Evgeny Svechnikov stood on the ice, smiling as he took in the scene.
“You feel like a champion,” he said. “That is all.”
The Grand Rapids Griffins completed an impressive journey to the 2017 Calder Cup championship this past week, going 15-4 en route to the title. The Detroit Red Wings should benefit from the success of their top development affiliate, but the potential for incoming help is limited in scope.
Svechnikov, 20, tops the list of prospects who helped the Griffins win. He’s a first-round pick, 19th overall, from the 2015 draft. Skilled and driven, he’ll play in the NHL, maybe as soon as next season. He showed tremendous growth this past season, reaching 20 goals, and contributed 12 points in the playoffs.
Tyler Bertuzzi, 22, is another forward who could make the Wings as soon as next season. He also has a bright NHL future. He’s a gritty winger with an instinctive knack for getting open.
After those two, the list of Griffins who may make the Wings better in the near future gets sparse. Tomas Nosek, 24, is a big, defensively responsible forward. He’ll probably make the Wings out of camp, no longer waiver-exempt, and he could make a nice fit as the fourth-line center. Forward Martin Frk, 23, intrigues because he has a blistering, right-handed shot, but standing out at the AHL level is no guarantee a player will perform similarly in the NHL (Teemu Pulkkinen and Tomas Jurco are recent examples of that).
Goaltender Jared Coreau, 25, looked impressive at times during his nearly three-month stint with the Wings this past season, which included two shutouts, but his play faltered as the time between starts increased, and that’s something he’ll need to address because playing backup would be his role in Detroit.
The Calder Cup champs did not include what the Wings need most: A high-end defenseman. Of the defensemen who played in the playoff run, Robbie Russo, 24, who played 19 games for the Wings this past season, was inconsistent. Filip Hronek, 19, moves the puck well and is a good skater, but he has to get bigger and stronger (he only got into two of the Griffins’ playoff games). Joe Hicketts, 21, is undersized and only has one year of pro experience.