NHL.com is examining where each team stands in preparation for the 2021-22 regular season, which starts Oct. 12. Today, five questions facing the Detroit Red Wings:
1. Can Alex Nedeljkovic sustain his success?
Nedeljkovic went 15-5-3 with a 1.90 goals-against average,.932 save percentage and three shutouts for the Carolina Hurricanes last season. The 25-year-old goalie was a finalist for the Calder Trophy, awarded to the NHL rookie of the year as voted by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.
The Red Wings acquired him July 22 and signed him to a two-year contract. He has played 29 NHL games.
“He’s relatively inexperienced at the NHL level, but we think he’s got real good potential and has a chance to play for us for a number of years,” general manager Steve Yzerman said.
2. How much will the offense improve, particularly the power play?
Detroit scored 127 goals last season, one more than the Anaheim Ducks, who scored the fewest in the NHL. Their power play (11.4 percent) also ranked second-to-last, ahead of the Ducks (8.9 percent). But three of the Red Wings’ top four scorers from 2019-20 — forwards Dylan Larkin (12 games), Tyler Bertuzzi (47) and Robby Fabbri (26) — missed significant time with injuries. Each is expected to be ready for the start of this season.
The Red Wings made key additions in the offseason: center Pius Suter, defenseman Nick Leddy and assistant coach Alex Tanguay. Suter scored 27 points (14 goals, 13 assists) in 55 games for the Chicago Blackhawks last season. Leddy scored 31 points (two goals, 29 assists) in 56 games for the New York Islanders. Tanguay will run the power play.
“I think we’re going to generate a little bit more offense, will score a few more goals, I think,” Yzerman said. “How many, I really don’t know.”
3. Can Jakub Vrana and Filip Zadina reach new levels?
After the Red Wings acquired Vrana from the Washington Capitals on April 12, the forward averaged 17:16 of ice time and scored 11 points (eight goals, three assists) in 11 games. The most ice time he averaged in five seasons with the Capitals was 14:53 in 2019-20, when he set NHL career highs in goals (25), assists (27) and points (52) in 69 games.
“The opportunity to play for the Red Wings is a lot different than in Washington,” Vrana said. “I’m getting more ice time. My role has changed a little bit, and I’m looking forward just to prove what I can do and show my potential.”
Zadina has scored 37 points (15 goals, 22 assists) in 86 games over three seasons in the NHL, but the forward is 21 and has the talent that made him the No. 6 selection in the 2018 NHL Draft.
4. Can Moritz Seider contend for the Calder Trophy?
Seider, the No. 6 pick of the 2019 NHL Draft, scored 22 points (two goals, 20 assists) in 49 games for Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League in 2019-20. After he was loaned to Rogle of the Sweden Hockey League during the coronavirus pandemic last season, he scored 28 points (seven goals, 21 assists) in 41 games. He won the SHL Elite Prospects Award and was named SHL Defenseman of the Year.
Can the 20-year-old contend for the Calder? First things first.
“If he’s in the top six and he’s earned that spot in the top six, he’ll play,” Yzerman said. “I’m not sure if he’s not in the top six how much we’re going to want to sit him in the press box, so we’ll worry about that when it comes. But we anticipate him making a really good push to play.”
5. Will other young players crack the roster?
Berggren, selected in the second round (No. 33) of the 2018 NHL Draft, scored 45 points (12 goals, 33 assists) in 49 games for Skelleftea of the SHL last season. Veleno, the No. 30 pick in 2018, scored 20 points (11 goals, nine assists) in 46 games for Malmo of the SHL, three points (one goal, two assists) in four games for Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League and one goal in five games for Detroit.
Raymond, the No. 4 pick in 2020, scored 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) in 34 games for Frolunda of the SHL.
“For our younger players, if they come into training camp and do well and they earn a spot, that’s great,” Yzerman said. “What I’m not necessarily doing is going to leave spots open just to hand it to one of the younger players or for them to get it by default.”