The sixth edition of my Red Wings prospect profile series examines a defenseman looking to use his size to push his way into the NHL this upcoming season: Ryan Sproul.
Defenseman – Canada – Age 21
6-foot-4, ~205 pounds – Shoots Right-handed
Drafted 55th Overall in 2011 NHL Entry Draft
Career Stats (Regular Season Only)
Strengths / Weaknesses
+ Size, Playmaking Ability, Shoots Right-handed
- Physicality, Strength, One-Dimensional
Ryan Sproul has come out of nowhere to be one of the most interesting prospects the Red Wings have at their disposal. After a breakout first season with the Grand Rapids Griffins this past year, Sproul has jumped up the depth charts and is in a position where he could make a logical case as to why he should be the one to replace Kyle Quincey on the blue line.
Sproul has all the intangibles the Red Wings are looking to add on defense. The most obvious qualities are his large frame and the fact that he shoots right-handed. Both traits helped Sproul lead the power plays for the Griffins and put up solid numbers for a defenseman in his first AHL season (72 games, 32 points). He makes his mark with a powerful point shot and his keen ability to pick out the right pass.
On the downside, Sproul is considered to be offensively one-dimensional. There is nothing special about the way he gets by on defense and he is frequently criticized for not putting his large body to use. Let’s just say hitting isn’t his specialty. For him to make it into the NHL this area of his game must be improved because you can’t be 6-foot-4 and afraid to throw your body around a little bit.
The biggest thing going for Ryan Sproul is how fast he is developing. After three seasons in the OHL, he finally got his chance in Grand Rapids and didn’t waste any time making a name for himself by being named to the 2013 AHL All-Rookie team. Also worth mentioning is that in his time with the Griffins he has already cleaned up some of the issues scouts had “red flagged” about his game which include skating ability and lack of hustle when playing defense. The sky is limit at the moment for Sproul.
- Brent Seabrook (Chicago Blackhawks)
- Shea Weber (Nashville Predators)
- Alex Pietrangelo (St. Louis Blues)
Taking into consideration Sproul’s size and his right-handed shot those are the three players I could see him resembling when full developed at the NHL level. The obvious flaw with these comparisons is that all three of these guys like to hit with authority while Sproul shies away from the contact aspect of the game. With his size you can’t find many defensemen in the NHL that don’t like to dish out the big hits, but a player like Jonathan Ericsson could be considered one of them.
On plus side for Sproul is that Seabrook, Weber, and especially Pietrangelo set a solid benchmark for where his offensive game should be at when it’s all said and done.
RedWingsCentral.com: #4 rated Red Wings’ prospect
Hockey’sFuture.com: Potential #3-4 defenseman
Spot on evaluations in my opinion. Although, RedWingsCentral.com has Sproul rated as the Wings 2nd best defensive prospect behind Xavier Ouellet and I find that debatable. Ouellet is younger and had higher expectations placed on him since he was drafted in the 2nd round in the 2011 NHL entry draft, but Sproul has the distinct size advantage over his fellow countryman and even doubled his point output in the 2013-14 regular season with the Griffins (Ouellet: 70 games, 17 points).
While I will agree Ouellet has the bigger upside, the way Sproul developed over just one season makes the competition between the two a fierce battle to make it to the NHL first.
Whether Sproul ends up in Detroit or Grand Rapids to start the season it’s likely going to come down to his performance in the preseason training camps. With a hole opening up with Quincey likely kicked to the curb, Sproul will at least get a chance, although it’s doubtful he claims that spot because the Wings are probably going to fill that vacancy in free agency before looking his way.
If that’s the case then expect Sproul to be back in Grand Rapids next season. In all honesty, another year with the Griffins would be ideal because it would help him take those final strides in his development.
Other Red Wings’ Prospect Profiles
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