While eight teams continue to duke it out in the NHL playoffs, the focus of many Red Wings fans lies on the state of the 2017-18 roster. With the team missing the playoffs for the first time in 25 seasons, general manager Ken Holland has his work cut out for him this summer.
Though he could seek help via free agency or the trade market, it’s more likely that he will look to improve from within. Holland has already stated that he expects two or three Griffins on the Red Wings’ roster at the beginning of next season. While anyone in the organization has a chance to impress management during training camp, some roster hopefuls have a better chance to make the team than others heading into 2017-18.
Though other names within the Red Wings’ organization carry more weight with the fan base, Tomas Nosek probably has the best chance to lock down a roster spot of all players named on this list. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound forward plays a strong two-way game and has steadily improved over his three seasons with the Griffins. He finished the regular season with 41 points through 51 games and has three points through three games in the AHL playoffs.
The team moved Steve Ott, and it’s fair to assume Drew Miller’s time in Detroit is over. Nosek is an ideal candidate to take over on the Wings’ fourth line. Barring management looking for help elsewhere, it’s a safe bet that the Czech-born forward will find a spot on the team’s opening-night roster next season.
Another candidate who could jump into a bottom-six role with the Red Wings is forward Tyler Bertuzzi. While Nosek has more experience than the 22-year-old, Bertuzzi has more upside. He would start on the team’s fourth line, but he has the potential to grow into a complimentary winger on a scoring line. He notched 37 points through 48 games with the Griffins this season and co-leads the team in playoff scoring with four points. Though Nosek likely has the inside track for a spot on the Red Wings’ bottom-six group of forwards, Bertuzzi could force himself into the conversation with a strong outing during training camp.
Svechnikov’s name is the most popular on this list of roster hopefuls, and for good reason. The 2015 first-round pick, arguably, has the most potential of any player in the Red Wings’ pool of prospects. Through 74 games with the Griffins, the 20-year-old forward collected 51 points. He is also currently leading the team in playoff scoring – along with Bertuzzi – with four points through three games.
Svechnikov’s inexperience is likely the only thing holding him back from taking a roster spot next season, as Holland likes his prospects “overripe” before they join the main roster. But missing the playoffs this season, coupled with an impressive training camp from Svechnikov could change management’s stance.
Robbie Russo making the 2017-18 roster is largely dependent on what happens with the team’s current defense corps. The Wings already have seven blue-liners under contract heading into next season, but some have health issues (Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson), while others have failed to impress management (Ryan Spoul).
The 24-year-old defender followed up his impressive 2015-16 campaign by scoring 32 points in 58 games this season, and he could find himself on the team’s 2017-18 roster under the right conditions.
Much like Russo, Jared Coreau’s chance at making the roster next season depends on what Holland does this offseason. Petr Mrazek had a rough season, but remains the Wings’ goaltender of the future, leaving Jimmy Howard as their $5.2-million dollar insurance policy. It’s unlikely the Las Vegas Knights will select the veteran goaltender in the expansion draft this summer, but Holland could look to the trade market if he wants to shed Howard’s cap hit.
Coreau split his 2016-17 season between the NHL and AHL. He played well in Grand Rapids (33 GP – 2.33 GAA, .917 Sv%), but struggled during his time with the Red Wings (14 GP – 3.46 GAA, .887 Sv%). Despite his issues, Coreau’s waiver-exempt status runs out next season, so the team will need to make room for the 25-year-old netminder or risk losing him on waivers.
I am a writer from Windsor, Ontario who has covered the Detroit Red Wings for The Hockey Writers. I have had the pleasure of doing so since February of 2015. Previously, I have written about Red Wings prospects for Hockey’s Future. I am always up for chatting about the Red Wings and hockey in general, so leave me your comment and/or tweets. Follow me on Twitter at @BrandonPeleshok.