Many have labeled this a down draft year and predictions about what direction the Wings will take and which player they will choose ninth overall in the first round are all over the board.
Former NHL executive Craig Button is one of the preeminent authorities when it comes to the NHL Entry Draft. He is the TSN's director of scouting and recently released his final player rankings where he lists the top 105 players eligible to be drafted in 2017.
"The reports of this being a bad draft are greatly exaggerated. What happened is you have two drafts in the last couple of years where you have (Connor) McDavid and (Jack) Eichel and then you have (Auston) Matthews and (Patrik) Laine," Button sad. "Those are unprecedented, they just don't happen; those were drafts that come around rarely. I have never seen in back-to-back years the top two picks in drafts come in and have the impact they've had.
"This is a normal draft. This is a draft where players are going to come in and play in the NHL, I don't think there are that many that are immediately going to do it. They're going to need more time; they're not going to have the same impact. There is a lot of quality potential in this draft. Teams are going to have to be patient."
Detroit is at a crossroads, according to Button. With the playoff streak ending and with most of their glory days players long retired or nearing the end of their careers, Button feels the Wings are developing a long-term strategy to ensure the organization's future and it begins with the Entry Draft.
"What they're hoping to do is to potentially get a player like Dylan Larkin, who went 15th (in the 2014 draft), and then becomes a player after one year at Michigan, he had a terrific debut in the National Hockey League," Button said. "They're going to have to plan for two years with a player like this (from this year's draft) because you have players at different levels of physical maturity.
"One of the interesting things about this year's draft is there are a couple of late birthdays, those are the players born after September 15th of '98, so they're '98 birth year, but they weren't eligible for last year's draft.
"So maybe in that group of players, whether it's a Casey Mittelstadt or an Elias Petterson or Cale Makar that are in the top end of the draft, maybe their maturation process will be a little bit quicker just because they ostensibly are in a year's previous birth year."
If there is one pick Button believes all teams should avoid it's the safe pick. He thinks that the safe pick will not have the same impact as a player that excels in certain aspects of the game, while his game may have deficiencies in other parts.
"I have moved away from the safe pick. What are you trying to do? Are you trying to be dynamic, are you trying to find a player that not only helps you win, but excites your fan base, that people want to come out and watch that player? That's what you have to look at," Button said. "Why does Steph Curry end up being a mid-first round draft pick? It's really ridiculous when you think about it, that guy that can impact the game in that way. I think it's the same way here. People talk about the safe pick, well, one guy might be safe, but I want the high-end guy.
"In my view what you have to look at is high-end potential, high-end skill, players that can be difference-makers and if it fits your area of need, great, but if it doesn't you can't bypass that just to fit your area of need with a less dynamic, less skilled player.
"In a perfect world you would be able to look at the draft and say, 'OK, this is our need and this is the player that fits,' but it's not perfect in any sense, shape or form. You have to really ensure you're identifying the really high-end guys. Skill and potential and being a difference-maker, I don't care what sport you're in, those are factors that drive teams."
With an abundance of mock drafts flooding the scene, it's difficult to sort out whom the Red Wings will ultimately pick with the ninth overall selection in the first round.
Below is a list of players that have been mentioned in various mock drafts as the Wings first-round pick. There is also a wishful thinking pick -- a player Button says the Wings are praying miraculously falls to them at number nine.
Each player's team, league, and key stats are listed along with the pundit/website who predicted that particular player will be drafted by Detroit in their mock draft.
Button gives an analysis of each player and we will show where the player ranks in Button's final player rankings.
Michael Rasmussen, Tri City (WHL) C - 6'6", 215 pounds, GP-50, G-32, P-55; (NJ.com).
Button's View: "Think of Tomas Holmstrom, the way Holmstrom patrolled the front of the net and was able to find loose pucks and not only screen the goalie but was able to find those loose pucks and make a pass or score a goal. A lot of players have reach, but Michael Rasmussen also has a real awareness around the net. He can find those loose pucks around the net, he scores goals from that home plate area and he has a big presence. If you're a goaltender and you leave a loose puck, he can find it. Those are the type of players that create a lot of problems for goaltenders. He is not going to run you over, but he establishes his size, establishes his presence. If you want to be a really good goal scorer, you have to be good in those tight areas and Michael is." Button's final ranking - 21st
Owen Tippett, Mississauga (OHL) RW - 6'0", 200 pounds, GP-59, G-44, P-75; (Newsday, Mike Morreale, NHL.com).
Button's View: "He might be the best goal scorer in the draft; he just has a fantastic shot. He can score from 35 to 40 feet; he can flat out beat a goaltender. Other guys may have to be more precise but he can hit those spots. The other thing about Owen is he doesn't allow the goaltender to get a read on the release. He has a great release and it's tough for the goaltender to pick it up. He is going to need a good playmaking center to get him the puck, but if you find the right place to get him the puck, he's going to finish." Button's final ranking - 23rd
Cody Glass, Portland (WHL) C - 6'2", 178 pounds, GP-69, G-32, P-94; (Adam Kimelman, NHL.com, Tankathon.com).
Button's View: "Cody reminds me of Mark Scheifele of Winnipeg, he's a high-end skater who is a high-end thinker and can execute at that high speed. When you have those abilities to impact a game with how fast the game is now, how quick it is played at, but he can execute at that speed. A lot of players can skate fast but they can't execute. He can. He's a player too, a dyed-in the-wool competitor." Button's final ranking - 4th
Martin Necas, Brno (Czech) C - 6'0", 167 pounds, GP-41, G-7, P-15; (MyNHL.com, The Draft Analyst, Editor in Leaf).
Button's View: "Martin is a difference maker, he wants to make a difference in the game. He has been the captain of his age group all the way through with the Czechs. He is a rarity; he played on that Czech Senior League team that won the championship this year. So he wasn't just a young kid playing on team, he was a young kid playing on a championship team. He can shoot the puck, he can pass the puck. From the opening face-off he gets the idea that he wants to impact the game in some way, shape or form. His upside potential is tremendous. To be honest with you, I love the way he plays, I love his attitude, I think all he needs is time." Button's final ranking - 7th
Kristian Vesalainen, HPK (SM Liiga) LW - 6'3", 207 pounds, GP-26, G-1, P-6; (Draftsite.com).
Button's View: "Kristian is a winger who can play in a lot of different scenarios, power play, penalty kill. He can contribute in a lot of different ways, but I don't think he'll be prolific. He will help a team, but I don't think he's a front-line player. But as a player for a coach you can put him in different spots, play him on the right wing if you need be, play him on the left wing, he has good hockey sense; he can read off the play. I don't think he has high-end dynamic skill; he can produce but not at that real high-end level." Button's final ranking - 26th
Klim Kostin, Moscow (KHL) RW - 6'3", 196 pounds, GP-9, G-1, P-1; (Blecherreport.com).
Button's View: "He is a power winger, that is what he is, a power winger that wants to drive the play off the wing. He's big, he's heavy, he's a good skater, he's hard to handle. He plays inside the dots (of the face-off circles in the attacking zone); he is that type of a winger. He's going to want to power to the net, but I don't think he a natural goal scorer. He is more of a determined goal scorer, he is going to try and grind the puck into the net. He is not a front-line offensive player." Button's final ranking - 24th
Elias Pettersson, Timra (SWE-Als) LW - 6'2", 161 pounds, GP-43, G-19, P-41; (Fansided.com).
Button's View: "Brilliant, brilliant creativity; he makes plays happen offensively. If you're a scoring winger, you want to play with Elias Pettersson. Number one, he's going to see the play unfolding. Number two, he has magnificent hands where he can make those passes. Ironically, he played on the same team as Henrik Zetterberg and like Zetterberg he needs time to physically mature, but like Zetterberg, high, high-end hockey sense, and high, high creativity. For a player his age to do what he did in the Swedish Allsvenskan League, it's pretty impressive. Again, he needs time to mature, but he's a creative genius offensively." Button's final ranking - 8th
Timothy Lilijegren, Rogle (SWE) D - 6'0", 191 pounds, GP-19, G-1, P-5; (The Hockey Writers).
Button's View: "Timothy is a dynamic, skilled defenseman. A great skater and he has a really, really good shot, it's a shot where you can quickly snap it off and get it there. He can run the power play. Timothy is the type of player where you can see where he need some help with his game, but his high end is high. He could be that player that really comes in and if you work with him, the biggest thing he needs to learn is less is more and that's true with a lot of defensemen. If he learns less is more, his impact will be that much greater and he will. If you talk about high-end skating, puck handling, shooting ability, he's got it." Button's final ranking - 10th
Cale Makar, Brooks (AJHL) D - 5'11", 180 pounds, GP-54, G-24, P-75; (Guillaume Lepage, NHL.com).
Button's View: "Erik Karlsson. He also remains me so much of Sergei Zubov, who I was around in Dallas for years. Cale has exceptional hockey sense. He controls the game with the puck. When he has the puck on his stick, something special could happen and dangerous; he has that great ability of understanding when he's making the play two steps ahead already. He puts himself in position where he is two steps ahead. His participatory skills off the charts, a dynamic skater, he can move forward and laterally as well as any defenseman I've seen in a number of years." Button's final ranking - 3rd
Casey Mittelstadt, Eden Prairie (USHS) C - 6'1", 201 pounds, GP-30, G-23, P-72; (CSNNE.com).
Button's View: "There is not a lot of flash with Casey; he has a lot of real purpose to his game. He's smart, he has skill, and he's the type of player that shows up at the right time at the right place, if that makes sense. A lot of players are busy and you notice them, but in the end not a lot gets done. You might not notice him at times, but a lot gets done with Casey. He can play the wing or center ice and regardless of where he plays and I have seen him in a lot of different scenarios with the U.S. National Team, the Under-18 Team, the USA Challenge, I've seen him in high school. It doesn't matter where I've seen him play, he's productive and he makes players around him better." Button's final ranking - 9th
When Button was asked if there is one player he believes the Wings would go after if they had they had the chance, he mentioned a player that former Red Wing Igor Larionov told Button reminded him of a certain Red Wing immortal.
Miro Heiskanen, HIFK (SM Liiga) D - 6'0", 170 pounds, GP-37, G-5, P-10.
Button's View: "I don't think he'll be there when the Red Wings pick, but the reason I am going to tell you is because of the great quote Igor Larionov gave me. Igor told me watching Miro Heiskanen play, the Finnish defenseman, Igor said, 'He thinks the game like Nick Lidstrom.' I know the Red Wing fans would like that. He is not dynamic and nobody can be compared to Nick Lidstrom, one of the greatest players ever, forget about defenseman, he's one of the greatest players ever, but remember the times when Nick did make a mistake and you're like, 'What happened there?' that is Heiskanen, that is how Heiskanen plays. He is that smart. I compare Heiskanen to the coyote and the roadrunner. The coyote could never quite catch up to the roadrunner even when he was a whisker away, the roadrunner was always in control and with Lidstrom no matter how close you were to him he was in control. That is how Heiskanen plays". Button's final ranking - 5th
Button realizes that Detroit is desperate for help along the blueline and he jokingly (with a hint of truth) made this bold prediction.
"Heiskanen and Makar, if either one of those guys can be there when they pick, I think Kenny Holland would be thrilled, he'd run up to the stage," Button said. "If one of those two guys are there, put a stopwatch on Kenny Holland, he could break Usain Bolt's record."
As appealing as shoring up the defensive corps would be with the addition of Heiskanen or Makar, almost all mock drafts project they will long gone before the Wings pick.
So what player does Button predict the Red Wings will nab with the ninth overall pick?
"I think you look at the center ice position," Button said. "The guy that keeps snapping me upside the head is Elias Pettersson. Great creativity, makes things happen.
"If you think about where Zetterberg is at and you think, 'Could he be a mentor for him?' But that's the secondary parts of it. It's that ability to create offense; it's that ability to make players around you better.
"With Elias Pettersson he's the difference between a player scoring 25 goals or 35 goals, it is Elias Pettersson. He elevates everybody and another thing is he attacks inside the dots and has the ability to hold the puck and let plays develop.
"At that point in the draft, I look at a centerman with outstanding creativity, the outstanding puck skills, the playmaking ability, I just see him as a really, really, desirable player at that point in the draft."
In less than a week's time we will know the names of the players that Detroit has tabbed to usher in the Little Caesars Arena era of Detroit Red Wings hockey.