Just two seasons ago, Filip Hronek was the Red Wings’ leading defenseman and point producer with two goals and 24 assists in 56 games played. This feat was impressive for a young player learning the NHL game, even though there wasn’t much talent to compete with on the roster at that time. Detroit continues to add talent to the roster, and will soon hire a new head coach in what will be a key step in the next phase towards winning and playoff contention in Steve Yzerman’s rebuild. Here is a look at Hronek’s role with the franchise at just the age of 24 and where does he fit into the future plans of the Red Wings.
Hronek Struggles in Defensive Zone
Hronek has played four seasons with the Red Wings, yet in 2021-22 he finally completed his first full uninterrupted one, playing in 78 games and posting five goals and 33 assists. Unfortunately, he finished with a minus-29 rating in a season that saw the Red Wings give up 310 goals, and finished with a minus-82 goal differential, which was second-worst in the league. The dismal play by the Red Wings in their own zone this past season was one of the significant factors in the firing of head coach Jeff Blashill.
In October 2021, Hronek was scratched after going minus-2 in an ugly 3-0 loss to Calgary. Heading into that season, coach Jeff Blashill warned that there were eight equality NHL-caliber defensemen on the roster, and that there would be good players sitting out. Hronek’s benching seemed reminiscent of trying to send a message to a young player, similar to when Anthony Mantha was scratched in 2020 when it was deemed he wasn’t performing up to the coach’s expectations. While Hronek was not the only player on the ice performing poorly in the defensive zone, he is a player that is counted on to perform at a higher level.
Analyzing Talent on Red Wings’ Defense
The Red Wings’ talent pool on the blue line is starting to get crowded, which is a good problem to have. Calder Trophy-winner Moritz Seider was the club’s’ top pick, and sixth overall selection, in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. He came to training camp with the Red Wings hoping he would get acclimated to the North American game, but earned his way onto the opening night roster. He produced a wonderful rookie season, playing in all 82 games while scoring seven goals and 43 assists, and showed the on-ice presence of a perennial top-pairing defenseman for years to come.
Simon Edvinsson (6th overall pick in 2021) and Albert Johansson (60th overall pick 2019) just recently signed entry-level contracts, and are likely to be next to join the NHL roster at some point this season. Behind them is William Wallinder (32nd overall pick 2020) who was named the best U20 player in Sweden’s top men’s league, the Swedish Hockey League (SHL). Two key veterans, Danny DeKeyser and Marc Staal, are unrestricted free agents and unlikely to return, so look for Yzerman to add a veteran presence to the back end — similar to when he traded for Nick Leddy last season from the New York Islanders. Depth on the blue line will also be provided by Gustav Lindstrom, Jordan Oesterle, and Jake Walman, who made a good impression after coming to Detroit at the trade deadline in 2022.
Hronek’s Role Moving Forward
For a young defenseman, Hronek has shown solid analytical numbers in the past, posting a 51.1% Corsi For Percentage (CF%) and a 48.8 Fenwick For Percentage (FF%) in 2018-19, while playing in 46 games. This past season he took a dip in these statistics, posting a 46.8 CF% and a 45.8 FF% in 78 games, as the Red Wings left their poor goaltenders out to dry on many nights.
Hronek is signed through 2023-24 with an AAV of $4.4 million, so his roster spot is likely secured for the next two seasons, barring a trade. Seider has emerged as the main minute-eater for the Red Wings’ defense, and likely won’t be paired much with Hronek because both are right-handed shots. His strength is his offensive skill, and he is averaging .48 points per game in 245 career games. Hronek will likely see a role on both the second unit defense and power-play units, and could be a good fit with Edvinsson as a line partner with Seider likely drawing whatever veteran gets brought in this offseason
The new coach of the Red Wings will bring a sorely needed defensive structure that should benefit Hronek and the rest of the young players on the roster. While everyone will get an opportunity to impress this next coach, this season is a defining one for him as he morphs from his status two years ago as a once-promising prospect to a veteran presence on a young and growing team. He has the skillset and offensive abilities that should allow him to thrive in a better team structure, and will also allow him to continue to be one of the key components of the Red Wings’ blue line for years to come.
Rob Klein grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan playing pond hockey every winter, and watching Hockey Night in Canada on CBC every Saturday. Being able to finally watch his Red Wings hoist the Stanley Cup in 1997 was his finest NHL moment. As a fan of the NHL for over 40 years he has been able to follow many great teams and appreciate the history of this great game as well as the remarkable talent that is playing today.