DETROIT -- When the Detroit Red Wings selected German defenseman Moritz Seider with the sixth overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, there were audible gasps emanating from the Rogers Center in Vancouver.
Seider wasn't on many pundits' radar as a top-six pick, but Red Wings executive vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman knew who he wanted in his first draft as Detroit's GM, and Seider is inching toward proving a lot of people wrong as he gets close to breaking through in the NHL.
"I'm excited about the prospect we got," Yzerman said at the draft. "I think he's a really good player and a really good kid. We'll find out, hopefully, in not too long, but we think we got an excellent prospect and somebody that will really fit into what we're doing and that our fan base will really enjoy watching and getting to know as a person."
After being drafted by the Red Wings in June 2019, the 6-foot-3, 209-pound blueliner quickly joined Detroit's AHL-affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins for Opening Night of the 2019-20 season.
Seider brought a laundry list of accomplishments with him to Grand Rapids, including winning the Deutsch Eishockey Liga's Rookie of the Year as a 17-year-old in 2018-19. He also led his Adler Mannheim club to the DEL championship that season, earning the second-highest scoring season ever for an under-18 defenseman in the DEL.
Seider held his own right away in the AHL, earning 22 points in 49 games in 2019-20, and he was poised to lead the Griffins into the Calder Cup Playoffs, but the AHL was forced to cancel the postseason in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because the pandemic delayed the start of the 2020-21 AHL campaign, Seider was loaned to Rogle BK of the Swedish Hockey League to continue his development overseas.
Seider earned 28 points on seven goals and 21 assists in 41 SHL games this season, playing an average of 20:14 per game.
After a scoreless debut, Seider earned points in five straight games and quickly made his presence felt in Sweden's most competitive league. The 20-year-old defenseman immediately earned trust from his coaches with his versatility, skill and physicality, being able to play well and impose his will in all aspects of the game.
"It was a big adjustment, but it's just great to have an opportunity to play hockey, and getting some games under your belt," Seider said in December. "It's a league where everyone can skate. It's a lot about skating here. You can't just run people over. You have to really be careful of using your stick and how you approach guys, so that was a really good thing to learn the first couple weeks."
Seider added five points on four assists and a goal in 13 playoff games, and led his team to the SHL Finals, eventually falling in the best-of-seven series, 4-1.
Despite the setback in the championship series, Seider was rewarded for his outstanding play during the season, winning the SHL Elite Prospect's Award and being named a finalist for SHL Defenseman of the Year.
One of Seider's opponents in the SHL was fellow Red Wings prospect Joe Veleno, who was loaned to Malmo, and Veleno said he was extremely impressed with the young defenseman.
"He looked really good," Veleno said about Seider. "He didn't look out of place at all. He has been outstanding in every aspect of the game, especially physically, hitting guys all over the ice. It's good for him, it's part of his game, and he's also able to produce offense. He's really taken a lot of steps forward."
Yzerman agreed with Veleno about Seider's development and how important it was for him to continue playing games at a high level throughout the pandemic.
"He had his heart set on playing. It turned out to be a great (decision)," Yzerman said. "He went to a really good organization, a good team, and was able to earn a big role on the team and play in all situations. Overall, I think it's been a real good year for him."
With his ability to be a two-way defenseman with good vision, imposing physicality and a knack for joining the rush, Seider has all the attributes the Red Wings are looking for from a young, developing player.
True to his patient nature, Yzerman wouldn't commit on Seider securing a spot on the Red Wings' roster out of training camp next season, but Yzerman said the defenseman has all the potential to earn his opportunity to don Winged Wheel very soon.
"Is he ready to play in the NHL next year? Based on his size and his strength, I think so. But we'll see," Yzerman said. "He'll be back for training camp next year and (we'll) just see how he does at that point. We think he's a very good prospect and he's got a great attitude and tremendous potential, so we'll see how he does through training camp, through the preseason and just continue to go one step at a time."