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. This week Devin Little, Kyle Knopp, Delaney Rimer and Logan Horn are the muckers who make up THW’s forechecking unit and sound off on Red Wings topics.
The Traverse City Prospect Tournament is drawing to a close, but the Detroit Red Wings won’t be departing Traverse City quite yet. Training camp begins this week and, a week from Tuesday, they will play their first preseason game of the 2022-23 season. Hockey is back, folks!
Now is the time to place your bets on the upcoming season. Who will lead the Red Wings in goals? Who will lead the team in points? Let’s discuss all of these questions and more in this week’s column.
Who Will Lead the Red Wings in Goals?
Devin Little: Jakub Vrana
Assuming Jakub Vrana remains in good health, he should be on track to emerge as a premier goal-scorer in the NHL this season. He has 21 goals in 37 games since joining the Red Wings after the 2021 Trade Deadline, and he has shown the rare gift of being able to make something out of nothing and beat goaltenders from almost anywhere on the ice. Detroit added a lot of offense in the offseason, but he remains their best pure sniper. If all goes well, he could challenge for 40 goals this season.
Kyle Knopp: Andrew Copp/Jakub Vrana
Smart money would be on Dylan Larkin, but I’m going to go with two guys who would have had career years had they stayed healthy last season. Andrew Copp (eight goals in 16 games) and Vrana (13 goals in 26 games) had shortened campaigns but were scoring a goal every other game. If either can keep that up and stay healthy over the course of a 82-game season, they could have a chance to eclipse the 40 goal mark.
Delaney Rimer: Jakub Vrana
I was going to say Larkin, but I might actually go with Vrana. Having him healthy and back on his A-game could make him the top goal scorer this upcoming season.
Vrana’s release is wildly unique and allows him to find the back of the net with ease. I think he is fully capable of having a 35 goal season and wouldn’t be shocked to see him do it in the 2022-23 season.
Logan Horn: Dylan Larkin
Dylan Larkin. I think that the Red Wings’ captain will only continue to improve, and if Lucas Raymond takes another step forward in his development, that will almost certainly translate to more goals for Larkin. I trust him to score about 35 goals more than I trust Vrana just because he’s demonstrated a goal scoring touch in Detroit over a larger sample size. I’ll say he scores 36.
Who Will Lead the Red Wings in Points?
DL: Dylan Larkin
Top centers across the league tend to be the points leader for their respective clubs, and Larkin is no exception. With all the added talent as well as another year of development for Raymond – who rode shotgun with Larkin all of last season – Larkin should be in for a career year this season. An 80-point season is well within reach for the Red Wings’ captain.
KK: Lucas Raymond
Again, Larkin is the most likely candidate to be close to a point-per-game player on the Wings. However, this is the year I think Raymond takes an even bigger step in his offensive production. Paired with guys like Vrana, Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, Copp, and David Perron instantly makes this top-six even better than last year. My bold prediction is that Raymond leads Detroit in points with 85-95.
DR: Dylan Larkin
Larkin would be my pick for the most points. Even if he doesn’t have the most goals, he’s a crucial playmaker in the offensive end and can tally up assists pretty rapidly.
His 2021-22 season was one of his best yet and he looks great going into next year.
LH: Dylan Larkin
I think this is the year Larkin breaks the point-per-game barrier and scores 80-plus points due to his consistent improvement, the all-round improved lineup that he will play alongside, and what will hopefully be a much improved top power play unit. I think he’ll score 84 points.
Who Will Be the Red Wings’ Breakout Player of 2022-23?
DL: Jakub Vrana
Vrana has never scored more than 25 goals and 52 points in a single season. A 40-goal season, as I suggested when I picked him as Detroit’s leader in goals, would certainly be considered a breakout performance. I believe that Vrana is one of the most underrated offensive players in the league right now, and I think he has a real opportunity to put himself on the map this season.
KK: Lucas Raymond
Is it possible for Raymond to “breakout” after the season he produced last year? Barring any type of “sophomore slump,” I expect the 20-year-old to reach another level. I wouldn’t be surprised if, come March, we are discussing whether he will reach triple digits in points.
DR: Lucas Raymond
Raymond definitely had a phenomenal rookie season and there’s no doubt about it, but I think he has the potential to truly breakout next year.
Raymond had the third-most goals, assists, and total points for the 2021-22 season and can beat those numbers if he plays his best more consistently. Being alongside players like Bertuzzi, Larkin, and Vrana more frequently gives him the chance to rack up points and grow his confidence in games.
LH: Michael Rasmussen
Michael Rasmussen is my pick for a player who will breakout next year. In Big Ras’s case, I think a 20-goal, 35-40 point season while playing most of his minutes in the top-nine forward group would be considered a runaway success. He played some of the best hockey of his career in the late stages of last season and I’m betting that he’ll maintain that momentum this Fall. I predict 21 goals and 36 points for Moose.
Where Will the Red Wings Finish in the Atlantic Division
I believe the “big-four” in the Atlantic Division (Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins) are still the big-four until proven otherwise. The Red Wings find themselves in the same place as the Ottawa Senators (one of this offseason’s big winners) and the Buffalo Sabres (who are going to surprise a lot of people this season). Detroit could finish anywhere from fourth to seventh in the Atlantic Division, but I anticipate a learning curve and some speedbumps along the way will keep the Red Wings in the bottom half of their division for one more season.
KK: 6th (Maybe 7th)
While the Bruins and the Maple Leafs are likely to regress a bit from last season, both teams should be in the playoff hunt come April. The Sabres will be strong competition, and unless something crazy happens in Ottawa, the Senators will make a significant jump in the standings. I think the Wings finish sixth or seventh, but only because the division as a whole has become better. Detroit will push closer to 40 wins and a .500 record.
Going to be painfully optimistic and say fifth. I think they have the potential to be a little bit better than last year but it’s splitting hairs on whether they’ll end up in that fifth place spot or stay where they were last year. The Bruins might fall down a fair bit in the division rankings, so the Red Wings have a bit more of a case to make for moving up.
Although that would be the same slot that the Red Wings finished in last year’s standings, I’m not predicting a stagnant season.
The four teams from the Atlantic that made the playoffs last year will be tough to surpass, with a possible exception in the Bruins who will be missing several significant players to start the year due to offseason surgeries. I think Detroit ends the year 85-plus points, which would be a huge improvement upon last season’s 74 points.
Which Goalie Will Lead the Red Wings in Wins: Alex Nedeljkovic or Ville Husso?
DL: Alex Nedeljkovic
Alex Nedeljkovic has a big season ahead of him. His contract is up after this season, and his role as the “1A” in goal for Detroit is up for grabs. He sounded laser-focused on improving on last season’s results when he met with the media following the season, and I still believe he is more than capable of being a dependable goaltender in the NHL.
I think Nedeljkovic and Ville Husso’s win totals will be close, but I think “Ned” is going to surprise some people this season.
KK: Alex Nedeljkovic
Detroit has an exciting tandem this season, and the duo should push each other to play inspiring hockey. With that said, this team was Nedeljkovic’s first and the Red Wings set the stage for it to be his net moving forward. I think Ned and Husso will split close to 50-50, but in the end Nedeljkovic will finish the season with a better record.
DR: Ville Husso
I’d have to think that Husso will have more wins between the two. The tandem will be pretty neck-in-neck in my opinion, but I think he will have a slight edge.
LH: Ville Husso
The St. Louis Blues were not some defensive juggernaut that made Husso look good, but rather a team that got great goaltending and had a lucky offensive season (led the league in shooting percentage and PDO). I think Husso and Nedeljkovic will form a great tandem, but I expect the former to start more games and to win 23 games.
Play along! Share your predictions in the comments section down below!
I am a Western Michigan University alum whose passion for hockey knows no limits. Dr. Pepper enthusiast. Catch me and my fellow Red Wings writers’ YouTube show “The Hockey Writers Grind Line” which drops every Saturday.