The Detroit Red Wings prospect with the highest offensive upside may reside in Russia

Although the Detroit Red Wings are most commonly associated with young Swedish talent, the prospect with the highest offensive upside may actually reside in Russia.
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When Detroit drafted Dmitri Buchelnikov in the second round of the 2022 NHL draft, it came as a bit of a surprise for a variety of reasons. He is widely considered an all-gas, no-brakes offensive talent who lacks a two-way game, which is notoriously the opposite of what general manager Steve Yzerman typically likes to add to his rosters.

Of course, there are also the unknowns of the future for Russian players playing professionally overseas. Political tensions and the urge to keep Russian talent in the KHL seem to have been at an all-time high within the past couple of years, but Yzerman and company believed in Buchelnikov's potential enough to look past all of those organizational red flags when they called his name with the 52nd overall pick. 

With rather successful stints in the MHL and VHL, Buchelnikov had extended time in the KHL this season after being loaned to Admiral Vladivostok, where he put up 29 points (13G, 16A) in 55 games. Those numbers put him at 3rd in scoring on his team and 5th in the league for U21. With his contract in the KHL coming to an end after the 2024-2025 season, Buchelnikov will technically become eligible to officially sign with the Detroit Red Wings, but even that is not so certain. In December it was reported that President Putin had put out an order to keep all young players in Russia.

It should be noted that Russian players already in the NHL or other professional leagues in North America are exempt from this order and can travel back and forth from Russia during the offseason without any hiccups. Fans of stars such as Alex Ovechkin and Kirill Kaprizov should not worry about no longer being able to cheer them next season. 

It is not yet clear how long this order is in place, but as a young talent, Buchelnikov runs the risk of being stuck playing in the KHL longer than he may have intended. Every indication is that he wants to play in the NHL, so assuming he is able to come to Michigan at the conclusion of his KHL contract, I’d expect him to make a strong push at joining the Red Wings shortly thereafter.

His style of play dictates that he plays in a top-six or a middle-six role, at the very least. Some time in Grand Rapids to acclimate to the North American game is not out of the question. Still, he has been playing professionally with grown men much older than he for long enough that he has every opportunity to push for a roster spot in Detroit when his time comes.

The upside of Dmitri Buchelnikov's offense could be game-breaking for the Detroit Red Wings

Over the past eight years, during Detroit's playoff drought, it has been a point of contention that the organization has been missing true offensive elite talent who can be a threat on the power play and consistently put the puck in the net.

We saw shades of how the team dynamic changed this season when Yzerman brought in Patrick Kane to be the elite player who could help them. If Buchelnikov can become a reliable player in that regard, it may lessen the need to overpay free agents to be “that guy” for them. Even so, his range of outcomes varies more than anyone else in the prospect pool of Detroit. If all goes well, the YzerPlan doubters would have a lot of explaining to do on this draft pick.