Projecting the Red Wings’ 23-man roster, taxi squad as training camp nears

Detroit News

Ted Kulfan
| The Detroit News

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Detroit — The Red Wings get the on-ice portion of training camp up and running Friday, after having physicals and meetings the day before.

So, they’re inching closer to figuring out who is exactly will be on their 23-man roster when they open the regular season Jan. 14 against Carolina.

Given general manager Steve Yzerman’s handiwork during the offseason, the trade and free-agent acquisitions, the 23-man roster looks fairly set.

At least, as set as it can be, knowing injuries and COVID-19 situations could spring up on short notice.

Coach Jeff Blashill should have a lineup that has many flexible pieces, and likely more veteran depth than last season.

Because of pandemic, the NHL also has a four- to six-man taxi squad that will travel and practice with the team but not count against the 23-man roster.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Wings, and the 30 other NHL teams, use the taxi squad, as no one really knows if there will be an American League season.

In baseball, the sport’s minor leagues never did get up and going.

Hockey’s minor league is a similar gate-driven league, so the longer the pandemic rages, the AHL season could be in doubt.

Players who require waivers when they’re assigned to the AHL also will need to clear waivers to be sent to the taxi squad. That might play into teams’ personnel decisions.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at how the Red Wings’ roster coming out of training camp could look:


Tyler Bertuzzi: You wonder if there will be an extra edge to Bertuzzi’s game given he wasn’t able to work out a long-term contract in the offseason. There’s plenty of chances to put up big offensive numbers playing with Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha.

Adam Erne: Erne adds size and tenacity to the lineup, but he needs to show more then he did last season. He easily could lose playing time to others.

Robby Fabbri: He showed glimpses of needed scoring potential after being acquired. With more familiarity and status on this roster, the Wings will need increased production from Fabbri.

Valtteri Filppula: It’ll be interesting to see where and how Blashill will use Filppula, a veteran coming off a poor season. Filppula likely will be a bargaining chip at the trade deadline, and on a contender, he could fill a useful purpose.

Sam Gagner: In a brief sample size, Gagner showed he could be a good fit. A veteran on a one-year contract, Gagner could be another interesting chip at the trade deadline if he plays well early.

Luke Glendening: Blashill can use this veteran in a variety of ways, and Glendening will give everything he has. Glendening is a part of the leadership group. But as a potential unrestricted free agent, is the East Grand Rapids native in his final season as a Wing?

Darren Helm: Another veteran in the final year of his contract. Helm was one of the better Wings last season, and there’s not much reason to expect any slippage.

Dylan Larkin: The only real question heading into camp is when the Wings will named the Waterford native the team’s next captain. Larkin has proven worthy of it.

Anthony Mantha: With the security of a four-year contract and knowing he’s a significant piece of the future, Mantha should be mentally free to have a big season. If, and that’s proven to be difficult, he stays healthy.

Vladislav Namestnikov: A shrewd free-agent signing who returns to a familiar situation, and might get an opportunity to flourish and showcase all he can do, more than any point in his career. It’ll be interesting to see how Blashill uses him.

Frans Nielsen: The veteran is coming off a poor season and the way this lineup is assembled, there may not be a regular spot for him. He might need a really good camp to earn playing time.

Bobby Ryan: One of the interesting story lines heading into the season. Ryan was a low-cost, no-risk free-agent signing who could really pan out if he shows anything resembling the Bobby Ryan of his early career.

Evgeny Svechnikov: The former first-round pick isn’t waiver exempt, so the Wings could lose him if they expose him. Svechnikov has had an opportunity to earn playing time, but in the long run, you have to think there’s an organization somewhere that will offer a better chance.

Filip Zadina: Should be entering camp with confidence, having played well in the Czech Republic this autumn, and seemingly in good hockey shape. The Wings need to see glimpses of his offensive talent.


Alex Biega: The Wings liked what they saw of the veteran last season and signed Biega to a one-year contract. He’s the perfect depth player who usually finds his way to consistent playing time.

Danny DeKeyser: As Blashill said the other day, DeKeyser hasn’t played much hockey for over a calendar year now because of back surgery. This camp will be about how quickly DeKeyser is ready to take on a meaningful role in the lineup.

Filip Hronek: Like Zadina, Hronek has been playing in the Czech Republic and should be rolling into this camp in almost peak condition. The Wings need Hronek to build off last season’s big step forward.

Jon Merrill: The free-agent signing will be excited with a return close to home (Grand Blanc), and given Merrill’s experience and pedigree, is likely penciled in for a steady role.

Patrik Nemeth: Nemeth did an admirable job last season under trying circumstances. It’ll be interesting to see if Nemeth gets the same playing time given all the new acquisitions.

Marc Staal: Training camp isn’t going to be long, and there are no preseason games, but it will be an opportunity to see how much Staal can help this team. Staal could become a key shutdown, penalty-killing piece in this lineup. And trade deadline chip.

Troy Stecher: Stecher was another free-agent signing who is being counted on to fill several roles. This camp is an opportunity to show the organization’s confidence is warranted.


Jonathan Bernier: Bernier had a good season under trying conditions a year ago, and possibly felt he should be a clear-cut No. 1 heading into this season. Not so, given the Thomas Greiss signing. But with the way the schedule is, both are likely to get plenty of time in net. The Wings need Bernier to maintain his level of last season.

Thomas Greiss: Greiss has had stretches of excellent goaltending in his NHL career, and if he can bring that here, and Bernier does his part, the Wings suddenly become a threat every game.

Taxi squad

Mathias Brome, forward: This undrafted free-agent signing provides veteran depth, and would be easy to plug in if there were a rash of injuries, or virus problems.

Dennis Cholowski, defenseman: The former first-round pick is waiver exempt, so there’s no threat of losing Cholowski that way, but you’d like him playing regularly in a perfect world. And Cholowski has won Opening Night roster spots the last two seasons — he simply hasn’t been able to keep it, and was sent back eventually to Grand Rapids. Ultimately, Cholowski has to show more.

Gustav Lindstrom, defenseman: Like Cholowski, you’d like to see Lindstrom playing regularly, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see Lindstrom find his way to the regular roster if there’s an injury in camp. He’ll have to bide his time on the taxi squad, though, likely.

Calvin Pickard, goaltender: Either Pickard or Kevin Boyle will be the No. 3 goaltender. Whoever plays better in camp, simple as that.

Michael Rasmussen, forward: The former first-round pick has been playing in Austria, and should enter in training camp on a roll. But unless injuries or a virus situation breaks out, it’s difficult seeing Rasmussen crack the 23-man roster.

Givani Smith, forward: You feel for Smith a little bit. At this stage in his career, Smith needs to play, but again, if there’s no injuries there’s likely no place for Smith on the 23-man roster. Hopefully, the AHL gets up and running soon.

Twitter: @tkulfan

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