Moritz Seider has had a lot of challenges, a lot of games during this rookie season with the Red Wings where he’s facing the best players in the world.
Tuesday was another one, playing in Toronto against a Maple Leafs team getting ready for the playoffs with some of the elite offensive players in the world in Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander.
Like the previous 80 games, Seider was looking forward to the opportunity, this time with the task of stopping the 58-goal scoring Matthews.
“It’s exciting,” Seider said. “It’s exhausting, but you always like to play against the best guys in the league and that’s what I’m looking forward to.”
With the regular season ending Friday, and ballots for individual awards now safely stored in voters’ laptops across North America, speculation will center on Seider’s chances of winning the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year.
At this point, it would be shocking if Seider doesn’t win. The way his game has progressed over the long season and how impressive he’s been at both ends of the rink has appeared to have an impact with NHL media eligible to vote.
But Seider isn’t paying any attention.
“It’s more about finishing the season strong,” Seider said. “It’s definitely an honor (to be considered) but I don’t even think about that at all. Not a lot of defensemen (have won it) but I have to be honest, I don’t pay attention to that just because it’s a distraction, an unnecessary distraction from your game, and not what I need now.
“I want to enjoy the moment and come to the rink with a big smile and not think about what people are thinking on social media. That’s something I learned pretty early. I just want to come to the rink and work hard every day.”
The NHL has been a constant learning experience for Seider, but there’s been one adjustment that has stood out.
“Just (being) mentally prepared for 82 games,” Seider said. “I’ve never played that many games. But I’m still enjoying every single one, and that’s a good adjustment.”
With the Wings not competing in the playoffs, some players will be asked to represent their countries at the upcoming world championships (May 13-29 in Finland).
Coach Jeff Blashill will be an assistant coach on Team USA and Lucas Raymond will play for Sweden. Seider said Tuesday he will definitely play for Germany.
“I’m looking forward to that,” Seider said. “It’s a great honor, always nice to put the (national) jersey over your shoulder pads and sing that national anthem after you win. It’s always a big honor, and we (Germany) have been taking very big strides the last couple of years and it’s definitely progress for us.”
Blashill has been impressed by Seider’s steady professionalism throughout the season.
“He’s handled it very well, up against the other team’s best all season long,” Blashill said. “It’s pretty remarkable the season he has had, given he’s gone up against the other team’s best on a nightly basis. You’re seeing the stars of the league every night. It’s just the reality of it and he’s done a real good job.
“He’s an all-situations defenseman who will continue to get better because he cares.”
Tuesday’s game was quite the thrill for forward Turner Elson, who was promoted from the Grand Rapids Griffins to play the final two games for the Wings.
Elson, 29, had played in one NHL game in his career, for Calgary during the 2015-16 season.
Elson has spent the last five seasons with the Griffins, posting pro career highs of 21 goals, 24 assists and 45 points this year.
“Turner is a heart and soul player. He’s done an excellent job in Grand Rapids over the last number of years, and he’s really earned this opportunity with his play,” Blashill said. “That’s something that’s really important within our organization, that guys understand you can earn these types of opportunities. He’s done that, so it’s great he’s getting a chance here.
“He has a chance to help us. You need guys who can win pucks, guys that are reliable and are hard at the net. He’s a jack of all trades. I’m excited to have him in our lineup.”
The decision to bring up Elson, Riley Barber and Kyle Criscuolo and keep top prospect Jonatan Berggren in Grand Rapids was a call made for Berggren’s development.
Berggren has 20 goals and 40 assists with two games left for the Griffins this weekend.
“He’s had a really good year, but at the end of the day, the decision on Jonatan Berggren is a decision made on what’s best for his individual development and that’s a decision (general manager) Steve Yzerman makes,” Blashill said. “We had a similar decision a number of years ago on Moritz Seider. He could have come up at this time of year (two seasons ago) and we made the decision to leave him back in the American League and to have him continue to finish the year out. Ultimately, it looks like that was a good decision.
“This would be a similar case with Berggren. Those are decisions solely made on what’s best for his long-term development.”
Defenseman Marc Staal was placed on the league’s COVID-19 protocol list and will miss the final two games.
Staal, 35, has three goals and 13 assists in 71 games this season.
Staal was named Monday the Wings’ nominee for the Masterton Trophy (perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to the game) by the Detroit chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. He appeared in his 1,000th NHL game on March 12.