Detroit Red Wings: Exploring the Cupboards

 

Record-Eagle/Jan-Michael Stump

By Rhys Richards (@RREsq)

The Detroit Red Wings face several potential changes this off-season. While the organization waits for Nicklas Lidstrom’s decision to return and considers signing some players in free agency, Detroit should be comfortable as it assesses its new found depth.

Recently, one of Detroit’s second round picks in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, defenseman Ryan Sproul was selected as one of six finalists for the Ontario Hockey League Defenseman of the Year. Sproul was selected 55th overall by the Red Wings. He stands 6’3” and carries a rather slight 186 pounds.

While the favorite to win the award is Boston Bruins’ product Dougie Hamilton, who was drafted 9th overall in the same draft, Sproul played extremely well for a mediocre Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and was third in team scoring in only his second season in the OHL.

Hamilton and Sproul are joined by three other 2011 draftees. The other nominees include Ryan Murphy, the star of the Kitchener Rangers and the 12th overall selection by the Carolina Hurricanes, Scott Harrington, the London Knight blueliner and 54th overall selection by the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Frankie Corrado, the most penalized of these nominees from the Sudbury Wolves and the 150th overall selection by the Vancouver Canucks.

2012 draft-eligible Codi Ceci rounds out the six nominees. Ceci contributed 60 points for the surprising playoff darling Ottawa 67s.

Sproul scored 23 goals for the Soo, the most of any of the nominees. Of those 23 goals, Sproul scored eight on the power play, which was third most on the team. The budding prospect known for his heavy shot added 31 assists. Sproul was the only defenseman to end the season in the top ten of scoring for the Greyhounds. He tied Ryan Murphy for third in scoring by defenseman in the league.

More importantly, he improved his plus-minus to plus-16, a full plus-26 better than the negative-15 he posted last season. That statistic is that much more impressive considering the Greyhounds last place finish in the West Division and second to last in the Western Conference of the OHL.

In fact, Sproul led his team and was one of only six players who posted a positive plus-minus. The Greyhounds allowed 272 goals against while only scoring 224 goals.

Sproul, who started as the seventh defenseman for the Soo last season, has come a long way. His hard work last season saw him shoot up the Central Scouting rankings from the 124th North American skater at the midterm to 54th on the final chart. The Mississauga native played for Team OHL in the Subway Super Series earlier this season.

Sproul is currently vying with Xavier Ouellet, a fellow 2011 second round pick chosen 48th overall, for the team’s top defensive prospect behind Brendan Smith. Unlike Ouellet, Sproul has something that Detroit lacks: a right-handed shot.

Ouellet is one of the nominees for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Emile Bouchard Trophy presented to the league’s top defenseman. He scored 21 goals and added 39 assists for 60 points in 63 games, including 44 points in his final 35 games while captaining the surprising Blainville-Boisbriand Armada to the QMJHL’s third playoff seed.

While Sproul is likely to see several more seasons of seasoning before he dons the winged wheel, he took the first step towards that dream when he signed an entry level deal at the end of March.

Statistics, schedules, and other information obtained at http://leagueittous.blogspot.ca/2012/04/ontario-hockey-league-dman-of-year.html and http://ontariohockeyleague.com, and www.soogreyhounds.com.     

Share your thoughts about the NHL, the Detroit Red Wings, and hockey in general with Rhys at Twitter: @RREsq.  He can be reached via email at RhysJRichards@gmail.com.  Join the many fans of The Hockey Guys on Facebook and Twitter @TheHockeyGuys.

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