Red Wings draft center Marco Kasper with No. 8 pick: 'We have high hopes for him'
In an NHL Entry Draft filled with surprises, the Red Wings didn't shock anyone.
They selected center Marco Kasper with their first-round pick, eighth overall, on Thursday night.
The Austrian center played in Rogle (Sweden) last season, where he had seven goals and four assists in 46 games. Kasper had 13 points (six goals) in 12 games playing for Rogle's junior team and had a good playoffs for Rogle with six points in 13 games.
"I know they are rebuilding but they have really good players, they've won a couple of Stanley Cups. It's a really good franchise," said Kasper, who was a teammate of Wings defenseman Moritz Seider, the NHL's rookie of the year. "I'm really excited. It's a great hockey culture there."
Kasper described himself as a "really competitive player, with playmaking skills and hockey sense, a really solid 200-foot player."
Kasper (6-foot-1, 183 pounds) said he likes to play center but can play all three forward positions. He's projected to be a smart and responsible two-way center who isn't afraid to go into the hard areas.
Those were some of the things that sold the Wings on Kasper.
"He checked all the boxes and we're excited to get him," said Kris Draper, the Wings' director of amateur scouting. "His competitiveness, willingness to go the hard areas. The compete and character. We really like his skill set."
What impressed Draper was Kasper, as a 17-year-old, playing the way Kasper did in the playoffs.
"He was one of the best players on the ice as a 17-year-old," Draper said. "He seemed to embrace the moment. As the games got bigger, he got better."
Draper felt Kasper's character showed through as Kasper prepared to play in the Swedish Hockey League.
"He learned the Swedish language (before arriving in Rogle)," Draper said. "It shows you the type of kids we drafted. Pretty impressive."
NHL Central Scouting had Kasper ranked as the fifth-highest player coming out of Europe.
General manager Steve Yzerman had one, 20-minute conversation with Kasper during the draft combine and came away impressed.
"I really like everything about the way he plays," Yzerman said. "Good size, good skater, good hockey sense. We drafted him as a center but he can play any of the three forward positions. We think he's a solid, all around hockey player."
Kasper isn't likely to make too many highlight packages, but that doesn't bother the Wings.
"He's not super flashy, he just kind of plays and makes the right plays," Yzerman said. "Very efficient, fundamentally sound. He plays simple, drives to the net."
Kasper was named captain of Austria's world junior team where he played in two games before the the tournament was cancelled.
Many of the draft profiles leading into the draft raved about Kasper's athleticism and grit. Kasper likes to attack, has the speed to befuddle defenses, and can play with an edge. Kasper is responsible defensively and plays mature beyond his age in many scouting analyses.
Kasper was seen as a Red Wings' type of player over the last few weeks, as the draft got closer, and his selection was one of the few non-shockers early in Thursday's first round.
Kasper met with Yzerman and the Red Wings during the draft combine last month.
“At first I was a little nervous,” Kasper said on Rogle’s website. “But it was fun to sit in there with a general manager like Steve Yzerman. You talk about everything — about your background, your family and of course about yourself as a player."
Kasper is expected to stay in Rogle next season, playing with Wings prospects William Wallinder and Theodor Niederbach, although Yzerman wasn't ready to definitively say that'll the case.
Thursday's draft selection was a dream come true for Kasper.
"It's hard to put into words. The hard work I've put in, it's special," Kasper said.
The Wings have nine more picks on Friday, as the NHL completes Rounds 2-7 (11 a.m./NHL Network). The Wings have two picks in the second round (Nos. 40 and 52), one in the third (73), three in the fourth (105, 113 and 129), one in the fifth (137) and two in the seventh (201 and 212).
The evening began with a mild surprise and certainly silenced the raucous crowd inside Montreal's Bell Centre.
Host Montreal, picking first, mildly surprised its fans drafting Juraj Slafkovsky over the expected selection of Shane Wright.
Slafkovksy, a 6-foot-3 wing who was the most valuable player at the Olympics, became the first Slovakian to ever get picked first overall.
The big Slovakian wing is expected to step into the Montreal lineup next season, as the Canadiens look to rebuild quickly.
Slovakia made further history when defenseman Simon Nemec was chosen second overall by the New Jersey Devils. The Devils, loaded with center depth, didn't see a need for Wright, who was projected to be the first overall pick for the last several years.
Nemec further strengthens a younger and talented defensive corps in New Jersey.
This was also the first time in history Slovakia natives were the first two picks in the NHL Entry Draft.
Arizona then took center Logan Cooley, from Plymouth Township-based United States National Team Development Program, with the third pick overall, the player that was projected to land with the Coyotes all along.
Wright (Kingston, OHL), who is not a flashy player but one that is responsible and effective in all three zones, fell to No. 4 to the Seattle Kraken.
Philadelphia grabbed forward Cutter Gauthier (USNTDP) with the fifth pick, adding a highly-rated power forward who scored 34 goals last season.
Columbus, with its first of two first-round selections, selected defenseman David Jiricek (Czechia), who was rated higher for most of the season until a knee injury ended his season and scared some teams.
After trading away forwards Alex DeBrincat (Farmington Hills) to Ottawa and Kirby Dach to Montreal earlier, Chicago had the seventh pick (from Ottawa) and chose defenseman Kevin Korchinski (Seattle, WHL) for the rebuild ahead.