Why Marco Kasper will make an impact from day one next season

One of the biggest questions surrounding the Red Wings prospects heading into the off-season is whether top prospect Marco Kasper will begin next season in Detroit or Grand Rapids.
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Marco Kasper's selection didn't shock the fanbase in the same manner as general manager Steve Yzerman's selection of Moritz Seider, but the choice did come with some skepticism. The Detroit Red Wings selected the young Austrian center with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Level Draft.

It seems as though the Detroit Red Wings often thrived down the middle with Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Igor Larionov, and Kris Draper, followed by Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula, Jiri Hudler, and Darren Helm. Since then, it's been Dylan Larkin, along with a cast of characters at the NHL level, with a bunch of bare cupboards in Grand Rapids. Over the past few years, Yzerman has begun to replenish the farm with highly touted center prospects while attempting to patch things up at the NHL level with veterans, but things haven't quite gone as planned. Yzerman signed Andrew Copp two summers ago, hoping he'd become a No. 2 center, but he hasn't been anything more than a vastly overpaid bottom-six forward. At the same time, Yzerman drafted Kasper for the future. Last year, Yzerman slightly improved the position at the NHL level again by adding J.T. Compher and made a splash in the draft by selecting Nate Danielson ninth overall.

Quickly reflecting on the 2022 NHL Draft. Picking a center seemed like a logical choice; I just thought it would be Frank Nazar, Conor Geekie, or Matthew Savoie, not Marco Kasper, as the Red Wings were and continue to be in dire need of someone who can drive the second line and bounce over the boards follow captain Dylan Larkin. This is in no way, shape, or form a knock on Kasper. The choice just came as a bit of a surprise to me. Still, it immediately made sense when reading Kasper's scouting reports and understanding he often displayed a plethora of the tendencies Yzerman seems to adore. Kasper is considered to be a plus-skater. He's got a decent shot, and he's proven to be a reliable playmaker at every stop throughout his career, including last season in Grand Rapids. Kasper, 20, isn't flashy but is rarely found out of position. He has great instincts and is a 200-foot player that can play in all situations. Although he doesn't project as a first-line center, Kasper has no. 2 upside.

Marco Kasper appears ready to make an impact with the Detroit Red Wings as early as next season.

Like many young players, 20-year-old Marco Kasper saw his share of ups and downs this past season with the Griffins, his first year playing in North America. Kasper posted 14 goals and 35 points over 71 games this past season for Grand Rapids, but he continued to get stronger and more dangerous as the year grew old. Kasper later produced four goals and seven points in nine postseason games.

Kasper really turned it on early in the new year when he was named AHL Player of the Week. Kasper recorded four goals and 11 of his 35 points over a ten-game stretch that began in late December through the third week of January.

Griffins head coach Dan Watson, a native of Glencoe, Ontario, discussed Kasper's game and development during that hot stretch of play.

“He’s going to be a complete, 200-foot player,” Griffins coach Dan Watson said of Kasper. “Marco’s a competitor, and that’s what he’s gotta keep doing. He’s gotta keep competing around the net, fighting for those loose pucks, trying to make plays as much as he can. He’s learning the pro game, learning how to play in his own zone, when to make plays, when to maybe keep it simple. But he’s a smart kid, he works extremely hard and that’s gonna be part of his identity as a pro hockey player, is that compete level.”

The Detroit Red Wings will have to improve on their 91-point season next year. After completing their off-season agenda, they aim to become what Yzerman describes as a 'cap' team. This plan includes extending Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond, followed by decisions on Patrick Kane, David Perron, Daniel Sprong, Christian Fischer, Joe Veleno, and Shayne Gostisbehere.

There are no guarantees, but it's highly probable that Raymond and Seider will both have long-term contract extensions this summer. I speculate there is a good chance that Perron will return on a short-term deal, but at 36, maybe not. I'd think Fischer will be back, as the former Windsor Spitfire proved to be a valuable glue guy last season. I'm unsure about a Kane reunion; it's a toss-up, and I believe that Sprong and Gostisbehere will be playing for different teams next year. That leaves Veleno, and I could see a scenario where Yzerman moves on from the inconsistent forward. Still, I understand if he's given one last opportunity to make his mark with the organization, as he's a restricted free agent.

Yzerman typically prefers his prospects be seasoned, over seasoned to some fans, before they make the jump to the NHL. There are exceptions to every rule, in this case, Raymond and Seider, but for the most part, that's Yzerman's method. Take Simon Edvinsson, for example. The top defense prospect in the organization looked every bit the part of an NHL defender a year ago in limited action and again this past preseason, but Yzerman opted to bring in a slew of experienced defenders via free agency and trade, leaving Edvinsson to play another year in Grand Rapids.

I expect Kasper to see an opportunity to stick with Detroit coming out of training camp this year, knowing Yzerman expects to see the club against the cap. If Yzerman feels Kasper can be a reliable, productive bottom-six forward right away, the combination of Kasper and Jonatan Berggren will be a cheaper option to Sprong and Perron. Saving a bit of money on the bottom of the roster combined with the rising salary cap may be the difference between re-signing a player like Kane or adding a top-six free agent forward or not.