DETROIT >> The Detroit Red Wings seemed to have scored big in last year’s NHL Entry Draft.
They hope to do so again this year after weeding through all the players who can’t seem to separate themselves from each other.
“I think it’s one of the more challenging drafts,” said Tyler Wright, Detroit’s new director of amateur scouting. “Nobody has separated themselves at the top. There’s a mix of three, four or five guys at the top, but after that anyone can go from there.”
Detroit has the 15th pick in the first round, which begins Friday and runs through Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
It’s the highest first-round selection the Wings have had since choosing Martin Lapointe with the 10th overall pick in 1991.
“I think you have to go for the best player available,” Wright said. “We’re confident we’re going to get a good player where we’re picking. Whether it’s a forward or defenseman, we’ll take the best player available.
“We’d like maybe a right-handed shot on the blue line and players with size, speed through the middle of the ice,” Wright continued. “You can never have enough puck-moving D and scoring wingers.”
Detroit scored big last season, trading down to snatch Anthony Mantha, who led the QMJHL in scoring and was also named the league MVP.
In the second round the Wings took forwards Zach Nastasiuk and Tyler Bertuzzi, who have both been invited Canada’s National Junior Team Summer Development Camp.
In past drafts the Wings have focused on drafting players with good size, but would prefer players with good hockey sense.
“That wins you games,” Wright said. “You can still have smaller players in the lineup, but you have to surround them with bigger players. Size is something we definitely will take into consideration.”
Trading down is always a possibility for the Wings, who have seven picks in this year’s draft.
“Trading down is always an option,” Wright said. “With no second round pick we really have to see how the draft goes. If we have a guy who is high on our list and slides down to us I would recommend taking the pick.”
They traded their second round pick to obtain David Legwand from Nashville right before the trade deadline last year.
Detroit does have two picks in the seventh round, one of which from San Jose as part of the Brad Stuart trade two seasons ago.
The chance of Detroit trading up in the draft is highly unlikely because the asking price is more than likely too steep.
Again this year the strength of the draft is at forward.
“We’ve just got to get good players,” Wright said. “We want passionate, hard-working players who won’t stop at anything to get into the NHL. The two big things for me are players with passion and character.”
After center Calle Jarnkrok was included as part of the deal to land Legwand it depleted Detroit’s depth chart up the middle.
“I think center is a major piece of a building block in most organizations,” Wright said. “You can never have enough centers.”
The Wings’ top centers in the organization are Landon Ferraro, who is out of AHL options, Andreas Athanasiou and Mattias Janmark.
They’re a little deeper at forward with Mantha, Teemu Pulkkinen, Martin Frk, Mitch Callahan, Nastasiuk and Bertuzzi.
“We have to be visionaries,” Wright said. “We have to start projecting who’s going to be the best players four or five years down the road. Our organization has done a tremendous job developing players once you get them in the system.”