How the Red Wings Prospects Fared at the World Junior Championships

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 26: Kasper Kotkansalo
BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 26: Kasper Kotkansalo /

A review of how the Detroit Red Wings prospects fared at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships.

The Red Wings are caught up in what they would like to call an “on the fly” rebuild. Basically, they’re trying to retool their somewhat depleted organization while also not going completely into full-on tank mode, which includes shipping out some veterans who have spent their whole careers here in Detroit. Whether this is the right way to go about it, we’ll save that discussion for another day, the fact of the matter is the Red Wings desperately need to add new, young talent to their roster.

It’s pretty clear to most Wings fans that they needed to add some young depth on the blue line, with most of their defenseman on the NHL roster past their prime. The Wings have some good d-men talent in their organization like Dennis Cholowski, Filip Hronek, and Vili Saarijarvi, but they still needed to add more. Conveniently enough, the Red Wings did just that last draft, taking five defensemen. Three of those defensemen made the World Junior Championships for their respective countries, here’s how each fared in my eyes in the tournament.

Malte Setkov- Denmark

The massive defenseman who plays for Malmo in the SHL was looked at as one of the Danish’s top players coming into the tournament. Setkov is an imposing figure but doesn’t always use that to his advantage. He struggled to win puck battles on the boards, or in front of the net against forwards that aren’t exactly close to his size. He also had a plethora of bad turnovers in his own zone and had what was essentially a game-ending turnover that led to a goal for Slovakia while his team was on the powerplay. He finished with one point and a -9  in six games.

While this doesn’t sound good, it’s really honestly to be expected. An 18-year-old fourth-round pick who’s playing 22 minutes a game on one of the worst teams in the tournament should be over-matched, or at least it shouldn’t surprise you that he struggled as much as he did. Sure he didn’t show the greatest hockey IQ or offensive potential that you might look for in a young defenseman with room to grow, but his skating and measurable’s give some hope that he can be a future NHL defenseman some day.

Kasper Kotkansalo- Finland

The Red Wings third round pick featured in an absolutely loaded blue line for Finland, one that featured five former first-round picks. The smooth, puck-moving defenseman spent most of the tournament on the third d-pairing with Urho Vaakanainen, the Bruins 1st round pick from the last draft. The pairing was a perfect fit. Finland used their blueline depth to their advantage, consistently rolling their pairings, keeping the shifts short and of equal length.

Kotkansalo for me was the strongest of the Red Wings prospects at the tournament, looking very similar to another Finnish Wings d-men prospect, Saarijarvi. He made quick decisions, knowing when to chip the puck off the glass and out and when to take his time and carry it out on his own. His lateral skating was another thing I noticed, his ability to maneuver in tight areas on the blue line is something that is very valuable for an offensive defenseman.

He got a bit of time on the powerplay but failed to record any points. He doesn’t have the greatest shot or elite vision, which likely means at the moment he probably doesn’t project to be a future powerplay quarterback in the NHL. But he continues to be reliable in his own zone and smart with the puck, two things that every team wants in their defenseman.

Gustav Lindstrom- Sweden

One of the last players to make it onto Sweden for the WJC, Lindstrom like Kotkansalo would be apart of a very strong blue line for his national team. The Red Wings 38th pick was a surprising choice for many in the last draft. He was a prospect that had skyrocketed up many draft experts boards late in the season.

His offensive skills have started to come together since then, showing off his good skating and solid decision making with the puck on his stick. He’s still a bit of an unknown to many, which is why it was exciting to see him play a good stretch of games in this tournament.

Lindstrom featured in every game for Sweden, recording an assist and a +2 +/-. The right-handed defensemen looked confident in his own zone and calm when receiving the puck, but would sometimes lose focus when he was caught in tricky situations. He took a couple of massive penalties in the Gold Medal Game against Canada.

For someone who’s regarded as a smooth skater, he can sometimes get flat footed and fail to recognize when to turn and skate when a forward is coming at him. He took a team-leading eight penalty minutes in the tournament, which could be a bit fluky, but possibly a sign of lack of discipline. Either way, he was a part of strong Sweden team that won a Silver medal and showed that the potential is there for him to mold into a future defenseman for the Red Wings.