This summer has been a busy one for the Detroit Red Wings. So much so, that it feels like the highly prosperous 2018 NHL Draft took place while Pavel Datsyuk still amazed Hockeytown with otherworldly moves.
Now, the organization is just about ready to kick off its annual NHL Prospect Tournament, with training camp and the preseason soon to follow. Before you know it, the Red Wings will be taking on Columbus in their home opening on Oct. 4.
But before the season kicks off, a few lingering questions remain for the Original Six franchise. In this week’s edition of The Grind Line, The Hockey Writers’ Red Wings coverage team dives into those uncertainties surrounding the organization.
Confident in the Red Wings’ Rebuild Direction?
Tony Wolak: Yes
Since Pavel Datsyuk called it a career, Ken Holland has acquired a slew of draft picks, which he used to select a diverse array of players. And apart from Frans Nielsen, the Red Wings haven’t signed any veterans to contracts with durations longer than four years. It’s clear that the Red Wings are trying to get younger, but will not be offering hand-outs. This competitive environment will help breed a hungry generation or two of players to guide Hockeytown into the future.
Rachel Anderson: Yes
Holland has been in the organization for more than twenty years. You don’t get the job of GM by accident and you don’t keep it because you’re doing an “OK” job. Holland’s plan has been in the works as far back as 2015, but really became public in the last season.
A developmental process like this has never been a favorite of the fanbase. However, it’s the surest way of guaranteeing long-term talent. The true success of the developmental phase won’t be fully known till the 2019-20 season, but so far I believe that Holland has been the picks and steps necessary.
Jacob Messing: Yes
Drafting and developing are more important than ever. Over the past two drafts, Holland has accumulated additional picks via trade, bringing in 21 total players – three full drafts in two years.
Holland’s success at the 2018 NHL Draft was even more encouraging. He snagged Filip Zadina, Joe Veleno, Jonatan Berggren, and Jared McIsaac, among six others. The consensus was that all four were higher picks than where the Red Wings selected them. Holland now has a plethora of talent to develop and hope a future NHL star (or two) are among them.
Where Should Filip Zadina Play Next Season?
Tony Wolak: Grand Rapids
Ideally, Filip Zadina will show enough to make the Red Wings out of training camp, play nine games, and spend the rest of the season in Grand Rapids. By doing this, the 2018 first-round pick’s entry-level contract will slide a year and save the future Red Wings some cap space.
With the Griffins, Zadina will have a chance to adapt to the rigors of a long professional season and play top minutes against quality players. Additionally, it’s likely that the organization would allow the Czech sniper to participate in this winter’s World Junior Championships, much like how Boston let David Pastrnak do the same in his draft-plus-one season.
Rachel Anderson: Grand Rapids
Zadina has been painted to be the hope of the Red Wings since his selection in the draft. Like most of the young guns, I think he’ll start in Grand Rapids. But if he’s the top talent he seems to be, he’ll easily earn a roster spot in Detroit. Training camp will determine quite a bit in terms of who the Red Wings will add to the roster from the Griffins.
Cap space has been a recurring issue for Detroit, so they will make moves in order to protect as much of that as they can. Zadina being in Grand Rapids would ensure that his salary doesn’t impact the Red Wings to the fullest extent. While spending time in the AHL, as Tony has mentioned, it will also give him time to adapt. He may be a fantastic player, but he’ll need a little bit of time to get his feet wet in regards to the training and playing intensity.
Jacob Messing: Detroit
He’s been advertised as a pure goal-scorer, something the team has desperately lacked since the days of Marian Hossa. Should he prove he’s got the makings of a star in his rookie season, he would go a long way in selling the future of the team when Holland inevitably goes free agent shopping next summer, a list with some notably large names on it currently.
As Tony mentioned above, nine games should be enough to see how he’s holding up against the best in the world. If he’s not ready, a weak start to his career wouldn’t be the worst thing, but would only further motivate the already confident kid.
Will Henrik Zetterberg Return?
Tony Wolak: No
Rachel Anderson: No
Jacob Messing: No
Better stock up on tissues for the inevitable announcement.