The Detroit Red Wings were among the worst teams in the NHL last season. After a bevy of moves in the offseason, here are some BOLD predictions as to how the team will perform this year.
1. Team Captain Dylan Larkin Will Lead the Team in Scoringhttp://gty.im/1431551246
Ok, let's start off with one that is not exactly bold but will be a key to the Red Wings' success in 2022-23.
Dylan Larkin has done nothing but perform since arriving in the NHL. Now the captain of the Detroit Red Wings, he led the team in scoring last season with 69 points (31 goals and 38 assists) and was a fixture on the first line with Tyler Bertuzzi and Lucas Raymond. He missed the end of last season after core muscle surgery but shows no indication of missing time to start the regular season.
For his career, Larkin has scored 358 points in 504 games. He is without question the number one center on this team, and I expect that he will perform accordingly this season.
2. Defenseman Moritz Seider Will Not Only be an All-Star, but also a Norris Trophy Finalisthttp://gty.im/1431089915
The Detroit Red Wings have not seen a truly great defenseman since Nicklas Lidstrom retired. When Detroit selected defenseman Moritz Seider with the sixth overall pick in the 2019 draft, expectations were naturally quite high. After spending the first year of his professional career in the AHL with the Grand Rapids Griffins, Seider's rookie year in the NHL came last season. To say that he performed to those high expectations might even be an understatement.
He played in all 82 games last season, scoring seven goals and 43 assists. Even more notable was his defensive play, however. So much so, in fact, that he won the Calder Trophy (league's top rookie) last season. This year, it seems reasonable to expect Seider to improve. My prediction is that he improves so much that he is a finalist for the Norris Trophy (given to the league's top defenseman).
3. Ville Husso and Alex Nedeljkovic Combine to Post Top-Fifteen Goaltending Numbershttp://gty.im/1430851053
It's no secret that the Detroit Red Wings struggled defensively last season. With the consistent lapses in defense, Red Wings goaltenders were hung out to dry quite often. Not blind to the defensive struggles, General Manager Steve Yzerman added established veteran defensemen Ben Chiarot and Olli Maatta, but also added a proven NHL starting goaltender in Ville Husso.
Acquired from the St. Louis Blues for a 2022 third-round draft pick, Husso will share the net with Alex Nedeljkovic in Detroit this season. In 40 games with the Blues last year, Husso rocked a 2.56 goals-against-average, with a sparkling .919 save percentage.
Nedeljkovic, in his first year with Detroit last season, struggled quite a bit at times. In 59 games with Detroit, he posted a 3.31 goals-against-average, with a mediocre .901 save percentage. As I said earlier, the overall defensive struggles didn't help Nedeljkovic's cause. But unfortunately, he didn't do much to help his own cause either. He showed flashes of brilliance with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2020-21 though, with a 1.90 GAA and .932 save percentage.
Though it's not certain if either Husso or Nedeljkovic will be named as a true starter this year, I expect them both to play a fairly equal amount of games in net this season. With the additions made to improve the defense, as well as their own natural progressions, I expect that the two will team up to finish in the top half of the league in general goaltending stats (goals against average, save percentage).
4. The Detroit Red Wings Will Be Closer, But Still Miss the Playoffs
The tough reality on this one is that while the Detroit Red Wings definitely improved their roster this summer, so did a lot of other teams in the division. Last year, they finished with 74 points and missed the playoffs by 26. While the additions of Andrew Copp, David Perron, Dominik Kubalik, Olli Maatta, Ben Chiarot, and Ville Husso will most certainly make Detroit much tougher to play against on a nightly basis, it's hard to imagine the team not only adding 26 points to their total this year but also jumping over other teams in the division who also made improvements.
The team didn't only lose games last year but also got absolutely demolished on a quite regular (and depressing) basis. They allowed 312 goals in total, while only scoring 230. The above additions to the roster will certainly help close that gap, and possibly even make Detroit a plus in goal differential. But unfortunately, I don't see the playoffs as a reality this season.
5. Forward Jakub Vrana Will Score 40 Goals this Seasonhttp://gty.im/1394651240
This is one of my favorite predictions, and I really think it is possible. Jakub Vrana has been a goal-scoring machine since coming to Detroit. What's the only thing that has held him back? Injuries.
Vrana was acquired by the Detroit Red Wings in the closing moments before the 2021 trade deadline. He came over with Richard Panik, and 2021 first-round pick (which was traded to Dallas for the pick used to select Sebastian Cossa), and a 2022 second-round pick (used on forward Pavel Buchelnikov). In just 37 games played with Detroit, Vrana has scored 21 goals (.57 goals per game). Just using that average, Vrana would be projected to score 46 this year. I won't go that crazy, but I think 40 goals are very realistic.
Injured during the preseason before the 2021-22 season, Vrana was held out of the lineup until March after a shoulder injury. His return to the lineup saw more of what we saw from him towards the end of his first season in Detroit: goals, goals, and more goals.
A natural scoring forward with a wicked one-timer, Vrana should not only be able to continue dominating at five-on-five play but also benefit from the improvements made to the power play unit.