Detroit – There’s little doubt about the first two players.
Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko, likely in that order, will go to the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers, respectively, in the first round of Friday’s NHL Draft.
It’s from the third pick all the way down that has everyone guessing.
The Red Wings have the No. 6 pick, and there’s a wide range of speculation about who they’ll select – including, possibly, trading out of the position to secure more picks.
With the Vancouver Canucks, who are hosting the draft, eager to move higher from their current No. 10 spot, the Wings have been rumored to be one team the Canucks are calling often about a trade.
That remains to be seen.
If the Wings stay at No. 6, because of the wealth of apparent talent in the top of this draft, they are confident they’ll get a player who’ll help them in the near future.
“We’re going to get a good prospect, yes,” said Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman. “I would say I got maybe a group of six or seven (possible selections). Pretty certain two players are going to be gone 1-2. From that third pick to the 12th or 15th pick, if you ask 31 teams, it could be a very different order.
“There’s a group there we think No. 6 is going to come out of. We’ll be excited about any of those kids.”
Now, narrowing the list down to about six or seven prospects is difficult. There’s a lengthy list of talented forwards, particularly game-breaking centers who appear to be capable of being important pieces of their organizations.
With that in mind, here are seven prospects, in alphabetical order, who could be available when the Red Wings pick sixth:
►Bowen Byram, D, Vancouver (WHL): Filip Zadina fell into the Wings’ lap at No. 6 last year when no one expected him to drop. There’s only a slim chance Byram will fall to sixth, but the Wings would be thrilled if he did.
“They should run to the stage (to pick Byram),” said Craig Button, TSN draft analyst, regarding the Wings.
Byram is considered the best defenseman in this draft, a player Button compares to Chicago’s Duncan Keith. Byram (6-1, 190) sees the ice well, is an elite skater, can transport the puck well and has some grit.
►Cole Caufield, C/W, U.S. Development Program: Never mind the fact that Caufield is only 5-7. He is prolific goal-scorer – he had 72 goals this past season – and may have the best shot in this draft class.
Size isn’t as much of a concern anymore in the NHL. A player with Caufield’s speed, skating ability and hockey know-how can thrive these days – and Caufield likely will.
“Caufield has an excellent scoring IQ and arrives at the right places at the right times,” Button said. “He’s the best pure goal scorer in this draft.”
►Dylan Cozens, C/W, Lethbridge (WHL): Cozens is from the Yukon Territory, where a lot of hockey is played outside but not many kids make it to the NHL.
“Growing up there, it always seemed a like a little bit of a far-fetched dream,” Cozens said. “Now that the draft is coming up, it’s a bit surreal. It’s my story and I love to share my story because I’m so proud to represent it.”
Cozens had 50 assists and 84 points last season and plays with a bit of an edge. He’s the prototypical big center (6-3, 185) that teams love to build around.
►Kirby Dach, C, Saskatoon (WHL): One good source of scouting regarding both Dylan Cozens and Dach, interestingly, is Bowen Byram, who played against both big centers in the WHL.
“They’re two great guys and players, good in their own ways,” Byram said. “Coz is a big guy who uses his body well to get to the net, and when he’s there, he has the hands to put the puck in the back of the net.
“Kirby is a finesse guy, really soft hands, and really smart. I really think both of them, where they end up, can make a huge impact right away.”
On knock against Dach has been that at times he’s too much of a pass-first guy, but with his playmaking ability, that’s not much of a criticism. At 6-4 and 198 pounds, scouts believe Dach will add muscle to his frame.
►Vasili Podkolzin, RW, SKA (Russia): Podkolzin was considered a lock to be picked among the top five early in the season, but no so much anymore.
While some scouts still view Podkolzin as a top-six forward, others aren’t as sure, as one knock on him is that he can be a puck hog at times.
Another red flag could be Podkolzin’s contractual commitment to pay in Russia’s KHL for two more seasons. But with the Wings in a rebuild, and maybe capable of waiting two years, Steve Yzerman could decide to wait on a 6-1, 190-pound polished power forward?
►Alex Turcotte, C, U.S. Development Team: Turcotte is projected to be picked somewhere between three and five, but like Filip Zadina last year, you never know.
Turcotte is the son of former NHL’er Alfie Turcotte, and has the two-way capabilities that have drawn comparisons to Chicago Blackhawks star Jonathan Toews.
Turcotte has great hockey instincts and is considered a fierce competitor – a common refrain from teammates and opponents at last month’s scouting combine.
“He has an ability to read the play and execute plays,” said Dan Marr, NHL central scouting director. “He just as a real good understanding of the game. But everything about him, his speed, skill set, there’s a bit of deceptiveness there, and all that is hard to defend against.”
►Trevor Zegras, C/W, U.S. Development Program: As good as Jack Hughes is, many scouts believe Zegras has similar skills and project Zegras as a future NHL star.
“It’s great, that’s kind of where the league is going,” said Zegras of the high-caliber centers in this draft. “Fast and skilled, and you have to play both ends of the ice now. When you look at Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins star), that’s a great example of that.
“You have to be able to play both ends of the ice.”
When: First round Friday, rounds 2-7 Saturday
Where: Rogers Arena, Vancouver
TV: 8 Friday on NBCSN, 1 Saturday NHL Network
Red Wings: Ten picks — First round (No. 6), three in second round (Nos. 35, 54 and 60), third round (No. 66), fourth round (No. 97), two in fifth round (Nos. 128, 143), sixth round (No. 159) and seventh round (No. 190).