Dobber's offseason fantasy hockey grades – Detroit Red Wings
For the last 12 years over at The Hockey News, I have reviewed each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint and graded them. Now that I am no longer with THN, my 13th annual review will appear here on DobberHockey. This is not a review of the likely performance on the ice or in the standings, but in the realm of fantasy hockey.
Impact of changes – The coaching style changes, though by most accounts Blashill's style is similar to Babcock's. So until we see different let's assume status quo. All coaches have their 'pets' though, so whichever young player catches his favor and maybe didn't have Babcock's, would be at an advantage.
The biggest on-ice change is adding Green. This hurts the young defensemen hoping to make the team, but it also hurts Niklas Kronwall. Kronwall posted 0.37 points-per-game after Zidlicky arrived last season, and he had 0.61 points-per-game before that. I'd expect a similar impact thanks to Green. Kronwall just isn't needed in an offensive capacity as much anymore. Adding a puck-mover like Green will also help the young starts make their mark. Stars such as Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist and to a lesser extent Tomas Jurco, Riley Sheahan and Teemu Pulkkinen.
The Richards signing just replaces Weiss, except Richards is cheaper, healthier and offers more playoff experience. Obviously a win on all counts.
Ready for full-time – There are lots of players close to NHL readiness, but only a couple of roster spots on defense. In fact, of the players I'll list in this section I would expect seven of them to get into at least a handful of games this year – but only two of them sticking from start to finish.
First, the aforementioned two. Pulkkinen is probably going to make the team or get called up early enough to get into at least 65 games. This is a deep squad, but also an injury-prone one so there will be no shortage of opportunities. Pulkkinen is embarrassing the AHL at this point – 61 points in 46 games last year. Sending him back there is pointless.
The other likely regular is defenseman Xavier Ouellet, who has impressed team brass with his poise and maturity. Although Ouellet showed some offensive promise in junior, he is more of a stay-at-home guy. So don't expect the big points.
And now for the prospects who are looking at anywhere from five to 35 games in the NHL this season. Without including the following players, Detroit already has 14 forwards and eight defensemen:
– Landon Ferraro led the AHL in shots last season with 205. As a depth winger, he did not look out of place in three games with Detroit.
– Tomas Nosek is an undrafted Czech signed by Detroit a year ago. His first AHL season saw him post 34 points in 55 games and plus-30, while contributing to both special teams. He'll get some cups of coffee with the big club.
– Larkin is possibly the best prospect in Detroit's system. But he turned 19 on July 30! There is no need to rush him, but he's so good that he may get a few games with the Wings late in the season.
– Andy Miele led Grand Rapids in scoring with 70 points in 71 games. He also signed a one-way contract with Detroit, though it's for the NHL minimum and thus could be buried in the AHL easily. Still, he's worth noting.
– Defenseman Brian Lashoff has already played 117 NHL games, but he's a victim of the numbers game. Still only 25, he shouldn't be counted out completely.
– Alexey Marchenko, a 23-year-old blueliner from Moscow, Russia, has a great combination of size and skill. He looked solid during 13 games with the big club a year ago.
I wasn't going to list Anthony Mantha here, but figured I'd get asked about him so I'll just say – he's probably not going to see time with Detroit this season, unless they just want to expose him to a game or two. He needs to dominate with Grand Rapids first. Last year he had too much going on, what with injuries, transition to pro, hype and expectations.
Fantasy Outlook – As always, Detroit continues to do reasonably well in the league and they continue to successfully run their conveyor belt of prospects into their system. That reliability counts for something, as poolies don't like it when an entire NHL team tanks unexpectedly. Last season they finished 10th in league scoring and second in PP% (23.8). Lots to like, and just a great looking farm system too.
Fantasy Grade: B+ (last year was B-)