With the Detroit Red Wings’ prospect tournament in Traverse City coming to a close on Sept. 19, and the team’s NHL training camp set to begin on Sept. 22, my mind can’t help but wander toward the preseason. Training camp gives players a chance to prove themselves to their coaches in a practice setting, but the preseason lets those players show what they’re made of in a more competitive environment.
Plenty of American Hockey League (AHL) regulars and young prospects get their first taste of NHL action in the preseason, and some even earn an NHL spot because of their success in these games. Teams and coaches often use these practice games as a chance to experiment with their lineup and their line combinations, searching for unconventional combos that could help lead the team in the right direction.
Since the Red Wings hired new head coach Derek Lalonde this offseason and he hasn’t yet coached the team for a single game, I expect him to get quite creative with his lineup. What follows is a list of five interesting and/or strange line combinations that I would like to see the Red Wings try this preseason. As a bonus, I’ve already taken the liberty of naming each of them for your reading pleasure, enjoy.
Jakub Vrana – Filip Zadina – Dominik Kubalik
I can’t take credit for the nickname here, that’s Red Wings Twitter’s creation. This line could also be called the “Wildcard line” since each of the players have immense goalscoring potential, and their success would mean a lot to the team, but the Czech connection is way more compelling and comedically satisfying.
With the abundance of centers on the Red Wings roster, I wouldn’t expect Detroit’s coaching staff to stack three wingers together so that this line could exist, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be fun, at least for the jokes on Twitter. I’m sure it means something to these players to have multiple of their fellow countrymen on the same team, and the chance to play with them in game action, even in a game as unimportant as a preseason one, would be something they’d jump at the idea of.
Lucas Raymond – Jonatan Berggren – Elmer Söderblom
The second of our national forward lines is this trio courtesy of Sweden. Here we have three of the Red Wings’ most intriguing young forwards who each played in different professional hockey leagues last season. Elmer Söderblom played in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), Jonatan Berggren played in the AHL, and Lucas Raymond excelled on Detroit’s top forward line in the NHL.
While Raymond’s destination for this coming season is firmly in the NHL, the future is less certain for the other two. By the end of last season, Berggren had endeared himself to the fans and many expected him to easily earn a roster spot for the 2022-23 season. However, the additions that the Red Wings made in free agency this summer have filled out the depth chart quite a bit, making the path from the Grand Rapids Griffins to Detroit much harder.
Söderblom will also face tough competition at training camp and will likely spend most of the season in Grand Rapids. The preseason should offer these two a chance to establish chemistry with some of Detroit’s top players.
When it comes to the nickname, I could have gone with some of the classics such as “Swedish House Mafia” or “How Swede it is”. Instead, I decided to go for a kind of makeshift “ABBA” rip-off, where the name is an acronym of the members’ first initials. I also figured that since Söderblom and Berggren’s best chance at earning an NHL spot this season would be developing some chemistry with established NHLers, it would be fun for them to be named “JEL” since lots of people refer to the process of building chemistry as “gelling”.
Olli Määttä – Moritz Seider
Based on the value of the contracts given out by Yzerman in free agency, it appears that the team views Ben Chiarot as the top left-handed defender on the depth chart this season. After all, he does have experience with heavy minutes, particularly in Montreal where he played alongside Shea Weber with great results.
However, at least in the preseason, I want to see the team try budding star Moritz Seider next to Olli Määttä, an all-defense guy who could hold the line quite effectively, allowing Mo to jump into play more freely, ultimately leading to more offense and assists, which are colloquially known as “apples”.
Also, according to Google Translate, the name “Määttä” translates to “Rotten”, so you could go with something like “Rotten Seider” but that seems a little too pessimistic for me…and a little bit gross.
Apple Seider Lite (Now With 50% Less Sugar!)
Donovan Sebrango – Filip Hronek
I see both Donovan Sebrango and Filip Hronek filling similar roles to the two players in the previous pairing, with Sebrango being the lefty with an above-average defensive game and Hronek as the righty who is freed up to participate a bit more offensively. I think that their skills and deficiencies would complement each other well, giving us a glimpse at a balanced pairing that could become a reality in the NHL one day.
Määttä seems like the perfect model of what the Red Wings need Sebrango to become someday: a great defenseman who doesn’t need to provide much offense to be successful and having someone on the ice who can limit the mistakes of Hronek will benefit the team across the board.
Oops! All Snipers
Tyler Bertuzzi – David Perron – Filip Zadina
Does anyone else remember the “Cap’n Crunch” cereal called “Oops! All Berries”? Well, that’s what I’m going for with the nickname for this line made-up of some of the team’s best goal scorers all jammed together into one unit. Of course, someone would need to be setting up the goals and I’d expect to see David Perron lead the charge in terms of assists.
Perron scored 27 goals last season in 67 games with the St. Louis Blues, which is an 82-game pace of 33 goals. Tyler Bertuzzi scored exactly 30 goals, surpassing that benchmark for the first time in his career. Filip Zadina, a winger who scored a career-high 10 goals last year, may not have the stats of a traditional sniper, but he was drafted with the expectation that he would one day be an excellent goal scorer.
If Zadina can build on his confidence this season and earn more powerplay time, he could be in the neighbourhood of 20 goals, especially considering the improvements that the team has made at forward which will give him more talented teammates to play with, even if he lands on the third line for some time.
Although they’ll almost certainly never play together in this exact configuration, I have high expectations for these three wingers, and truly believe they could combine for 80-plus goals this season if they can all stay relatively healthy.
Preseason is Almost Here
The new-look Red Wings will play their 2022-23 NHL preseason debut in about a week on Sept. 27 when they face the Pittsburgh Penguins on the road, and there will be a lot for fans to keep their eyes on.
From prospects like Edvinsson, Söderblom, and Berggren, to the new coaching styles that we’ll see from behind Detroit’s bench. Even though the games ultimately won’t matter, there should be a little something for everyone to enjoy in these exhibition games as we gear up for the NHL’s regular season to finally kick off on Oct. 7.
Which of my hypothetical lines would you most like to see when the preseason starts? Do you have any alternative names for any of these lines? How many wins do you think Detroit will earn across their eight preseason games? Sound off in the comment section below!
Logan is a sports writer for the Detroit Red Wings as a member of The Hockey Writers team. He loves reading about statistics and advanced analytics, and discovering how they can enrich his hockey analysis and writing. Logan also writes about more general hockey topics on his blog https://www.crashthecrease.blog.