Training camp to help Red Wings sort out young forwards, begin transition on defense
Detroit — The start of training camp is getting closer — the Red Wings are on the ice Friday — and by next week, there will actually be exhibition games to watch and examine.
Seriously, next week.
With hockey season drawing near, the battles within the Red Wings’ roster should be an interesting development during training camp and nine preseason games.
Many spots on the roster seem accounted for. But there definitely are jobs available, and the growing number of young prospects should make any veteran a bit nervous.
Here are how the position-group battles appear heading into training camp:
There are many certainties up front. You have Dylan Larkin centering Tyler Bertuzzi and Anthony Mantha, which was such an effective line in the final weeks of the regular season.
It will be interesting to see how those three players progress this season, and whether they can maintain and grow on the progress they showed last season.
Andreas Athanasiou had a 30-goal season and should build on that. Athanasiou must come close to that number again, because goal-scoring once again could be an issue with this roster.
Veterans Frans Nielsen, Valtteri Filppula, Luke Glendening, Adam Erne, Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm and Jacob de la Rose appear to have spots nailed down, with Taro Hirose close to having one. Hirose must show the same level of offensive skill as he did in the final weeks, but needs to have a similar exhibition season.
That leaves one, maybe two, other forward positions available.
Christoffer Ehn, Filip Zadina, Michael Rasmussen and Evgeny Svechnikov are players who will be closely monitored.
Ehn was quietly effective in his fourth-line role with the Wings, but Rasmussen not consistently so. Zadina, for all his offensive promise, might be better off building chemistry with Joe Veleno in Grand Rapids before getting an NHL promotion.
Svechnikov (knee surgery) will be ready to skate Friday after missing all of last season. The 2015 first-round draft pick must show certifiable progress this season, as many young forwards could be passing him on the depth chart in the year ahead.
Niklas Kronwall’s recent retirement only ensures more change and transition in this position group.
The top four, as it appears now (with the hope they’re healthy, which was no sure thing last season with this group) is Danny DeKeyser, Filip Hronek, Patrik Nemeth and Mike Green.
Trevor Daley and Jonathan Ericsson, on paper, are two veterans who should hold down the third pairing, although both had shortened seasons due to injuries and must prove they are healthy.
That leaves several intriguing options to fill another spot or two that could be available.
Madison Bowey can’t be sent to Grand Rapids without being available to waivers — and Bowey likely would to be plucked by some team.
Oliwer Kaski, an undrafted college free agent, Dennis Cholowski and Joe Hicketts all could lay claim with a eye-opening exhibition season.
Then, there’s June’s first-round pick, Moritz Seider.
It’s likely Seider will need some time to adjust to North American professional hockey after playing in Germany last season.
But, what if Seider completely impresses this month? Could that land Seider a spot on the Wings, and one of the veterans gets moved?
Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Bernier will be the Wings’ goaltenders, barring injury.
One key here will be watching how Bernier looks after a subpar season, which ended with injuries.
Bernier must play better and earn a larger number of starts, giving Howard more of a breather. Howard might have been overworked, to a certain extent, the last couple of seasons, which contributed to him fading in the final weeks.
The performance of goaltender Calvin Pickard, who is ticketed for Grand Rapids and is essentially the No. 3 goalie in the organization, will be examined during training camp/exhibition season.