No team in the NHL is more patient (or slow, if you prefer that word choice) with their prospects than the Detroit Red Wings, making sure they get more than enough time to develop in the American Hockey League before they get thrown into the the NHL for what is usually a contending team.
With the team on its way to its first non-playoff season in 25 years, it seems like this might be a good time to maybe get a look at what some of their kids, including 2015 first-round draft pick Evgeny Svechnikov, can do down the stretch. But it’s not likely to happen, especially after 30-year-old Ben Street was recalled ahead of Tuesday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens instead of one of the team’s younger prospects.
Coach Jeff Blashill talked about the decision to not go with a younger player, via Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press.
“The one thing with the younger prospects is, this is a situation where a guy may or may not play,” Blashill said. “And you sure don’t want a guy’s first NHL game and potentially fly parents in and then they don’t play. So that’s one thing we are very cognizant of.
“Two, probably just as importantly, with younger prospects, and I have been in this situation, lots of times they are way better off just continuing to focus on playing down there and developing rather than the roller coaster ride of up and down and up and down. So that is something we stay very cognizant of.”
Blashill also added that having success in Grand Rapids and potentially a playoff run down there is something the organization values. Clearly.
Svechnikov is playing in his first year of pro hockey in North America and has had a pretty successful year for the Griffins, scoring 17 goals to go with 23 assists in 62 games while showing consistent improvement over the course of the season. But it’s probably not going to get him a look in the NHL this season.
This, of course, is nothing new for the Red Wings because other than Dylan Larkin who made last year’s roster as a teenager, the organization has consistently kept their top prospects in the minors for as long as possible. Anthony Mantha got his first real look with the team this season at the age of 22 after spending two full seasons in the AHL. Gustav Nyquist didn’t become a regular in their lineup until he was 24 even though he had been a dominant scorer in the AHL, averaging more than a point per game over several seasons.
On one hand, the Red Wings have been pretty good when it comes to player development over the years, and given their usual status as a playoff team and contender developing prospects at the NHL level was never a top priority. And there is also something to be said for not rushing a prospect and burning a year of an entry level contract before you have to. But given how valuable young, cheap talent is in a salary cap league, and how many teams are getting impactful performances from those types of players, there is also something to be said for being a little more aggressive when it comes to calling up younger players and getting them a taste of the NHL.