Wings strengthen system through last two drafts, but still 'a ways off'

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — The Red Wings are in a much better position today than they were last week, for sure last season, and now heading into the future.

That’s the opinion of draft analysts and national commentators after this week’s Entry Draft.

The organization is deeper, and general manager Steve Yzerman unquestionably has more assets at his disposal.

But given the obvious youth of those draft picks from Yzerman’s two drafts — most are still a minimum two years away — and the general state of the NHL roster, there’s still work to be done.

Moritz Seider was a first-round selection by the Wings in 2019.

“For sure I still think they’re going to get caved in next season,” said Ryan Kennedy, associate senior writer and draft prospect expert at The Hockey News. “And that’s fine. You’re getting a top-10 pick and you give kids the ice time and experience, and tell them, ‘This is where we are, and this is where you need to be.’ It’s going to be a transitional year.”

What everyone has liked about Yzerman’s first two drafts as Wings’ general manager is the sheer quantity of picks he’s acquired and the type of players he’s been drafting.

The Wings drafted 12 players in this week’s Entry Draft. A persistent theme was skilled, smart hockey players who have a high ceiling of potential.

“You’re getting a lot of skill, smart kids, who can handle the puck,” Kennedy said. “That’s a pretty fair assessment.”

E.J. Hradek, senior reporter at NHL Network, liked Yzerman’s strategy in this draft.

“You have to hope your scouting staff is good and having all those picks in a good draft is good, and by all accounts, this was a pretty good draft,” Hradek said.

Hradek predicted the Wings would select defenseman Jamie Drysdale with their first pick, but taking forward Lucas Raymond was reasonable and should turn out well.

“Raymond will be a good player,” said Hradek, adding Raymond instantly becomes the Wings’ best prospect. “I’m a little surprised, but he’s a real good player. Steve must feel that (defenseman Moritz) Seider can become a No. 1 type of defensemen and he didn’t have make to make another move on defense (through the draft).

“You have to score goals. You see what Steve had and did in Tampa, having (defenseman Victor) Hedman and they went out and got a lot of talented forwards.”

Kyle Woodlief, publisher of Red Line Report, felt the Wings have done a good job of creating building blocks of offense.

“It’s been a team lacking in goal scoring and they went for some skill guys,” Woodlief said. “They’ve taken a more patient approach to development. You see a guy like (Filip) Zadina, who is beginning to make an impact, and they have plenty of talent coming in the system.”

But despite all the building blocks in the foundation, everyone believes the Wings are still several years from any sort of serious contention.

Most of the Wings' intriguing talent is anywhere from 18 to 20 years old, and simply isn’t ready for the NHL.

Yzerman is slowly putting together a competitive roster at the NHL level — but there are miles to go.

“It’s difficult to win in the NHL with a lot of 19- and 20-year-olds in your lineup,” Woodlief said. “You just can’t do it.”

Said Hradek: “There’s a lot of work to do. You have to build from the goal out and you need a strong defense, and when Seider gets there, you’ll get a better idea of what they’ll look like. They’re trying to fit some pieces into it and get through, adding (Marc) Staal, who is a good pro, will compete and work with younger players.

“But they’re a ways off.”

Twitter: @tkulfan