Detroit Red Wings mailbag: What is status on Dylan Larkin’s extension?
Detroit Red Wings directors of scouting Hakan Andersson and Tyler Wright talk about the team’s 2018 draft in Dallas on June 23. Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press
Time for a Detroit Red Wings mailbag. Thanks as always for the many great questions.
Q: Post draft, what do you see as the largest remaining Red Wings organizational need? I sense that they have decent talent depth, but may still be missing a true long-term #1C, #1D, #1 Goalie in the pipeline. Is this a reasonable assessment? — S.Kline
HSJ: Their number one need is an elite defenseman — that’s why it would have been huge for the Wings to win the draft lottery this year, gaining access to Rasmus Dahlin. As it stands, their top defense prospect is Dennis Cholowski, their first-round pick from 2016. He’s a good, all-around package of speed, skill and skating ability. He’ll have an opportunity in training camp to show if he can make the Wings better. My sense is of the defense prospects, Filip Hronek (second round, 2016) has the edge to make the team this autumn because he really impressed in his first year of pro hockey, emerging to run one of the Griffins’ power plays. He led team defensemen (and was third overall) with 15 power-play assists. That’s going to earn him an opportunity in exhibition games to demonstrate whether he can run one of the Wings’ power plays (Mike Green will run the other). Gustav Lindstrom (second round, 2017) is a great skater who makes a good first pass (and shoots right). The organization has high hopes for him, especially as he’s slated to play next season for Frolunda HC, a Swedish elite league club known for developing players.
The Wings actually went into the 2018 draft expecting to use their first pick, at sixth overall, on a defenseman, because of organizational need. Their top choice (outside of Dahlin) was Evan Bouchard, a 6-foot-2, right-handed shot, because of his ability to run a power play. But when it became the Wings’ time to pick and winger Filip Zadina was available, they naturally went with the best available player (and they certainly need scoring help too, which is Zadina’s specialty).
At the center spot, Dylan Larkin (first round, 2014) is their top building block. Over the past three seasons Larkin, who turns 22 on July 30, has shown tremendous growth. He’s got a high inner drive, and will keep pushing himself to improve. Michael Rasmussen (first round, 2017) was drafted to because he’s a 6-6 center. He’s another leading candidate to make the team next season. Joe Veleno (30th overall, 2018) is a potential Jonathan Toews-type of center.
As for goaltenders, the top prospect is Filip Larsson (sixth round, 2016), who is headed to the University of Denver. There’s a reason the Wings signed Jonathan Bernier for three years: there’s no goaltending prospect on the near horizon.
HSJ: The Wings are working on a long-term extension for Larkin — they’d prefer five years, but may have to go to six. Of the young forwards who were restricted free agents this summer (Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, Tyler Bertuzzi and Martin Frk), Larkin is the one who’s earned a big commitment because of the growth and character he’s shown since being drafted in 2014.
Regarding the second question, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Wings trade Athanasiou in exchange for a high draft pick/prospect. His skill and speed should hold appeal (especially if he gets hot for a stretch) and yield a good return.
HSJ: Of those four, Rasmussen and Hronek have the edge going into camp to be on the opening night roster — Hronek because he really impressed last season in Grand Rapids with his hard-nosed play and with running a power play, and Rasmussen because he had such a dominant spring with 14 goals and 17 assists for 33 points in 14 WHL playoff games. Cholowski sounded very determined at development camp in late June that he’s ready to grab a job, but he’s entering his first year of pro hockey, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him start in Grand Rapids, barring a phenomenal camp.
I’d love to see Zadina earn a spot on the opening night roster — he’s fun to watch, and a delight to interview. Can he, as an 18-year-old, hold his own against men? That’ll be interesting to see in exhibition games. With the NHL siding with the Wings that Zadina was on loan to Halifax from his Czech team and therefore AHL eligible, there’s leeway to have him start in Grand Rapids.
I don’t see all four being on the opening night roster, but at some point during the season, yes.
Contact Helene St. James: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames.