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Wings load up on defense

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Red Wings used two of their three second-round picks – and five all together – on big defensemen first selecting 6-footer Xavier Ouellet and 6-3 Ryan Sproul with the 35th and 48th pick, respectively, in the 2011 NHL draft at Xcel Energy Center Saturday morning.

Ouellet is no stranger to at least a few members of the Red Wings’ organization. He plays for Montreal of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League along side of forwards Louis-Marc Aubry, who was the Wings’ third-round pick last summer, and Trevor Parkes, who was signed as a free agent last September.

“I talked to them both, but not too much (about the Wings),” Ouellet said. “Maybe I’ll start this summer.”

Ouellet, 17, is a reliable defenseman, who makes good tape-to-tape breakout passes, something the Red Wings’ front office and scouting staff covet when reviewing defensive prospects.

“I’m an overall defenseman, who can do everything. But I need to get stronger,” said Ouellet, who since he was 5-years-old has idolized Nicklas Lidstrom.

“In my mind, he is the best defenseman in the world,” Ouellet said. “This is a dream come true.”

With their third and final pick of the second round, the Wings took Sproul, who played for Sault Ste. Marie of the Ontario Hockey League.

Cut from his Junior A team in 2009, Sproul made a solid turn-around when in his first OHL season, he led all Greyhounds’ defensemen and rookies in scoring with 14 goals with 19 assists in 61 games.
“Some good things happened for me. My future starting looking good from the middle of the season and everything went up hill from there,” said Sproul, of Mississauga, Ontario.

In the afternoon, the Wings returned to picking big defensemen when they took 6-2 Swede Mttias Backman in the fifth round; 6-4 Richard Nedomlel of Swift Current in the Western Hockey League in the sixth round; and 6-2 Russian Alexei Marchenko.

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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