Detroit Red Wings roster: Here’s who I see making the cut on the 23-man list

Detroit Free Press

NHL rosters are due Monday, and while there are several straightforward decisions for Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman, there is also intrigue.

The Wings went 4-4-0 through the exhibition season, using the evaluation time to get extended looks at young players and to enable veterans to rid themselves of the rust from long layovers. The NHL opens the 2021-22 season Tuesday, with the Wings joining in Thursday when they host the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning at Little Caesars Arena.

Teams can carry 23 players. That commonly divides into two goaltenders, seven or eight defensemen, and 12 or 13 forwards.

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In some cases, decisions are influenced by a young player no longer being waiver-wire exempt, meaning he could be claimed by another team if there is an attempt to assign him to the minors.

Here are my thoughts on how the Red Wings are best served to shape their roster:

Forwards

Based on the preseason, Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi will form the basis of one top-six line, and Pius Suter and Robby Fabbri the other. Jakub Vrana would have had a spot on Larkin’s line but is out four months with a shoulder injury aggravated after showing up to camp late, and instead Filip Zadina auditioned for that role.

Lucas Raymond skewed towards Grand Rapids when camp began, but the 19-year-old looked so good when exhibition season began he garnered discussion that he belongs in Detroit. He wasn’t quite as good the past couple games, but then he played six times in 11 days, after a week of practices at camp. Overall, Raymond, a first-round pick from 2020, has looked poised the puck, and held his own against veteran NHLers. He is vulnerable in a numbers crunch because he can be assigned to the minors without waivers, but on the whole he looks like he’ll make the Wings better.

Bobby Ryan has shown he belongs. The Wings extended a tryout invitation the week training camp began, when they knew Bertuzzi’s refusal to get vaccinated for COVID-19 would jeopardize his availability to play in Canada. Ryan, 34, played for the Wings last season — he brings size and savvy, shoots right, and is an excellent role model.

Adam Erne, Sam Gagner, Vladislav Namestnikov, Michael Rasmussen and Givani Smith are among the group slated to form the bottom six. Mitchell Stephens, acquired in July for a sixth-round draft pick, has the inside track to center the fourth line. He plays hard, and brings a physical dimension.

Rasmussen and Smith are banged up — as are other, undisclosed players. (Namestnikov would seem to be in that group, since he hasn’t played since Oct. 3.) Depending on what the injured reserve situation is, there could be a spot for Joe Veleno. Like Raymond, he’s waiver-exempt.

THE FUTURE:

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In both Veleno’s and Raymond’s case, Yzerman will want to know they’ll be playing important minutes. This early in their careers, it’s better for their development to be 18-minute guys in Grand Rapids than 8-minute guys in Detroit.

Defensemen

Yzerman said before the start of training camp that the Wings would carry eight defensemen. This is as deep with quality defenders the Wings have been since Yzerman was named general manager.

Moritz Seider, Yzerman’s pick in 2019, is poised to solidify the top-four corps, paired, based on the preseason, with newcomer Nick Leddy, who is fast on his skates and brings a veteran’s calmness. Filip Hronek and Danny DeKeyser clicked well in the past, and with DeKeyser close to his pre-December 2019 back surgery form, should be a formidable pairing. Marc Staal and Troy Stecher played well together last season and have the inside edge to being the third pairing, leaving Gustav Lindstrom and Jordan Oesterle as reserves. All eight are NHL-caliber defensemen who can play either or both special teams.

[Beijing Bound:Wings’ Moritz Seider named to Germany’s 2022 Olympic team]

Goaltenders

Nothing difficult here: Thomas Greiss is a returning veteran, and Alex Nedeljkovic a newcomer looking to establish himself as a starter. Odds favor that they’ll take turns starting, at least early in the season. Greiss, who is in the last year of his contract, struggled at the start of last season, but played well down the stretch. Nedeljkovic, acquired in a trade with Carolina and signed to a two-year deal, is coming off a Calder Trophy finalist performance, though that was behind a playoff team.

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. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

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