Detroit — There will be changes to the Red Wings’ roster by the time next season begins in October.
Don’t be surprised if some of those changes involve the additions of top prospects, defenseman Simon Edvinsson and forward Jonatan Berggren, each of whom had outstanding seasons outside of the NHL.
General manager Steve Yzerman spoke glowingly of both young players during Monday’s end-of-season press conference, and said both will have an opportunity to make the Wings’ roster.
Berggren, 21, led minor league affiliate Grand Rapids with a Griffins’ rookie record 64 points, leading the team with 43 assists (another Griffins’ rookie record) and 21 goals.
“We’re very pleased with the season Jonatan had,” Yzerman said. “We left him there the entire season. We decided at the end not to recall him. It’s an adjustment coming to play in the American League versus the Swedish Elite League, the league he played in.
“There are areas in his game we asked him to focus on and try to improve and he did that. We’re very happy with his progress.”
The success of defenseman Moritz Seider and forward Lucas Raymond as rookies with the Wings, said Yzerman, shows young players can have an unexpected impact.
“I had no idea what impact he (Seider) would have and with Lucas Raymond, at the start of the year we felt he didn’t play a lot in the Swedish League last season and we weren’t sure if he’d be ready and we were kind of planning for him to not be ready,” Yzerman said. “Each step of training camp and the pre-season, he (Raymond) hung in there and excelled and made the team.
“As I sit here today, I’m not going to pencil Jonatan Berggren into the lineup, but I’m also not going to say he’s destined to play in GR. Let’s see how training camp goes and the pre-season and we’ll make a determination at that point.”
As for the 19-year-old Edvinsson, the Wings’ 2021 first-round draft pick (sixth overall), the Wings signed him last month to a three-year entry level contract beginning with the 2022-23 season. Edvinsson had 19 points (two goals, 17 assists) and had a plus-13 rating in 44 games with Frolunda.
“He’s in consideration for it, yes,” said Yzerman, of a Wings’ roster spot. “He had a very good year in Frolunda. We’ve had several players go through their organization, they’re a very good team and organization, and he played well for them this year.
“He’s big (6-foot-5, 200-pounds), he can skate real well and he does have a chance, a real good chance, to play in the NHL next year. Again, it’s like a bit of an educated guess based on how you watch how Moritz Seider did in the Swedish League. He can have a similar impact. I’m optimistic. We’ll see how he does.”
Expectations are also high on prospects forward Elmer Soderblom, and defensemen Albert Johansson and Eemil Viro. Yzerman would like to sign all three and have them begin their pro career in North America next season.
“Whether they make the Detroit Red Wings or play in the American League remains to be seen, but we’re very excited about all three in our system,” Yzerman said.
Soderblom, 20, could play for Sweden in the upcoming world championships, which would cap an outstanding season for 2019 sixth-round pick, who had 21 goals this season for Frolunda.
“It’s fun to watch, encouraging,” said Yzerman of Soderblom’s development. “Based on what he’s done over the last couple of years, his progress, we’re pretty excited about it. It’s a pleasant surprise, but as we’ve said, we need some surprises within our drafts.
“We can’t expect to pick in the top 10 every year, it would take a long time to build a team that way. We need some of these players drafted from the second to seventh rounds to make it.
“He’s got a good opportunity. He’s a real good athlete, a big young man,(6-foot-6, 220-pounds), but he’s athletic.”
Goaltending ups, downs
Yzerman met with goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic, who is headed to Finland to play for Team USA at the world championships.
Nedeljkovic’s struggles mirrored the Wings’ during the second half of the season. But Yzerman believes Nedeljkovic can come out of the experience stronger.
“It was an up and down year at times, he had great games and not so great games, and some of that was due to our overall team play,” Yzerman said. “But I was really encouraged. This could have been a tough situation for any goalie, particularly a young guy who doesn’t have a ton of experience.
“But he survived it and he’s not a basket case today. It showed his mental toughness and it’s good for him. He battled the ups and downs and wouldn’t get carried away through it all. It was a positive year.”
Yzerman said he’s not planning on any changes with coach Ben Simon and Simon’s staff in Grand Rapids.
“Ben and his staff have done a fantastic job,” Yzerman said.
…Yzerman said will he meet with potential unrestricted free agents, goaltender Thomas Greiss, defensemen Danny DeKeyser and Marc Staal, and forward Sam Gagner in the coming days or weeks. Some could return next season, said Yzerman.