Welcome to a three-part feature that will explore Detroit Red Wings Prospect system, specifically how they have gone about building their line up of centers. As many of you may note this draft season the Red Wings selected 5 centers(or players who have played center) and 1 goalie and its easy to see why when you look at what transpired a season ago.
In the 2014 season the Red Wings traded rising prospect Calle Jarnkrok and a conditional pick to Nashville for long time Predator David Legwand at the deadline. When news broke of the trade many fans, myself included, were a bit upset with the trade. Jarnkrok was the only blue chip center the Wings had in the pipeline at the time and they traded him away for a 33-year-old center who was a long shot at staying past this season and the hope of making the playoffs in an injury plagued season. Jarnkrok possess speed and a high-end skating ability with raw talent that had most scouts making comparisons to Henrik Zetterberg. Next to Nyquist he was easily the most anticipated prospect in the system at the time.
As a new season draws closer and Riley Sheahan signing a two-year deal making him a full-time Red Wing along side a glut of players who can play center including: Pavel Datsyuk, Stephen Weiss, Darren Helm, Joakim Andersson, Luke Glendening. With the roster as it stands there is not a lot of room to play on the big club right now. However if the injury bug strikes again or as players develop or decline the need for a solid group of centers is always a big key to winning hockey games. Which leaves one question. “Whose next?”
Tomas Axel Holmstrom:
Axel Holmstrom, seen here scoring a highlight reel goal in the opening seconds of the video, was drafted in the 7th round of the 2014 draft along side Alex Kadeykin(more on him later). Taken with the 196th pick, Holmstrom is yet another late round Hakan Anderson selection, and according to the man himself, he won a battle of scouts as many later expressed to him their displeasure in being unable to convince their own GMs to draft him. Axel is listed at 6’0 198lbs RedWingscentral.com had this to say about Holmstrom:
“Holmstrom — who is not related to former Red Wings fan favorite Tomas Holmstrom — is a bit of a long-shot prospect, as is any player drafted in the seventh round. But his stocky build, work ethic and scoring ability at the junior level appealed to the Red Wings. He is expected to return to Sweden’s J-20 SuperElite league in 2014-15 and could see time in the Swedish Hockey League. He needs to work on his skating, but he projects as a third-line NHL center.”
Holmstrom recently participated with team Sweden in the U-20 tournament and had a solid season with Skellefteå J20 in the Sweden Super Elite League posting 15 goals 23 assists for 38 points in 33 games played. Axel has been complemented by Hakan Anderson for his mature work ethic and ability to pursue the puck. His stocky frame and soft hands make him an ideal project for the Wings over the next several years. However if he wants to make it to North America he is going to have to improve his overall foot speed combine that with his ability to hang on to the puck combined with some more muscle to that already solid frame and he could do well in a top 9 role in the NHL.
Comparison: Holmstrom lacks Jarnkrok’s skating ability but has a decent weight advantage of 198lbs compared to Jarnkrok at 176lbs and he sure does have a good set of hands. If he can develop his skating and continue to be a strong puck carrier he could in time become a solid 2nd or 3rd line center for the Red Wings. As noted he is a bit of a long shot personally I can not shake this feeling that he has more to show us.
Kadeykin,who can be viewed scoring on a penalty shot in a preseason game this year, was also drafted in the 7th round of the 2014 draft. Standing at 6’3 and weighing in at 213lbs he is one of the more solid centers the Red Wings drafted in recent memory. One should note that Kadeykin is listed at 20 years old, making him 1-2 years older than the average prospect on their draft day as he was passed over twice in consecutive drafts until selected by Detroit. His age gives him an immediate advantage over his younger compatriots as he has had more time to develop in professional leagues playing against men in the KHL. RedWingsCentral.com compiled an assessment of his strengths as a player:
“Stands almost 6-foot-4 and is strong and mature … Already established as a solid two-way center in the KHL … Uses his size to protect the puck and controls it well down low … A creative offensive player and set-up man who can nicely complement skilled wingers … Works hard at both ends of the ice and plays a responsible defensive game … Red Wings are impressed with his character and coachability.”
As with Holmstrom he could stand to improve his skating. But his size and commitment to both ends of the rink have made him another stand out two-way center. He has good vision(being 6’3 helps) and if thrown on a line with wingers like Tatar or Nyquist could form a dangerous scoring line that is more than capable in their own end.
Comparison: Besides speed and agility Kadeykin lacks Jarnkroks offensive talents as well. He does have Jarnkrok beat in spades in size and defensive play(a troublesome area in Jarnkrok development) giving him a slight edge in physical play and puck possession. If he can not improve his speed, or at least adapt his positioning, he may never be more than a 3rd line option in the NHL but he could make up for it by finding a scoring touch that matches his two-way play.
While it’s not typical that two 7th round picks can end up being top line centers, in this case I am leaning more towards Holmstrom than Kadeykin to being a top 6 option. Both prospects are currently going through pre-season warm ups as the European and Russian seasons start much earlier then the NHL season. One thing that is for certain is that these prospects are going to have amazing seasons and hope for some turn over in the Wings roster if they want to stand out and make the Red Wings.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned in to Octopus Thrower for the continuation of the series.
*all stats and quotes were used from RedWingsCentral.com, an excellent source of information for Detroit Red Wings Prospects past and present.