Red Wings' top prospects getting up to speed

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Center Michael Rasmussen, left, is learning to use his 6-foot-6 frame as he copes with the NHL rigors as a rookie.

Detroit — The holiday season is always a good time to sit back, enjoy the spirit of the season, reminisce about the past year and project the next 365 days.

What with the world junior tournament beginning, NHL teams’ draft picks competing in the tournament and around the world, and college and junior players in the midst of their seasons, it's an ideal time to analyze the Red Wings’ future.

Some of the Red Wings’ prospects as of last summer have grown into NHL players — Michael Rasmussen, Dennis Cholowski and Christoffer Ehn, most notable of them.

Filip Zadina, the much-hyped first-round pick of June’s draft, as it turned out, needed development at the minor-league level.

After the infusion of talent in June’s draft, The Detroit News came out with a list of the top 25 prospects in the Red Wings’ organization.

Today, we see what those 25 players are up to in their hockey seasons:

Red Wings' top 25 prospects

Michael Rasmussen

6-6, 221, center

Acquired: 2017 first round

Skinny: After a rough start early adjusting to the NHL’s pace and size, Rasmussen has become a regular in the Red Wings’ lineup and arguably one of the best net-front players on the roster.

Filip Zadina

6-foot, 196, right wing

Acquired: 2018 first round

Skinny: Currently competing for the Czech Republic in the world junior tournament — and not playing for the Red Wings, as many maybe anticipated. Zadina showed in training camp he needed seasoning, and has been learning in Grand Rapids at the minor league level. He’s learning every game, but it’s no sure thing he’ll make an NHL appearance this season.

Red Wings Dennis Cholowski continues to impress in his rookie season.

Dennis Cholowski

6-1, 200, defenseman

Acquired: 2016 first round

Skinny: Cholowski had an outstanding training camp and bypassed the minor leagues, straight onto the Red Wings’ roster. The offensive production and ice time has slowed recently, but Cholowski has become a cornerstone piece going forward.

Filip Hronek

6-foot, 178, defenseman

Acquired: 2016 second round

Skinny: Hronek was on the opening night roster because of injuries on the Wings’ defense, but didn’t look ready. Since returning from Grand Rapids recently, Hronek has looked increasingly comfortable. He’s offensively skilled, and feisty for his size.

Evgeny Svechnikov

6-3, 216, right wing

Acquired: 2015 first round

Skinny: Svechnikov appeared ready to make the Red Wings’ roster out of training camp, but tore knee ligaments which required surgery that will force him to miss the season. He’s still a prospect, but Svechnikov’s future is now murkier.

Joe Veleno

6-1, 191, center

Acquired: 2018 first round

Skinny: Veleno made the Canadian roster for the world junior tournament, an indication of the caliber of player he is. He’s having an outstanding season, following up on an impressive training camp. Will be given every opportunity to make the NHL roster in September.

Joe Hicketts

5-8, 180, defenseman

Acquired: Undrafted free agent

Skinny: Hicketts made the Wings out of training camp because of injuries but struggled with consistency. One of the Griffins’ leading defensemen currently.

Jonatan Berggren

5-10, 181, right wing

Acquired: 2018 second round

Skinny: A back injury has derailed Berggren’s season. Projected to be a high-end, two-way winger, Berggren remains an intriguing prospect but will have to rebound from this setback.

Vili Saarijarvi

5-10, 165, defenseman

Acquired: 2015 third round

Skinny: Made a real positive impression in training camp, and got off to a nice start with the Griffins. But still a work in progress in terms of defense, and offensively needs to be consistent.

Gustav Lindstrom

6-2, 187, defenseman

Acquired: 2017 second round

Skinny: Lindstrom is having a breakthrough season of sorts in Sweden, and is development is raising eyebrows. He’s being projected as a top-four caliber defenseman in the NHL, with a bit more physicality to his play than you’d expect.

Jared McIsaac

6-1, 193, defenseman

Acquired: 2018 second round

Skinny: McIsaac made the Canadian world junior team, a testament to his progress and level of play this season. A physical defenseman who is effective at both ends, the Wings feel he’ll be in NHL player in time.

Dominic Turgeon

6-2, 200, center

Acquired: 2014 third round

Skinny: Turgeon remains a prospect but he’s been passed on the organization’s depth chart, which will make his climb a difficult. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Turgeon get a better chance in another organization.

Defenseman Libor Sulak has raw skating ability.

Libor Sulak

6-2, 189, defenseman

Acquired: Undrafted free agent

Skinny: Sulak made the Wings out of training camp, what with all the injuries on defense, but his inexperience was exposed. Sulak is an elite skater, but he’s raw and adjusting to the North American pro game.

Givani Smith

6-2, 209, right wing

Acquired: 2016 second round

Skinny: Want an example of how difficult it is to go from juniors to the AHL? Smith has struggled in his first pro season, though he’s slowly adjusting. Big and physical, Smith is projected a strong net-front NHL player.

Filip Larsson

6-2, 196, goaltender

Acquired: 2016 sixth round

Skinny: An ankle injury has cut into Larsson’s season. He should get more opportunity in the New Year. He was very impressive in junior hockey last season.

David Pope

6-3, 200, winger

Acquired: 2013 fourth round

Skinny: Pope had an outside chance of sticking with the Red Wings, but never made a serious push in training camp. Now, he’s another player who is realizing how difficult it is adjusting from college to pro hockey.

Kasper Kotkansalo

6-2, 200, defenseman

Acquired: 2017 third round

Skinny: Playing for one of the better programs in college hockey, Kotkansalo is a defensive defenseman who is rebounding from a slow start.

Keith Petruzzelli

6-5, 180, goaltender

Acquired: 2017 third round

Skinny: After a difficult freshman season, Petruzzelli has come into year two and is playing some of his best hockey. Has size and range, and is playing with confidence in net.

Center Christoffer Ehn turned into a surprise during training camp.

Christoffer Ehn

6-2, 180, center

Acquired: 2014 fourth round

Skinny: Was the surprise of training camp, making the Red Wings roster as a fourth-line defensive forward, and as the season has progressed, is showing offensive upside. Ehn has made a dramatic rise in his career.

Patrik Rybar

6-2, 165, goaltender

Acquired: Undrafted free agent

Skinny: Rybar, 24, was signed this spring after impressive play in the Czech Republic, then at the world championships. He looked good in training camp and continues to show potential at the pro level with Grand Rapids.

Malte Setkov

6-5, 170, defenseman

Acquired: 2017 fourth round

Skinny: Setkov is playing for Denmark in the world junior tournament. Similar to Sulak, Setkov is a big guy with a lot of speed and good skating ability, but strength is an issue, and he’s raw, especially on the defensive side.

Alec Regula

6-4, 203, defenseman

Acquired: 2018 third round

Skinny: The former Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood product is getting major ice time on a fine junior program and remains an intriguing prospect because of his size and skating ability. Strength will be worked on this summer.

Axel Holmstrom

6-foot, 200, center

Acquired: 2014 seventh round

Skinny: Holmstrom plays a steady, but not flashy game, and with the depth in the organization, you wonder if he’ll be able to elbow his way upward. Smart player, with good instincts, which is always a plus.

Jack Adams

6-5, 210, center

Acquired: 2017 sixth round

Skinny: Big forward who has been impressive at the Wings’ summer camps, Adams has a way to go, but his goal-scoring ability is intriguing.

Chase Pearson

6-2, 200, center

Acquired: 2015 fifth round

Skinny: Pearson continues to make a positive impact, having a big offensive season for a major college program. He has good size, has shown offensive ability, and is a leader for the Maine roster.

Twitter: @tkulfan