John Niyo, Ted Kulfan and Gregg Krupa look at the Red Wings and what the team should do in the offseason to turn things around. Detroit News
Detroit — When the NFL Draft closes for business Saturday, the NHL Draft speculation then will begin.
With the NHL Draft lottery taking place Saturday night in Toronto, the one large, looming question will be answered: Who gets to pick first, and the right to choose Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin?
There are actually at least 10 legitimate prospects who could provide immediate help to the teams in the lottery. And that’s great. But there’s only one “franchise” player, a guy who can make a team better, quicker, and instantly turn the complexion of his team around.
Meet Dahlin, a 6-foot-2, 183-pound prospect that Saturday’s draft lottery will revolve around.
“He’s the best player (in this draft), there’s nobody close,” said Craig Button, TSN’s chief draft analyst, when discussing Dahlin in recent mock drafts. “There’s nobody even in the discussion. He’s advanced beyond his years.”
So, one can see why Saturday’s draft lottery is so huge for the Red Wings.
The Red Wings have the fifth-best chance of landing the first pick given their season record, with an 8.5 percent shot of winning the lottery and gaining the first pick.
Buffalo (18.5 percent), Ottawa (13.5 percent), Arizona (11.5 percent) and Montreal (9.5 percent) are the four teams with better odds than the Red Wings.
“(Dahlin) will make whichever team that wins the lottery feel a whole lot better about the miserable season that got them there,” said Jeff Marek, Sportsnet’s draft analyst, who had Dahlin as the No. 1 prospect from start to finish of the season.
There is one piece of trivia that could serve as a good omen for the Red Wings heading into Saturday.
Don’t look now, but Saturday also is the birthday of Red Wings’ legendary Hall of Fame (and Swedish) defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, who happened to add late in the season that Dahlin is more advanced at his age than Lidstrom was similar stages of their career.
“That would be fitting,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said, of winning the draft lottery on Lidstrom’s birthday and being able to land Dahlin in June’s draft. “We just have to wait and see. Obviously it’s a big date for a lot of different clubs.
“But we’re one of them.”
Speculation around Dahlin increased with the Red Wings in the final weeks of the regular season, as the team was officially eliminated from playoff contention.
Most players haven’t seen Dahlin play much, but the ones who had were clearly impressed.
“From what I’ve seen, just his movement, his (skating) patterns, it’s just off the charts,” said defenseman Niklas Kronwall, a fellow Swede.
By movement, Kronwall means Dahlin’s ability to effortlessly get around the ice.
“Just how he moves how, laterally, or whatever, he kind of floats out there,” Kronwall said. “With the puck, without the puck, he’s so smooth. The coast to coast goals he’s been able to score, it’s just something that you don’t really see nowadays. And he has bit of an edge to him, too. He can play physically when needed. He seems to play both sides of the puck.
“I’m extremely impressed with what I’ve seen. All I hear is, he’s something very special. It’s a lot to fun, the times I’ve seen able to watch him play.”
Zetterberg also hasn’t seen much of Dahlin, given the hectic schedule of the hockey season.
“I haven’t seen him play live but I’ve seen a lot of highlights from Sweden — I’ve heard a lot of good things about him as a player and person,” Zetterberg said. “Whoever gets him will be lucky.”
Dahlin’s speed, ability to make the first pass and play fast, all would play well into what the Red Wings are trying to do, and how they want to play, said forward Dylan Larkin.
“I got to watch him at the world juniors and he’s a great player,” Larkin said. “He’s going to change someone’s team overnight.
NHL Draft Lottery
When: 8 Saturday
■Buffalo, 18.5 percent
■New York Rangers, 6.0
■New York Islanders, 3.5
■N.Y. Islanders (via Calgary), 2.5
■Philadelphia (via St. Louis), 1.5