The Red Wings aren't quite losing enough to satisfy any "Lose for Hughes" campaigns for the No. 1 overall pick, but they still could land a pretty good consolation prize in June's NHL Entry Draft.
Chris Peters of ESPN released his first mock draft Tuesday, projecting the Red Wings to select Russian winger Vasili Podkolzin at No. 4. That spot is based on NHL standings as of Sunday.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Podkolzin, 17, in November became the first player born in the 21st century to play in the Kontinental Hockey League.
"There's always a little bit of risk in selecting Russian players who aren't already in North America, given the competition with their own KHL clubs," writes Peters, who is an NHL prospects analyst for ESPN. "But while the Red Wings need help soon, I don't think they could afford to pass on a potential elite winger who does so many things well and is an exceptional offensive threat."
Podkolzin plays for SKA Neva St. Petersburg of the second-level VHL, where he has four points (one goal) in 11 games.
He's also represented his country in international tournaments this season, tallying eight points (three goals) in six games to help Russia win silver in the World Junior A Challenge. Those eight points tied for tops in the tournament.
Podkolzin had 11 points in five games of the Hlinka Gretzky Cup — also tied for tops in the tournament — as Russia won the bronze. His eight goals led all players in the tournament.
Center Jack Hughes of the Plymouth-based U.S. national U18 team appears to be a shoo-in as the top selection. Peters has Hughes headed to the Colorado Avalanche at No. 1 overall.
"Ottawa's struggles could very well be Colorado's major gain," said Peters, alluding to the Senators' trade of their pick to the Avalanche. "Can you imagine a one-two punch of Nathan MacKinnon and Hughes? Opposing teams sure won't want to. Those are two highly skilled and especially fast centers."
The Red Wings took a pair of forwards in the first round of last June's draft, taking wing Filip Zadina at No. 6 overall, and center Joe Veleno at No. 30.