After an offseason of unprecedented change, the Detroit Red Wings' prospects will be relied upon more than they have been in over a decade to have an impact at the NHL level.
Expectations are high for Brendan Smith and Gustav Nyquist, and if they falter, Detroit's system is laden with talent that may be ready to take a step forward this season. If the offseason has proven anything, it is that the Red Wings have to adapt to a CBA-controlled world in which free agents are less crucial to future success than highly skilled prospects. Luckily for Detroit fans, the farm system is stacked with just that type of player.
1. (1) Brendan Smith, D, 8.0B
Drafted 1st round, 27th overall, 2007
A successful two-year apprenticeship in Grand Rapids (120 games played, 22 goals and 44 assists for 66 points) led to a 14-game stint with the Red Wings in 2011-12. Smith adapted well to the pro game, recording one goal and six assists for seven points and averaging 15:38 of ice time while logging time on the power play. Smith is a top-end talent who should start the season as one of the Wings' top-six defenders and projects to be a top-two defenseman at some point in his career.