Red Wings: Vrana’s Injury Puts a New Wrinkle in the Roster

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The Detroit Red Wings don’t expect Jakub Vrana to be ready by the beginning of the season. This certainly puts Detroit behind the eight ball a bit–but it also opens up some possibilities.

If they’re already anticipating the beginning of the season without him, then it stands to reason the door is opened for other players to now have a shot to move up while Vrana heals.

Which Red Wings forwards could step in?

Bobby Ryan comes immediately to mind, offered a PTO, and showing the offensive prowess during the Red and White game that garnered him a contract offer just a season ago. With Vrana now out for an unknown amount of time, Ryan seems one of the likeliest candidates to earn a roster spot. From Ansar Khan at MLive:

“When I look at the lineup here, and I’m realistic, the top-six is pretty well spoken for, as well it should be, those guys have earned that opportunity,” Ryan said. “I came in with the expectations that I would be a bottom-six player or maybe even the 13th forward, so I don’t think I can change anything.”

Things have certainly opened up to get the 13th forward or higher. Filip Zadina should be the one who moves to the top line likely with Tyler Bertuzzi and Dylan Larkin. Ryan could be a piece on either one of the bottom two lines, and a candidate for the power play as well.

Another name to certainly keep an eye on: Lucas Raymond. The 19-year-old seemingly has the best shot since Dylan Larkin to crack the roster following a strong prospects tournament, a steady camp, and now, with just one additional hurdle to clear: the preseason slate of games.

Raymond’s hockey IQ that was lauded by scouts and analysts has been on full display during the prospects tournaments, during camp drills, and in the Red and White game. Should Raymond hold his own and pitch in offensively with some goals during the preseason, it will certainly give  head coach Jeff Blashill some reason to consider him more.

One name that certainly sees his chances rise are Joe Veleno, who came into camp stronger and ready to compete for an NHL spot. I figure that Veleno will start on the wing, and Mitchell Stephen’s strong showing in the Red and White game seemingly sews up his spot as the fourth line center.

Should Veleno chip in as well during the preseason, and he indeed is slotted in at wing, it’s not impossible to think he could find himself as high as the second line, leapfrogging a few guys in the bottom six like Michael Rasmussen, Vladislav Namestnikov, or Adam Erne.

Veleno has been seen as a two-way forward. If he ends up finding the net, that 2018 first round pick might look like an even bigger steal.

One last name to watch: Jonatan Berggren. Injuries have befallen the Swede playmaker, at times but his play last season in the SHL as well as the small sample size seen in the prospect tournament makes him an intriguing option. While conventional wisdom seems to favor him starting in Grand Rapids, a strong showing could say otherwise for a team desperate for scoring.

While Vrana’s injury is certainly a blow to the Red Wings, it opens up opportunities that could certainly make for some intriguing competition on the eve of the first preseason contest.

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