Should Red Wings select goalie in 1st round of 2021 NHL Draft?

Red Wings have 6th overall pick in draft, not advised to select goalie until 2nd round at least

BUFFALO, NY - FEBRUARY 11: A general view of the goalie net used during a game between the Buffalo Sabres and the Detroit Red Wings at KeyBank Center on February 11, 2020 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images) (Timothy T Ludwig, 2020 Getty Images)

My short answer is: No, absolutely not. But I’ll entertain the thought, why not.

The Detroit Red Wings have the 6th overall pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. To throw it away on a goalie, a position that offers such little guarantee in the NHL, would be ill advised. Detroit also has the 23rd overall pick, but even that position is bit high for a goalie pick.

If the Red Wings were situated a bit lower in the 1st round, then perhaps drafting a goalie this time around wouldn’t be such a terrible idea. Goalies Jesper Wallstedt and Sebastian Cossa are making the mock draft lists, but they’re not projected to be selected until at least the 13th pick. And that would be well before the 23rd pick, so we’d have to see what other teams decide to do. A lot of the draft, of course, depends on what other teams’ needs are.

Wallstedt, 18, is being lauded for his skills and confidence at such a young age. He’s a solid 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, and it sounds like he knows how to use his body. Elite Prospects says he “doesn’t mind coming out to challenge oncoming threats” and that “he’ll ramp up the aggression when necessary, but only when the moment calls for it.” He posted a .908 save percentage through 22 games with Lulea in the SHL this past season.

Cossa, also 18, stands 6-foot-6, and we know goalie height has been the trend for more than a decade now. Everyone wants a super tall goalie, right? Cossa is coming out of Canada’s Western Hockey League (WHL) where he posted a .941 save percentage through 19 games played this past season with the Edmonton Oil Kings. He also had 4 shutouts. He played 33 games with the Oil Kings in 2019-20 for a .921 save percentage -- he also had 4 shutouts that season.

It would be a bit of a change if both of them are taken in the 1st round. To have more than one goalie drafted within the top 20 is not a common occurrence in the NHL, and perhaps the potential of this happening this year speaks to the wonkiness of this draft after/during a global pandemic that shut down so many junior, college and minor professional leagues. Scouting staffs definitely have a more clouded view of talent coming into this draft in relation to previous years when they had more access to players and larger, more consistent sample sizes.

Recent high goalie draft picks

Yaroslav Askarov was drafted 11th overall last year by the Nashville Predators. The next goalie taken in the 2020 draft was Drew Commesso at 46th overall in the 2nd round. The Florida Panthers selected goalie Spencer Knight at 13th overall in 2019, and that was a rarity in recent years to have a goalie taken in the top 20. Even Jake Oettinger going 26th overall to Dallas in 2017 was a bit surprising. Carter Hart went 48th overall to Philadelphia in 2016, and Ilya Samsonov went 22nd overall to Washington in 2015. Finally, the first goalie taken in the 2015 draft was Mason McDonald at 34th overall to Calgary.

What do all of these goalies have in common? None of them are stars in the league right now. Hart appeared to be on the right track before suffering a major setback in his third season with the Flyers -- .877 save percentage in 27 games played this past season. And such is the life of many NHL goalies -- one season you’re hot, the next you’re not.

When you draft a goalie these days, prepare to have them marinate for a while in juniors/college/the minors. And even then, who knows if any of them will ever make an impact on your NHL roster.

Recent Red Wings goalie draft picks

The Red Wings have drafted seven goalies since 2015: Jan Bednar (107th overall in 2020), Carter Gylander (191st overall in 2019), Jesper Eliasson (84th overall in 2018), Victor Brattstrom (160th overall in 2018), Keith Petruzzelli (88th overall in 2017), Filip Larsson (167th overall in 2016), and Joren Van Pottelberghe (110th overall in 2015).

Petruzzelli, now 22, is a 6-foot-5 goalie out of Quinnipiac University. He doesn’t have a NHL contract, and it looks like he is heading for free agency, meaning it’s extremely unclear if he will even end up playing in the Red Wings organization. His case either makes you want Detroit to hurry up and draft a better goalie prospect, or scares you away from drafting a goalie so high.

Meanwhile, Larsson and Brattstrom are both on loan to European clubs. They do have contracts with the Red Wings, so we should expect to see Detroit get these two back to North American as soon as possible. Larsson did play 10 games with the Toledo Walleye and seven games with the Grand Rapids Griffins in 2019-20. Brattstrom has yet to play with a North American club.

The Red Wings have two 2nd-round picks in this 2021 draft, so if they really want to draft a goalie relatively high then this would be where to do it -- in the 2nd round.

Filip Larsson of the Denver Pioneers on April 11, 2019 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

History of Red Wings goalie draft picks

While we’re on the topic, I’d like to point out the last time the Red Wings selected a goalie in the 1st round: Tom McCollum at 30th overall in 2008. McCollum is one of three goalies in the history of Red Wings draft picks who was selected in the 1st round -- Jim Rutherford was selected 10th overall in 1969 and Terry Richardson was selected 11th overall in 1973.

Some of the most successful Red Wings goalie draft picks? Chris Osgood at 54th overall (3rd round) in 1991 and Jimmy Howard at 64th overall (2nd round) in 2003. Petr Mrazek was taken 141st overall (5th round) in 2010. Greg Stefan was a 7th-round pick (128th overall) in 1981.

Of course, Steve Yzerman was not the general manager of any of those teams. He’s been known to draft well, even if he says it’s not him it’s his staff doing the actual selections. How about Andrei Vasilevskiy at 19th overall in 2012 for the Tampa Bay Lightning? He’s now the Conn Smythe winner. Yzerman surely would take credit for this pick. Again, even Vasilevskiy wasn’t taken in the top 10.

Red Wings goalie depth right now

On the actual roster right now, Detroit has one goalie: Thomas Greiss. He’s being protected in the expansion draft precisely because he is the only goalie in the organization -- outside of Kaden Fulcher, Brattstrom and Larsson -- with a contract through 2021-22. Jonathan Bernier is an unrestricted free agent, as are Calvin Pickard and Kevin Boyle.

Right now, there is no reason to think Bernier won’t resign with the Red Wings. The team likely will have the same tandem -- Greiss and Bernier -- for the 2021-22 season as it did this past season. Then perhaps we can see someone like Larsson get a look. Maybe Greiss or Bernier gets traded at the deadline (for real this time).

I think the bottom line is: The Red Wings need a better understanding of just how good/ready some of the goalies already in their system are.

📅 Coming up:

  • Wednesday, July 21 -- NHL Expansion Draft
  • July 23-24 -- NHL Entry Draft
  • July 28 -- Free agency begins

Once we get through the expansion draft we move right into the 2021 NHL Entry Draft on Friday.

The Red Wings have the following 11 picks:

Here’s the overall NHL first-round 2021 draft order:

  • Buffalo
  • Seattle
  • Anaheim
  • New Jersey
  • Columbus
  • Detroit
  • San Jose
  • Los Angeles
  • Vancouver
  • Ottawa

View the rest of the picks here.