Predicting an opening night roster at the beginning of August for the Detroit Red Wings is a bit of a gamble because so many things can transpire between now and opening night. As the roster changes throughout the next two months, I will continue to update my predictions through development camp, and then the preseason.
After numerous trades and signings, the Detroit roster is starting to resemble a set roster for opening night. Of course, General Manager Steve Yzerman has a way of changing things on the fly, but that’s the beauty of a cap era NHL.
Here is version 1.0 of the opening night roster for the Detroit Red Wings.
Once the strength of Stanley Cup Champion Red Wings teams, the center ice position was in desperate need of an overhaul. Three of the four center spots seem to be set. Dylan Larkin in joined by Pius Suter and Michael Rasmussen. At this time, there will be a battle between newly acquired Mitchell Stephens and rookie Joe Veleno.
If everything is even, I give the edge to Stephens. Veleno can go play important minutes in Grand Rapids (AHL). Playing 17-20 minutes in the AHL will be better for Veleno’s development. If he shows that he dominates at the AHL level, a decision can be made to bring Veleno up to Detroit. If he stays in the NHL to start the season, Veleno will most likely play on the fourth line and only receive 8-10 minutes each night.
For now, Frans Nielsen remains with the Red Wings. Yzerman must have felt that his cap hit wasn’t worth a buyout because of the enormous cap space Detroit has with the current roster. If he remains in Detroit for the last season of his contract, Nielsen can be a role model for the young players, but he will be no more than an insurance policy in case anyone goes down with an injury.
Opening Night Centers: Dylan Larkin, Pius Suter, Michael Rasmussen & Mitchell Stephens