Detroit — On Friday night at the United Center in Chicago, the Detroit Red Wings will have a top-10 selection in the NHL draft for the first time since 1990, when they took center Keith Primeau at No. 3.
While the draft certainly has few sure-fire future NHL stars each year, it’s also true that if the Red Wings make a wise selection with the No. 9 pick Friday, it could give them a huge boost in rebuilding their franchise to a championship level.
While there is an assumption the Wings are leaning toward drafting a defensemen, if there is a highly talented forward there to be selected, the Red Wings will gladly do it.
In fact, a promising center to slot behind Dylan Larkin in the approaching years is the way several draft analysts figure the Red Wings will go with the No. 9 overall pick.
There are intriguing forwards that should be available when the Red Wings pick.
But in a draft that has precious few certainties, all have questions surrounding them, making any pick a gamble.
There are two forwards that stand above the rest in this draft class — Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier.
Neither player is expected to enter the NHL next season and dominate. Both are projected to be good, productive players for a long time, though neither is likely to become a Sidney Crosby- or Connor McDavid-level franchise player.
Below Patrick and Hischier, there are prospects who could develop into productive players.
Elias Pettersson, Cody Glass, Casey Middlestadt, Michael Rasumussen and Owen Tippett are forwards who could mature into point-producing NHL players. But not immediately.
All will need time to develop, and aren’t likely to arrive in the NHL for at least two years.
Here are five forwards who could be available Friday when the Red Wings announce their first-round pick.
Elias Pettersson (6-2, 165), Sweden, C/LW
This Swede is ranked No. 2 among European skaters by NHL Central Scouting. He scored 41 points in 43 games in Sweden’s junior league.
The obvious drawback right now is his size. Some scouting services even say the 165 pounds Pettersson is listed at might be generous. He has to get a lot stronger before even dreaming of the NHL.
But on the ice, Pettersson is an exciting prospect. Scouts, generally, love his vision on the ice, his puckhandling, and for his size, his tenacity.
Cody Glass (6-2, 178), Portland (WHL), C
Glass really wasn’t on many scouts’ radars at the start of the season but that quickly changed when he scored 32 goals with 62 assists (94 points) in 69 games in Portland.
Glass is thin right now, but most scouts project he has a frame that will fill out and he’ll be better able to handle the rigors of the NHL.
One concern by several scouting services is that Glass’ compete level has to get stronger.
Casey Mittelstadt (6-1, 200), Eden Prairie, Minn., C
Just like baseball and basketball, it’s difficult to gauge the potential of United States high-school players.
Mittelstadt had 64 points (21 goals) in 25 high school games in Minnesota, but obviously the competition he saw there isn’t anything close to Canadian junior hockey.
He did play part of the winter in the USHL with Green Bay and more than held his own (30 points in 24 games).
Mittelstadt isn’t the most fluid skater, but he’s improving, and scouts love the way he distributes the puck. He could be an offensive force in time.
Michael Rasmussen (6-5, 200), Tri-City (WHL), C
There always seems to be a few of these types of players in every draft.
A big kid, who is likely to get even bigger, he has shown flashes of dominating, but not often enough for many scouts.
There are scouts who like Rasmussen a lot, given his size, good hands around the net, and can play with a mean streak when he chooses.
But there are his detractors, who feel Rasmussen has reached his ceiling in many ways, isn’t more than a grinding, third-line center, and isn’t a high-end skater.
There will be teams, though, captivated by the potential.
Owen Tippett (6-2, 204), Mississauga (OHL), RW
There may not be many better pure goal-scorer in this draft.
Tippett scored 44 goals in 60 games in the Ontario League last season, and he has nice size on the wing.
But there are concerns among many scouts.
Foremost, his work ethic has come into question many times. Tippett hasn’t seemed very interested in play in the defensive zone, and sometimes isn’t overly competitive.
His attributes, though — skating, size, shooting the puck — are all impressive. Tippett just has to mature on many of the intangibles.
NHL Draft preview
When: 7 p.m. Friday (Round 1); 10 a.m. Saturday (Rounds 2-7)
Where: United Center, Chicago
TV: NBCSN on Friday, NHL Network on Saturday.
Red Wings: They have 11 picks — the No. 9 pick in the first round; No. 38 in the second; Nos. 71, 79, 83 and 88 in the third; No. 100 in the fourth; No. 131 in the fifth; Nos. 162 and 164 in the sixth; and No. 193 in the seventh.