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Mock drafts have Wings picking a Swede

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Niklas Kronwall is the last Swedish amateur taken by the Red Wings in the first round of the NHL draft. Detroit took him at No. 29 in 2000: (Photo by Nhan Chu/Allsport)

FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Is it possible that the Red Wings make franchise history tonight when the first night of the NHL draft commences at BB&T Center?

Several mock drafts certainly believe so.

Should the Red Wings hold on to their first-round pick at No. 19 and not trade down to obtain additional picks in later rounds, many hockey analysts think they will use it to select Joel Eriksson Ek, a highly-skilled Swedish center.

For two decades, the Wings and super scout Hakan Andersson have carved out a reputation for unearthing virtually unknown prospects in the late rounds who have developed incredible careers, namely Swedes Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall.

Their careers continue to validate the masterful work performed by the team’s amateur scouts.

However, if the Wings do call Eriksson Ek to the podium tonight, it would be the first time they select a Swedish forward in the first round.

Detroit has used its first-round pick to select just seven European-born players – all defensemen – in the 52-year history of the league’s draft.  Aside from Kronwall in 2000, the Wings other Europeans picked in the first round were Jacob Kindl (2005), Jiri Fischer (1998), Maxim Kuznetsov (1995), Yan Golubovsky (1994), Anders Eriksson (1993) and Willie Huber (1978).

The stock for Eriksson Ek, an 18-year-old from Karlsbad, has been on the rise in recent months. He moved from the 22nd ranking among European skaters in NHL Central Scouting’s midterm rankings to fourth in the final rankings that were released earlier this month.

At 6-foot-2 and 183 pounds, Eriksson Ek is the kind of centerman that the Red Wings have favored over the last few years, an offensive catalyst, big body – with a similar frame as Riley Sheahan, the club’s first-round pick in 2010 – and defensively responsible.

Eriksson-Ek sparkled in the 2015 World Junior Championships, leading Sweden’s U18 team with five goals in five games, In January, he signed a three-year rookie contract with Färjestad.

If the Wings bypass Eriksson Ek, or he’s off the board, others think Detroit will take Russian-born forward Evgeny Svechnikov, who has been compared to Evgeni Malkin. The 6-foot-2 Svechnikov is described as rambunctious on the ice with endless skill and a dangerous shot.

The Wings, aside from picking at No. 19 overall, have single picks in the last five rounds at No. 73 (third round), 110 (fourth), 140 (fifth), 170 (sixth) and 200 (seventh). They traded away their second-round pick with the deadline deal to acquired forward Erik Cole from Dallas in March.

Here’s a look at six prospects that 11 different mock drafts have pegged to likely be called to the podium by the Red Wings Friday night at BB&T Center:

Kelly Friesen, Bleacher Report says the Red Wings will take ...  

JOEL ERIKSSON EK, center, Farjestad (Sweden Juniors): The Red Wings love Swedish talent, and Eriksson Ek is considered the country’s top forward prospect in this year’s draft class. In addition, with Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk not getting any younger, he could be one of the answers to help replace their offensive production.

Kevin Allen, USA Today agrees with Friesen saying …

The Red Wings have a long history of liking Swedish players and he could be a sleeper. A few teams have him ranked in the 10 to 12 range.

Jeff Marek, Sportsnet also concurs with Friesen and Allen …

Detroit loves complete hockey players and this Swedish centerman has a strong grasp of play away from the puck. Not the most well-known name in the draft but someone’s coming away with a steal — might as well be the Wings. That’s kinda what they do.

Dave Isaac, Courier Post added …

No one scouts Europe quite like Detroit. The 6-foot-2 pivot skyrocketed up the central scouting ranks from 22nd among Europeans at the midterm to fourth by season's end.

ERIKSSON EK'S 2014-15 Statistics
FARJESTAD JR. SWE-JR 25 21 11 33 20

Adam Kimelman, says the Red Wings will take ...

NOAH JUULSEN, defenseman, Everett (WHL): The 6-2, 174-pound right-shot defenseman was well-regarded for his defensive skill and physical play, but this season he showed he could contribute in the offensive zone with nine goals and 52 points in 68 games. The more ice time he was given, the better he played.

JUULSEN'S 2014-15 Statistics

Mike Morreale, says the Red Wings will take ...

EVGENY SVECHNIKOV, left wing, Cape Breton (QMJHL): A power forward with decent speed and balance, good offensive hockey sense, and creative instincts. At 6-2 and 199 pounds, Svechnikov considers his game similar to that of Pittsburgh forward Evgeni Malkin. In his first season in North America, he was second among QMJHL rookies with 78 points and third with 32 goals.

Ryan Womeldorf, Hockey’s Future agrees with Morreale, saying …

Of late, the Wings have found that to be highly-skilled wingers and Svechnikov is no different. In his first season in North America, Svechnikov showed he fits in just fine. … In addition to fantastic hands and an obvious finishing touch, Svechnikov has good size (6-foot-1) and plays with good strength. Like a lot of Russian-born players of his age, he needs to work on his defensive game and when he isn’t dominant, he can disappear for stretches. If Svechnikov can continue to build his offensive game and gain a little traction on the defensive end, he could be one of the steals of the draft. He’s got good size, potentially elite skill and could fit right in with what the Wings are trying to do up front.

Mike Finewax, Rotoworld concurs 

Svechnikov has great offensive skills with great hands. He needs to work on his skating and defensive side of the game but his offense will get him drafted by the Red Wings who can certainly teach him how to play defensively.

SVECHNIKOV'S 2014-15 Statistics
Team League GP G A PTS PIM

Sam Cosentino, says the Red Wings will take

JACOB LARSSON, defenseman, Frölunda HC (Sweden): Has a good two-way game from the back end.

LARSSON'S 2014-15 Statistics
Team League GP G A PTS PIM

Allan Muir, Sports Illustrated says the Red Wings will take

NICK MERKLEY, right wing, Kelowna (WHL): Something of an oddity, Merkley is a playmaking winger. He has elite vision and hockey sense and distributes the puck in a way that makes the most of his teammates and their talent. Lacks ideal size but compensates for that with his competitive intensity and willingness to battle for his ice.

MERKLEY'S 2014-15 Statistics
Team League GP G A PTS PIM
KELOWNA ROCKETS WHL 72 20 70 90 79

Nicholas Goss, NESN says the Red Wings will take ...

OLIVER KYLINGTON, defenseman, Farjestad (Sweden): The Red Wings had only two defensemen tally more than 18 points last season, and No. 1 blueliner Niklas Kronwall is past the prime of his career. With no elite defenseman prospects in the system, Kylington makes sense for the Red Wings. He’s a very good skater, moves the puck well and has excellent offensive instincts.

KYLINGTON'S 2014-15 Statisitcs
Team League GP G A PTS PIM

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