Tuesday, June 5, 2007

RWC's Top 20 Red Wing Prospects

With the signing of Ritola and Ryno, the trade of Shawn Mattais to Florida in the Bertuzzi deal and the fluxuation of various prospects, it was time to update the rankings of the Wings top prospects. Matthew Wuest at RWC has updated their Top 20 prospects list for the Detroit Red Wings:

Goaltender Jimmy Howard remains No. 1 in RedWingsCentral.com’s end-of-season ranking of Detroit Red Wings prospects. Howard, who grabbed the No. 1 spot from forward Igor Grigorenko at mid-season, narrowly edged second-ranked Jakub Kindl, a defenseman with the Ontario Hockey League’s Kitchener Rangers. Grigorenko, who plays for Lada Togliatti of the Russian Elite League, is third.

Howard, 23, is coming off his sophomore year in the American Hockey League with the Grand Rapids Griffins. He went 21-21-3 and posted six shutouts, a 2.70 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage. When is the 2003 second-round pick expected in Detroit? “He’s ready, but his play (in training camp) is going to dictate how ready he is,” Red Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill said. “He had a good year. There have obviously been a few bumps here and there, but he’s improved. It’s going to be a big training camp for him. “The thing with him is, is he better to be playing 20 to 30 games in the NHL or to be playing 60 in the AHL? Whether it’s the NHL or AHL, he’s got to be playing. There’s no sense in having him on the bench.” Where he plays will be partially determined by Dominik Hasek's retirement decision, which is expected in the near future.

Ontario Hockey League wingers Jan Mursak (fourth) and Cory Emmerton (fifth) round out the top-five ranking. Howard, Grigorenko and defensemen Kyle Quincey (seventh) and Derek Meech (11th) are the prospects on the list closest to playing in the NHL, but all four can go to the AHL without having to clear waivers.

Here’s a look at the top 20.
1. Jimmy Howard, G, 6-0, 215, Grand Rapids (AHL), 49 GP, 2.70 GAA, .911 SPCT. Howard is still Detroit’s goalie of the future. He’s still a pup in goalie years, having turned 23 in March. He’s made great strides in two minor-league seasons and the Red Wings are willing to remain patient.
2. Jakub Kindl, D, 6-3, 202, Kitchener (OHL), 54-11-44-55-142. Kindl finished second to Marc Staal for the OHL’s most outstanding defenseman award. He has great size and a pile of offensive talent, and should step in as a top-four AHL defenseman with Grand Rapids next season.
3. Igor Grigorenko, RW, 5-10, 209, Togliatti (RUS), 49-14-13-27-71. The fiercely competitive winger has terrific skills and smarts. His foot-speed and ability to adjust to the NHL pace are his only question marks, but the Red Wings are hoping he will crack their roster in the fall.
4. Jan Mursak, LW, 5-11, 173, Saginaw (OHL), 62-27-53-80-50. Mursak’s speed and spunk will push the prospects ranked ahead of him next season, especially if he hits the weight room in the summer. His strong showing in the AHL playoffs was indication of his bright future.
5. Cory Emmerton, C, 6-0, 190, Kingston (OHL), 40-29-37-66-22. He’s a complete player who thinks the game brilliantly. He missed a lot of time with a broken ankle this season and needs to get stronger and faster, but should challenge for the OHL scoring title next season.
6. Justin Abdelkader, LW, 6-1, 209, Michigan State (NCAA), 38-15-18-33-91. He’s big, he’s strong and he bangs. To top it off, he’s great skater with untapped offensive potential. He led Michigan State to an NCAA title and could be a third-line staple for Detroit in three years.
7. Kyle Quincey, D, 6-2, 215, Grand Rapids (AHL), 65-4-18-22-126. There was nothing outstanding about Quincey’s season until injuries hit the Red Wings and he stepped into the NHL for 13 playoff games. He played well and is ready for NHL duty as a sixth or seventh defenseman.
8. Darren Helm, C, 6-0, 182, Medicine Hat (WHL), 59-25-39-64-53. Blazing speed and terrific work ethic define his game. His skills are vastly underrated, too. Helm won a WHL title and a world junior gold medal this season, and will make the jump to the AHL in 2007-08.
9. Jonathan Ericsson, D, 6-5, 218, Grand Rapids (AHL), 67-5-24-29-102. He’s huge, gritty and has terrific raw skills, but he hit a wall at mid-season in his first year in North America. At 23, he has a lot of development ahead, but he looks like a real find and his upside is undeniable.
10. Johan Ryno, LW, 6-5, 209, Timra (SWE), 39-5-6-11-22. Except for one dynamite 11-game stretch (four goals, five assists), Ryno didn’t do much this season. But that stretch, combined with his size and skill, got him a contract, and the Red Wings hope he rewards them down the road.
11. Derek Meech, D, 5-11, 197, Grand Rapids (AHL), 67-6-23-29-40. He evolved into an AHL all-star and saw time in four NHL games. He might be ready for an NHL job, but the Red Wings’ defensive depth may force Meech back to the AHL for another year of seasoning.
12. Daniel Larsson, G, 6-0, 170, Djurgardens (SWE), 24 GP, 2.53 GAA, .910 SPCT. The technically-sound stopper had a solid rookie year in the Swedish Elite League and should get even more starts in 2007-08. If he performs well, the Red Wings won’t hesitate to sign him.
13. Dick Axelsson, LW, 6-2, 198, Huddinge (SWE-2), 25-13-8-21-113. He might have as much offensive upside as anyone in the system. He had a good year at Sweden’s second level but his true test is next season -- his Swedish Elite League rookie campaign with Djurgarden.
14. Evan McGrath, C, 6-0, 195, Grand Rapids (AHL), 59-6-8-14-41. McGrath’s AHL rookie year was a disappointment. He didn’t earn the trust of his coaches and struggled for ice time. He can bounce back, but needs to work on his conditioning and defensive play.
15. Mattias Ritola, RW, 6-0, 198, Leksands (SWE-2), 23-1-4-5-4. He’s a speedy winger who can dangle and that’s why the Red Wings signed him, even though he’s coming off two sub-par years in Sweden. Now, it’s Ritola’s job to work harder and shake the enigma tag.
16. Anton Axelsson, LW, 6-0, 187, Frolunda (SWE), 52-5-7-12-14. Axelsson had a decent year, but didn’t get see ice time on Frolunda’s top two lines. He’s entering a contract year and hopes that a transfer to Timra will help him get the ice time needed to post breakthrough numbers.
17. Logan Pyett, D, 5-11, 198, Regina (WHL), 71-14-48-62-84. He finished fourth among WHL defensemen in scoring and could follow a similar development path to Toronto Maple Leafs blueliner Nathan White. Another strong year will go a long way toward helping him land a contract.
18. Gennady Stolyarov, RW, 6-4, 203, Dynamo Moscow (RUS), 37-6-3-9-39. Stolyarov was mostly forgotten before putting together a decent Russian Elite League rookie year. He’s entering his contract year, and more consistency might get the big, skilled winger signed.
19. Ryan Oulahen, C, 6-0, 190, Grand Rapids (AHL), 79-11-16-27-42. The defensive ace took another step forward in his development, showing he can do a little bit of everything in the AHL. Like Matt Ellis, don’t be surprised if Oulahen one day lands an NHL call-up.
20. Sergei Kolosov, D, 6-4, 187, Cedar Rapids (USHL), 51-1-10-11-79. There is plenty of intrigue around Kolosov -- he’s a big, mean hitter who flies below the radar. The Red Wings have another year to sign him, and they’ll let him play in Europe or the East Coast Hockey League until then.

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