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'We're prepared to go': Red Wings ready for unique, important NHL Draft

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — The Red Wings are about to embark on what could be the most unique NHL Entry Draft ever.

A draft that was originally scheduled for June 26-27 in Montreal, but given the pandemic and the league's restart this summer, will finally be held virtually Tuesday and Wednesday.

General manager Steve Yzerman and his scouting staff will have the fourth overall pick Tuesday and nine more picks Wednesday in Rounds 2-7 in what could be a major step forward in the rebuild.

“At the fourth pick we’re pretty excited regardless of how it plays out,” Yzerman said last week during his pre-draft interview with the media.

Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman will have 10 picks at his disposal in this week's NHL Entry Draft.

Yzerman, amateur scouting director Kris Draper, and some of Yzerman’s staff are expected to be at Little Caesars Arena, while European scouts will be joining in virtually.

“We’re pretty well-organized and prepared to go,” Yzerman said. “Most of our (scouts) will be scattered. All our guys in Europe will be home, all our guys in Canada will remain in Canada, apart from (chief amateur scout) Jesse Wallin.

“We’ll have everybody on a call throughout the entire process. We’re comfortable with how it’s going to operate.”

With 10 overall picks, the Red Wings will have many opportunities to fortify the organization and find potential building blocks for the core of the team.

The Wings, said Yzerman, know what type of players they want to draft.

“We take a lot of things into account,” Yzerman said. “Hockey IQ, different skills and abilities that make a player a good player. They have to have a combination of the things we feel are important. Good hockey players come in a lot of forms. There’s no one characteristic that is going to be a telling factor.

“We have criteria that we are looking for in prospects and for players that come into our organization, on the ice and off the ice characteristics. We take all of those into account when we form our list.”

When Yzerman was general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning (2010-18), the organization was able to find valuable additions in the middle- or lower-rounds — much like the Red Wings were built under then-general manager Ken Holland (and Holland’s assistant Jim Nill) in the 1990s and 2000s.

Yzerman selected Lightning stars Nikita Kucherov (second round) and Ondrej Palat (seventh round) in 2011, Brayden Point (third round) in 2014 and Anthony Cirelli (third round) in 2015, all players who are now vital parts of the Stanley Cup-winning roster.

"Within each round and from round to round, the percentage or likelihood of that prospect turning into a player shrinks, so the more picks we have gives us better odds and increases the odds of turning them into players,” Yzerman said. “You're not going to hit on your first-round pick every year, unfortunately. History has shown teams don't, so you need players coming in later in the draft to keep you on target or expedite the process."

The Wings’ scouting staff has had considerable time to interview and analyze this year’s class.

But what has added another wrinkle this year is the fact leagues in Europe have begun this season and scouts are getting a bonus look, of sorts, at those players while North American prospects are sidelined because of the pandemic.

Yzerman acknowledged that has added another intriguing aspect to this draft.

“It’s tricky because most of the North American kids haven’t been playing,” Yzerman said. “These kids in Europe, their good play, or poor play for that matter, does it move them above or below the guy that hasn’t played? I don’t think it’s changing our opinion that much watching these kids right now.

“Going into last month, over the course of the summer, we formulated our opinion, did our research the best we could on the guys’ background checks to the best of our ability.

“And with the European kids, it’s given us a chance to watch them a little bit more, but ultimately, it’s not really swaying our list that much.”

Yzerman has been known to shrewdly make trades — be it in Tampa Bay and in his short time as GM of the Wings — using the trade market to stockpile draft picks or young players who might be ready for a larger role.

With 10 draft picks, the Wings have the capital to make certain trades if they wish. 

Yzerman was hesitant, but wouldn't completely rule out the possibility of trades.

"I tend to hold on to our picks," Yzerman said. "I’d like to add more picks. (But) if there’s a good, young player that is being moved for whatever reason that we think is going to be here for a long time and the cost to acquire that player isn’t, in our eyes, too much, I would look at that.

"But right now, I expect us to use our picks in the draft.”

NHL Entry Draft

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday (Round 1), 11:30 a.m. Wednesday (Rounds 2-7)

TV: Tuesday — NBC Sports Network; Wednesday — NHL Network 

Red Wings picks: No. 4 (Round 1), No. 32 (Round 2), No. 45 (Round 2), No. 55 (Round 2), No. 63 (Round 3), No. 65 (Round 3), No. 107 (Round 4), No. 125 (Round 5), No. 156 (Round 6), No. 187 (Round 7)

Potential Wings: With first-round pick, D Jamie Drysdale, F Cole Perfetti, F Marco Rossi, F Lucas Raymond, G Yaroslav Askarov

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan