For the first time in 25 years, the Detroit Red Wings didn’t have a partner when the music began to play for the annual post-season dance. Most everyone agrees that this was inevitable and ultimately a good thing, allowing the franchise to restock the prospect shelves with some higher-ranked draft picks.
Those shelves aren’t completely barren though, in addition to a couple of young guys already making a difference on the roster, there are a couple others knocking on the door. Their AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, won the Calder Cup this year, which will continue to pay dividends with the big club, as winning only strengthens an organization.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say the future is bright for the Red Wings, but it’s far from bleak. Time will tell how long it will take to get back to consistent contender status.
A disappointment to Red Wings fans and fantasy owners alike, Larkin suffered the proverbial sophomore slump, dropping from a surprising 45-point rookie campaign to 32 points in his second season.
He started the season playing with Henrik Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist, but as the season progressed, he ended up with Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader, finding success further down the depth chart.
Larkin finished the season with 13 points in his final 20 games, a 53-point pace, even with a six-game pointless stretch in there. He answered the call to play for Team USA at the World Championships, recording 10 points in eight games, second on the team to Johnny Gaureadu’s 11 points.
A true breakthrough season will only come when Larkin receives more than second team power-play minutes. One thing working in his favour is that this season will be a contract year. I’m marking him down for at least 50 points this season.
Mantha registered an incredible 57 goals and 120 points in 57 games during his final season of junior hockey. Also that year, he led Canada in scoring at the World Junior Hockey Championship with 11 points in seven games, two points more than Jonathan Drouin and seven points better than a 16-year-old Connor McDavid.
The next two years were spent learning the professional game while all the pundits tried to explain why Mantha was a fantasy bust, failing to remember that many big (tall anyway) players typically take a little longer to adjust to the NHL as they grow into their bodies. After two AHL campaigns of 33 and 45 points, Mantha made the jump to the big time this past year with 36 points in 60 NHL contests and 10 points in 10 AHL games.
Will Mantha fall to the sophomore slump as Larkin did, or will he be able to build upon a nice rookie campaign? We’re just starting to scratch the surface of the 22-year-old’s prodigious offensive ability. Motivation won’t be an issue as his entry-level deal is up after this season.
Another less than anticipated showing is in the books for Nyquist. The slick Swede logged first unit power-play minutes, averaging 2:49 per game, yet only had nine points with the man advatnage. In his final 35 games this season, Nyquist recorded 30 points, which was an encouraging 70-point pace.
The question is, can he score at a 70- or even 65-point pace over a full season? In his last three years, he’s recorded 54, 43 and most recently 48 points. Aim for 55 points and hope the soon to be 28-year-old winger can put it all together in 2017-18. The talent is there.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Hard to believe that back in 2008-09, Green scored 31 goals and 73 points in only 68 games. He followed that season with a 76-point effort, then ran into some injury trouble, playing in only 49, 32 and 35 (of 48) games. Green played two more years with Washington, recording 38- and 45-point seasons.
In his first two years with Detroit, Green has scored 35 and 36 points — underwhelming for a defenseman with a $6 million cap hit. He did lead the team in ice time, averaging 23:33 minutes per contest, nearly two minutes ahead of the next Red Wing. His 14 goals also tied him for seventh most amongst NHL defensemen.
In the first 40 games of 2016-17, Green recorded 24 points, a 49-point pace. Why do I think that there is still something left in the gas tank of a player who will be 32-years-old in October? Two words, contract year. I could easily see 45-points this season.
Bertuzzi is going to be in the mix for top-nine minutes this season. He finished his junior career with 43 goals and 98 points in 68 games. In his first professional campaign, he managed 30 points and 133 penalty minutes in 71 contests.
The 22-year-old recorded 37 points in 48 AHL games this season, but with fewer penalty minutes (37) than the previous year. Bertuzzi had a stellar playoff run this year with 19 points in 19 matches, garnering the Jack A. Butterfield trophy as the most valuable player of the AHL playoffs.
Will that translate into success at the NHL level? We’ll have to wait and see, but leading a team to a championship can only increase his confidence heading into training camp.
The Red Wings selected Svechnikov with the 19th pick in the 2015 entry draft. After concluding his junior career with 32 goals and 79 points in 50 games, the talented 20-year-old recorded 51 points in 74 AHL games. His 62 penalty minutes suggest that he won’t be pushed around. He also contributed to the Griffins successful Calder Cup run with 12 points in 19 AHL playoff matches
Unless Svechnikov has an incredible training camp, it’s difficult to see him cracking the lineup for good this fall. Detroit is still notoriously slow in bringing up their players before they are ready for prime time, so another year of seasoning is likely in the cards.
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