The Detroit Red Wings defence has been through a lot this season. Constant injuries have forced several younger players to step into the lineup. Head coach Jeff Blashill has shuffled some of the younger defenders like Dennis Cholowski and Filip Hronek to Grand Rapids of the AHL to give both sustained playing time and boosts of confidence.
Mike Green’s latest bout with a liver virus has made the Red Wings recall Hronek from the minors and he will get plenty of chances. Detroit is out of contention for a playoff spot and the team’s youth will be evaluated with extended ice time. Hronek will be one of these players given a chance to see if he can be a long-term solution on the blue line for the Red Wings.
Filip Hronek & His Up-and-Down Season
The 21-year-old has spent time between the AHL Griffins and the big club. He’s shown flashes of brilliance at times but has also struggled with turnovers and trying to do too much. However, Green’s latest health issues are forcing Blashill to use Hronek and the newly acquired Madison Bowey a lot more.
The former second round pick has shown that he can make plays. He fired in both goals to give Grand Rapids a 2-1 victory over the Manitoba Moose on Feb. 7. Hronek has been one of the best scorers for the AHL club with seven goals and 16 assists for 23 points in 28 games.
He was recalled nine days later and the team was planning on playing him extensively the rest of the season. The Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic native has seen his ice time go up exponentially in the last few games. He averaged over 22 minutes per game prior to Tuesday’s game at the Colorado Avalanche. That number went up to a career-high 27 minutes in the 4-3 overtime loss. Hronek’s increase in ice time can be attributed to when Nick Jensen was sent to the Washington Capitals at the trade deadline.
Tuesday’s game will be remembered mostly for Filip Zadina’s first NHL career goal. However, Hronek provided the assist on the blistering one-timer on the power play. The assist capped off an effort where the younger defenceman seemingly took the next step in his career.
Detroit is still looking for a big-time defender in the vein of Nicklas Lidstrom that is versatile on both ends of the ice. Hronek has a long way to go, but he has thrived with the increased responsibility as of late.
A Familiar Blue Print
The last three years have seen Detroit struggle and it looks like the team will miss the playoffs again. However, there are some positives to take as players have laid the groundwork for their careers. Dylan Larkin started his path to becoming the face of the franchise two seasons and Tyler Bertuzzi showed last season that he can be a solid role-player.
The jury is still out on Filip Hronek, but he’s showed plenty of promise. There will be times where he makes a rookie mistake or goes through a dry spell. Fans need to remember that patience is the key. Detroit’s youngsters have to show that they can take the reins from the veteran blueliner. Cholowski had a great start to the season, but he slowed down and was sent back to the AHL to get some time and confidence.
Time will tell if Hronek can be a staple of a rebuilt Red Wings defence. However, he’s embracing his increased role in the last month of the season.
DETROIT, MICHIGAN – FEBRUARY 26: Filip Hronek #17 of the Detroit Red Wings looks to head up ice in front of Paul Byron #41 of the Montreal Canadiens during the first period at Little Caesars Arena on February 26, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)