DETROIT – Like many of the other drafts before it for the Detroit Red Wings, they’re going to look at the best available player at the time of their pick.
But this year they’re leaning a bit in one direction … a skilled forward with decent size.
“The only difference this year is we’d really like to get a forward, unless there’s a defenseman that’s too good to pass up,” said Joe McDonnell, the team’s director of amateur scouting. “When it comes to our pick, if we feel there’s two players that are even we’ll lean toward the forward.”
This goes against many of the mock drafts that have Detroit taking a blue liner with its first pick.
“Every team’s almost in the same boat,” McDonnell said. “It’s just the way the game has evolved. It’s a big man’s game. I’m not saying there’s no room for smaller guys, but if you can get a big, skilled guy, you go that route. Still take small guys if we have to. But we’re looking to get bigger. We have bigger guys coming up in (Tomas) Jurco and (Riley) Sheahan.”
The draft, which is one day this year, begins at 3 p.m. on Sunday with the Wings having the 18th pick, which is their highest pick since 1991.
“We’re excited, at 18, we know we’ll get someone we really like,” McDonnell said. “The draft in general is strong, in the first round and even into the second round. It’s deep at the top end of the draft and then it peters out. There will be guys we like even in the seventh round. But the high-end part of the draft is good. At 18, we’ll get a quality player.”
The Wings have selected forwards with their top picks in each of the last three drafts – Martin Frk (2012), Tomas Jurco (2011) and Riley Sheahan (2010).
“It’s always the best player,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “We feel like we’ve got some good prospects on defense and some good prospects up front. We’d like to add a few more. We’re hoping to look back in six years and we’ve got two NHL players out of this draft. If you have a great, great day maybe you have three.”
The Wings have a number of defensemen coming up through the ranks, including Brian Lashoff, Ryan Sproul, Xavier Oullette and Mattias Backman.
“We have a lot of good, young defensemen,” McDonnell said. “We think we have a number of good ones. If we can add a little size up front, it would be beneficial.”
One position the Wings won’t be looking at highly is goaltending where they’re well-stocked.
Petr Mrazek just got done leading the Grand Rapids Griffins to the Calder Cup as a rookie. They’ve also got Jake Paterson, who the Wings drafted in the third round a year ago, and free agent signee Jared Coreau out of Northern Michigan.
“It’s not a high priority for us,” McDonnell said. “We’re happy with Mrazek. Paterson is a high-end kid. We’re not pressed to take a goalie, but if there’s one rated highly we’ll take him. Not in the top three rounds, though.”
Holland added that the Wings probably won’t be trading up in this draft, but like in year’s past they’re willing to listen to offers to move down.
“You deal in percentages and hopefully we come down the road and we have some NHL players,” Holland said. “As we’ve all seen it’s a very patient process. You’re dealing with 18-year-old kids and most of them, other than the top end of the draft, there’s a developing process they have to go through.
“It starts on draft day by holding onto your picks, making selections and then working their way through juniors, college and then to Grand Rapids,” Holland continued. “Some funnel up to Detroit and some drop by the wayside. We have number of prospects within our organization and we’d just like to our pool of prospects.”
The Wings have picks in all seven rounds – 48th, 79th, 109th, 139th, 169th and 199th overall.
“In the salary-cap era (the draft is) everything,” McDonnell said. “If you don’t draft well and develop your players you don’t have any hope. If you’re going to be a good organization you better draft. It’s the lifeline of an organization.”
This is McDonnell’s first year of making the final decision on players, replacing Jim Nill, who was hired as the Dallas Stars’ general manager on April 29.
“Jim and I were sitting there the past 18 years, the only weird thing is I’ll look to my left and no Jim Nill, it’ll be Ken Holland,” said McDonnell, whose first draft with the Wings was in 1995. “Jim taught me a lot in those early years.”