The Detroit Red Wings used to be the model of consistency that other teams would strive to be, but now they find themselves as the hunters and not the hunted.
After 25 consecutive years of making the playoffs, the Red Wings have now missed the postseason in back-to-back years. In three years under head coach Jeff Blashill the Red Wings are tied for 26th in the NHL with 104 wins. Detroit is in a clear rebuild, but they have assembled some really nice pieces through the draft and will look to get back in the hunt in the next few seasons.
➕ Jonathan Bernier (Free Agency)
➕ Thomas Vanek (Free Agency)
➕ Filip Zadina (Draft)
➕ Joe Veleno (Draft)
➕ Harri Sateri (Free Agency)
It was a fairly quiet offseason for the Red Wings, who return a very similar forward group to the one they had in 2017-18. The only big additions they made up front was signing veteran winger Thomas Vanek and drafting Filip Zadina and Joe Veleno in the first round of this summer’s draft. Zadina seems like a lock to make the team out of training camp, but Veleno is a little less likely. However, Veleno was projected to go No.5 overall at this point last year and dropped all the way to No.30 for Detroit. Another NHL hopeful is the 2017 No.9 overall pick Michael Rasmussen, who dominated the WHL last season. Both he and Zadina could immediately step into top-6 roles in Detroit and could have some fantasy value early-on.
All of those young forwards join a forward group that is led by fourth-year centre Dylan Larkin. With Henrik Zetterberg forced to step away from hockey with back issues, Larkin will be called upon to carry this team every night. The 22-year-old is another former first-round pick that is coming off of 67-point (16G / 47A) season. He will likely spend the majority of his time with Anthony Mantha, who has 30-30 upside coming into his third full NHL campaign. Yet another former first-round pick, Mantha compiled 158 points (81G / 77A) across 81 regular season and postseason games in his final QMJHL season. Andreas Athanasiou has had his minutes limited under Blashill, but he could take on a much larger role with Zetterberg out. Athansiou is capable of playing centre and could be called upon to anchor that second-line behind Larkin.
Surrounding this youthful bunch are veterans like Gustav Nyquist, Frans Nielsen and Vanek. Depending on who makes the team out of training camp, most of their veterans could end up playing bottom-6 roles, which bodes well for the development of the Red Wings’ future.
While there is a lot to get excited about as a Red Wings fan, they lack the top-end talent to compete with the Lightning, Maple Leafs and Bruins in the Atlantic Division.
Detroit has one of the worst bluelines in the NHL but they do have some promising prospects waiting for their turn. The issue is that past-their-prime defenders like Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson and Trevor Daley are plugging up spots on the roster.
After a strong rookie season, Danny DeKeyser has taken step backwards since and the three aforementioned veterans would be borderline third-pairing defensemen on most NHL rosters.
Their one quality veteran, Mike Green, will miss the start of the season. Green is battling fatigue and the Red Wings are sending him to specialists to pinpoint what the issue is. With Green out, two of the Red Wings’ defense prospects will make the roster out of camp. The early favourite is 2016 first-round pick (No.20 overall) Dennis Cholowski, who has been a standout during the preseason. Cholowski has good size (6-foot, 200 lbs.) and excellent mobility. The 20-year-old finished his 2018 WHL season with 14 goals and 52 assists (66 points) in 69 games. The other three prospects fighting for a roster spot are Filip Hronek, Libor Sulak and Joe Hicketts. Hronek was one of the best defensemen in the AHL last year, Sulak had 32 points (9G / 32A) in 42 games in Finland’s top league and Hicketts is the only one with NHL experience. None of them will have fantasy value in 2019, but lend some hope to Red Wings hopefuls.
Between the pipes is the only position where the Red Wings won’t feature one of their prospects this season. After trading Petr Mrazek last year and letting Jared Coreau go this summer, Detroit signed veteran Jonathan Bernier. The 30-year-old has posted solid numbers in the last two seasons, ranking tied for 23rd in SV% (.914) and tied for 25th in GAA (2.67). Both of those rates are solid for a backup, but Bernier will likely split the goaltending duties with long-time Red Wing Jimmy Howard. The 34-year-old has been slightly better than Bernier during that two-year span, tying for 19th in SV% (.915) and 22nd in GAA (2.61).
This duo should provide Detroit with more steady goaltending than they’ve had in the past and each guy has shown the ability to go on long stretches of strong play. However, they are risky from a fantasy perspective because of the blueline they play behind.
|Anthony Mantha (30)||Dylan Larkin (45)||Dylan Larkin (66)||Filip Zadina (9)|
|Filip Zadina (25)||Thomas Vanek (30)||Anthony Mantha (59)||Anthony Mantha (8)|
|Thomas Vanek (22)||Anthony Mantha (29)||Filip Zadina (52)||Thomas Vanek (5)|
Red Wings in the DFO Top 300
- 96. Dylan Larkin — C27
- 143. Anthony Mantha — RW27
- 162. Mike Green — D43
- 171. Filip Zadina — LW26
- 211. Jimmy Howard — G35
- 223. Jonathan Bernier — G36
- 246. Gustav Nyquist — RW50
- 271. Andreas Athanasiou — LW43
- 283. Michael Rasmussen — C60
- 294. Thomas Vanek — LW49
Predicted Atlantic Standings
The Red Wings are building towards a bright future but they still lack the premier talent to battle with the ‘beasts of the East.’ Detroit could add another top-5 pick to their system next summer though and should be battling for a playoff spot in the next few years…once they start shedding some of these bad contracts and opening spots for their top prospects.