In the midst of training camp, the Detroit Red Wings are gearing up for two things: the 2020-21 NHL season and hot take season. This is the latter.
Here are five bold predictions for the 2020-21 season – one that should see the Red Wings begin ascending out of the NHL’s basement.
Filip Hronek: Goal-Scoring Machine
Prediction: Filip Hronek outscores the next five highest-scoring defensemen on Detroit’s roster combined.
Last season, Hronek scored nine goals in 65 games for the Red Wings. Madison Bowey, Mike Green, Patrik Nemeth, Dennis Cholowski, and Trevor Daley combined to score nine goals in that span.
This year, Hronek is going to outscore his blue line teammates, even with more talented players now on the roster.
The 23-year-old defenseman registered 10 goals in 22 Czech games before joining the Red Wings for training camp. He’s essentially in midseason form and should get plenty of looks on Detroit’s top power play.
Outscoring the likes of Nemeth, Cholowski, Jon Merrill, Danny DeKeyser, Marc Staal, and Troy Stecher should be a feasible task for Hronek.
Anthony Mantha Stays Healthy
Prediction: Anthony Mantha skates in at least 90 percent of Detroit’s games.
For the past two seasons, the narrative for Mantha has hinged on his health. “If Mantha can stay healthy, 40 goals…”
This year, it actually happens: Mantha makes it through the season relatively unscathed. Why? He’ll fight less.
“I’m going to try not to drop the gloves, that’s for sure,” Mantha said via Zoom prior to training camp. “Not being engaged is not being in the game, so I don’t think I’m going to take that aspect of my game away.”
The hulking forward missed time the past two seasons after sustaining fight-related injuries. I don’t suspect Mantha can go the entire season without dropping the gloves, but it will occur far less frequently, resulting in an overall healthier season for Detroit’s top goal scorer.
Lackluster Trade Deadline
Prediction: The highest-value asset coming back to the Red Wings at the trade deadline will be a third-round pick.
The Red Wings have 10 players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents (UFAs) this summer, making them prime candidates to be moved at the trade deadline. However, none figure to bring back meaningful assets if dealt.
That’s why I suspect the most the Red Wings will get for Bobby Ryan, Luke Glendening, Patrik Nemeth, or another one of their pending UFAs is a third-round pick. Detroit just doesn’t have another Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, or Andreas Athanasiou to ship out.
Expect Yzerman to move a handful of pending UFAs to open up roster spots for prospects like Givani Smith, Joe Veleno, and Moritz Seider. He should also consider spreading out the draft picks coming back over the next couple of years – whether they’re used to aid the rebuild or trade away for roster improvements.
Don’t get your hopes up for a blockbuster. It won’t happen, yet.
Red Wings Avoid Central Division Basement
Prediction: The Red Wings do not finish in last place in the Central Division.
For better or for worse, the Red Wings will not finish last in the newly formed Central Division. That great distinction will belong to none other than the Chicago Blackhawks, who, once again, will copy the franchise trajectory of the Red Wings.
Kidding aside, the Blackhawks will be without captain Jonathan Toews indefinitely and rising star Kirby Dach for the entire season. They also have unproven goaltending, with long-time starter Corey Crawford now in New Jersey. Basically, it’s the Patrick Kane show for now.
Make no mistake, Kane is an elite talent, but cannot carry the Blackhawks all season. As a result, the Red Wings will jump them in the standings.
Maybe then, the Red Wings can borrow from the Blackhawks’ playbook and get some luck at the draft lottery.
Moritz Seider Makes Early Splash
Prediction: Moritz Seider firmly entrenches himself in Detroit’s top-four.
After his SHL season wraps up, Moritz Seider is going to take Hockeytown by storm. Well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but the up-and-coming defenseman will solidify himself as a top-four blueliner for the Red Wings before the 2020-21 NHL season concludes.
It would not be a surprise to see Seider earn some power play time as well – a role he has stepped into this season in the SHL.
“It’s just nice setting up plays for your teammates, kind of being the quarterback there, just finding the open guy,” Seider told Nolan Bianchi and Ethan Smith of the Locked On Red Wings podcast.
“I would describe myself as more of a pass-first guy. I like (to) open the holes in the defense and open up space for my teammates. Passing over to the one-timer side, it’s always nice. Getting time on the PP, I think that’s what every hockey player’s looking for in their game, and I’m really happy having that chance.”
Power play time or not, Seider will head into the 2021-22 season locked into a top-four role with the Red Wings.