Red Wings' Steve Yzerman: 'Our goal is to acquire more draft choices' before trade deadline

Mark Falkner
The Detroit News

Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman said "our goal is to acquire more draft choices" before the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 24.

Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman sat down with play-by-play announcer Ken Kal for a midseason review of the team.

"My plan isn't to be passive," Yzerman said in a TV interview with team play-by-play announcer Ken Kal released on Friday afternoon. "Certainly, I'm looking for ways to build for the future and trying to acquire draft picks or prospects or young players that can come into the organization sooner or later."

Yzerman said he's getting ready now for the trade deadline with midseason amateur and pro meetings and he'll have a better idea if "there's areas of interest from other teams and a better indication of what you may be able to do."

Yzerman said "there's a lot to play for" in the second half of the season despite the league's worst record at 11-30-3 heading into Friday night's game against the Ottawa Senators at Little Caesars Arena.

"We can sit and float through the season and not try -- that won't do anyone any good and that's not going to happen," Yzerman said. "Every player there is looking to use the second half to improve and they will be expected to improve and will be held to a standard to improve and gradually become a better hockey team."

Here's what Yzerman had to say on other subjects in the interview:

On whether top draft picks Moritz Seider or Joe Veleno will be recalled from Grand Rapids at some point in the season: "Potentially, yes. I don't have anything set in stone but that's definitely something in the back of our mind.

"You have to take into consideration the nine and the 10 games as far as counting toward a year of pro. Do we bring up the Velenos and Seiders and give them a feel for the NHL? I won't say absolutely you're going to see this player or that player here, but I think it's safe to assume that at some point some of these young guys will get up here and play some games as the season winds down."

On the first half of the season and evaluation of the nucleus of the team: "As everyone knows, we're rebuilding and I'm trying to watch and get to know every single player and they're all at different stages of their careers.

"You look at some of the first-year players who are trying to make it here in Detroit like a (Filip) Zadina or the kids in the American Hockey League. We're trying to assess where they're at and what their long-term potential is.

"Then you have that group of players, the nucleus of that core would be the Dylan Larkins, the Anthony Manthas and (Filip) Hroneks. That age group of player is really the core of our team moving forward.

"As the year goes along, you see how they're developing and figure out who is going to be an important part of the team one, two, three, four years down the road."

On the team's veteran players: "With our veteran players, where do they fit in the short term and even the long term? You need players to play. We need to surround the Dylans, the Hroneks and the Manthas with a group of players that help them develop and compete on a nightly basis and gradually get better."

On the coaching staff and the team's long list of injuries: "There's one or two or three teams every year that just get hammered by injuries. We've had injuries from day one of training camp. Regardless of injuries, our record and our team's performance is somewhat unfair to pin that on the coaching staff at this point. The injuries make it really difficult to really know what you truly have."

On projecting draft-eligible players: "I don't want to say it's impossible but you have to base it on something. One, you watch the players play, obviously. Based on how they play as 17-year-olds and 18-year-olds, you kind of project them.

"Generally, I kind of simply say, if I like the way they play and if they do certain things, they'll probably do those things moving forward. Can they get physically stronger? Can they get faster to adapt to playing in the American Hockey League and eventually the NHL? I don't want to call it an educated guess but it takes some time.

"It's an inexact science because ultimately we can't predict if these players are going to get injured or not. Some of them you're hoping they grow and put on weight and get stronger. What none of us know is how bad do they want it. They all want it at 17 but it's a tough road to get to the NHL. You have to put up with injuries, setbacks along the way and it's hard work to play in the best league in the world.

"You do as much work as you can to find about the person. Again, they're 17- and 18-year-old kids. Think back to yourself as a 17 or 18 year old. You're not the worldly man you are today and that goes for all of us. You're watching them growing up and becoming adults and how much do they love to play, how much burning desire do they have to be successful. Time tells that. That's the difference maker. It's tricky."

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On the improvement of young players like Filip Zadina, Filip Hronek and Madison Bowey: "I'll use Zadina as an example just because he's been called up. If he stays here with the team as we continue to get our team healthy, look for continued improvement.

"As for Filip Hronek, with all the injuries on the back end and missing Danny DeKeyser for an extended period, it's really thrown a young player (into the lineup) who is really in his first full season in the NHL. He's in there playing with and against our best players and the other team's best players every single night, baptism by fire. He's held his own and learned a lot. 

"I look for continued development and evolution of our younger players. Even a young Madison Bowey, who is playing a lot of minutes. Watch for him to continually develop. And that goes for all of our younger players."

On Alexis Lafreniere, the consensus No. 1-prospect for the 2020 NHL draft: "He certainly played very, very well there (world junior championships in the Czech Republic). I've had a chance to watch him the last couple of years. He's a late birthday so he's big, strong, physical, mature, has very good hockey sense, very good skills. Just an excellent all-around player."

On drafting Moritz Seider with the sixth overall pick last year: "I think he's got tremendous potential. He's a 6-foot-4 defenseman who is a good skater, good mobile skater, passed the puck well. When I went to watch him, I took note of the little things, the way he plays the position not like the end-to-end, rushing type of defenseman, these high-skilled guys who will blow you away with skill.

"He's more of an NHL-style of player. He has the potential if he continues to develop to be a player who will play in all situations, play on a power play, definitely in a defensive role, a penalty-killing role, play with and against your top players because he can get the puck up to your forwards and when it's in the offensive zone and they kick it back to the point, he has the ability to walk the line and get his shot through or find the open player.

"Defensively, he anticipates well, which is very impressive for a young player. His anticipation and knowledge of how to defend was very good. He's still got a lot of work to do to smooth things out, what works against the best players in the world, adjusting, figuring the game out at this speed but we were very impressed with him last year. There were a good group of D-men in that draft but we just felt he had the whole package and as much upside as some other good players in that draft." 

On the Red Wings ranking fourth in attendance: "We know the passion of hockey in this city and our fanbase has been tremendous supporters. For this year, we know where we are in the standings and we know what our record is. I've been really thrilled with the enthusiasm of our fanbase watching the games, supporting the team and having a positive attitude and outlook for where we're at and what we're trying to do.

"I'm very appreciate of it and hope everyone can remain patient as we go through this process because as I've said and I'll say it again, it's going to take some time."