Key questions facing Red Wings entering training camp

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Are Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou going to Grand Rapids?

The reality is Mantha and Athanasiou probably will get more playing time in Grand Rapids than Detroit.

Athanasiou is likely to get a promotion sooner because of his versatility and speed, but it depends on how the roster looks heading into the season — D Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul, and F Martin Frk are out of minor-league options, and Fs Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Jurco and Teemu Pulkkinen might not be ready (injuries).

Mantha isn’t likely going to start in the NHL unless he’s a top-9 forward.

Will Frans Nielsen replace Pavel Datsyuk?

Nobody ever will replace Datsyuk.

Nielsen is a different player, but likely will do a suitable job taking Datstyuk’s slot. Nielsen isn’t flashy, but he’s a pro in every sense of the word.

Are Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul finally going to get a shot?

With no minor-league options left, the Red Wings aren’t likely to leave them open to be picked up on waivers for nothing in return.

Ouellet has looked every bit an NHL defenseman in brief stints, and Sproul remains an intriguing prospect.

How did the World Cup affect the Red Wings?

Seven players — Justin Abdelkader, Dylan Larkin, Petr Mrazek, Thomas Vanek, Tomas Tatar, Frans Nielsen and Alexey Marchenko — played in the tournament, a high level of hockey in September that beats training camp.

But are there injuries no one knows about? Will the wear and tear of the last few weeks lead to injuries later?

Every team will have the same problems.

Red Wings have to adjust to life without Datsyuk

Will Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar rebound?

Two years ago, these forwards appeared on their way to productive careers. Now, nobody knows.

Tatar had 21 goals last season, and Nyquist had 17 — and both struggled with consistency.

Both also were subjects of trade rumors, and it’s likely they will continue to be trade chips.

Is Dylan Larkin moving to center?

Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said his intent is to play Larkin at center at some point, but when?

Much depends on how the Red Wings look when the exhibition season is over.

One thing is certain: with Pavel Datsyuk gone, Larkin’s progress is of the utmost importance.

How will the revamped coaching staff do?

Doug Houda will oversee the defense and penalty kill, John Torchetti will watch over the forwards and power play, and Jeff Salajko takes over as the goaltending coach.

There’s experience, with Torchetti and Houda having had success at different levels.

And, Blashill is sure to grow after his rookie season.

How big a wild card is Thomas Vanek?

It’s tough to overlook all the negativity of Vanek’s previous stops — lack of passion, unwillingness to play defense, and general laziness.

The hope is the Red Wings strike gold and resurrect his career.

Is the power play going to be any better?

John Torchetti will work with the power play, which finished 15th last season.

The hope is new additions Frans Nielsen and Thomas Vanek will spark the power play, and D Mike Green can improve upon an up-and-down season.

How will Petr Mrazek and Jimmy Howard split the workload?

Mrazek is the starter, Howard is the backup. That’s the depth chart heading into camp and the season.

But don’t be surprised if Howard gets a decent amount of work — 30 games or more — with a compressed schedule. Plus, Mrazek has yet to show he can play well over 50-55 games at the NHL level.

What’s the future for Tomas Jurco and Teemu Pulkkinen?

Pulkkinen (shoulder surgery) has been skating this week and said he’ll be ready for camp; Jurco (back surgery) isn’t likely to skate with the team for a while.

With promising young players (Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, Evgeny Svechnikov and Tyler Bertuzzi) coming up, Jurco and Pulkkinen need to show they are dependable and consistent NHL players.