With the 19th pick in the first round Friday, Wings most likely taking best player available

DETROIT >> Six years in a row the Detroit Red Wings have selected a forward with their first pick in the NHL Entry Draft.

That could again be the case this season or it could not.

The Wings have the 19th overall pick in first round of this year’s draft that begins Friday at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla.

“At No. 19, we definitely got some options,” said Tyler Wright, who’s the Wings’ director of amateur scouting. “We’re confident we’re going to get two pretty good players at 19 and 73. We have options, too.”

The other options include choosing a defenseman or moving the pick.

The Wings could trade down to add picks since they don’t have a second rounder this season, which they dealt away to Dallas for Erik Cole at the trade deadline last year.

“For sure, especially with no second this year,” Wright said when asked if trading down was a possibility. “It’s obviously an option.”

The Wings traded down two spots – from 18 to 20 – to get Anthony Mantha in 2013. They also picked up an additional pick and took Tyler Bertuzzi (58th overall).

“We’re going through every scenario as far as moving back and picking up extra picks,” Wright said. “I’m not opposed to moving up either. Not going to leave any option closed. I’m OK with moving back.”

The last defenseman Detroit selected in the first round was Brendan Smith in 2007, getting him 27th overall.

The Wings’ first three picks in last year’s draft were centers, while six of the seven were forwards, who were all 6-foot or taller. The other was a goalie.

“Last year we didn’t really target centers,” Wright said. “At that point the depth of defense went away. We’re excited about the bigger centers. Just because they’re centers doesn’t mean they’ll be a center at the next level.

“I don’t think we’re really going to target specific needs,” Wright continued. “But if you never draft right-handed defensemen you’re not going to have right-handed defensemen. If there’s one area we’re looking at, that’s it. But we want good players regardless.”

The depth on the blue line in the organization is lacking with their top four prospects – Alexey Marchenko, Xavier Ouellet, Nick Jensen and Ryan Sproul – will no longer be waiver-exempt after this season.

“I really like our depth,” Wright said. “You get all excited about prospects, but at the same time they haven’t played a game in the league. Young kids need to develop and get better. I think we’ve got a cluster of really good prospects. We have to continue to develop them. Until they’ve been regular NHL players they have to prove it every day.”

The final six rounds of the draft will take place Saturday.

“You look at all three positions,” Wright said. “It’s a fairly deep goalie draft. You try to add a goalie if it’s the right pick at the right time. I think goalies are a little harder to judge as far as development. If you have too many goalies that are good, that’s a good position to have.”

In the end the Wings will most likely select the best player available at No. 19 if they keep the pick.

“Everyone says it’s a deeper draft,” Wright said. “I think every draft is a deep draft. You have to dig and find players.

“It’s a very good draft,” Wright added. “Once you get out of the top 10-12 players there’s a group of players that could go into the second round and be successful players – at all three positions.”

Blashill adds Granato, Ferschweiler, Cheilos, Noel-Bernier and Bedard to coaching staff

DETROIT >> When Jeff Blashill was named the head coach of the Detroit Red Wings one of the first calls he made was to Tony Granato.

He wanted him to return as an assistant coach.

Blashill got his wish.

“He was my number one priority,” Blashill said. “I wanted a guy with lots of NHL playing and coaching experience. Tony obviously fits that model, but probably beyond that and more importantly, I think he’s a home run because of the person he is. Tony’s an outstanding person, an outstanding hockey coach, who has earned the respect of so many of the players that he’s coached. I’ve talked to guys that played with him, or played for him in Pittsburgh, talked to many of the players here in Detroit and all of them have a real infinity for Tony. So I thought it was an extreme priority to get Tony to stay onboard.”

Pat Ferschweiler will be the other assistant on the bench, while Dave Noel-Bernier was hired as video coach. Chris Chelios will work the defense and goalie coach Jim Bedard will return.

Granato will continue to run the D during the games and he’ll also oversee the penalty kill. Ferschweiler will be a “sounding board” for Blashill as well as overseeing the power play.

Ferschweiler spent last season in Grand Rapids as an assistant coach under Blashill. He also spent one season with Blashill at Western Michigan.

“When I got the job at Western, Pat, similar to what I said about Tony, Pat was the guy that I tried the hardest to come and that’s because I had the opportunity to watch Pat grow a program, a youth program from the very ground stages and build it to one of the elite programs nationally. I saw that first hand. Then as I got to know Pat I realized what a great hockey mind, what a great person and what a strength he’d be and an asset on the staff.

“He is one of the best guys I’ve been around, helping individual players get better,” Blashill continued. “I think one of the things that we owe to our players is to help them become the best players that they can be each and every year. That’s a promise that I’m going to make to the players and Pat is going to have a big impact on that, especially with our forwards. He’s a good sounding board for me. He knows the way I think. He knows a lot of the things that we want to be about. He’ll be able to tell me when I’m on the right path and when I’ve gotten off the right path.”

Chelios, who Blashill refers to him as his “eye in the sky”, will have a similar role he had the last three years in Grand Rapids.

“I think every year it’s increased in terms of his scope and number of games he’s able to attend,” Blashill said. “He’s done a great job for me of getting me a player perspective. He looks at the game a lot through the eyes of a player and I think when you’ve coached a long time you think like a coach and a lots of times Cheli thinks like a player.

“He looks at a lot of plays from a micro view and maybe I’ll look at them from a macro view and I think that different perspective has been invaluable for me,” Blashill continued. “I think Cheli is another great, great person who can lend his obvious, unbelievable playing experience with the players in the locker room. He obviously has instant respect of everybody he comes across. He has some obligations that he’ll have to attend to, certainly the USA Hockey role that he was recently named to, but he will be with us to a large degree.”

Last week Chelios was named an assistant coach for the 2016 U.S. National Junior Team that will compete in the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship in Helsinki, Finland.

Noel-Bernier will be in charge of the pre-scout.

“He’s got great hockey knowledge and also an understanding of what I like to glean from the video, what types of clips I like to show in our meetings, what types of things we want in our preparation and David’s already been through that with me so that’s a huge advantage,” Blashill said. “You also need somebody in that role who’s willing to work and Dave’s a tireless worker.”

Bedard returns for a 19th season with the club.

“Jimmy and I have a relationship where I’ve got certain beliefs in things a goalie should do, drills a goalie should do, no different than I have certain beliefs in the penalty kill and things like that where I would discuss with other coaches,” Blashill said. “Jimmy and I have a relationship where we’re going to be able to have those discussions. I’ll be able to add my input and he’ll be able to go out and build upon the foundation he’s already laid.

“We have two goalies who have proven at times to be elite in the NHL and now our job is to help them make sure they’re both elite this year,” Blashill added. “That obviously isn’t just on Jimmy’s shoulders but partially on his shoulders along with myself and the rest of the coaching staff.”

Wings want to continue to build on the fly with young talent

DETROIT >> With a head coach in place, the Detroit Red Wings can turn their focus on how the roster will look for the 2015-16 season.

And that gets going Tuesday when general manager Ken Holland oversees things during the annual pro scouting meetings, which run to Thursday.

“We’re trying to go younger,” Holland said. “We’re trying to get better and sometimes when you’re dealing with younger people you’ve got to have patience and believe the patience is going to reward you somewhere down the line.”

The Wings’ core – Pavel Datsyuk (36), Henrik Zetterberg (35) and Niklas Kronwall (33) – are getting up there in age.

“There’s no doubt the core group of our team is old, but they’re superstars in their prime,” Holland said. “Those players can last longer. Even as their skills diminish, they may not be superstars, but they’re still good players. That’s what happened with (Steve) Yzerman, (Nicklas) Lidstrom. They could play until they’re 40. We’ve got a core that’s older, but if we can support them with youth, enthusiasm, speed, energy, it allows those players to kind of hold and maintain their status.”

The Wings have 17 players signed for next season with a cap hit of $56 million. This year’s projected cap is around $71 million.

Of the 17 players signed, two – Johan Franzen and Stephen Weiss – may not be back because of different issues. Franzen ($3.955 million per year over the next five seasons) because of his concussion issues and Weiss ($4.9 million per year over the next three seasons) having the potential to be bought out.

“I think the way things ended last year when I came back when the season started I wasn’t in the lineup, I was a healthy scratch, sat around for a while,” said Weiss, who has a no-trade clause in his deal. “They told me they were going to put me in and wanted to know if I wanted to go play a couple games in Grand Rapids. I wanted to. I went and did that, came back and got a good opportunity then. Playing with Pav there for a little bit and playing pretty well. And then, for whatever reason, I just fell down the lineup. I wasn’t playing a ton and when you’re not playing a lot it’s tough to do what you’ve always done.”

The buyout period runs June 15-30. Players receive two-thirds of the remaining contract value spread out over twice the remaining length of the deal.

If new coach Jeff Blashill feels Weiss, 32, will help the lineup he’ll be back.

A lot of the remaining cap dollars will have to go to re-sign restricted free agents Brendan Smith, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Jurco, Joakim Andersson, Teemu Pulkkinen and Landon Ferraro.

They also have those in need of extensions next season – unrestricted free agents Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm, along with restricted free agents Danny DeKeyser, Petr Mrazek and Riley Sheahan.

Holland said Blashill will have input as well on how the roster will take shape.

“My management philosophy is we’re all in it together and at the end of the day the head coach has to have a voice as we head into the off-season as we make decisions,” Holland said. “He’s behind the bench. I can’t tell somebody ‘we trust you to run the bench but we’re not letting you be involved in any decisions. You’re not qualified to make any decisions.’ That doesn’t make sense.

“Mike Babcock was involved in lots of the decisions,” Holland continued. “Not many decisions went on where he wasn’t totally involved. Some of the decisions he was the leader on, good and bad. When I say bad, I mean decisions that didn’t work out. We’re in it together.”

Wings’ blue line needs are the same as a year ago

DETROIT >> When July 1 rolled around last year, the Detroit Red Wings were in the market for a right-hand shooting defenseman that could slot into one of their top two pairings.

They weren’t able to land one.

With that still needing to be filled, it’ll be a bit more difficult to do so since this year’s blue line unrestricted free agents that fit what they’re looking for are slim.

The top three right-handed shots on the market are Mike Green, Zbynek Michalek and Cody Franson.

Green had a cap hit of just under $6.1 million last season with Washington and Michalek, who was dealt to St. Louis from Arizona prior to the trade deadline last season, had a cap hit of $4 million. Franson, who was traded from Toronto to Nashville last year, made $3.3 million.

“A year ago on July 1 we were looking for a right-shot defenseman we thought could get points,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “There were two or three on the market. When we didn’t get them we just stopped. We felt that the young players we had in our organization were the answer.

“I’d like to think by getting 100 points and making the playoffs, to a degree, validated the decisions we made,” Holland continued. “Certainly we’re disappointed we weren’t able to finish off, being up 3-2 on Tampa Bay. We’ve got to get better. Part of that improvement is going to be the experience that (Tomas) Tatar, (Gustav) Nyquist, (Danny) DeKeyser, (Luke) Glendening, (Petr) Mrazek, (Tomas) Jurco and (Riley) Sheahan have had in the Boston series and in the Tampa Bay series.”

Detroit could also make a one-year pitch for Marek Zidlicky, who came to the Wings after the trade deadline from New Jersey.

The Wings are also in a better position, due to the depth they’ve got within the organization, to possibly make a trade to acquire what they need.

“I don’t want anyone to think ‘they’re making trades’ because the trades have got to make sense,” Holland said. “The other thing that factors into any decisions we make, if you forward to this summer and the summer of ’16, we’ve got to re-sign Nyquist, we’ve got to re-sign (Justin) Abdelkader, DeKeyser, (Darren) Helm, Sheahan, Mrazek, Jurco. We’ve got lots of people between the summer of ‘15 and summer of ‘16, when they get re-signed they go up in salary. They’re going to eat more cap space.

“Part of getting better is drafting, developing, staying patient, staying the course, try to tweak,” Holland continued. “We tried some things on the free agent market the last 2-3 years, it hasn’t worked out, hasn’t had the impact we wanted. Consider the free agent market again, what it probably did for me was reinforce the kids we got are pretty good. They can play in the league, but obviously our goal is to win a Stanley Cup, like 29 other teams. Sometimes it’s a process.”

Holland secures the only candidate he wanted to fill coaching vacancy

DETROIT >> Jeff Blashill was quite frank when he met with Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland a year ago.

“I told him if there was one team in the NHL I had an opportunity to coach it would be the Detroit Red Wings,” Blashill said.

Blashill got his wish.

In what Holland described as probably the “worst kept secret in recent Red Wings history,” Blashill was officially introduced as the franchise’s 27th head coach Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena, replacing Mike Babcock, who left to coach the Toronto Maple Leafs after 10 seasons in Detroit.

“It’s probably unique,” said Blashill, who received a four-year deal which is one more year more than Holland has left on his deal. “I can tell you that I’m excited that I was the one that he chose. I think it’s unique in a sense that he’s had a chance to see me first hand. There didn’t even need to be an interview process I think. He’s seen what I do. It’s either what he wants or it’s not and in this case it was what he wanted and I’m thankful for that.”

Blashill, who was born in Detroit but grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, has been Holland’s choice to replace Babcock had he left for over year.

“No, no there wasn’t,” Holland said when asked if there were any other coaches he interviewed for the job. “I made my decision for the most part a year ago when we lost out to Boston and five teams called who wanted to interview Jeff about their opening.”

After spending one season as Babcock’s assistant in Detroit, Blashill has coached the Grand Rapids Griffins the past three seasons, leading them to the Calder Cup championship in his first season.

He was named the American Hockey League coach of the year in 2014.

“I’m big on development,” Holland said. “As fate would have it, (former Griffins coach) Curt Fraser got a job to be an assistant coach in Dallas and Blash was my first call. I told him there was an opening in Grand Rapids and asked if he wanted the job. He was my first choice. I gave him 24 hours and he called me back the next day and he took the opportunity to run Grand Rapids.”

Blashill, who led the Griffins to the Western Conference finals this year and compiled a 134-71-23 record there, will be the second youngest coach in the NHL at 41.

“A year ago I went to Blash and told him five teams had called wanting to talk to him,” Holland said. “I told him there was two ways we could go about it. We could let him interview and if he didn’t get a job he could come back or we could re-negotiate his contract. We negotiated a salary increase. We talked about the uncertainty of the Mike Babcock situation and I told Blash if we weren’t able to retain Babs he’d be my number one candidate.

“It’s a perfect time for Blash to take over our team,” Holland continued. “We’ve had a fabulous run with Mike Babcock for 10 years and I’m hoping the decision we made here is a decision that will have a good run for several years.”

Blashill has coached many current Wings, including 10 players he coached in Grand Rapids that appeared in the playoff series against Tampa Bay this year.

“I don’t think trust is anything you should take for granted, you have to earn and you earn it through your actions,” Blashill said. “I’ve coached almost all these guys on this team through some point. I think there’s trust, respect on both sides already so I think that helps me hit the ground running. I know lots of what makes a lot of these guys tick. You can’t treat everyone the same. You have to motivate each player differently and because there’s familiarity will allow that to happen in a more efficient manner.”

Blashill, who has also been an assistant coach at Ferris State and Miami University, guided Western Michigan to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 15 seasons his one and only year there, leading the Broncos to the CCHA tournament championship game.

In 2009, he was named head coach and general manager of the Indiana Ice, a Tier 1 junior hockey team in the United States Hockey League. In his only season there he guided the Ice to the championship.

“What we’re trying to do on the fly, and that’s the beauty of bringing in Jeff Blashill, is we’re trying to go younger, we’re trying to build a team here that we want to have some players that are going to be here for another five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 years,” Holland said. “We’ve got a portion of the team turned over. We got some young people in Grand Rapids that he’s familiar with that are going to be banging on the door, so we got some tough decisions to make over the summer and into September. He knows the organization as well as anybody here. He’s dealt with a lot of our future in Grand Rapids the last three years.”

The Wings hope to have Blashill’s two assistants in place by next week.

Tony Granato could return if he’s able to work out a new deal.

Blashill excited to work with both Howard and Mrazek

DETROIT >> Jeff Blashill had this to say when asked how he would handle the goalie situation in Detroit with Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek.

“The one thing that I know is that both Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek have proved at different points of their careers that they’re elite goalies. I think it’s great to have as much depth at every position you can and that’s what those guys have proven at different points of their careers. I know they’re elite competitors as well and character people. I’m excited to coach both of them.”

Tatar on Blashill: “I feel like the players can trust him.”

DETROIT >> The Detroit Reds Wings have their replacement for Mike Babcock and he’s a chip off the old block.

The team will introduce Jeff Blashill as its 27th coach, Tuesday at 11 a.m. at Joe Louis Arena.

“Really, really similar,” Tomas Tatar said at the end of the season when asked if Blashill is similar to Babcock. “He’s a great coach. He’s helping (Grand Rapids) a lot. I think it’s a really similar school to what we’re doing here. It’s a similar system so guys are coming up here really ready.”

Blashill, who has been the frontrunner for the job all along since Babcock was named the Toronto Maple Leafs coach on May 20, has coached the Griffins the past three seasons after spending on year in Detroit as an assistant.

“Blash is a real good buddy of mine,” Babcock said. “I’ll never forget when I hired him. I left him a message. This is how quick life changes. He had just been one year at Western (Michigan University) there and I phoned him and said, ‘This is Mike Babcock, I’m the head coach of the Detroit Red Wings. Could you give me a call?’ He called me back and laughed and said, ‘Yeah, I know who you were.’

“I interviewed him and nobody had ever heard of him,” Babcock continued. “He coached with us one year and he’s gone (to Grand Rapids) and he’s been real good. We’ve talked five times a week ever since.”

Blashill led Grand Rapids to the Calder Cup championship in his first season and was named the American Hockey League coach of the year in 2014.

This season the Griffins lost in the Western Conference finals.

“He can motivate the players,” Tatar said. “I feel like the system and how he’s willing to play with the players is really good. Players feel like they can talk to him. He’s somebody who they can trust and feel good.”

Blashill, who will be the second youngest coach in the NHL at 41, compiled a 134-71-23 record with the Griffins.

“I feel like the players can trust him,” Tatar said.

Blashill was hired by Babcock and spent one season as assistant coach in Detroit, 2011-12, before taking over in Grand Rapids.

“I love Blash,” Tomas Jurco said after the Wings’ season ended in the first round for the third time in the past four seasons. “He just understands the game really well. He’s a really good guy and you can talk to him and he understands you as a person. Great guy, great coach, and I only have great memories of him.”

Blashill has coached many current Wings, including 10 players he coached in Grand Rapids that appeared in the playoff series against Tampa Bay this year.

“He’s a really good talker and that’s one of the best things about him,” Jurco said. “The things he actually shows you, every time he showed me something it was like ‘You are right. I can do it differently.’ He just understands it so well. He knows what the players can do a little differently. He’s a great coach.”

Detroit, which had been approached by numerous teams to speak with Blashill, doubled his salary to stay in the organization, seemingly as an insurance card if Babcock decided to bolt after this season.

Blashill could receive a three-year contract, since general manager Ken Holland has three years left on his deal.

Blashill guided WMU to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 15 seasons. His squad also made it to the CCHA tournament championship game.

He’s also been an assistant coach at Ferris State and Miami University.

In 2009, he was named head coach and general manager of the Indiana Ice, a Tier 1 junior hockey team in the United States Hockey League. In his only season there he guided the Ice to the championship.

“He seems to have something, he wins wherever he goes,” Holland said after Babcock left. “I look at what he did at Western Michigan in getting them to the NCAA tournament. I think he had a tremendous positive influence in really building that program.

“When I look at Mike Babcock and I see lots of similarities in Jeff Blashill,” Holland added. “You make people accountable, he’s got a work ethic, he’s got a plan, he’s coached before, he’s got experience and he wins.”