The Detroit Red Wings have had both positive and negative surprises to begin this season. After a rookie-of-the-year season, Moritz Seider has yet to elevate his game and overcome the dreaded sophomore slump. He’s a young player and regression is normal.
If the season were to end today, I would crown Filip Hronek as the Red Wings’ best defenceman. He seems to have left last season in the rearview mirror, and here’s a look at what makes him the team’s top d-man.
Hronek Has Grabbed the Power Play
Hronek has established himself as the top power-play defenceman for the team. Over the past four games, he has averaged 3:50 in power-play ice time and scored two assists. Additionally, in the first 21 games, his average power-play ice time was 2:31 per game with eight points, and Seider’s power-play ice time has been dropping as a result; from 3:24 in the first 21 games to 2:35 in the past four.
Ten of Hronek’s 24 points have come on the man advantage, ahead of Seider, whose four points in 25 games is part of the reason why he’s lost some ice time on the power play. The last time Seider registered a power-play point was on Nov. 19 vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets when he collected two power-play assists. Coincidentally, Hronek scored two goals in that game.
Point Per Game Hronek
Although Hronek’s 24 points in 25 games pace is unsustainable, even with a 20%-30% regression, he would still lead the Red Wings’ blue line in points. He also has 16 points in his last 11 games. Additionally, Seider is sitting at 11 points in 25 games. That’s a 36-point pace over 82 games for a player who had 50 last season.
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Hronek’s never had a 5-on-5 shooting percentage higher than nine percent, but this season, it’s at 11.2%, the highest of his career. It’s not outrageous to beat a career-high by 1.5% during a hot streak, and it’s possible he will maintain that shooting percentage throughout the rest of the campaign.
His secondary assist rate is at 50%. A 50/50 split for assists is an excellent ratio. It suggests that even if Hronek’s shooting percentage cools off, he could maintain his overall point production. Consistency has been the name of Hronek’s game in 2022-23, with a point in every road game this season for 15 points.
Hronek’s Fancy Stats
Hronek isn’t always an analytics darling, but he has been this season. Through the first 22 games, his Corsi for percentage (CF% — the percentage of total shot attempts in the game that are directed at the opponents’ goalie) is 50.87, and his goals for percentage (GF% — the percentage of total goals scored that are going in for that team when that player is on the ice) is 67.86. Hronek leads the Red Wings’ defense in CF% and is second to Jordan Oesterle in GF% (who has only played 12 games in this sample). Conversely, Seider has a 45.02 CF% with a 33.33 GF%. He’s allowing more shot attempts than Hronek, with more goals going in on the Red Wings goalie with Seider on the ice.
Hronek hasn’t faced the same quality of competition that Seider or Ben Chiarot has, but that big dark blue bubble tells me that the role that head coach Derek Lalonde and the rest of the coaching staff have prescribed for him is working. He isn’t playing heavy defensive minutes but is pushing play toward the offensive zone. More importantly, the Red Wings are scoring more when he is on the ice. Seider and Chiarot are tasked with shutting down the best lines from opposing teams and it’s hurting his offence.
Lalonde Impressed With Hronek’s Game
Nothing says defenseman of the year (so far) than a glowing endorsement from your new head coach. Lalonde has said that Hronek has been playing a very assertive game (from “Red Wings’ Filip Hronek Is Letting It Rip and playing the best hockey of his career,” The Athletic, 11/25/22). He sees Hronek’s confidence, and that has been helping him find success. His overall game has been good and he’s been putting himself in these positions to find success. He was touted for his offence when he entered the league and now he’s a rejuvenated version of his past offensive self.
In the above clip, we can see Hronek joins the play, finds a lane to shoot, then blasts a pass into the net for a one-timer goal. If he keeps playing like this, we will see a career year from him.
Hronek has been the top offensive threat from the Red Wings’ blue line, winning the analytics battle with the only positive CF% on the team and the highest GF% among Detroit defencemen who have played at least 22 games. He’s taken over the power play and is producing. He’s played a very assertive game and has been rewarded on the score sheet for it. Hronek is picking up the slack from a slumping Seider and facing this season head on. He has proved his worth as the top Red Wings defenceman.
Caleb has loved watching hockey for as long as he could eat a bowl of ice cream. Over decades this love grew into participating in Fantasy Hockey, first in redraft leagues and eventually Dynasty leagues.
At The Hockey Writers Caleb covers the Detroit Red Wings & Prospects. Additionally he is Junior Editor and Carolina Hurricanes contributor for Dobber Prospects. Caleb started a Substack newsletter that you can find here: https://dynastyprofessor.substack.com/