The Detroit Red Wings are halfway through the preseason and currently 3-0-1 in exhibition play. With veterans missing the start of preseason due to the World Cup, combined with a flood of injuries, the youth has stepped up to carry Hockeytown.
Here are some thoughts on the preseason so far:
Brandon Peleshok: The “OMG” Line
Surprisingly, one of the biggest stories halfway through the Detroit Red Wings’ preseason has been the play of their projected fourth line. The trio of Steve Ott, Luke Glendening and Drew Miller have combined for 11 points in exhibition games against the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks.
Certainly, the line is not going to generate that kind of offense during the regular season, but it is nice to see the gritty forwards enjoying themselves and developing chemistry.
Realistically, head coach Jeff Blashill will expect the Wings’ fourth line to employ a strong forecheck and play a physical game. In addition, and without labelling him an “enforcer”, Ott will do his part to keep the opposition honest when the need arises. However, in the event that the line is able to chip in offensively, they have already established a unique celebration:
General manager Ken Holland received his fair share of criticism when he decided to retain Miller and sign a 35-year-old Ott during the offseason, which is understandable. Many Red Wings fans are eager to see the likes of Andreas Athanasiou, Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi make their way onto the 2016-17 squad. Right or wrong, the perception is that members of the team’s fourth line are taking up roster spots and preventing that from happening. For now, let’s just enjoy three grinders who are firing on all cylinders, and having plenty of fun on the ice.
Jacob Messing: Riley Sheahan
Riley Sheahan finished the year strong, scoring seven goals and 12 points in Detroit’s last 22 games. His 14 goals scored last season was a career high.
Blashill announced his plans to return Darren Helm to the third line center role, flanking him with Sheahan and most likely newcomer Thomas Vanek. Vanek has yet to appear in the preseason after he and Team Europe went to the finals against Canada at the World Cup, while Sheahan and Helm have seen time together with Gustav Nyquist.
Alongside Helm, Sheahan has scored two goals and added an assist through two games. He has increased his goal totals in each of his two and a half NHL seasons, scoring 9 in 42 games (2013-14), 13 in 79 games (2014-15) and 14 in 81 games.
Drafted 21st overall in 2010, not many first-round picks cap off at 14 goals or Sheahan’s 2014-15 career-high 36 points. He has shown flashes of brilliance in his 204 NHL games but often puts defense first as a strong two-way player.
The 6-foot-3, 222-pounder has the frame and ability to be a power forward for years to come. Still just 24, Sheahan’s best years are ahead of him and moving to the wing this season could benefit him tremendously.
In two preseason games, he has flown up and down the right side of the ice and was easily the best player in Detroit’s 2-1 overtime loss to Boston on Friday night.
Sheahan’s potential for a breakout year looks more and more likely, especially when the highly-talented Vanek joins his line full-time.