The Detroit Red Wings have missed the playoffs for three consecutive seasons after not missing once in 25 years.
Their front office underwent a big shift this offseason, with former captain Steve Yzerman returning to where it all began and long-time GM Ken Holland departing for the Edmonton Oilers vacancy. Yzerman did a tremendous job building a perennial favourite while he was at the helm in Tampa Bay and will be trying to do the same with the team that he played 22 years with.
His first offseason in Detroit was pretty boring. Yzerman nibbled around the edges, signing veterans like Valtteri Filppula, Patrik Nemeth, and Calvin Pickard. He also went way off the board when he picked defenseman Moritz Seider with the No.6 overall pick when Seider was projected to be a mid-first-round pick. Yzerman’s biggest move of an underwhelming offseason was signing 24-year-old, Finnish defenseman Oliwer Kaski. The undrafted free-agent signed a one-year, entry-level contract with Detroit after leading all SM-liiga defensemen with 51 points (19G / 32A) in 59 games last year. Kaski is a lanky defenseman with tremendous offensive skills but is likely headed to Grand Rapids (AHL) to start the season before likely transitioning to the NHL later in the year.
There are a lot of unknowns surrounding the Red Wings forward group this season. Last year’s No.6 pick Filip Zadina figures to be in a top-6 role this year. Michael Rasmussen should be back in the top-9 after being sent to the AHL late last season. Joe Veleno will likely push for a spot in training camp but ultimately get cut. Taro Hirose had a strong late-season showing after turning pro following three years at Michigan State. Evgeny Svechnikov continues to recover from right knee surgery. That’s five players with NHL aspirations in 2020, but Detroit has a logjam of veterans like Filppula, Frans Nielsen, Justin Abdelkader, and Darren Helm, who offer very little offensively to a team that ranked 21st in goals last year.
Despite all of the uncertainty regarding who will be on the roster come October, one thing is for sure—Tyler Bertuzzi–Dylan Larkin–Anthony Mantha will be their top line.
Dylan Larkin (C)
- — Larkin broke out for 32 goals and 73 points in 76 games last year but still doesn’t seem to be getting the recognition he deserves. The Red Wings were awful last season and he was able to post career-highs and could be a point-per-game player in 2020. Larkin has elite shot volume, which should allow him to score 30 goals again and he has back-to-back 40-plus assist seasons, so that shouldn’t go anywhere either. Pencil in 30-40 when you draft him and know that there is 35-50 upside here.
Anthony Mantha (RW)
- — Mantha was a prolific scorer in juniors but has kind of just plodded along in his NHL career. Mantha has back-to-back 48 point seasons but was on-pace for 31 goals and 28 assists (59 points) but missed 15 games last year. Mantha played 61.2 percent of his 5v5 ice-time with Larkin last season and their possession numbers were extremely impressive (55.9 CF% / 54.36 SCF%) but they were also limited by a 6.03 on-ice SH%. Entering 2020, they should play together almost exclusively and a full 82-game season should lead to 30-30 results for the fourth-year winger.
Tyler Bertuzzi (LW)
- — Bertuzzi started last season with 21 points (9G / 12A) in 39 games while playing just 15:27 TOI/gm. But after January 1st, his ice-time was bumped to 17:44 TOI/gm and scored 12 goals with 14 assists (26 points) in 34 games. That extrapolates to 29 goals and 34 assists (63 points) over a full season. It will be difficult for him to maintain a 16 percent shooting percentage, but his second-half numbers showcase how good Bertuzzi could be in a full season with Larkin and Mantha. He is worth a late-round flier and could be a 60-point player if all goes well.
Andreas Athanasiou (LW)
- — Athanasiou set career-highs in goals (30), assists (24), points (54), shots (216) and PPP (11) in 2019. He oozes with offensive ability but has never been heavily utilized by head coach Jeff Blashill. His upside is somewhat capped because he doesn’t figure to play a lot of time with Larkin, but he should play on the second line with Zadina. If Athanasiou can maintain his shot volume and play on the top power-play, he has a real shot to build on last year’s results.
Filip Zadina (RW)
- — Zadina burned a lot of draft picks last year when he was surprisingly sent back to the AHL to start the 2019 season. He ultimately stayed there almost all year, posting 35 points (16G / 19A) in 59 games as a 19-year-old. Zadina played the maximum nine games without burning the first year of his entry-level contract with Detroit and had one goal and two assists. Without a quality No.2 centre, it could be difficult for Zadina to burst onto the scene in 2020, but he is an excellent keeper/dynasty pick, who’s 2021 outlook is much better.
The Red Wings’ current blueline leaves a lot to be desired but they have a surplus of young defensemen coming up through the system. Both Filip Hronek and Dennis Cholowski are expected to graduate to the NHL full-time in 2020 and that is the first of the youth movement for them. In the system they have a number of defensemen who will be knocking on the NHL door in the near future:
- — Moritz Seider (No.6 pick in 2019)
- — Jared McIsaac (No.36 pick in 2018)
- — Gustav Lindstrom (No. 38 pick in 2017)
- — Oliwer Kaski (Signed from Finland)
- — Antti Tuomisto (No.35 pick in 2019)
Filip Hronek (D)
- — Hronek split his time last year between the NHL and AHL but showcased that he is NHL-ready during his 46 games with the Red Wings. In that time, he scored five goals with 18 assists (23 points) while averaging 19:58 TOI/gm. He quickly earned Blashill’s trust and was on a 42-point pace (9G / 32A). With very little competition for minutes, Hronek should be at the top of the pecking order for 5v5 ice-time in 2020 and he is guaranteed for at least PP2 minutes. He doesn’t boast tremendous upside, but Hronek is a rock-solid No.4 fantasy defenseman.
Mike Green (D)
- — Green enters what will likely be his final season in Detroit and a candidate to be traded to a contender at the deadline. Despite posting solid numbers in his four years in Detroit, Green has missed 55 games the last two years, including almost half of last season. He was on-pace for 50 points, which would make him a must-own fantasy defenseman, but it’s almost guaranteed that he won’t play 82 games. Green is worth a look in the last round or two of your draft as a reserve defenseman because there is upside but there is also tremendous injury risk.
Dennis Cholowski (D)
- — Cholowski was one of the biggest early-season surprises last season and Niklas Kronwall’s retirement sets him up to be a top-4 defenseman this fall. The 21-year-old cooled off after a hot start and finished with 16 points (7G / 9A) in 52 games with the Red Wings. He was eventually sent back to the AHL, where he had 12 assists in 25 games. This is a defenseman who had 66 points (14G / 42A) in 69 games during his only WHL season, so there is offensive upside here. If (when) Green gets hurt, Cholowski will likely be featured on Detroit’s PP1, making him a worthwhile pick-up.
The Red Wings return the tandem of Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Bernier, who together allowed the fifth-most goals against (3.32 GA/gm) and posted the 10th worst SV% (.902) in the NHL. Things could look different next year, with Howard entering the final year of his deal at age-35. Their top goalie prospect, Filip Larsson, is turning pro and joining Grand Rapids this season and could be the guy to take over for Howard next year.
Jimmy Howard (G)
- — Howard is coming off of one of his worst seasons. The veteran netminder posted a career-worst 3.07 GAA and his SV% dipped below .910 for just the third time in his career. In his (and Bernier’s defense) the Red Wings gave up the eighth-most scoring chances against and fifth-most high-danger chances against, so it wasn’t all their fault. Entering 2020, Howard should play a handful more games than Bernier, making him the goalie to own in Detroit. However, there is little to suggest that things will be better in 2020, making Howard one of the more undesirable No.1 options in the NHL. Consider him a No.3 fantasy netminder.
Jonathan Bernier (G)
- — The only reason Howard still started 52 games last year, was because Bernier was even worse. Bernier had a 3.16 GAA and .904 SV% after playing well in Anaheim and Colorado the two years prior. Bernier has a career .913 SV%, so the chances of him putting together a fantasy worthy season on one of the league’s worst teams are extremely low. He’ll be fine for the occasional spot-start but nothing more as long as Howard is healthy.
Projected Scoring Leaders
|D. Larkin (27)||D. Larkin (47)||D. Larkin (74)||A. Mantha (8)||A. Mantha (13)|
|A. Mantha (27)||F. Hronek (30)||A. Mantha (53)||D. Larkin (4)||D. Larkin (12)|
|A. Athanasiou (27)||T. Bertuzzi (29)||A. Athanasiou (49)||F. Zadina (4)||M. Green (12)|
Red Wings in the DFO Top 300
- 68 — Dylan Larkin (C)
- 120 — Anthony Mantha (RW)
- 184 — Tyler Bertuzzi (LW)
- 194 — Filip Hronek (D)
- 198 — Andreas Athanasiou (C/LW)
- 217 — Jimmy Howard (G)
- 242 — Mike Green (D)
- 257 — Filip Zadina (RW)
|3||BOSTON BRUINS||45-28-9||99 PTS|
|6||BUFFALO SABRES||39-36-7||85 PTS|
|7||DETROIT RED WINGS||33-40-9||75 PTS|
The Red Wings are trending in the right direction, their blueline will go from a weakness to a strength in a year and Larkin has developed into a legit No.1 centre. Hiring Yzerman should help speed up the re-build, but they’re still a long way away from being a playoff contender. They’re not Ottawa bad, but they’re probably the second-worst team in the Atlantic Divison this year.