What’s The Grind Line? Apart from the once-famous line of Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, and either Joe Kocur or Darren McCarty, The Grind Line is also The Hockey Writers’ weekly column about the Detroit Red Wings. Rachel Anderson, Raymond Harrison, Jake Rivard, and Tony Wolak are the muckers who make up THW’s forechecking unit and sound off on Red Wings topics.
With less than two months until the start of the 2019-20 season, the pace of hockey news has slowly begun to pick up again.
Speculation is in the air across the league. How will the Maple Leafs handle Mitch Marner’s contract? What will the new Seattle team be named? And — most importantly — who will be the next breakout candidate for the Detroit Red Wings?
In this week’s edition of The Grind Line, The Hockey Writers’ Red Wings coverage team will pick the player they believe is bound for a breakout season. Will it be a player that’s been long overdue their big break, or a prospect looking to make a name for himself?
Jake Rivard: Evgeny Svechnikov
While I’ve written extensively about Anthony Mantha’s breakout potential in the past, I think the 2019-20 season will see the rise of a familiar face: Evgeny Svechnikov.
Svechnikov spent the entirety of last season on the injured reserve after undergoing anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction surgery. Svechnikov, now 22 years old, is looking for his big opportunity to become a mainstay on the Red Wings roster. While luck hasn’t been on his side in the past, the 2019-20 season will be his chance to live up to his draft title. Drafted 19th overall by the Red Wings in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Svechnikov was drafted for his accurate shot and awareness on the ice. This year, he’ll finally have his chance to show what he can do.
They say adversity builds character. Svechnikov’s unrelenting urge to push forward through even the toughest of times shows both character and an incredible work ethic. Svechnikov seems determined to earn a spot in the NHL this year. Here’s to hoping all the hard work finally pays off.
Tony Wolak: Filip Hronek
Technically, Filip Hronek broke out at the end of the 2018-19 season. However, I believe he has only scratched the surface when it comes to his talent and on-ice production.
At only 21 years old, Hronek appeared to be headed for a top-four role for the coming season. And considering his output at the 2019 World Championships (11 points in 10 games; named as the best defenseman of the tournament), a strong campaign in Detroit is probable.
It would not be surprising to see Hronek top 40-50 points for the Red Wings, especially if he quarterbacks one of Detroit’s power-play units. In fact, 40 points would be on par with his 2018-19 numbers (0.50 points per game in 46 games). Playing alongside Danny DeKeyser or newly-acquired Patrik Nemeth would ensure Hronek has a reliable, defense-first partner so he can jump into the play when opportunities arise.
More importantly, Detroit needs Hronek to step up and find another level to his game. He’s expected to be one of their top defensemen moving into the future alongside Dennis Cholowski, Jared McIsaac, and Moritz Seider. Becoming a two-way threat on the blue line would do wonders for Detroit’s rebuild.
Rachel Anderson: Joe Veleno
Veleno has done nothing but impress since his draft last season. Drafted in 2018, Veleno returned to the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL after it was decided that fellow draftee, Filip Zadina, would get crack at the pros first.
Veleno couldn’t have made better use of his time in his last season in juniors. He put up an astounding 104 points in 59 games. He tallied multiple multi-point games, some over five points a night. He’s highly competitive, driven, and a workhorse. Entering his rookie pro season, he’s signed to AHL Grand Rapids for 2019-20.
On top of a very well developed intelligence on the ice, the center already has the build that would suit a more elite league. Weighing in at 194 pounds and over six feet tall, he’s got a frame that can handle the physical demands of the NHL.
Though he is assigned to Grand Rapids for now, I believe he will crack the roster of the Red Wings at some point this season. He impressed at last season’s camp, and if he can replicate 2018-19 in the early stages of the upcoming season, Detroit will no doubt give him a serious look.
Raymond Harrison: Filip Zadina
The 2018-19 season was a mixed bag for the talented Zadina. He produced 35 points in 59 games with the Griffins in the AHL and delivered three points in nine games with the Red Wings. The 19-year-old was at his best during a seven-game point streak in February, but he also endured long stretches of inconsistent play throughout the season.
For the 2019-20 campaign, while he may start in the AHL, he’ll own a spot on the roster in due time. He thrives alongside other skilled players, so suiting up on a checking line is out of the question. The Czech sniper would form a formidable, and fun to watch, trio alongside Andreas Athanasiou and Taro Hirose on the second line. He’ll also get an opportunity to assist the Red Wings’ 19th-ranked power play from last season.
The sixth-overall pick from 2018 is still incredibly young, and his game is continuing to develop. Luckily, his lethal shot is NHL ready. When given the opportunity, I fully expect Zadina to succeed as his skillset is the exact infusion of offense that the team needs. The 2019-20 season will see him break out in a big way as the rebuilding Red Wings continue to grow.