The Detroit Red Wings hope to see recent drafts pay dividends at forward, with their last two top picks, Michael Rasmussen and Filip Zadina, apparently knocking on the NHL's door.
It's a group that looks to need the help.
ESPN on Monday ranked the Red Wings' group of forwards 27th out of 31 NHL teams, alluding to the group's "potential" with the likes of Zadina literally waiting in the wing, but also noting the loss of longtime staple Henrik Zetterberg, who was forced to retire because of a degenerative back condition.
"If there is a silver lining," notes Greg Wyshynski, ESPN's senior NHL writer, "it's that the center spot is the Wings' deepest, with No. 1 pivot Dylan Larkin (16 goals, 47 assists) backed by Frans Nielsen (16 goals, 17 assists), Andreas Athanasiou (16 goals, 17 assists) and Luke Glendening (11 goals, 8 assists)."
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Wyshynski writes the Red Wings could boast a pair of "dynamic" lines, with Larkin centering a line with Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi, and Athanasiou between veteran free-agent acquisition Thomas Vanek (in his second stint in Detroit) and Zadina, who was selected No. 6 overall in June's NHL Entry Draft — "if coach Jeff Blashill can trust him enough."
Zadina struggled in his preseason debut last Thursday against the Blackhawks (zero shots in 16:12 of ice time), though he's had his moments in scrimmages.
Wyshynski called Rasmussen and "long-gestating Russian winger" Evgeny Svechnikov a pair of "wild cards" to bolstering the Red Wings group. Svechnikov appears to be making a charge to earn a spot on the Red Wings roster.
The only teams trailing the Red Wings in ESPN's rankings are the Montreal Canadiens (the new home to former Red Wings forward Tomas Tatar), New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators and Vancouver Canucks.
The Tampa Bay Lightning lead the list.