| The Detroit News
Detroit — When the Red Wings begin training camp on Dec. 31, it’ll be a little over nine months since the team has been together in an organized, official setting.
The vast majority of the roster has been unable to play any games in North America because of the ongoing pandemic — and just over the last several months, been able skate informally with teammates.
But for some of the younger Red Wings, it’s been a little different.
The organization sent prospects such as Filip Zadina, Filip Hronek, Michael Rasmussen, among others, to Europe in September to play in operating leagues.
Now, those leagues have had their own stop-and-starts because of virus issues, but at least have gotten to play games and continue to practice.
Two of the top Wings’ prospects, Moritz Seider and Joe Veleno, will remain in Sweden until their respective teams’ seasons are done, before returning to North America.
While talking to reporters Tuesday, general manager Steve Yzerman spoke about the benefits of the younger prospects being able to play during this pause.
“For the younger players that are trying to establish themselves, and make an NHL team, it was important for them to play,” Yzerman said. “It’s an advantage for these kids. Playing in a lot of situations just furthers their development as players.”
Zadina and Hronek saw considerable playing time while playing in the pro league in the Czech Republic.
Generally speaking, the Czech league isn’t as strong as the Swedish Elite League. But being able to able to continue developing skills while many other players weren’t able to, should benefit Zadina and Hronek in the short- and long-term.
“I would assume Zadina and Hronek got a lot of ice time, and I expect them to be a little sharper,” Yzerman said. “The league they were playing in isn’t the NHL, (but) it’s a men’s league and it will be a significant step, a benefit for them to be playing games.”
There was mild eyebrow raising with some of the NHL realignment for the upcoming season.
From the Red Wings’ perspective, to be included in a Central Division along with Dallas, Carolina, Tampa Bay and Florida was a bit perplexing to some fans and analysts.
Especially with Buffalo and Pittsburgh, along with St. Louis and Minnesota, being placed in other divisions, despite being geographically closer.
But whatever way the NHL went, it wasn’t going to be a perfect situation, something Yzerman acknowledged.
“There wasn’t going to be a perfect set up for us,” Yzerman said. “We’re not losing any sleep over it. It’s a little bit more travel for us, but under the circumstances, we’re trusting the league did what it had to do for various reasons.”
Yzerman, and many Wings fans, are happy to be reunited with the Chicago Blackhawks in the realigned division, even if it’s only for this season.
“They’re very lively and entertaining games,” said Yzerman of the Original Six rivalry. “Original Six matchups are great and we’re happy to be in the same division.”
Yzerman confirmed the organization still plans on naming a captain this season, with most analysts expecting that’ll be Dylan Larkin.
An alternate captain the last two seasons, Larkin would be the Wings’ first captain since Henrik Zetterberg in 2018.
Yzerman, who was a Wings’ captain for 22 seasons, noted the increased responsibility in that role.
“I just think you take a lot more things into consideration that you may not normally,” Yzerman said. “Whether it’s a call by an official, or a situation off the ice with a teammate, just anything to do with the team, as a captain you get a little bit more sense of responsibility regarding every situation.”