Red Wings’ Hronek Presented With Prime Opportunity

The Detroit Red Wings are again facing a pile of injuries. With Danny DeKeyser and Mike Green out of the lineup for several weeks, the team’s AHL affiliate, Grand Rapids Griffins, have been sharing a few players with the big club. Initially, they selected veteran, Brian Lashoff but the Red Wings opted to swap him for prospect Filip Hronek.

Hronek, after nine games in Detroit and accumulating three points on the season, is looking at a prime opportunity to prove himself. The Red Wings have a deep pool of defensemen so if Hronek is going to make a lasting impression, it must be now.

Red Wings Swap Brian Lashoff for Filip Hronek

Lashoff is a ten-pro season veteran with maturity and wisdom on the ice. Selecting him to join the Red Wings, though upsetting and shocking to many, wasn’t unexpected. The “youth movement” was temporarily on hold as Detroit chose an older player (28 years old) over a younger superstar. Lashoff is a key component on the penalty kill and has much more NHL experience, which is likely what prompted the Red Wings to select him.

Brian Lashoff Grand Rapids Griffins
Brian Lashoff, Grand Rapids Griffins, Oct. 2018. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

However, they ultimately made the call to swap Lashoff for Hronek. Hronek was sent back to the AHL earlier in the season to work on this penalty kill game. Hronek has been a top penalty killer for Grand Rapids and is being refined to fill that role at the NHL level. By swapping the two players, the Red Wings seemed to be testing what he’d learned.

Hronek Has a Unique Skill-Set

Defensemen are now required to have a “200-foot game” as they call it – not being limited solely to neutral and defensive zone play. Hronek’s junior career showed that he fit the new defensive mold and possessed the offensive prowess needed.

Coming out of the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit with an incredible 61 points in 2016-17, there are high hopes for the young defenseman. Going by raw numbers, there is no denying that Hronek has the offensive edge that is so coveted in defensemen in today’s NHL. The positional lines between defensemen and forwards have been blurred in recent years, and his style fits into the changing game.

Following his selection in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, Hronek joined the Griffins. In his rookie season, he tied the franchise record (originally set by Robbie Russo) for most points by a defenseman in their rookie season with 39. His speed, agility, and slick puck handling contributed to his scoring chances then and continue to do so now. In 20 AHL games this season, Hronek has tallied 18 points, two are a franchise record of back-to-back, game-winning overtime goals.

Overlooking Joe Hicketts?

A question, or accusation rather, that I’ve heard a few times is: Why aren’t they calling up Hicketts? The answers are never simple and rarely what we want to hear. In this case, it comes down to style and raw numbers.

Joe Hicketts Grand Rapids Griffins Detroit Red Wings
Joe Hicketts, Grand Rapids Griffins, Nov. 2018 (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Hicketts has been a long-time favorite of mine and in most cases, I’ll defend him. He is a penalty killer but not a scorer. He’s got amazing offensive promise and has proven to be one of the best defensemen in Grand Rapids. However, Hronek is being fine-tuned specifically for a penalty kill role, which is what the Red Wings needed this time around. I still believe Hicketts should be Green’s long-term replacement when the time comes but Hronek is better suited for the PK position that’s left open right now.

Hronek’s Prime Opportunity

In only his second full season as a professional, Hronek is looking at a huge opportunity here. He made an impression his rookie season and continues to do so at the AHL level, forcing Detroit to keep eyes on him. Now, he’s on a larger stage for a longer stretch.

The NHL is, of course, a different animal than the AHL, but he has proven he’s capable of keeping pace physically and mentally. With the injuries to Green and DeKeyser considered long-term, Hronek has a long stretch of time to find his niche. It is my belief, that he’ll hit his stride in these coming weeks.

The Red Wings are struggling to find a groove, so now is the time for Hronek to be the hero. His offensive edge is what Detroit needs and he has these few weeks to prove it. He must show that he took their suggestions to heart and made the changes necessary to stay with the Red Wings.