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Red Wings go big at draft

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Val D'Or forward Anthony Mantha, who scored 50 goals to lead the QJMHL, was the Red Wings' first-round selection in Sunday's NHL draft.. (Photo by Getty Images)

NEWARK, N.J. – With their first three picks in the 2013 NHL draft, the Red Wings took North American forwards with professional sports pedigree, including the grandson of former Red Wings forward Andre Pronovost.

While bloodlines weren’t an overwhelming factor in selecting any of the draftees, it didn’t hurt either, said Red Wings director of amateur scouting Joe McDonnell.

“I think it probably helps because you know whatever person that was a professional athlete in their family knows what it took to maybe get there,” McDonnell said. “Not only during the season, but in the off-season as well. So I think it does help.”

With their first-round pick, Detroit took 6-foot-4 sniper Anthony Mantha, who learned the game at an early age from his grandfather, who won four Stanley Cup championships with Montreal.

After they traded away the No. 18 overall pick to San Jose for the Sharks’ No. 20 (Mantha pick) and No. 58 selections, the Red Wings went after more size. They tabbed 6-foot-1 forward Zach Nastasiuk, the son of former CFL running back Paul Nastasiuk, who played seven pro seasons and won Grey Cup with the Toronto Argonauts in 1991.

“Him playing football and me playing hockey, he can't really talk about the game itself, but he really helps me with the mental side of stuff,” Nastasiuk said. “I think I'm mentally strong because of him. I owe a lot to him.”

Nastasiuk, 18, finished fourth at Owen Sound with 20 goals and fifth with a plus-21 rating in 62 games. As an Ontario Hockey League rookie in 2011-12, he produced 19 points, including 11 goals in all 68 games. He was also a member of Canada's gold medal-winning team at the 2013 Under-18 World Championship.

The Red Wings used their second pick in the second round to select Tyler Bertuzzi, a 6-foot winger from Guelph in the OHL. He is the nephew of Red Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi.

“We do the background checks but we really didn’t know the pedigree with all three of them,” McDonnell said. “We knew the pedigree with Bertuzzi of course, but the other two we didn’t know until late in the year when we found out about them. It’s pretty neat, I think, to have some relatives that were playing professional sports.”

The five forwards taken in the first four rounds was a first in 4 years, as not since 1999 have they used the first five picks of any draft to select forwards. That year, Detroit used all six of its selections on forwards, including Henrik Zetterberg, which the Red Wings landed in the seventh round.

The Wings added their first European player when they used their third-round pick on 6-foot-1 center Mattias Janmark-nylen, who has played at AIK. Detroit then took West Kelowna forward David Pope, who has committed to play at Nebraska Omaha next fall.

Detroit used its fifth- and sixth-round picks on a pair of tall WHL defensemen: 6-4 Mitchell Wheaton of Kelowna and 6-5 Marc McNulty of Prince George.

Here is what McDonnell had to say about the first three Red Wings’ selections in the 2013 draft at the Prudential Center on Sunday:

ANTHONY MANTHA, RW, 1st ROUND, No. 20: “His skill level is real good. He's got a great shot and he just seems to find the open ice in the offensive end. And with his size to go along with those things it was a real intriguing package for us.''

Zach Nastasiuk

ZACH NASTASIUK, RW, 2nd ROUND, No. 48: “Zach is a real hard working kid. He’s got real good hands. If he has one thing that he has to work on it’s his skating. Once he gets going he’s good, but the first two strides are something that needs some work, but the nice thing about him is he’s a kid that is willing to put the work in to get better. He had a real good tournament in April over in Russia for Team Canada and was one of their best penalty-killers on the team. Played a lot, and he’s another good sized kid who has some work to do, but we think in the end he’s going to be a real good third-line kind of guy who can kill penalties and things like that.”

TYLER BERTUZZI, LW, 2nd ROUND, No. 58: “I think his a bit of a rat. He’s an Andrew Shaw kind of guy in Chicago and he’s real hard to play against. He had some injuries early and mid into the season and I think a lot of teams, I don’t know if they really paid attention to him later in the year and he really took over late in the year. He’s just a real hard guy to play against and I think we really wanted him in the organization and he fits the role, and I think Todd’s really excited.”

Here is what Jeff Finley, the Red Wings’ amateur scout based in Kelowna, British Columbia, had to say about the three Western Canada prospects taken by Detroit on Sunday:

David Pope

DAVID POPE, LW, 4th ROUND, No. 109: “He's a big, tall, lanky winger, he's got an NHL shot and release. That's the strength of his game, sort of an up-and-down type of player. Versatile player, can play center and both wings. His biggest weakness is he needs a lot of strength. See him as third-line type of guy that can move up. He's got some good skill.” He will play college hockey at Nebraska Omaha beginning in the fall.

MITCHELL WHEATON, D, 5th ROUND, No. 139: “Big guy, mobility is a big issue right now. Coaches in Kelowna rave about him. Great work ethic. He's found the gym, he's lost some weight. He moves the puck well, has got great hockey sense, defensive instincts. Smart player.”

MARC McNULTY, D, 6th ROUND, No. 169: “Big, long stick, big reach. He's got real good feet and good hands for a guy that size. Real weak right now at this stage. He needs a lot of strength and consistency. Probably the reason he fell to where he did there were a lot of nights he needed to be better than he was. He's a bit of a project right now, but I think he has huge upside because of his size and mobility.”

Mitchell Wheaton

Here is what director of European scouting Hakan Andersson had to say about the two Swedish forwards selected by the Red Wings on Sunday:

MATTIAS JANMARK-NYLEN, C, 3rd ROUND, No. 79: “He's a 20-year-old. Season before he set a junior record in Sweden for points. Then they promoted him to AIK, Swedish Elite League, and I think he was their second-best scorer. So he played really well. He was rewarded by playing a couple of exhibition games on the Swedish national team, which is pretty good as a 20-year-old. Good skater, works hard, had ability with the puck, has some hands and hockey sense. Needs to beef up. He's a bit of a kid still. He doesn't have detailed plan yet that he's going to be a pro. He just plays because he loves it. There's potential for sure. … He became one of the go-to players for his team, so there will be more pressure on him this year because now the other teams know about him.”

HAMPUS MELEN, RW, 7th ROUND, No. 199: “He's about 6-2, 6-3, weighs about 160 pounds. Played Junior B league in Sweden most of the year, set a point record there. Works hard and he has very good hands and hockey sense. But needs to beef up a lot. Good thing about that is I met him a couple of times in February and we talked about nutrition. Now he went and hired a personal trainer and last two months, he'd gone from 147 to 160. The parents told his agent, ‘Something has happened to Hampus.’ It looks like he's on a mission now. The personal trainer said the same thing. The teachers called the parents and said, ‘Something has happened with Hampus, he's so much determined in school.’ Last two months he started to work.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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