Red Wings: 4 Reasons for Optimism

Watching a rebuilding team can be tough.

Seeing a team give their all only to come up short on big nights is a demoralizing experience for fans and players alike. Despite a series of tough losses on their most recent road trip, the Detroit Red Wings (and their fans) have a lot to be optimistic about. Players are developing right on track, general manager Steve Yzerman seems confident in his roster moves, and a few players are bound for big years in the NHL.

From forwards gaining confidence to defensemen standing out among the crowd, here are a few reasons for Red Wings to remain optimistic through the 2019-20 season:

Roster Development Is Right on Track

If you haven’t had a chance to look at the Grand Rapids Griffins’ roster this season, check it out now. Names like Filip Zadina, Joe Veleno, Moritz Seider, and Michael Rasmussen are just a few among an incredibly deep prospect pool in the Red Wings’ AHL affiliate. The Griffins are bound to be an AHL powerhouse this season while young up-and-comers develop into the NHL stars they’re bound to become.

Filip Zadina Grand Rapids Griffins
Filip Zadina, Grand Rapids Griffins, Nov. 2018 (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Among these players, it’s likely that one or all of Rasmussen, Veleno, Zadina, and Seider will earn a few games in the NHL as the season continues. In light of Adam Erne’s injury, Evgeny Svechnikov was called up to replace his spot on the roster. Svechnikov, now 22, appears ready to cement his role on the roster for the long term. His audition will come on Oct. 22 against the Vancouver Canucks. Tune in to see his first NHL game since the 2017-18 season, where he put up four points in 14 games.

Filip Hronek Is the Team’s Best Defenseman

The Red Wings are barely through the start of the season but it’s become abundantly clear that Filip Hronek is the team’s best defenseman. He rarely makes mistakes, combining his high hockey IQ with a wide range of defensive ability to take on top minutes against tough competition. At just 21 years old, the best is yet to come. He’s still learning how to withstand the rigors of a full NHL season, but he seems poised to shoulder the burden of a top-pairing defenseman for the forseeable future.

Red Wings defenseman Filip Hronek
Red Wings defenseman Filip Hronek (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

Hronek’s offseason saw him develop his game even further, becoming a more relaxed player as he gains confidence on the ice. Playing alongside defensive defenseman Danny DeKeyser has given Hronek more opportunities to experiment with what works and what doesn’t. He and fellow draft-mate Dennis Cholowski will likely have a variety of opportunities to learn from players like DeKeyser as they grow into their game in the future.

Anthony Mantha Is Relentless

It goes without saying that the Red Wings’ top line is one of the deadliest in the league. The combination of Tyler Bertuzzi, Anthony Mantha, and Dylan Larkin make a lethal threat whenever they enter the offensive zone. Of all the players on the Red Wings’ roster, Mantha seems the most likely for a breakout season. He seems passionate, driven, and determined to continue the success he saw from the World Championships with Team Canada, where he scored a jaw-dropping 14 points in just nine games. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him top his goal and point totals this season.

Barring any injuries, it seems incredibly likely that Mantha will score at least 30 goals this season. He’s got all the tools needed for success — speed, strength, and a howitzer of a shot — and now he’s got the opportunity to put it all together. At just 25 years of age, he has entered the prime of his career and he’ll likely be looking to cement his name on the Red Wings’ roster for the years to come. With six goals and 10 points on the season already, he’s off to a great start.

Yzerman Isn’t Afraid to Take Risks

We’re only a month into the season and Yzerman has already pulled the trigger on several trades and roster moves. In the last three weeks alone, he’s traded David Pope for defenseman Alex Biega, waived long-time Red Wing Jonathan Ericsson, and called Svechnikov up to earn his spot on the roster. These moves, while minor on paper, show the bold stance Yzerman has taken with the team. If players aren’t able to produce, he’s not afraid to ship them off. Consequently, if they show they’re ready for an increased role, he’ll make sure they’re given all the opportunity they deserve.

Alex Biega Canucks
Alex Biega is the most recent player acquired by general manager Steve Yzerman. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This active approach to roster management contrasts greatly from former general manager Ken Holland’s approach. Where Holland preferred to play it safe with prospects, Yzerman seems unafraid to throw them into the fire to give them a chance to succeed. Defenseman Cholowski seems to be a lock after ousting Jonathan Ericsson from his spot on the blue line. Svechnikov, who has shone bright in Grand Rapids, has been called up to play for Detroit. All signs point to change with the Red Wings; and all change is thanks in part to Yzerman’s management.

Watching a rebuild can be tough, but a little optimism has never hurt anyone.