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Red Wings prep for critical draft: 'No room for error'

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
General manager Ken Holland and the Detroit Red Wings are facing a critical NHL Draft.

Detroit — The pressure is there, and Tyler Wright and his scouting staff embrace it.

Friday’s NHL Entry Draft is, arguably, one of the most important in the Red Wings’ history, with the team having missed the last two playoffs and a lot of aging stars on the roster — but with 11 picks in this weekend’s draft, including two first-round picks.

So, in large part, Wright — the Red Wings’ director of amateur scouting — and his scouts have to deliver.

He knows it.

“We have this challenge in front of us, and we don’t have any room for error,” Wright said. “I’ve challenged our (scouts) all year. As we sit down Friday night (for Round 1), it’s an exciting time. It starts through us, then we hand them off to player development. The sooner that we get these guys along, and into the program, the better off we’ll be.”

More: Wings’ Athanasiou among top NHL trade targets on draft weekend

The Wings, barring any unforeseen trades, have two first-round picks — their own, at No. 6, and the No. 30, which they acquired from Vegas at the trade deadline when Tomas Tatar was dealt to the Golden Knights.

The Wings have two selections in the second round, at Nos. 33 and 36, and three selections in the third round — at Nos. 67, 81 and 84 — the extra picks accumulated when general manager Ken Holland was aggressive at the past two trade deadlines, dealing veterans with the Wings out of the playoff picture.

“We have the picks in front of us, we have to make the right picks — the right picks for our organization,” Wright said.

There has been much speculation as to who the Wings will choose at No. 6, in that there’s expected to be more than a few intriguing choices.

Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin is expected to go first to Buffalo, and Carolina is likely to take forward Andrei Svechnikov — brother of the Wings’ Evgeny Svechnikov’s — second overall.

After that, it’s up the air, with no one for certain who Montreal, Ottawa and Arizona will select 3 through 5 before the Wings pick at 6.

Forwards Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Filip Zadina, Brady Tkachuk and Oliver Wahlstrom, and defensemen Quinn Hughes (Michigan), Evan Bouchard and Noah Dobson all are viable.

“All I know is that at No. 6 we’re going to add a real good player to our program,” Wright said. “We’re going to get a really good, exciting player. How quick can he (help the Wings)?. We hope it’s early but at the end of the day, we want to make sure we maximize his development process and his potential to be the best player he can be.”

The bevy of picks give the Wings numerous options.

They could keep them, or package some to move up or down in the draft.

Wright believes it’s a fantastic position to be in.

“Whether we are making 11 picks, that’s to be determined,” Wright said. “(But) we have options, and if you don’t have to option to do anything, it gets to be a lonely day as names go off the board.”

The Wings have a slightly larger need for defenseman than forwards, and specifically, defensemen with size. They’re set, for the most part, on the wings, but could beef up the center position, specifically playmaking centers. They are also likely to select at least one goaltender, as they normally do on draft day, to strengthen that position.

But regardless, if the player is a defenseman or forward, Wright will likely go the “best player available” route, at least in the first few selections.

“As an organization we go through and try to figure out what areas of need we have and you try to address that,” Wright said. “But at the end of the day, you don’t want to draft a player just because he plays the position and that leaves somebody on the board that is just the better player.

“We want the best player.”

Wright said he feels this is one of the deeper drafts in recent memory.

“I’m a firm believe every draft is a good draft, there’s always good players,” Wright said. “A lot of time people, whether it’s Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews or Rasmus Dahlin, the top guys get a lot of hype and rightfully so, because they’re really good.

“But every pick we have, we have to be able to see something, and it might take two or three or four years, I don’t know how long it’s going to take for them to develop, but with every pick in the 11 picks we have, there’s something intriguing about this kid that we’re looking to add to the mix of our group.”

Five possible Red Wings picks

These are five players who the Red Wings might select Friday with the sixth pick:

Evan Bouchard, D, London (OHL): Has size, skill, character, and is the type of player who could star in the NHL for over a decade. Any team would take that in a heartbeat.

Quinn Hughes, D, Michigan: Enjoyed a sensational freshman season in Ann Arbor, and didn’t look out of place at the world championships, but do the Wings want to add another smallish defenseman in the organization?

Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C, Finland: Has skyrocketed the draft boards in the last several weeks, and would fill a need in the organization.

Brady Tkachuk, LW, Boston University: The son of long-time NHL star Keith Tkachuk, Brady is the prototypical power forward who would fill a long-standing Red Wings’ need of that type of player.

Filip Zadina, RW, Halifax (QMJHL): An elite goal-scorer, possesses a tremendous shot, Zadina isn’t going to last beyond the top eight picks.

NHL Entry Draft

When: Friday-Saturday

Schedule: Friday — 7:30, first round (NBC Sports Network); Saturday — 11 a.m., Rounds 2-7 (NHL Network)

Red Wings: 11 picks — at Nos. 6, 30, 33, 36, 67, 81, 84, 98, 159, 160 and 191