Why Moritz Seider’s buzz is building with Detroit Red Wings ahead of ‘a huge step up’

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Red Wings haven’t had a defensive prospect this exciting in ages. Moritz Seider checks every box: Skill, size, physicality, personality. There’s been so much buzz about him that even those who’ve never seen him are intrigued.

“I don’t know him at all,” Wings defenseman Marc Staal said last week during his exit interview with the media, “but I’ve heard a bunch of good things over this last year.”

Those “good things” include: Recording seven goals and 21 assists in 41 games this season with Rögle in the Swedish Hockey League; adding a goal and four assists in 13 playoff games; advancing to the championship series; and, at the end, being named the SHL Defenseman of the Year. Seider, by the way, just turned 20 on April 6.

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This was Seider’s third consecutive season playing in a men’s league. He commanded Yzerman’s attention in 2018-19 when Seider stood out as a teen playing in his native Germany’s top league, recording six points in 29 games with Adler Mannheim.

Yzerman, who was named general manager of the Wings in April 2019, held the sixth pick in that year’s draft. Seider was projected to go somewhere in the mid-teens. Yzerman explored moving back a few spots, but only if he was confident Seider would still be available. (The Wings did this in 2013, when they had their eyes on Anthony Mantha. They flipped their pick at No. 18 with San Jose’s at No. 20, and still drafted Mantha — and an extra second-round pick that was used on Tyler Bertuzzi.) When it became clear such a gamble would be too risky, Yzerman held onto the No. 6 pick and stunned everyone at that draft in Vancouver, British Columbia, by selecting Seider. Seider’s surprise at going so early — hands pressed in front of his mouth, a growing smile as he turned to hug his family in the stands — became a viral hit.

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Two years later, Seider is poised to make a mark in Detroit, and his future teammates can’t wait.

“I saw him play live in training camp last year,” captain Dylan Larkin said. “He has that quiet confidence about him. As a young player coming into the league, it’s huge to have that. It’s huge to believe in yourself, not in an arrogant way, but believe and know you can come in and help the team. I know he believes that. We’re all hoping he can come in and do that.”

The 6-foot-4 Seider is 207 pounds and shoots right. He has an eye for getting shots through to the net. He also has a mean streak and doesn’t shy away from confrontations. During his time with Rögle, he averaged nearly 21 minutes per game.

“Moritz had a very good year in Sweden,” Yzerman said. “He made the decision he wanted to go and play and we supported that decision and it turned out well. He played a lot, he played in all situations on a very good team in the Swedish league, which is a very good league.

“I’m not really surprised he did well in the Swedish league. He’s got a great head on his shoulders. I think he’s got good hockey sense. He’s very competitive.”

The SHL was the best landing spot for Seider last fall, when it became clear the coronavirus pandemic would significantly delay professional hockey leagues in North America. Seider spent his first year in the Wings organization with the Grand Rapids Griffins, producing two goals and 20 assists in 49 games. He certainly would have been auditioning for a job in Detroit last fall had it not been for COVID-19; now he comes to the Wings stronger and better for having spent a season in the SHL.

As excited as those in the locker room are for Seider’s arrival, the front office is playing it cool.

“I want to temper the enthusiasm and the excitement,” Yzerman said. “He’s a great young player. His next move is to the NHL. We’ll see how training camp, the preseason, goes. It’s a huge step up from the American league or the Swedish league to the NHL, but he probably exceeded our expectations last year going into the American league, he did very well.

“He’s got size. His skills are good. He’s got a lot of work to do, but I think there’s a lot of potential for him. We’re excited to have him over here next year. Our hope is he’s ready to play for the Red Wings at the start of the season.”

Potentially, the Wings’ right-side defense next season features Seider, Filip Hronek and either Troy Stecher or Gustav Lindstrom. On the left, Danny DeKeyser is the only veteran under contract; he and Hronek have a history of pairing well. Seider has been vocal about how much it helped his development in Sweden to play with veteran Eric Gelinas, and that’s why Yzerman might re-sign Staal — he’s closing in on 1,000 games played but still remembers how much it helped him to be partnered with a veteran his first years in the NHL.

“We had some guys that had played a long time,” Staal said. “There’s a comfort level when you’re a young guy being out there with someone who has been through it and gets the ups and downs of a season. I believe it’s very helpful, just watching and learning how you practice and prepare and all that stuff.

“I think my best fit is playing with a skilled right-hand shot defenseman, where I can make them feel as comfortable as possible making plays and just being solid for them with good positioning. And communication, I think, is huge on the ice.”

Seider projects to be a significant player in the rebuild; maybe not as soon as next season, but certainly within the next few years. He already holds a piece of Wings history: He’s the first Red Wings defenseman since 1975 to be drafted in the top six. (Rick Lapointe was selected No. 5 overall that year; he only played a season and a half for the franchise.)

The last defense prospect with this much buzz was Niklas Kronwall. Taken 29th overall in 2000, he spent all of 2004-05 in the AHL because of the labor dispute that wiped out that NHL season. He so dominated with the Griffins — 13 goals and 40 assists in 76 games —  to the point he was named the AHL’s top defenseman.

Yzerman is right to want to keep expectations in check: It’s hard for a young player, especially a defenseman, to make an impact right away. But Seider is poised to add moxie to a team that needs it, and that’s been building since the day Yzerman drafted him.

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Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter.

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