy, draft guru at The Hockey News, talking about the draft pool. “There are a couple of players at the top (Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier) who might step right in (to the NHL), but this is a draft where you only have several players playing in the NHL next season, maybe one or two.”

The Red Wings have a 6.7 percent chance to land the No. 1 overall pick in the Draft Lottery that takes place April 29 in Toronto (7:30 p.m./CBC ,NBC).

Colorado (18 percent), Vancouver (12.1 percent), expansion Las Vegas (10.3 percent) and Arizona (10.3 percent) have the best odds of landing the top pick (probably either Patrick or Hischier).

Ted Kulfan's top NHL draft prospects

How long has it been since the Red Wings have been in this sort of position?

The Red Wings haven’t had a top-10 pick since selecting Martin LaPointe 10th in 1991.

But they’ll have 11 selections overall in June, as general manager Ken Holland acquired extra picks at the trade deadline when he dealt defenseman Brendan Smith and forwards Thomas Vanek, Steve Ott and Tomas Jurco, all of whom were potential unrestricted free agents (except Jurco) and the Red Wings sinking out of the playoff chase.

Nico Hischier is a bit small and slow but has a natural scoring touch.

“That’s fine, in the spot they’re in right now, they need draft picks,” said Jeff Marek, Sportsnet (Canada) draft analyst. “I like the kids they have in their organization. They need more draft picks to add to what they already have.”

The idea of further build on what they already have in the system, was Holland’s thinking.

“At the trade deadline I made a decision there was an opportunity this organization to get some extra picks, extra swings at young players (in the draft),” Holland said. “We have 20 picks over the next two years and I’m hoping that with these extra picks, a number of these picks will be players down the road.

“Every draft, players come out of the second, third and fourth rounds. We’ve got more spins of the wheel.”

But Holland is quick to caution anyone expecting any of this year’s picks to make a quick, immediate impact.

“They (draft picks) aren’t the answer in the short term,” Holland said. “But you have to start the process at some point in time.”

Holland’s general rule of thumb is if a team gets one to three players in a draft to reach the NHL, it’s a successful draft.

“Hopefully over the next couple of drafts here, there’s going to be four or five of these picks who are going to be players for the Red Wings down the road,” Holland said. “

Both Marek and Kennedy feels the Red Wings need to look for a defenseman who can evolve into a top-pairing kind of defender.

Skilled defensemen such as Timothy Liljegren (Sweden), Miro Heiskanen (Finland) and Juuso Valimaki (Finland) all could be available, though all need seasoning, particularly on the defensive side of the ice.

Rugged defenseman Cal Foote, son of former Colorado Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote, is also an intriguing possibility.

“Where they’ll be picking, they’ll be able to get one of the better defensemen available,” Marek said. “Now, we’re talking about 17-year-olds, and you never know how it’ll go. And in this draft, after the first two players, they’re all wild cards.

“But there are good players available. It’s just going to take them time to develop.”

Marek feels only Patrick and Hischier could possibly step directly into the NHL next season.

Kennedy wouldn’t be surprised if the Red Wings also attempt to find a center to slot behind Dylan Larkin for the future.

Michael Rasmussen, Cody Glass and Elias Pettersson (Sweden) are some forwards who could be available when the Red Wings pick — although two months out, a lot of movement will take place.

“Players’ stocks are going up and down,” Kennedy said.