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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Nate Danielson

On the other hand, Nate Danielson brings a bit more skill from what I’ve seen in his highlight clips. He’s not as mean on the ice, but seemingly as hard to play against.

"“It kind of stands out when you hear Connor Bedard [first overall pick of the 2023 NHL Entry Level Draft] talking about how tough he is to play against that brought a smile to our faces.” "

Kris Draper assistant general manager

In some ways, Danielson’s skating is better than Kasper’s–a bit quicker, but maybe that’s just his lankiness that I’m seeing. However, Danielson could take some notes from Kasper on preparing his body for the NHL to help his overall game (especially to help with the protection of himself and the puck).

According to the Grand Rapids Griffins website, Danielson stands 6’2” (187.96 cm) and weighs 188 lbs (85.28 kg). If he could add just a bit more to his frame, I think it would go a long ways for him.

Similar to Kasper this season, I suspect that Danielson will spend all of the 2024-25 season with the Grand Rapids Griffins. Kasper made such a great push at the end of the 2023-24 season, he likely could have played a few games if the general manager, Steve Yzerman, wasn’t so set on him playing only for the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Danielson’s junior career didn’t look great just based on the points he produced. However, his situation was less-than-desirable. His original junior team didn’t have the best record. After he was traded to a playoff contending team, Danielson’s point production picked up.

He finished the regular season with the following stats:

Brandon Wheat Kings “C”: 26 Games / 12 Goals / 14 Assists / 26 Total Points / 14 Penalty Minutes / +6
Portland Winterhawks: 28 Games / 12 Goals / 29 Assists / 41 Total Points / 28 Penalty Minutes / +20

His playoff performance with the Portland Winterhawks finished with the following stats: 

18 Games / 7 Goals / 17 Assists / 24 Total Points / 16 Penalty Minutes / +13

In his Grand Rapids Griffins campaign, he played in 2 playoff games. Although Danielson played in more games than someone like Shai Buium who saw action in only1 regular season game, but deserved to play in more, Danielson too deserved a better fate.

Danielson’s transition wasn’t as smooth as I had hoped it would be, but he went from playing juniors on the West Coast to playing professional hockey players in a league that is sometimes more physical than the NHL. At any rate, Danielson held his own against his opponents, but the Grand Rapids Griffins weren’t finding their groove as a team. Thus, Grand Rapids Griffins head coach, Dan Watson, made the decision to dress his lineup from the regular season. 

I agree with and love a lot of the choices Watson made for the Grand Rapids Griffins last season, but some of his lineup choices were not my preference. 

Danielson provided adequate minutes and would have improved his overall game. It may not have changed the fate of the Grand Rapids Griffins, but as the emperor of China in the animated version of Mulan says, one grain of rice can tip the scales, and may become the difference between victory and defeat. 

Also, I prefer watching young players with the opportunity to grow and get valuable lessons on the ice than watching veteran players make the same mistakes over and over again.

Because the lack of games didn’t hamper Danielson’s development, I’m letting Watson off the hook. It was more of the age old, “I’m not mad just disappointed” feeling.

Overall, Danielson’s skills seem to have an upgrade from Kasper. He’s a bit more effective with his flare and fanciness than Kasper, too.

He might give Kasper and Raymond a run for their money when we are discussing the most competitive young players in the Detroit Red Wings system. After watching both players, I tend to give the competitive edge to Kasper–this is just by a hair, though.

As Danielson matures, I expect his discipline to improve as well, which is another edge I give to Kasper.

In terms of highest ceiling, I suspect Danielson tops out as a second line center. His lowest ceiling is third line center. He should be able to play on both specialty teams (power play and penalty kill), and be a great option in overtime, whether 5-on-5 or 3-on-3, Danielson has the skills to deliver quality minutes.

They’ll both drive each other and help them become the best versions of themselves that they can be, as they’re both fighting for the center role behind Larkin. 

All 3 should stack up well in a few seasons' time. I can see an argument that maybe there’s no true number 1 center, but I think it’s going to become a sum of their parts that will equal great things for the Detroit Red Wings and their chase for the Stanley Cup. 

It’s a nice change of pace from the lack of centers we had in our system just 2 years ago. 

At this point in time, I think I give the nudge just slightly to Kasper as I’m not willing to bet against his inner drive.

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