Detroit Red Wings battle royale: Marco Kasper vs. Nate Danielson

In this battle royale, we look at Detroit Red Wings prospects Marco Kasper and Nate Danielson to see who might reign supreme.
2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Portraits
2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Portraits / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages
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Marco Kasper

Here’s Kasper’s welcome video to Danielson after Danielson was drafted:

The more I analyze his game, rather than finding drawbacks or hesitancies like I normally do (I’m a nitpicker, perfectionist at times), I find that I love his game that much more.

The only other player that this happens with in the Detroit Red Wings system is Lucas Raymond. All others, I find flaws, opportunities, disappointments–whatever you want to call them, but with Kasper he just gets better.

He is everything that I look for in a player. His foundation isn’t built on skill or hockey IQ. Those aspects are part of his game, but the pillars of Kasper’s success (at least thus far) are his inner drive, compete, and discipline. 

Those aspects aren’t really teachable or something that can be learned. Players either naturally have them, or they spend a whole lot of time trying to find them (usually a fruitless venture).

Whether Kasper is playing in a game or practicing, he’s a nightmare to go against. He plays hard every shift (even on a broken kneecap, he has no problem facing off against the Toronto Maple Leafs), relentless in every way. 

Possibly my favorite part of Kasper’s game is the way he takes care of his goaltender. Few players protect their goalies anymore. 

Maybe it’s just the Detroit Red Wings that lack a spine at times, but Kasper brings that old school feel–don’t mess with his goalie. And for goodness sakes, get out of his goalie’s blue paint. 

I can’t tell you the number of times Kasper made sure his goaler had eyes on the puck or play. 

Whether he needs to use his stick, body, or just move himself out of the line of vision, Kasper works his tail off for his goalie. It’s a trait that I wish every player adopted (even if just a little or every so often).

Any time Jonatan Berggren got in a little over his head, who was the first player to back him up? Kasper. (Or Simon Edvinsson and Carter Mazur when wasn’t busy exchanging greeting cards in his own group.) As much as I think Mazur gave Berggren confidence in his game, I think Kasper elevated Berggren just as much. 

All 3 guys played off of each other well, seemingly reading each other’s minds at times. 

They remind me of the classic Detroit Red Wings at times with their play. It’s part of why the trio was so successful in the regular season. (When they were finally put back together in the playoffs, it was too little too late or so it seems.)

For all the scrums he entered and physical play he engaged in, Kasper ended his freshman campaign in North America with only 30 penalty minutes in 71 games played in the regular season. The postseason was interesting as he earned a whopping 14 penalty minutes in 9 games.

You might think, clearly he’s not disciplined. He obviously needs to cool his jets in high stakes games with all those penalties when games matter most. 

While I would usually agree with you, Kasper suffered from a 10-minute game misconduct penalty for hurting a referee’s feelings. If that penalty is removed, he’s left with a total of 2 minor penalties in 9 games. To me, his discipline is a strength considering his style of play and his lack of penalties (especially when Grand Rapids Griffins players thought the penalty box was a vacation that everyone wanted to partake in, because why not?).

Of course, there is always room for consistency.

I can tell you that to begin the season, I questioned Kasper. Wondering to myself, will he even make it to the NHL? 

I think Kasper took that question personally, as midway through the season, Kasper showed flashes of the player he could be. Although I wasn’t sure of his ceiling, I figured he would likely remain a third or fourth line center, maybe second line winger.

From about March, Kasper annihilated my expectations. He showed, he’s not just a high-motor, physical, and energy guy. Rather, he is someone who is ready to turn heads (and it’s not just because of the flowing locks).

More often than not he plays on the right side of the puck and as the season progressed his confidence did too. 

Kasper seemed more comfortable with the North American-style game, his teammates, and his role within the team. He wasn’t as concerned with fancy plays, though they still happened here and there:

His concern is being effective and helping the team win. Winning is always his main goal, he doesn’t care how or who scores:

He’s always tinkering with his face offs as well, doing everything that he possibly can to win it. His face offs could stand to improve, along with his overall skills taking a step up (from shooting to passing to skating, etc., but he’s well on his way to becoming a stellar player).

Simplifying his game seems to be the biggest opportunity. It’s clear that Kasper loves making things happen on the ice. He has the skills to back it up. 

At times he seems to forget the skill level he has and makes things harder on himself than they need to be. On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes he likes to try a fancy play that was never worth it to begin with, but his maturity has driven better results as the season went along.

As I write this, I’m realizing just how incredible Kasper is as a player and that I’ve undervalued him thus far in his career.

I started this exercise believing he’s destined for the Detroit Red Wings third line, but the more I think about it, the less confident I am in my initial assessment. 

Why can’t he be a top-line player?

There are questions about his game…

What is his highest offensive upside? How consistent can his defensive play and decision-making be? Can he drive play?

The answers to these questions are up to Kasper. I think his inner-drive will lead to surprising results for fans. His bare minimum is a third line center, but he has room to be so much more.

Also, he should be able to handle tough, hard minutes against the opponent’s best players, and in all situations. Need a goal with less than a minute to go? Kasper’s your guy. How about, defending the 3-2 lead with 30 seconds on the clock? Kasper’s my pick. Overtime? He’ll be out there every other shift if the coach is wise.

While he might not have the dynamic flare, he’s a reliable, strong, and disciplined player who will become a fan-favorite for a long time.