Marat Khusnutdinov, C, SKA (MHL)
Pronman’s rank: 28
Wheeler’s rank: 48
Central Scouting rank: 12th among European skaters
Why he fits: There’s a lot to like in Khusnutdinov’s profile. Pronman gave the Russian center a 60 grade (denoting ability that projects to the top third of professionals) in skating, puck skills and hockey sense, with his only below-average grade in his physical game. That makes sense, as Khusnutdinov is only 5-feet-10.
However, as Pronman wrote in his scouting report, “he competes hard, frequently getting to the tough areas in the offensive zone and killing penalties well.” That could go a long way toward easing size concerns, and it certainly should be a plus for a front office that, according to Hakan Andersson, has put a premium on competitiveness in the draft.
The Red Wings have some depth at center in their pipeline, headlined by Joe Veleno and Michael Rasmussen, but you can never have enough prospects down the middle, and Khusnutdinov was one of the top U18 point-producers in the MHL last season. Adding a player who can both make a difference in the offensive zone and kill penalties, with that key competitiveness trait, would be a strong addition to the farm system.
“Khusnutdinov makes plays all over the ice,” Wheeler wrote. “He’s a responsible three-zone player, he doesn’t shy away from playing to the interior, he’s got enough skill to make plays from the exterior and he tracks the play exceptionally well.”
He produced .86 points per game last season, and is off to another strong start this year with 7 points in eight games.
That includes a last-second, game-tying goal Friday.
Helge Grans, RHD, Malmö (SHL)
Pronman’s rank: 50
Wheeler’s rank: 26
Central Scouting rank: 6th among European skaters
Why he fits: Yzerman has been building an army of big-bodied defensemen in his first 17 months as Red Wings general manager, and at 6-3, Grans fits that that mold with a nice offensive profile, too. He was second in points per game (1.00) among all defensemen who played at least 20 games in the Swedish J20 league last season, and perhaps not coincidentally played 21 SHL games.
Grans didn’t produce much (3 points) as a 17-year-old in Sweden’s top league, but Pronman gave his hockey sense and physical game both 60 grades, while also giving his puck skills an above-average mark. His skating was rated at pro average.
“I’ve seen very good flashes from him over the years, as he can make some very good passes from both ends and has a hard shot from the point,” Pronman wrote in his scouting report. “… A lot of times I’m left wanting more. I’ve seen a lot of games he makes little happen offensively and his average feet are exposed defensively.”
Wheeler, who had Grans ranked considerably higher, had a similar take on where Grans can stand to improve. “His skating will need to continue to progress as his feet can look heavy,” he wrote. “And I would like to see him clean up some of his mistakes with and without the puck (he turns it over a little too much for my liking and can get caught puck-watching defensively). But once he matures and tidies up some of that sloppiness, he’s got a chance at serious upside.”
Because of that upside, it’s entirely possible Grans goes in the first round, before Detroit even has a shot to take him. But his profile does make him an obvious candidate if Detroit wants to use this pick on a blueliner.
Since he plays in Sweden, the Red Wings will have some bonus viewings of him before the draft, too, which will allow them to see how much progress he made over the summer.
Ozzy Wiesblatt, RW, Prince Albert (WHL)
Pronman’s rank: 32
Wheeler’s rank: 52
Central Scouting rank rank: 19th among North American skaters
Why he fits: Another 5-10 forward with a highly rated offensive skill set, Wiesblatt earned 60 grades from Pronman in skating, hockey sense and puck skills. Those accompanied a below-average grade in his physical game.
But as Prince Albert coach Marc Habscheid told Pronman, “He competes well. He has a swagger about him. He wants to be in pressure situations. He has a quick stick and quick feet, and he is smart offensively.”
Detroit has some prospect depth on the wing in Jonatan Berggren, Robert Mastrosimone and Elmer Söderblöm, but not enough, and Wiesblatt could be a nice addition to that group.
Berggren and Mastrosimone are also smaller players off the flank, and in general the Red Wings could certainly stand to be a more physical team. That’s one potential reason for pause. But Detroit also needs significant help creating offense, and Wiesblatt was already over a point per game in the WHL last season. In that sense, Pronman’s write-up on Wiesblatt has to be enticing.
“He’s very quick and skilled,” Pronman wrote. “He makes skilled plays at full speed and is a handful for defenders to stop when he comes barreling down on the rush. His hands stand out, with extremely quick twitch touches and ability to inside out defenders. He can attack in a direct style, but also has great vision and can pull up to make a tough play.”
As a bonus, he’d add a much-needed right-shot winger to Detroit’s system.
Later in Round 2
Daniel Torgersson, LW, Frölunda, (SHL)
Pronman’s rank: 84
Wheeler’s rank: 74
Central Scouting rank: 13th among European skaters
Why he fits: Here’s your larger element to add to the winger core. At 6-3, Torgersson’s physical game graded at 65 via Pronman, who also gave him above- average marks on his hockey sense and puck skills. Those are important complements, since the Red Wings can’t afford to draft a player for size alone.
Torgersson was in the lineup for Frölunda’s SHL season-opener Saturday, after playing a handful of games with the senior club last season as well. He mostly played in the J20 league, though, where he produced as one of the top U18 players in the league. His goal rate was the most impressive, with 26 in 39 games.
Playing in the same organization as Söderblöm, Detroit should have plenty of familiarity with Torgersson, who has the potential to add some important elements to the Red Wings’ farm system with his skill set at that size.
“He has some skill and can make plays, and showed this season he can score at a significant level,” Pronman wrote. “Torgersson’s skating is OK. The stride breaks down a bit more than I’d like, but I’ve seen him pull away from enough checks to think it can be pro-average. His ability to score, play in the tough areas and PK gives him versatility that will endear him to coaches.”
Ty Smilanic, C, U.S. NTDP (USHL)
Pronman’s rank: 48
Wheeler’s rank: 45
Central Scouting rank: 24th among North American skaters
Why he fits: Particularly considering some of the gaudy production coming out of the NTDP in recent years, Smilanic’s 22 points in 34 games this season wouldn’t make him an obvious target here. But there’s some important context missing from those numbers, which Wheeler laid out in his final draft board.
“Smilanic spent the back half of the season with a cast on his top hand and the mitt of his glove cut out so that he could grip the knob,” Wheeler wrote. “Eventually, NHL Central Scouting sent out a note to inform teams that he was playing injured. I was told that among his four outside fingers, only the index wasn’t in the cast.”
That certainly qualifies as an extenuating circumstance, perhaps explaining why Smilanic scored at a lower rate than he did the previous season in the program (when he had 38 points in 54 games). With Pronman giving Smilanic 60 grades on both skating and puck skills, the skill set for the 6-1 center should merit consideration in this range. Wheeler and Pronman both ranked him in the mid- to late-40s on their boards.
“Smilanic is a high-end skater with excellent hands,” Pronman wrote. “He can blow past defenders off the rush and has excellent edge work to evade checks inside the zone.”
Smilanic (a Quinnipiac commit) certainly could have used the chance some Europeans will get to play this fall, in order to show his growth and what he can do when healthy. Instead, if the Red Wings want him, they’ll have to draft on what they have seen so far, and the potential for upside from the center.
With three picks in the second round, he might be the right kind of swing to take with the Oilers or Capitals pick.
Jean-Luc Foudy, C, Windsor (OHL)
Pronman’s rank: 49
Wheeler’s rank: 62
Central Scouting rank: 33rd among North American skaters
Why he fits: And speaking of upside, here you go. Based on his rookie year in the OHL, Foudy was in early first-round conversations for 2020. He scored 49 points in 63 games as a 16-year-old. But after a slight downtick in production as a sophomore, both Wheeler and Pronman have him ranked in the back half of the second round.
Pronman gave Foudy a 60 grade on his skating, hockey sense and puck skills, with physical game and Foudy’s shot the two below-average areas. Foudy is 5-11 and the brother of Blue Jackets prospect Liam Foudy, who scored at a similar rate to Jean-Luc in his draft year before going 18th overall and then surging past a point-per-game in the following season. This year, Liam Foudy was on the Blue Jackets’ playoff roster as a 20-year-old.
“Jean-Luc Foudy, like his brother, is an excellent skater,” Pronman wrote in his scouting report. “He has more skill than his brother, though, showing the ability to make difficult plays with the puck individually and as a distributor. His combination of speed and skill makes him elite at gaining the offensive zone with possession. I think he’s a very good passer, but some scouts think he’s selfish and wheels too much with the puck. I don’t mind it but he does like to dance around the perimeter looking for plays.”
It’s also worth noting that while Foudy’s overall production went slightly down, his goal scoring nearly doubled this season. So, particularly if you buy the potential for a surge this coming season, Foudy’s pedigree and collection of skills could make him another high-upside target for the Red Wings, especially considering he’s a right-shot center.
And since he plays in Windsor, the Red Wings will have had every opportunity to see him the last two years.