Red Wings 2021-22 season preview: Storylines, who to watch & predictions

Winging It In Motown

[Ed Note: This is a sponsored post. ESPN+ has paid for links in this season preview but has had no other input into the writing process.]

One of the most productive offseasons in recent memory has ended for the Detroit Red Wings.

Over the last few offseasons, the Red Wings have utilized the offseason to secure cost-effective, short-term solutions. From the return of Valtteri Filppula to the addition of players like Jon Merrill, these moves were meant to provide low-risk, high-reward assets to the roster. This season, however, saw a significant change.

The Red Wings obtained a veteran defenseman in Nick Leddy, a starting goaltender in Alex Nedeljkovic, and a second-line center in Pius Suter. All three of these players carry with them serious potential. While they were a little more pricy for general manager Steve Yzerman to obtain, the opportunity for long-term success is significantly higher.

The departures, in addition, were just as significant as the additions. The last bastions of the 2008 Stanley Cup team played their last games in the Winged Wheel; both Darren Helm and Valtteri Filppula have left to seek new opportunities elsewhere. Long-term veteran Frans Nielsen was bought out. Luke Glendening, beloved in and out of the locker room, signed with the Dallas Stars.

It appears a new era has dawned in Detroit. But what will it bring to the team?

2021-22 storylines

This is a big year for Filip Zadina. The 2018 sixth-overall pick will experience his first full NHL season and have a chance to play on the wing of captain Dylan Larkin. All eyes are on him as he seeks to carve out a key role on this roster.

The upcoming unrestricted free agents will look to prove their value this season, as well. Robby Fabbri is finishing off the final year of his deal. This will be his shot to cash in big on his next contract. Expect some lights-out work from Fabbri in this regard. Four of the eight defensemen — Danny DeKeyser, Marc Staal, Troy Stecher, and Nick Leddy — are also approaching free agency this offseason. In all likelihood, only one or two of the four will remain with the Red Wings. Keep an eye on their performance this upcoming season.

The battle between the pipes will feature show-stopping efforts from both Alex Nedeljkovic and Thomas Greiss. Both netminders seek the starter’s role. Nedeljkovic is younger and has a longer contract, but will that be enough to seize the reins from long-term veteran Greiss? Tune in throughout the season on ESPN+ to see for yourself.

Players to watch

This season features one of the most unique Detroit lineups in recent memory. The buzz is abundant on many marquee names. Dylan Larkin made his return for the first time in months. Tyler Bertuzzi is back after a season on the sidelines. The spotlight, however, doesn’t lie on the captain or his linemate. It belongs to the rookies this year. Moritz Seider, who was one of the first names selected for the German Olympic team, is slated to make his NHL debut this season. At 20 years of age, he’s found success at every level of hockey, winning the SHL Defenseman of the Year award last season.

The most surprising name to hit the headlines, however, is Lucas Raymond. Before the preseason, the 2020 fourth-overall pick was almost certainly a lock for Grand Rapids. However, his incredible play on all ends of the ice has made his Opening Night debut almost inevitable. He’s earned praise from both Steve Yzerman and head coach Jeff Blashill. Making an NHL roster is already an uphill battle. To do it at 19 years of age speaks to his high ceiling.

Two season predictions

With the sheer unpredictability throughout the roster, these two things are almost certain:

  1. The youth movement in Detroit will begin. Once Raymond and Seider earn their full-time spots, other younger players will make their way to the NHL to fill in for injuries. Expect to see players like Joe Veleno, Jonatan Berggren, and Taro Hirose make frequent appearances throughout the 2021-22 season.
  2. One of the core players will not end the season in Detroit. Steve Yzerman is never one to pass up a great deal. Last season, he traded top-line forward Anthony Mantha for Jakub Vrana, Richard Panik, a 2021 first-round pick, and a 2022 second-round pick. This season, he’ll almost certainly do the same with another core piece. Will it be Tyler Bertuzzi, who has been linked to teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs, or will someone like Robby Fabbri head out from Hockeytown? Follow the story all season long on ESPN+ to find out for yourself!

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