During the end of last season, the Detroit Red Wings’ top line of Tyler Bertuzzi, Dylan Larkin, and Anthony Mantha worked wonders, all achieving career highs in 2018-19. On paper, the top line of Bertuzzi-Larkin-Manthaseems to be a lock. They’ve played together multiple times in the past and seem to have each other’s styles figured out. Having said that, Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill is notorious for shifting and blending lines at a moment’s notice.
Today, we’ll be taking a closer look at the Red Wings’ top line for the 2019-20 season and who could slot into each role. Whether it’s an up-and-coming prospect or a tried-and-true veteran, Blashill will need to consider all options as he evaluates the efficiency of the Red Wings’ roster next season.
The Red Wings’ 1C Is Already Decided
Blashill has his work cut out for him when choosing a top-line center. As of right now, the Red Wings’ best center (and player) is Dylan Larkin. With four seasons of professional experience under his belt, Larkin has begun to shoulder the majority of the leadership responsibilities after the departure of Henrik Zetterberg. Larkin is a phenomenal player, leading the Red Wings last season with 32 goals and 73 points. Looking at his advanced stats indicate that players on Larkin’s wings were immediately elevated to a higher potential. Players that remained on Larkin’s line saw more offensive opportunities and high-scoring chances every time they set foot on the ice.
If Blashill wants to see Larkin’s point totals skyrocket, he’ll need to be paired with elite, high-scoring wingers. Players like Mantha, if he remains consistent, can serve as an excellent boon for Larkin. Having said that, a player like Bertuzzi can serve as a support winger, taking some pressure off of him to make more plays. Bertuzzi’s hardworking, gritty play style seems to work wonders with Larkin’s high-flying skating, allowing them separating defenders as the top line feasts on the scoring chances.
Tyler Bertuzzi’s Potential on the Left Wing
During the beginning of the 2018-19 season, Bertuzzi was logging bottom-six minutes, working alongside players like Thomas Vanek and Frans Nielsen to improve his overall game. In a mere matter of months, Bertuzzi was pushing his way to the top line, logging hard, heavy minutes alongside the Red Wings’ best.
He’s not the flashiest of forwards, nor is he renowned for his skill with the puck. Bertuzzi is a hardworking, gritty player, able to put up points while simultaneously aggravating the opposition with his hard hits and take-no-prisoners style of play. He’s one of the most entertaining players to watch on the Red Wings’ roster, and his versatility will be a boon for the team for years to come.
Bertuzzi’s role on the left-wing allows the rest of the line to breathe easy as he strong-arms the opposition into opening up the scoring lanes. He serves as a proverbial Swiss Army knife on the Red Wings’ top line. No matter where he’s needed, he’s ready to fill the role. This makes him an absolute asset alongside Larkin. Barring any breakout seasons from a prospect like Filip Zadina or Joe Veleno, the left-wing seems to be a lock with Bertuzzi at the helm.
Who Will Fill the Right Wing?
While Mantha’s performance should indicate that he’s earned top-line minutes, he’ll need to prove he can withstand the strain of the season as he gears up to become a difference-maker in Detroit. Mantha is a winger with the potential to score 30+ goals; he’s shown it on multiple instances, sniping in shots from just about any angle. He frequently found himself jumping between the first and second line in the 2018-19 season, often demoted due to his inconsistency with scoring and playmaking. If Mantha hopes to remain on the Red Wings’ top line, he’ll need to work on his consistency.
If Blashill decides that someone else would be better suited to play alongside Larkin, a high-scoring, energetic young winger like Zadina may get his chance to shine. The 2018 sixth-overall pick is poised to join the roster this season. Barring any injuries or surprises, it seems more than likely that Zadina will make the roster. If he outshines his expectations, he could challenge Mantha for his top-line role. Since Zadina has experience playing on both the left and right-wing, he could also challenge Bertuzzi for his spot; the thought of a Zadina-Larkin-Mantha line should make any Red Wings fan excited.
The Red Wings’ 2019-20 Top Line: An Outlook
Coach Blashill has a lot to consider for the 2019-20 season. From new general manager Steve Yzerman’s free agency signings to the up-and-coming prospects within the organization, the future seems as complex as it is bright. Fans wouldn’t be faulted in assuming that Blashill will roll with the Bertuzzi-Larkin-Mantha line for their consistent success, but, knowing his unpredictability, surprises should be expected.
What do you think the Red Wings’ top line will look like next season? Let us know in the comments!