Welcome to Puck Drop Preview 2019-20, where Last Word on Hockey gives you a detailed look at each team from around the NHL leading to the start of this hockey season and offers our insight and analysis. Make sure to stick around until the end of the series, where we’ll offer our full predictions for the standings in each division, and eventually our 2019-20 Stanley Cup pick. You can check out all our articles on our Puck Drop Page. Our series continues with the 2019-20 Detroit Red Wings.
2019-20 Detroit Red Wings Preview
It was year three of the rebuild and the team was nowhere near contending for a playoff spot. The Red Wings did have some positive months in November and March, but it was a struggle most of the time. Detroit was a mix of veterans that were injured or seemed to past their best days and a younger group that was learning on the job.
The Red Wings defence saw a lot of turnover as Mike Green, Danny DeKeyser and Trevor Daley struggled to stay in the lineup due to injuries. Dennis Cholowski and Filip Hronek bounced between the big club and the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins. Jimmy Howard saw a lot of shots come his way and Jonathan Bernier struggled in his starts.
Injuries plagued the team as no one on the club played the full 82-game slate. Niklas Kronwall appeared in the most games with 79 and Luke Glendenning playing in 78. Detroit really couldn’t build any momentum because they couldn’t put out a consistent lineup.
However, there were some signs of life as Dylan Larkin took a leadership role in place of Henrik Zetterberg. Hronek and Anthony Mantha had strong ends to the regular season that translated over to the IIHF World Championships. Andreas Athanasiou reached the 30-goal mark along with Larkin while Tyler Bertuzzi ended the season with a flourish.
2019 NHL Draft
1- 6 Moritz Seider
2- 35 Antti Tuomisto
2- 54 Robert Mastrosimone
2-60 Albert Johansson
3- 66 Albin Grewe
4-97 Ethan Phillips
5-128 Cooper Moore
6-159 Elmer Soderblom
6-177 Gustav Berglund
7-190 Kirill Tyutyayev
7-191 Carter Gylander
However, the biggest news would be that former Red Wings hero and Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman returned home to take the same position with the club. Longtime general manager Ken Holland stepped aside to let his former assistant GM take over. Holland would eventually take over as general manager of the Edmonton Oilers.
Detroit didn’t make a large splash in free agency, but added Patrik Nemeth, Calvin Pickard and the returning Valtteri Filppula in free agency. Detroit also picked Adam Erne from Tampa Bay via a trade as the Lightning try to shed contracts in order to re-sign Brayden Point.
Yzerman is seemingly going to wait out or try to deal the expiring contracts of Green, Daley, Jonathan Ericsson and Johan Franzen. They’ll also be some decisions about what RFAs will return as Bertuzzi, Mantha, Erne, Athanasiou, Jacob de la Rose, Madison Bowey and Evgeny Svechnikov all could be in line for new deals.
Tyler Bertuzzi-Dylan Larkin-Anthony Mantha
Andreas Athanasiou- Valtteri Filppula-Filip Zadina
Adam Erne-Luke Glendenning-Darren Helm
Extras: Justin Abdelkader, Evgeny Svechnikov, Jacob de la Rose
The top line started to thrive near the end of the season as they showed great chemistry. Bertuzzi was the first Red Wing in franchise history to get four consecutive three point games. Larkin looked the team’s next captain and face of the franchise. Mantha registered a career-high in goals with 25 as he carried that late-season momentum over to Team Canada at the Worlds.
Filppula scored over 15 goals for the first time since the 2013-14 season when he was with Tampa Bay. He’ll slide into the second pivot spot to help guide the young Zadina and the speedy Athanasiou. The wild card is Zadina, as he needs top-six minutes on the team. If he doesn’t impress, he may go down to Grand Rapids. It’ll be similar to what the Nashville Predators did with Filip Forsberg to help nurture his development.
Athanasiou can use his speed and can hopefully continue his scoring pace as the nearly doubled his 2017-18 with a total of 16 goals.
Some projections have Nielsen on the second line, but Filppula just edges him out in this prediction. He’ll be flanked by a pair of wingers that are young and had different 2018-19 campaigns. Hirose came over from Michigan State at the end of the NCAA season and got off to a flying start. Rasmussen struggled and was ultimately sent down to Grand Rapids for development. Many wondered why he wasn’t returned to the WHL Tri-City Americans to finish out his junior career.
There could be some growing pains, but Nielsen has experience and can help them grow if he stays healthy.
Erne could be swapped out Abdeldaker, who is trying to prove he still belongs. Abdeldaker is far from the days of riding shotgun and picking up goals with Pavel Datsyuk. Glendenning was the veteran hand for coach Jeff Blashill over at the IIHF World in Slovakia. Helm is looking to stay healthy and get back to double figures in goals. He could be a decent secondary scoring option if he can stay in the lineup.
Erne is not afraid to mix it up and has been in a few scraps over his short career. He’s also eager to prove that he’s more than just a bruiser and a bottom-six grinder.
Both Svechnikov and de la Rose have had some recent health issues, but could slide into the lineup if needed. The latter would be a decent bottom-six option while the former might provide some speed if he can be healthy.
Danny DeKeyser-Mike Green
Patrik Nemeth-Filip Hronek
Trevor Daley-Madison Bowey
Extras: Jonathan Ericsson, Dennis Cholowski
Both players couldn’t stay in the lineup last season, but can provide leadership. Green can still be a solid puck-moving defenceman that will be the power-play quarterback. The Calgary native could end up being moved at the deadline if the Wings fall out of contention. Green becomes an unrestricted free agent and Yzerman would like to get something for him.
DeKeyser is looking to play a full season for the first time since the 2016-17 season. The team would love to have be the shutdown type of defender to compliment the playmaking Green.
Nemeth is a hard-hitting blueliner that can punish opposing skaters in the defensive zone. He comes over from the Colorado Avalanche and can be a veteran prescence for the team.
Hronek struggled at times during the season, but seemed the flourish late in the season. That carried over to the IIHF Worlds where he was named the top defenceman of the tourney. He’ll be counted on to continue his growth as one the future leaders on defence.
Daley suffered through plenty of injuries and has looked a shell of his former self. He’s still a veteran in the locker room, but he’s showing his age at 35.
Bowey came over from the Washington Capitals and could be a bottom pair gem for the Wings. He has the physical tools to succeed, but needs a shot of confidence. His development time is running out, but he’s got a shot to put it together.
Cholowski can make the team if he has a good training camp. He’s struggled with his confidence as well, but has shown flashes of being a good defenceman. Ericsson is running out of time and will likely be gone at the end of the season if not sooner. Kronwall is also up in the air about a return to the club.
Howard returns for at least one more year as he’s really the only solution at the moment. His stats weren’t the best with a career worst 3.07 goals against average. However, a struggling team will do that to a usually consistent goalie. The Ogdensburg, NY native was rumoued to be dealt last season, but he stayed in Hockeytown.
Bernier looked even worse with a 3.16 GAA and a .904 save percentage. Some thought he’d be a stopgap option if the Wings dealt Howard, but his shaky play prevented that. Now he has to fight off Pickard for the backup job.
Players to Watch
Filip Hronek, Defence
He had a great world championships and was putting it together late in the season. Hronek seemed to enjoy his increased role and minutes. He can provide points and may be a future top-pair defenceman. That could happen sooner if Green is traded during the season.
Filip Zadina, Forward
It’s key that he has a good training camp because he could get sent back to the AHL if he doesn’t. He did struggle with the North American game at times, but was starting to get a better grasp at the end of the campaign. The former sixth overall pick in 2018 needs top-six minutes to succeed and he’ll get them either with the Red Wings or the Griffins.
Zadina has plenty of speed and is a solid goal-scorer. He could be a nice surprise contributor if he can stick on the big club.
Tyler Bertuzzi, Forward
Detroit has had plenty of great scorers, but no one did what Bertuzzi did with four straight games of at least three points. He’s feisty but an add offence to the top line. Bertuzzi is willing to do the little things and his motor is always running. That kind of play will do wonders to a young team looking for direction. He’ll be an RFA at the end of the season and could be in line for a nice contract considering what Detroit will shed at the end of the year.
It’s still going to be a painful couple of years for this team as it tries to get out from under some of the bad deals. Yzerman is a proven winner and is motivated to bring the team back to the glory days of the 1990s and 2000s.
Atlantic Division stalwarts like the Lightning, Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs will slug it out for the division. However, the Florida Panthers, Buffalo Sabres and Montreal Canadiens have made noticeable upgrades.
Detroit may be better, but the division will not lend itself to an improved place. They’ll likely finish out of a post-season spot for the fourth straight year.