More so than any other season of the Detroit Red Wings’ rebuild, it seems like almost anything could happen during the 2022-23 season. The roster received a face-lift in free agency, and there’s even a new head coach to provide a new perspective from behind the bench. Factor in the growth (or regression) of the team’s youngest players and rookies, and you’ve got a team that projects to be a bit of a wild card in the Eastern Conference this coming season.
But what are some of the wildest things that could happen this season? Here are three hot takes about the Red Wings’ upcoming season:
1. Red Wings Have Up to 5 Rookies on Their Roster at Some Point
Most of the chatter surrounding the Red Wings last season was about their two rookie sensations: Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond. Those weren’t the only rookies in Detroit’s lineup however, as both Joe Veleno and Alex Nedeljkovic also played a consistent role for the Red Wings in what was their rookie season as well. Entering the 2022-23 season, the Red Wings should see their prospect pool continue to pour into their roster over the course of the campaign.
The expectation is that Simon Edvinsson, their top pick in the 2021 draft, will push hard for a roster spot in training camp as there is a viable path for him to make the opening night roster. If only one rookie plays for the Red Wings this season, it will be him. However, there are a handful of other prospects that also look poised to make their NHL debut at some point this season.
Jonatan Berggren, a 2018 draft pick, is coming off of a record-setting season in the American Hockey League with the Grand Rapids Griffins. He’s the most-likely forward prospect to make his NHL debut this season. Elmer Söderblom, a 2019 draftee, is coming off of a highly-successful season in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) and could provide size and offensive skill to the Red Wings’ bottom six. On defense, Donovan Sebrango has put a lot of people on notice with his play for Team Canada during the 2022 World Junior Championship. Also, Albert Johansson arrives in North America this season after leading all U22 SHL defenders in points last season.
To be clear, it is highly unlikely and probably outright unrealistic to expect all of these prospects to make the opening night roster. Edvinsson and Berggren will get every opportunity to make it happen, but if it doesn’t happen right away, injuries will almost certainly play a factor for the Red Wings this season, and when they do pop up, they’ll have plenty of young reinforcements ready to make an impression in Detroit. That’s why it is very possible that at some point during the season, the Red Wings will have a handful of rookies on their roster at one time.
2. Alex Nedeljkovic Out-Performs Ville Husso
When looking at Nedeljkovic’s 2021-22 campaign, you gain a lot more insight by looking at it in segments rather than as a whole. Prior to the All-Star break, he was 13-13-5 with a goals-against average (GAA) of 2.90 and a save-percentage (SV%) of .911. Following the All-Star break, the wheels fell off in a big way – he posted a 7-11-4 record, a 3.88 GAA and a .887 SV%. His strong play coincided with when the Red Wings looked like they could be THAT team that came out of nowhere to grab a playoff spot. Naturally, his weak play coincided with the Red Wings descending back into the cold, familiar territory of the bottom of the standings.
Thomas Greiss did not do much in the backup role to support or push Nedeljkovic, so on the second day of the 2022 NHL Draft, general manager Steve Yzerman struck a deal with the St. Louis Blues that sent 27-year-old goaltender Ville Husso to Detroit. Husso was then promptly signed to a three-year deal that carries a cap-hit of $4.75 million. The Finnish goaltender impressed last season after he stole the Blues’ starting role away from Jordan Binnington. His game came crashing back down to Earth during the playoffs, allowing Binnington to reclaim his starting role. Husso now has the opportunity to steal a starting role yet again, this time from Nedeljkovic.
Nedeljkovic is on the final year of a two-year pact he signed with the Red Wings after Yzerman acquired him from the Carolina Hurricanes during the 2021 offseason. Not only will the 26-year-old be playing for his next contract, but he’ll be playing for his starting role in Detroit as well. Despite all the new faces, Nedeljkovic knows most of his teammates already, and he’s already stated his disappointment in how this past season went.
“My job is to stop the puck. Obviously, I didn’t do it enough this year,” Nedeljkovic said. “We were (second-to) last in the league in goals against. Obviously, that’s not good enough. It will be better. I’ll just tell you that right now. We’re not going to be in this position next year. If nothing were to change from how the season ended to next year, I’m not going to allow that to happen again. I hold myself to a certain standard and I didn’t meet that standard this year. Let’s just put it simply — it’s not going to happen again.”
While Husso should perform well for his new team, Nedeljkovic sounds like a man on a mission, and that should bode well for his 2022-23 season.
3. Yzerman Acquires Another 1st Round Pick
The Red Wings should be a factor in the playoff race for most, if not all of the 2022-23 season. This is a team trending in the right direction, and “Hockeytown” is understandably excited because of it. However, in a stacked Atlantic Division, Detroit seems unlikely to grab one of the three guaranteed playoff spots, and the race for the two wild card positions will be an intense battle that will feature teams from both the Atlantic and Metropolitan Divisions. Simply put: the Red Wings could have a playoff-caliber team and still not quite be good enough to end their playoff drought.
This is where a forward-thinking GM like Yzerman will be pressed to make the hard but necessary decisions required to build this team up as a perennial playoff-contender once the drought ends.
Despite the Red Wings’ free agent frenzy, the plan continues to be drafting and developing players for future success. The 2023 draft is already labeled as one of the best of this century so far, with Connor Bedard standing atop the draft class as the prize every non-playoff team hopes to get their hands on. The talent runs deep with this draft class, and teams selecting in the 10-16 range will likely add prospects that would have been top-10 picks in this year’s draft. Savvy GMs of teams that aren’t legitimate playoff threats will accept reality and put their team in a position to add as much talent in the 2023 draft as possible.
That is why Yzerman will deal a big name (or two) at the 2023 Trade Deadline in order to acquire an additional first round pick in the 2023 draft. Names like Tyler Bertuzzi, Filip Hronek and others will likely float around sites like this as the Red Wings look to offload a big piece in exchange for an extra first round pick. Not only will this move add more premier draft capital, but it will make room for some of those prospects discussed in the first hot take. The Red Wings already have one of the deepest prospect pools in the NHL, and the 2023 draft presents perhaps their last opportunity to add cornerstone pieces to their organization before the focus shifts to chasing a championship.
Red Wings Must Be Bold This Season
For the Red Wings to have a successful 2022-23 season, they need to assert themselves as a team and as individuals. This means core players like Seider and Raymond taking another step forward as individuals. This means prospects like Edvinsson and Berggren arriving in the NHL and making an immediate difference. And it also means winning games that they were not able to win last season. They don’t need to make the playoffs this season, but they do need to show that things are on the right track and that the days of pain will be over within the next two or three years.
And that timeline is anything but a hot take.
What are your hot takes for the Red Wings 2022-23 season? Share them in the comments section down below!