'We need size': Wings stockpile big bodies in draft

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
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No. 5 forward: Lane Zablocki -- Analysis: Zablocki can both score and grind. Unranked by several of the major scouting agencies, he was traded midseason when the Pats wanted to reinforce for the playoffs. But the Rebels arguably got the better performance. His potential is as a support player in roles so various he can play up and down on the four lines, while killing penalties and playing on the power play.

Chicago — The Red Wings got bigger this Entry Draft.

They're bigger overall, with 11 more bodies drafted into the organization.

But they also got bigger physically, with 10 of the 11 players drafted over 6-foot tall (ninth-round pick Brady Gilmour is listed as 5-foot-10).

“We wanted to get bigger,” said Tyler Wright, the Red Wings' director of amateur scouting. “We wanted to get bigger but also keep the identity for what we’re known for, and that’s skill and hockey sense.”

The Red Wings selected several bigger defensemen, who, if they pan out, will greatly add to the physical nature of this team.

Red Wings' 2017 draft class breakdown

Gustav Lindstrom (6-2, second round), Kasper Kotkansalo (6-2, third round), Malte Setkov (6-6, fourth round) and Cole Fraser (6-2, fifth round) all are miles away from reaching the NHL, but have the potential.

And if they do, they’ll add an element the Red Wings haven’t had in great quantity.

“It’s a huge asset if they do (play in the NHL),” Wright said. “Everybody knows the price of what it is to get a defenseman in this league. We wanted to get bigger and be a harder team to play against and we added that.”

The Red Wings also added 6-5 forward Jack Adams in the sixth round, and two 6-foot forwards in the third round in Lane Zablocki and Zach Gallant, who is 6-2.

And that’s not forgetting first-round pick Michael Rasmussen, a 6-5 center.

As coach Jeff Blashill sees it, it’s important to balance the speed and skill in a league that is shifting toward size again.

“As a hockey team, you look at our roster up front and we need some size,” Blashill said. “The only way to ultimately have size is to draft some size.

“I know there’s a lot of talk of the league going fast and faster and Pittsburgh has just won two Cups in a row. I also remember not long ago there was a lot of talk being big and heavy and strong when Los Angeles won its (two) Cups.

“Everybody is working to find that balance. The best teams have it all — speed, size, skill. You have to have it all.”

Wings catch fifth-round pick Cole Fraser off guard

Hakan Andersson, the Red Wings’ director of European scouting, said the organization talked about emphasizing size to add to the smaller defensemen in the organization currently — Filip Hronek, Joe Hicketts and Vili Saarijarvi are all under 6-foot.

“The main thing is are they good hockey players?” said Andersson, about simply adding size. “Do they have a weapon? What is their thing when they get to the NHL?

“We have three smaller defensemen (in Grand Rapids) who we really believe in. But can you play a full team of players that size?”

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

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