Welcome to part two of a three-part feature exploring the center depth of the Detroit Red Wings. In Part 1 the Detroit Red Wings had traded top prospect Calle Jarnkrok at the 2014 trade deadline for David Legwand. We then got a look at 2014 draft picks Axel Holmstrom and Alexander Kadeykin. This article will focus on comparing 2013 draft pick Mattias Janmark-Nylen(now just Mattias Janmark) and 2014 free agent signing Tomas Nosek to see how they compare to Jarnkrok and if they can fill the void in the system left by Jarnkrok.
Janmark is an older draft pick from the 2013 draft. At 21 he has played professional hockey longer than most of the players on this list and he even played a stint with the Grand Rapids Griffins albeit for only 8 games(2 regular season + 6 playoffs) after notching 18 goals 12 assists for 30 points in 45 games for AIK of the SHL. Janmark is an excellent playmaker who loves to shoot, he has above average skating ability and sees the ice very well. Listed at 6’1 189lbs he has decent size to help compete against the bigger players of the NHL. RedWingsCentral.com does note a lot of great strengths but he also has a glaring weakness:
“Needs to get stronger, particularly in his lower body, and commit to better conditioning, because he didn’t train in the off-season from the ages to 16 to 20 because of a knee injury … Doesn’t play a physical game … Struggles on faceoffs as a center, winning just 215 of 609 faceoffs in 2012-13 and 2013-14 in the SHL for a success rate of just 35.3 percent … Needs to refine his defensive play.”
Ouch! 35.3% in the faceoff circle is not going to cut it at any level.
Janmark isn’t expected to be a punishing player but he is not a push over either. He gets the job done by making you play in your own zone as he uses his speed and skating ability to create scoring chances. Given his face off abilities, or lack there of, I wouldn’t put it past the Wings to use him more as a scoring winger like Jiri Hudler. If he can not make leaps and bounds and get in the 48%-51% success rate in the faceoff circle it could spell bad news for his chances at being a top center in the NHL.
Comparison: He has the hands and the skill to match Jarnkrok and is only a few notches back in the skating department but injuries have limited what we could have seen from him so far. Now that he has signed with Frolunda of the SHL for one year we might get a chance to see how he competes under the spotlight. If he can have a solid campaign and join the Griffins once again at the end of the season it could tell us more about how far Janmark has developed. Until then there are still too many uncertainties about his game that he has to work on but this season should provide him with more than enough of a chance to prove himself.
Acquired as a free agent in June of 2014 Nosek is listed at 6’2 201lbs. Having been passed over 4 times in the draft it is fair to say Nosek is the very definition of the term “late bloomer”. In June he had at least half a dozen teams throwing contracts at him after he posited 19 goals and 25 assists in 52 games while leading his team in scoring and placing 9th overall in the Czech league. Red Wings Director of Player Development(and fellow Czech) Jiri Fischer had this to say about Nosek:
“He’s strong on the puck, he’s a very good playmaker, very smart. He good defensively and doesn’t cheat, doesn’t cut corners, he’s a distributor of the puck, he can hold onto it down low, but he can also make good plays in traffic. Puck skills are very good … I hope he’s going to be a strong two-way center that can play against top opposition and handle the big forwards on other teams and take faceoffs in key moments and help on the PP.” — Red Wings director of player development Jiri Fischer (June 2014)
Nosek is slated to start the 14-15′ campaign in Grand Rapids. His size and strength should help him adjust quickly to the North American style, but there still might be a bit of a learning curve. Given his play below the dots he could end up being a great set up man for the likes of Anthony Mantha or Tomas Tatar in the future(or AHL depending on if Mantha makes the team out of camp).
Comparison: If Jarnkrok is smooth as silk then Nosek is 80 grit sand paper. Nosek can distribute the puck almost as well as Jarnkrok but his play below the dots and willingness to play the rough and tumble style sets him apart. Both have great offensive talents but Jarnkrok has more of a finesse game. Nosek lacks Jarnkrok’s flash and skating ability but more than makes up for it in his size, responsible play in his own zone and ability to play in traffic or below the goal line.
With Nosek slated to play in Grand Rapids, and the fact he was acquired in the same time frame that saw the departure of Jarnkrok, he might be the best option to soften the blow of losing Jarnkrok. It might take up to half a season for him to find his form in the AHL, but the sooner he gets adjusted the better his chance of making the Red Wings for the next season. Janmark isn’t to shabby either and after getting a taste of North American hockey and being a highly sought free agent back in Sweden he should have plenty of motivation to improve this season. Faceoffs are still a concern but are something he can definitely work on and he certainly needs at least a half season if not a full one in the AHL to get used to the North American game. While both players have top 6 potential I would give the edge right now to Nosek mainly due to his size and ability to play either a skilled game or the rough and tumble below the circles which will serve him well in the upcoming AHL season.
*all stats and quotes were used from RedWingsCentral.com, an excellent source of information for Detroit Red Wings Prospects past and present.