In the midst of the appalling season that the Detroit Red Wings are currently having, the World Juniors are upon us. Fans can take their eyes off the car accident in front of them for a few days and take a glimpse at some of the starlit Detroit Red Wings prospects. They have high-end players in their development system that will be playing key roles for their respective countries during the tournament.
A Look at the Detroit Red Wings Prospects in the Upcoming World Juniors
Germany: Moritz Seider
Moritz Seider was drafted sixth overall in the 2019 Draft, in a selection that blindsided many fans and prospects alike, even Seider himself. Seider was general manager Steve Yzerman‘s first draft pick since taking over the position from Ken Holland. Yzerman and his staff clearly saw something in young Seider that prompted his early selection. He quickly has become a fan-favourite among the Detroit Red Wings prospects.
Instead of returning to play with his hometown Mannheim Eagles in the DEL, Seider stayed in North America to play with the Grand Rapids Griffins in the AHL, the Red Wings minor league affiliate. In 28 games this season he has 12 points which leaves him tied him with Joe Veleno for the rookie lead on the team.
He consistently plays second-pairing minutes in the AHL but in this tournament look for him to be Germany’s go-to defenceman in all situations. Germany will be a major underdog but watch for individual breakout performances, especially from Seider. He has already shown he can play at the pro-level. Expect Seider to be a dominant force and leader for Germany.
Canada: Joe Veleno
Joe Veleno is another former first-round pick of the Red Wings, drafted 30th overall in the 2018 NHL Draft. Veleno spent one last year playing in the QMJHL, putting up 104 points in 59 games. Showing just why he was granted exceptional status entering the juniors. Veleno made the jump to the AHL this season playing with the Griffins. It has been an adjustment for him as he only has 12 points in 29 games. This will also be his second time representing Canada in the World Juniors after debuting in the 2019 tournament.
In the 2019 World Junior tournament Veleno played in five games and had two points in a limited role. This year he will play a crucial role in every game. He works the half-wall well and he boasts great hands down low and in the slot. Veleno is also an outstanding skater, allowing him to create off the rush. He is gaining confidence by playing in the AHL as the season continues. The size and strength of players at this level should be lesser than what he has become accustomed to. Because of factors like that, look for a strong performance from Veleno.
Canada: Jared McIsaac
Jared McIsaac is a defenceman who was also drafted in the 2018 NHL Draft, along with Veleno. He was selected 36th overall. McIsaac was one of the top defenceman in his draft class. In the QMJHL, he posted 47 points in 65 games during his draft year. He followed that up with 62 points in 53 games last season. He also went on to put up 16 points in 22 playoff games. All of this he did with a major injury to his shoulder as well.
The injury to his shoulder required him to have surgery this past June and sidelined him for roughly six months. McIssac has been limited to only three games so far this year for the Halifax Mooseheads. The World Junior Tournament will be the real start to his season. McIsaac will be thrown into the fire right away playing against this level of competition. This will be his second appearance in the tournament. Expect Canada’s coaching staff to lean on him heavily. The main question here is his conditioning. Is he going to be at the same level as players who have three months of games behind them this season?
A key factor to watch for will be his conditioning and the physical nature of the game. He’ll be playing in only a limited amount of games so far into the season. It will be interesting to see how his gas tank holds up as Canada advances in the tournament. It should be expected that he will be a physical target as well seeing as he has just come back from injury. Every chance a player has to punish him with a clean check, expect them to do it. This is going to be a major test to see just how resilient a player he really is.
Sweden: Jonatan Berggren
Jonatan Berggren is a Swedish winger drafted by Detroit in the second round of the 2018 NHL Draft. He showed he is capable of putting up points during his draft year. Jonatan scored 57 points in 38 games in the Swedish Super Elite Junior League in 2017-2018. Berggren was a key contributor in Swedens U-18 Bronze medal victory in 2018 as well with 10 points in seven games.
This will be Berggren’s first opportunity to represent Sweden in the World Junior Tournament. With his skill level and tenacity on the forecheck, expect to see him play on the second or third line and on the power-play. With his speed and hands, retrieving pucks out of the corners will be an area he will shine. He doesn’t shy away from the physical parts of the game either. With his non-stop skating he will be backchecking very aggressively and looking to turn the play back up ice with his quick passes.
Canada: Alexis Lafreniere
While Alexis Lafreniere is currently not a member of the Detroit Red Wings prospects pool, he is expected to be the first overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. The Red Wings are on pace to have the greatest odds of winning the Draft Lottery due to the abysmal season they’re currently having. This is still a bit of a dream though, as even if the Wings finish last in the league, they will have only an 18.5% chance of winning the draft lottery and picking first overall.
If the Wings do win the lottery, this would be the highest pick Detroit has had in the NHL Draft since picking Keith Primeau third overall in 1990. And the first time they would select first overall since 1986 when they selected Joe Murphy. With that in mind, why not take a look at what the future could hold for them should they land the coveted pick.
Listed at 6-foot-1 and 192 pounds, Lafreniere can do it all. He has slick hands down low as he weaves in and out of the opposition. While having the size and strength to take the hits thrown his way without losing a step, his balance, or control of the puck. It is arguable where he is at his most dangerous on the ice. Alexis has such a well-rounded sense of the game that no matter where he is on the ice, he is a threat to score or set up a teammate.
Last season playing in the QMJHL, Lafreniere scored 105 points in 61 games, he is on pace to shatter that this season. In just 32 games he has already amassed 70 points this season. He will be counted on this year to lead the charge offensively for Team Canada. He is expected to play on the first line alongside Veleno. It could be a sneak peek for Wings fans should the lottery balls bounce Detroit’s way this summer.
Other Prospects to Watch
Given the long odds of actually winning the lottery (the last place team has a 50.6 percent chance of picking fourth overall), it is worth watching some other players in this tournament. Other potential top prospects playing in the tournament include Canadians Quinton Byfield and Jamie Drysdale; Germany’s Tim Stutzle; Swedes Lucas Raymond and Alexander Holtz; and Russian goalie Yaroslav Askarov. Finland’s Anton Lundell is another contender but is unable to play in the tournament due to injury.