The Red Wings’ eighth draft pick: Making the case for Marco Kasper

With the 2022 NHL Draft just weeks away, this is the first in a three-part series in which we’ll be pleading for three different prospects to be the Red Wings’ eighth overall pick. In the lead, the Austrian center Marco Kasper.

The basics

Kasper is a 6-foot-1, 187-pound center who plays for Rögle in the SHL. He also played in Sweden’s J20 league – in which he had 13 points in 12 regular season games and three points in a playoff game – but most of his 17-year-old season was played against men. He had 11 points in 46 regular season games, but stepped up his offense in the playoffs, where he had six points in 13 games. According to Elite Prospects, that number is the highest ever by an U18 player in the SHL playoffs, and trails only Kevin Fiala and Rasmus Dahlin per game among those who have played at least five games.

An Austrian-born player who joined Rögle’s academy in 2020, Kasper averaged just under 12 minutes per game for the league’s No.1 seed last season, although that number has increased in the playoffs over 14 minutes.

Corey Pronman ranks Kasper as his No. 9 player in this draft, with NHL average ratings for his puck skills, skating and hockey sense, and an above NHL average rating for his competition.

The case to choose it

Despite being selected in the top 10 in the last five drafts, the Red Wings still haven’t drafted a top-six center since beginning their rebuild.

Detroit tried in 2017 with Michael Rasmussen — who started to hit his stride late last season but still projects himself more as a third-line piece — and in all honesty, their recent record at the top of the draft seems pretty solid. Defender Moritz Seider and winger Lucas Raymond made their debuts last season and look like cornerstones. Defender Simon Edvinsson could be next.

Moritz Seider. (John E. Sokolowski/USA Today)

But the central position is one of the most difficult to acquire among the top six talents outside the top of the draft. At some point, the Red Wings will finally have to use another premium pick to try and fix the problem. And in Kasper, they have the potential to marry that need with one of the best players who should be available at their No.8 pick.

Kasper’s speed and competitiveness jump on the tape when watching him. It has an engine that never seems to stop. Even playing in the SHL playoffs at 17 this year, he was able and willing to fight against men.

“He’s still working,” Rögle chief executive Chris Abbott said recently. “He’s competitive, on the puck all the time. He is very good around the net and likes to get into difficult areas of the ice and he is not afraid of anything. »

Kasper has played on the wing this year as a pro, which is not uncommon for young players, but has played center with Rögle’s J20 side and is expected to play in the middle (at least some) of the season next in the SHL. His action in the junior league was limited due to his role with the pros, but Abbott noted that Kasper naturally had more puck touches and was able to attempt more “tough offensive plays” against the younger competition while maintaining a professional attitude.

But most of his action came against the pros, delivering a stiff test. Abbott praised Kasper’s maturity in this situation, and on the ice, even in the tenser atmosphere of the playoffs, Kasper didn’t shy away from being physical. It’s a strength of his game, and something the Red Wings need more of at the NHL level.

“He loves to compete,” Abbott said. “He’s going hard. It is in no way inappropriate. I think he actually suffered a lot of abuse in situations that I give (credit) to him for coming back and keeping his cool. I think he will continue like this whether he wears a face shield or not.

That might help explain his increased production in the playoffs, but Abbott further pointed to Kasper’s development throughout the year to explain the increase.

“I think that’s what you like to see is that this kid can continue to develop,” he said.

It continued at the World Championships, where Kasper showed his more skilful and creative side against the best competition – including an assist against the United States.

Especially if that aspect of his game continues to progress – and it’s worth noting that that help has come against some of the best competitors Kasper has faced all year – then he becomes even more appealing. But already, the appeal of a big, fast and competitive center player who can play with skill and score around the net is significant.

The remaining questions

Kasper’s skills suggest he will be an NHL-level offensive player. But if there’s a question surrounding it, it’s simply how a lot offense.

By being a fast, fearless center who can win low and has also shown the ability to make more creative plays, there’s a good chance he can produce enough to be a second-line center. His performance in the SHL playoffs against the men is good evidence that will translate to high leverage hockey as well. If there’s a potential compromise for his highly projectable toolbox, it’s simply if there are enough dynamic elements in his game to become a possible top center.

And that’s a valid question for Detroit to consider, given that most iconic championship teams in recent memory had multiple high-caliber centers on their roster. Those who didn’t usually had an elite number 1. Some, like the Penguins, had both.

If Kasper ends up becoming a 40-55 point player, will that be enough to be the second line center for a Cup contender? That’s a valid question, though it’s worth noting that in terms of raw point production, the Lightning — who are about to start their third consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearance — currently have a center second line whose career high is 43 points. would be Anthony Cirelli, who makes his impact thanks to a good amount of goals scored but also to a defensive game of Selke caliber. The Lightning’s elite array of talent makes this a somewhat unique circumstance, however, with Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos also on the roster and capable of playing center (Stamkos and Cirelli have both flexed on the wing at various moments so both can play in the top six when Point is healthy).

This year in the Finals, the Lightning will face an Avalanche team whose second-line center Nazem Kadri is having a stellar 87-point season at age 31 – despite having only had one other season in the game. above 55 points in his career. Meanwhile, Pronman compared Kasper to the Panthers’ Sam Bennett – who just had a career-high 49 points and was the second-row center for the Presidents’ Trophy winners this season.

The question about the ultimate offensive cap is valid regardless, as there will be prospects with a more obvious scoring advantage likely available there. But especially if the Red Wings believe Kasper can ultimately produce in that 50-point range while still getting good results both ways down the middle, that’s still very appealing.

And it’s at least possible, thanks to his work ethic, Kasper pushes that ceiling even higher.

“One thing he’s really good at is wanting to improve and knowing how to improve,” Abbott said. “His willingness and ability to improve is exceptional.”

(Top photo by Marco Kasper, in white: Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

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