With rookie camp over and the first preseason game fast approaching, Red Wings fans all over are excited to get a glimpse of a slightly revamped team for the first time in game action. For a team that is nearing the pinnacle of a long rebuild, the preseason is an excellent preview of the season that is to come on many levels. It’s perfect to try out new things you wouldn’t do in the regular season, give rookies and prospects a chance to shine, and get that game ready mentality against opponents you can go all out against. For anyone tuning into Detroit’s preseason games, here are a few things to keep an eye out for.
- Emerging Prospects
One of the most exciting things in preseason games is seeing how prospects fare at the NHL level for the first time. While the games are a great way for veterans to get their legs under them again, they are just as important for the prospects as it’s a chance for them to not only get a taste of the big time, but to allow them to fight for a spot and show off what they can do. Notable prospects to watch throughout Detroit’s preseason games include Moritz Seider, Lucas Raymond, and Jonatan Berggren. All three of these guys played in the SHL last year and all of them impressed. Seider, who has consistently been the highest ranked of the three, won the SHL award for top defenseman, and has been compared to the likes of Victor Hedman and even Nick Lidstrom. Watch to see how he meshes with NHL defenseman, going from the top his former league to being an untested rookie brimming with confidence and potential. Aside from Moritz Seider, Lucas Raymond is Detroit’s most prominent asset. In the prospect tournament in Traverse City, he stood out amongst everyone else, scoring multiple goals from all over the ice. Raymond has yet to see action against NHL level players and seeing how he fares in preseason could lead to a big chance for the young Swede. For Raymond more than most other prospects, this is not just a chance to show off what he can do, it’s a legitimate chance for him to make the big club. To do so, he will have to make a big splash, having to earn his spot instead of it just being handed to him to let him gain experience in the NHL, something Steve Yzerman is adamant on doing for all prospects. Lastly, Jonatan Berggren is coming off a fantastic season in the SHL that saw him in elite company. Berggren put up 33 assists through 45 games as a 20 year old, something that had only been done by three previous players: Elias Pettersen (Vancouver Canucks), Henrik Sedin (former Canuck), and Henrik Zetterberg (former Red Wing). This feat saw him skyrocket to the top of many analysts’ radars as a top prospect in the NHL. Unfortunately, Berggren was hurt in a game in the prospect tournament and his status remains uncertain going forward in preseason. Should he play, he should make a significant impact with his incredible playmaking ability. Other notable prospects to keep an eye on are Joe Veleno, Chase Pearson, Kirrill Tyutayev, and Donovan Sebrango.
- New Players
At the start of every NHL season, each team’s locker room is filled with new faces. After a decent off season filled with numerous moves, the Red Wings are no exception to this. Some of the more notable players include former Chicago Blackhawk forward Pius Suter, who scored his first NHL hat trick (including his first NHL goal) against Detroit last season, and former Carolina Hurricane goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic, who was a finalist for the Calder trophy last season. Another notable player is former New York Islander defenseman Nick Leddy, a veteran defender who won the Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2013, who many people are projecting to be partnered with upcoming prospect Moritz Seider as a mentor. Other additions include former Tampa Bay Lightning forward Mitchell Stephens and Luke Witkowski (can play both defense and forward), former Arizona Coyote defenseman Jordan Oesterle, and former Anaheim Duck forward Carter Rowney. How these players will fit in as Red Wings remains to be seen but their performances in preseason should be a decent indicator of things to come.
- Revamped Offence
One of the places Detroit has struggled with the most over the past few seasons has been producing offensively. Last year, they were led in goals by Adam Erne, who scored only 11 times over 45 games. Granted they were down top players like Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi the majority of the season, but that’s no excuse for the lackluster performance. With those top guys back in the lineup, a hopefully healthy Jakub Vrana (possibly out to start the season with a shoulder injury), and the addition of Pius Suter who was a rookie standout with Chicago last year, expect to be seeing a lot more offense going forward. Look for a possible breakout season for former first round pick Filip Zadina as he is coming off the heels of his first full NHL season. As for preseason, these guys are hungry to go out and score some goals, so seeing game action for the first time in a long time should inspire them to go out and show what they can do. Even if it’s not blowing teams out of the water, gone are the days of consistently putting up 1-2 goals night in and night out.
- New Lines/Injuries
One thing preseason is awesome for is the testing of new line combinations and don’t be surprised when the Red Wings do just that. With plenty of players at their disposal and a coach known for testing out every line combination under the sun, Red Wing fans should be prepared to see speed dating-esque line switching happen. Pius Suter, who previously played with Robby Fabbri and Tyler Bertuzzi on the Guelph Storm in the OHL could be on a line. Should Jakub Vrana be cleared to play, expect to see him on a line with Filip Zadina and Dylan Larkin. Another possible line combination could see Adam Erne, Givani Smith, and Mitchell Stephens filling out Detroit’s fourth line. On the back end, Danny DeKeyser supporting Fillip Hronek, could see some action. Veteran mentor Nick Leddy could be paired with rising star Moritz Seider. Marc Staal and Troy Stecher could continue their strong defensive pairing from last year or could see themselves potentially paired with new partners in an attempt to find an even stronger combo. The combinations are near endless, and Steve Yzerman will no doubt tinker with them until he finds the lines that will see the most success come regular season.
- Special Teams
If you followed Detroit at all last year, you are probably aware that their special teams were anything but special. Their power play was abysmal, finishing in 30th place in the NHL with a depressing 11.4%, scoring only 17 goals over 149 power plays. Their penalty kill was only slightly better than their powerplay, finishing 22nd in the league, killing off 78.7% of their penalties giving up 33 goals over 155 penalty kills. These numbers could start looking better real soon, thanks in part to the departure of Dan Bylsma (the former special teams coach) and the addition of his replacement, Alex Tanguay. Tanguay is looking to utilize new pieces like Jakub Vrana, Pius Suter, and Nick Leddy, as well as healthy Detroit veterans like Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Robby Fabbri, to jump-start their power play out of the basement of the NHL. As for their penalty kill, with a strengthened blueline thanks to additions like Leddy, Jordan Oesterle, and the inevitable debut of Moritz Seider, plus new goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic should see the kill grow even stronger than it was last season. Wings fans should be excited to see these new pieces working in the preseason for the first time as there is less pressure when it comes to killing a penalty or trying to drive while on the power play. It allows the guys who will be working special teams in the regular season time to ease in and reacclimate to what is normally a high pressure situation in a game.