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After last weekend’s draft lottery, the Red Wings are officially picking 9th in next month’s NHL entry draft. With debate over who is going first overall, Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier, the top players are all but certain to be gone when the Wings pick. Here are some names who may be available that you should get to know, and I believe Detroit should take a hard look at selecting in June…
1. Michael Rasmussen, Center, Tri-City Americans, 6’6” 215lbs
The first glaring hole the Red Wings should look to fill is size and grit up front. Their top forwards of Tomas Tatar, who is 5’10”, Gustav Nyquist, 5’11”, and Dylan Larkin 6’1” need some assistance against the tougher lines in the NHL, as speed and skill can only get you so far. Rasmussen is also able to produce points, scoring 32 goals and 23 assists in 50 games last season.
2. Owen Tippett, Right Wing, Mississauga Steelheads, 6’2” 203lbs
While smaller than Rasmussen, I believe Owen Tippett can help with some grit on a line with Larkin and Athanasiou. Ranked as high as 4th in one draft prospect ranking, it would be a steal for the Wings at nine to take Tippett. As much as I like his size, his stats give him a lot of credibility. 44 goals and 31 assists last year at Mississauga, but more importantly a plus 24, which was a major issue for Detroit with only Henrik Zetterberg, Anthony Mantha, and Xavier Oulette ending the season positive.
3. Jusso Valimaki, Defenseman, Tri-City Americans, 6’2” 204lbs
Next is a two-way defenseman that happens to be Michael Rasmussen’s teammate. Scoring 19 goals and 42 assists in 60 games, coming off of an injury. He will be a reach at the 9th spot for the Wings, as he is currently ranked as low as 16th on some rankings, but if the Wings are determined to get a defenseman, they’ll look at Valimaki.
4. Nicolas Hague, Defenseman, Mississauga Steelheads, 6’6” 214lbs
If the Red Wings don’t look at exact ranking position, Hague might be a great fit. Currently ranked between 14 and 20 on draft boards, Nicolas Hague could give Detroit great size on the blue line, which is something they have been lacking. His 46 points in 65 games and a plus 22 is impressive, but if the Wings want grit, it’s the 107 penalty minutes last year that they’ll fall in love with.
5. Cale Makar, Defenseman, Brooks Bandits, 5’10” 175lbs
The number one defenseman in this draft wraps up my rankings. You might be thinking, “Why is the number one d-man so low on the list?” It has everything to do with his size. At a minute 5’10”, I don’t think he’d be able to survive the grit of the pro game. However, even with his size, his numbers are too good to ignore. In the Alberta Junior Hockey League this year he was able to score 24 goals and 51 assists, and did it in impressive fashion. I just don’t see, even at his young age, a growth spurt coming from Makar, thus he won’t be a great fit with the Wings, who already have issue with size.
It’s a whole new world with the Red Wings drafting so early, the earliest since 1990, but this player will hopefully be the catalyst to send Detroit towards their next Stanley Cup.