The Detroit Red Wings’ prospect system looks as deep and talented as it has in years.
Boasting a potential NHL starting goaltender in Petr Mrazek, future scoring-line talents in Calle Jarnkrok, Tomas Jurco and Anthony Mantha, and potential top-four defensemen in Xavier Ouellet, Ryan Sproul and Mattias Backman, the future is bright.
Coming off a season in which their top minor-league affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, captured the AHL’s Calder Cup championship, many Red Wings prospects are off to impressive starts to the 2013-14 campaign and are making a push for time in Detroit.
Jarnkrok just barely hangs on to his spot as Detroit’s No. 1 prospect in Red Wings Central’s preliminary ranking for 2013-14, but arguments could be made just as easily for Mrazek, Jurco and Mantha atop the list. Ouellet rounds out the top five. Five players ranked — Mrazek, Ouellet, Riley Sheahan, Luke Glendening and Adam Almquist — have already made their NHL debuts.
Following is a rundown of the preliminary RWC ranking.
1. Calle Jarnkrok, C, Grand Rapids (AHL), 13-5-3-8-4, plus-6, 26 SOG.
He hasn’t exactly set the world on fire in his short time on North American ice, but Jarnkrok remains a very important part of the Red Wings’ future. He’s a hard-working, two-way center whose high skill level gives him upside as a potential top-six NHL contributor.
2. Petr Mrazek, G, Grand Rapids (AHL), 6 GP, 3-2-1, 2.75 GAA, .906 Sv%.
Jimmy Howard owns the crease in Detroit and has a long-term contract that makes you wonder when Mrazek will get his chance. But taking that out of the equation, the 21-year-old Czech native is a sure-fire NHL starter who has yet to misstep in his development.
3. Tomas Jurco, RW, Grand Rapids (AHL), 13-5-9-14-6, plus-4, 32 SOG.
Many scouts considered Jurco a first-round pick in 2011 and he’s starting to look like a second-round steal. An all-world offensive talent similar to Marian Hossa, Jurco has elevated his production to the point-per-game level and will be pushing for time in Detroit in short order.
4. Anthony Mantha, RW, Val-d’Or (QMJHL), 20-22-27-49-26, plus-4, 122 SOG.
Mantha, the Red Wings’ highest drafted forward since Martin Lapointe, has annihilated QMJHL competition since being taken 20th overall. Although he needs to devote his efforts to playing a more complete game, he’s as good any goal-scoring prospect you’ll find — anywhere.
5. Xavier Ouellet, D, Grand Rapids (AHL), 12-0-3-3-2, plus-8, 19 SOG.
The last defenseman to skate in Detroit at age 20 was Jiri Fischer. Ouellet isn’t at that level as a prospect but he’s a potential 20-minute-per-night blueliner who has three NHL games under his belt and has made impressive two-way contributions in Grand Rapids.
6. Riley Sheahan, C, Grand Rapids (AHL), 10-2-3-5-8, plus-3, 16 SOG.
Sheahan has gone without an off-ice discipline issue since last October, and, turning 22 in December, is well on his way to being an NHLer. Big, strong and responsible in his own end, Sheahan still needs to show more to convince he will be able to contribute offensively in Detroit.
7. Ryan Sproul, D, Grand Rapids (AHL), 13-4-7-11-4, plus-7, 28 SOG.
Sproul has made an impressive adjustment from junior to the AHL and is one of the league’s defensive scoring leaders. He’s not as polished as Xavier Ouellet just yet but he has even more upside and is being groomed as Detroit’s power-play quarterback of the future.
8. Mattias Backman, D, Linkoping (SHL), 19-2-5-7-4, plus-5, 27 SOG.
If he weren’t in Sweden, Backman likely would have gotten the nod ahead of Xavier Ouellet and Adam Almquist when the Red Wings needed a defensive help. The smooth and efficent Backman is neck and neck with Ouellet and Ryan Sproul as a prospect and his time will come.
9. Landon Ferraro, C, Grand Rapids (AHL), 10-3-3-6-8, plus-1, 34 SOG.
Ferraro has bounced back from a training-camp injury and is off to a good start. Fast, creative and committed to being a good two-way player, Ferraro is out of waiver options next fall and needs a big year to show the Red Wings he deserves a full-time NHL job.
10. Luke Glendening, C, Grand Rapids (AHL), 8-3-3-6-14, plus-7, 11 SOG.
Glendening has leapfrogged a number of players on the depth chart since signing as a free agent in July. Exempt from waivers for two seasons or 52 more NHL games, he’s a good skater, dogged worker and fitness fiend who is already a capable checker in Detroit.
11. Teemu Pulkkinen, RW, Grand Rapids (AHL), 13-6-5-11-10, plus-8, 32 SOG.
The stealthy power-play rifle-man is having no trouble producing offense in his first AHL season. His task over the next year and a half is to keep scoring goals and round out his game in an effort to break in with the Red Wings like Jiri Hudler did almost a decade ago.
12. Adam Almquist, D, Grand Rapids (AHL), 10-0-7-7-12, minus-1, 23 SOG.
He’s gotten a taste of the NHL, but it remains to be seen whether Almquist will be a high-end minor-league/European offensive defenseman or a full-time NHL blueliner who makes his money on the power play. In his last waiver-exempt season, he has to show he’s ready.
13. Alexey Marchenko, D, Grand Rapids (AHL), 13-1-6-7-2, plus-8, 9 SOG.
Marchenko gets forgotten in the midst of top defense prospects like Xavier Ouellet, Ryan Sproul and Mattias Backman, but he’s not far behind them. Making a smooth adjustment to North America, the Russian puck-mover could be a big surprise in a few years.
14. Andreas Athanasiou, LW, Barrie (OHL), 18-8-11-19-23, even.
Athanasiou hasn’t produced quite as much as hoped early this season so a little bit more offense would be nice to see. But he had one of the best camps of any prospect in the system and his blazing speed makes him a big-time asset with potential as a top-nine forward.
15. Zach Nastasiuk, RW, Owen Sound (OHL), 21-9-10-19-8, minus-7.
Already a captain in the OHL, Nastasiuk’s offensive production is on the rise in a more prominent role with Owen Sound. He’s the type of trustworthy, hard-working, two-way forward who could be an NHL coach’s dream if he can continue to improve his skating.
16. Mattias Janmark, C, AIK (SHL), 19-12-7-19-10, even, 52 SOG.
Janmark has emerged as a top-10 scorer in the Swedish Hockey League and is a darkhorse scoring-line prospect. If he can sustain his production over the course of the season and push for a world-championship spot, he’ll push his way further up this list.
17. Martin Frk, RW, Toledo (ECHL), 3-1-2-3-6, minus-4, 4 SOG.
An incredible slap shot will only get you so far, and Frk’s bad junior habits aren’t looking good so far in the pros. While he flashes high-end scoring potential, he’s struggling with the pace of the AHL game and will need to make the most of his assignment to the ECHL.
18. Nick Jensen, D, Grand Rapids (AHL), inactive (shoulder injury).
Out until at least December because of a shoulder injury suffered in a July development-camp fight with Tyler Bertuzzi, the 23-year-old Jensen is a tremendous skater with two-way potential. But as one of the organization’s oldest prospects, the injury is a tough setback.
19. Jake Paterson, G, Saginaw (OHL), 15 GP, 9-6-0, 3.32 GAA, .908 Sv%.
Paterson is having a good season and can make a strong statement by winning the starting job with Canada’s world junior team. Signed to an entry-level contract in September, he is a solid prospect who gives the Red Wings excellent organizational depth in goal.
T20. Mitchell Callahan, RW, Grand Rapids (AHL), 13-4-4-8-18, plus-8, 27 SOG.
The Red Wings drafted Callahan to be a tough, physical energy player and he’s emerged as exactly that in Grand Rapids. The third-year pro’s waiver exemption is up at season’s end and management will need to decide sooner rather than later whether Callahan is a part of their future.
T20. Tyler Bertuzzi, LW, Guelph (OHL), 18-5-18-23-32, plus-3.
Look no further than Mitchell Callahan for the template Bertuzzi needs to follow as a prospect. So far, so good. Bertuzzi has pumped up his offensive production on a powerful junior team — already with a career-high in points — and is playing his trademark agitating game.
NOTE: Gustav Nyquist is no longer considered a prospect.