Detroit — Strange how life can work occasionally. Three years to the date the Red Wings drafted Moritz Seider, the young defenseman Tuesday won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s best rookie.
Seider reflected on how he felt that evening in Vancouver three years ago, and the surprise of being picked sixth overall by general manager Steve Yzerman and the Wings, and being a finalist Tuesday for a prestigious award.
Which evening was more nerve-wracking for Seider?
“When you dress up that nice and you don’t get awarded, you might feel a little bit disappointed,” said Seider, choosing Tuesday’s awards show. “I was very happy to end the night on the stage with the trophy.”
Even after dominating the voting Tuesday, putting an exclamation point on a wonderful rookie season, Seider was already looking ahead to his — and the Wings’ — future.
Seider won the Calder, as voted upon by the Professional Hockey Writers Association, in a landslide. Seider was voted first on 170 of 185 ballots, and earned 1,853 points overall, far outpacing Anaheim’s Trevor Zegras (who had the remaining 15 first-place votes and 1,191 points).
It was a nice compliment from analysts on how good of a season Seider had. But that only registered with the big, mobile defenseman so much.
“Obviously, to give something back for the trust Detroit gave me is huge,” Seider said. “Other than that, it’s more about what we do as a team, that motivates me and keeps me going.
“There will be a moment when you’re sitting at home by yourself or with your friends and you will be very happy with what you’ve achieved. But other than that, it is more about the team.”
Seider insists the Wings are headed in the right direction, and motivated to end a six-year playoff drought.
“I’m pumped; everyone in our locker room is pumped and ready to go,” Seider said. “Everyone is preparing themselves to be better next season, to prove more people wrong and to fight for a playoff spot. It’s time for us to give something back, not only for ourselves but also for this city, the fans.
“We want playoffs at LCA.”
Seider wants to help lead the way, both on the ice and in the locker room.
Several veterans talked about the impressive way Seider carried himself when he was off the ice and noticed traits of a leader already in the 21-year-old.
Seider envisions himself taking on more of a leadership role as soon as next season, after the expected arrival of similarly aged prospects such as Simon Edvinsson, Albert Johansson, Jonatan Berggren and Elmer Soderblom.
“Everyone is looking forward to all of the guys,” said Seider of the Swedish influx of talent. “Our future is so bright. Fans are as excited as I am to see all the guys.
“You want to be there and also help out guys for their first seasons and their rookie year. Hopefully, I can even help them a little bit to adjust to North American ice, or just the North American lifestyle a little bit. I want to step up and be a leader on the ice, and if you have to, also off the ice. First and foremost, it’s just to lead by example and others will follow.”
Somewhat similarly, Seider referenced the relationship he had with rookie forward Lucas Raymond this season and how beneficial it was to have someone close in age who was experiencing the NHL for the first time.
Raymond, incidentally, finished fourth in the Calder voting, with both Raymond and Seider being named to the NHL All-Rookie team.
“It was great to have him on your side, having someone who is going through the same phases as you, because you have someone to talk to,” Seider said. “We got close right from the start. I truly believe he should be up here, too, in that (Calder) conversation and maybe even win that award, but others have to judge that.”
As good as Seider was this season, he sees areas to improve.
A specific part of Seider’s game is working the blue line on the power play, with Seider pointing to Colorado’s Cale Makar (who won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman) as one defenseman who has mastered the skill.
“Lateral movement on the blue line is a key to be successful as a defenseman,” Seider said. “You see (Colorado’s Cale) Makar doing that in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and it’s fun to see. You want to be up there, too, one day.”
Seider played in all 82 games and led all rookies in total ice time (1,889 minutes, 22 seconds) and minutes per game (23:02). Consistently facing the other team’s best players, Seider never wilted in his performance.
Not missing a single game was a positive that Seider singled out about the season.
“In the end, to look in the mirror and say you gave your best, that’s the best for me,” Seider said. “To not fall into a mental breakdown during an (82-game) season.
“Once you gain confidence, it’s a lot easier to go out there and perform every single night. Teammates were pushing me hard. I just enjoyed every single moment, so it was easy coming to the rink and trying to get better.”
Chris Ilitch, governor, president and chief executive officer; Steve Yzerman, executive vice president and general manager; alternate governor Jimmy Devellano, and Dylan Larkin were among the Red Wings representatives who flew to Tampa for the presentation.
Seider appreciated the show of support from the Wings’ front office and captain.
“It was a really cool surprise,” Seider said. “It’s cool to see that not only your captain and teammates have your back but the whole organization. I’m very happy Larks sat next to me.”
Seider’s parents, incidentally, weren’t able to make it to Tampa, just returning to Germany after a vacation in Croatia.
Seider was hopeful his parents were asleep around the time of the award presentation, and he could surprise them with the news.
“Just kind of wait to get their reaction,” Seider said.