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Detroit Red Wings Prospect Mailbag

Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Leigh Photography

Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Leigh Photography

So this is the beginning of a new segment I am pretty excited about. I have been getting a few questions from some readers throughout the last week and I think this is a great time to answer them. As always, questions can be submitted to [email protected] and can be about anything hockey related. If you have a hockey question shoot me an email and I will answer it here. The regularity of these will depend on the volume of questions I get. And in the spirit of shameless plugs, follow me on twitter as well @ProspectGuy. I live tweet all Red Wing games and most Griffins games. Check it out. So without further delay, let’s get started here.

“Who is the best prospect that no one is talking about?” Ryan M.

I am going to cheat and give three answers. First is Andreas Athanasiou, I profiled him a few weeks ago (even used the same picture) and he has been the prospect who has surprised me the most. I profiled him due to a hot streak, but the more tape I saw from him the more excited I got. He has so many tools and if he can put everything together he will be a lethal weapon. I think people talk about Athanasiou, but I don’t think they talk about him enough. This is a guy who has top 6 potential and is probably the best left wing prospect in the system.

My second answer is Nick Jensen. He was one of the Wings better defensive prospects entering the prospect camp this year, however he messed up his shoulder in a fight and missed a few months. He has been flying under the radar ever since. He has been playing much better lately and he has found his game again in the last month. With Marchenko out for the year with an injury he has a real chance to step up as the Griffins line up to defend their crown.

My third and final answer to this question is Martin Frk. He was a guy who came in this year sporting some really impressive(but inflated) junior numbers. He struggled mightily in the first few games and got demoted to the ECHL where he improved on his skating and got more comfortable in his game. Since his call up he hasn’t been lighting the stat sheet up, but he has been effective. I don’t like stats for prospects. The lack of parity across these leagues makes it hard to judge a player. Frk is a great example. He had 84 points in 56 games. Isolated, that seems great, but when I say that his line mates were Jonathan Drouin and Nathan MacKinnon this paints a different picture. He was the least productive player on his line and he was able to largely just shoot the puck a lot without having to play defense or carry the puck through the zone. This line was dominant last year and Frk was the beneficiary of these inflated stats. People were really excited about him coming into the year and when he had a rough adjustment period, people immediately wrote him off and called him a bust. That’s a bit of an overreaction, my general rule is about a year and half of play in the AHL to really judge a player. The adjustment is hard, and the progress is usually slow. But then something clicks, and thing start to happen after that. It just happens at different times for different players. Frk is about three quarters of the way through my trial period, and he looks to be improving and finding his way. With the trade of Jarnkrok he is a player who will get more ice time as he will move up to the first line. This is his chance to step up and show that he is still a prospect with NHL potential.

“In your interview with Bill LeRoy you talk about the drafting and the development process. Which is more important? ” Tyler H.

This is a really good question. For those who haven’t read the article Tyler is referencing, click here. The interview with Bill taught me a few things. First, is as much as about identifying who will be effective within your system as it is about identifying who will be the most talented. Some skills are more important than others depending on the way a team plays. So this obviously places a large importance on the development of a player.  Drafting is about recognizing certain skills and deciding whether that player has the potential to continue to grow or if they are maxed out. Recognizing which skills will project into the next levels of hockey and whether or not those skills are repeatable is the essence of scouting really.

Now onto the development process. The Wings place a high emphasis on development with the implementation of their mentors. The Wings like to throw a few of their more successful alum in the Griffins locker room and allow them to guide the players and give them advice. Both Jiri Fischer and Chris Chelios are mentors for the extremely young defense core of the Griffins. In a conversation I had with Ryan Sproul, he told me that one of them is there almost every day, and every time they open their mouth it is like a sponge, you just absorb everything they say. This has to be a pretty cool experience for a lot of the young guys. It gives them someone to talk to and a person who can give them more one on one time than a coach could with a lot of legitimacy. I don’t want to say the players don’t respect Blashill because that is absolutely not true, but it has to be different hearing something from a guy like Chelios as opposed to Blashill.  The Red Wings like to see their prospects dominate their respective leagues before they get moved up, this not only allows them to be the leaders of their team, but it gives them more time to bulk up and mature before moving up the ranks.

To answer your question, I am not sure one is more important than the other, it doesn’t matter how well if you draft if the players never get any better once you draft them and it doesn’t matter how well you develop if the player just isn’t good enough to play in the NHL. It’s a rare skill and you need to be an extremely gifted athlete to be able to play and if an organization can’t recognize this then they can’t develop quality prospects.

“What do you think of the Legwand trade?” Xander W.

Well isn’t that the question of the day. I am going to focus more on Jarnkrok here. As you can see from my profile(link here) I am pretty high on him, as are most people. The Wings were really high on him last year and to hear that the Wings suddenly didn’t think he was a top 6 NHLer anymore was pretty surprising to hear from Holland as he gave various interviews regarding the trade. The rumors about him going back to the SEL was only if he couldn’t play in the NHL. From what I have heard Holland say it seems as if they valued players like Andersson and Glendenning over him, I always though Jarnkrok was the kind of player you make room for. As recently as last year the Wings had him as an untouchable prospect. They were unwilling to even discuss the idea when they talked to the Flames about Bouwmeester and previously to that Rick Nash as well. Every team wanted him last year and I am puzzled about why he has been so devalued since the beginning of the year, especially taking into account his recent hot streak where he was better than a point per game in his last 20.

Patrick Eaves being included in this deal is more of a favor to him than anything else. He wants to stay in the NHL and he isn’t going to be able to play for his next contract by warming the bench. Kenny did him a favor and Patrick Eaves can earn a contract he is deserving of. I always kind of thought he was a dark horse candidate on this team next year with all the expected veteran departures, but I think that this trade squashes those hopes I had. Eaves to me, is one of  the better bottom 6 players in the league. Before his concussion he was a guy who was really developing and I think could have evolved into an Abdelkader type role in the top 6. He has a great shot along with a good net front presence and he is great on the boards and real strong on the puck. He is a guy I will always root for I think.

The pick is too high in my opinion.  It’s not that I don’t think David Legwand is worth a 2nd round pick(I always assume the Wings make the playoffs) it’s just that this seems like Kenny overpaid when you compare what other players went for.  This deal can be closely compared to the deal that sent Vanek to the Habs. Collberg is a prospect who is comparable to Jarnkrok I feel. However Legwand has a lot more value to the Wings than Vanek has to the Habs. The Wings would have had a lot of problems if they didn’t get another center, let’s not kid ourselves here, Joakim Andersson is great depth, but he is not a 1st line center on any NHL team. The Habs didn’t need Vanek and it wouldn’t be a big deal if they lost out on the deal. This contrast is probably the reason why the Wings had to give up so much to get him. Adding to it, Holland has publicly said that he believes this to be a weak draft after the first round, so maybe he values the 2nd round pick as if it were a 3rd or 4th because that would the talent of the player drafted.

Generally, I think Holland was active when he had to be and I think he got the player he wanted. Let’s see if he pushed the right buttons. If this team can get healthy then I still believe they can make a run. The East is extremely weak and if the Wings get a hot Howard and a determined Mule they might just surprise us a little bit.

Tags: Andreas Athanasiou Detroit Red Wings Martin Frk Nick Jensen

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