Moritz Seider is big on showing up with a smile. He’s appreciative of what he gets to do, even when some days are more fun than others.
His second season as the Detroit Red Wings‘ top defenseman has not been as statistically impressive as his first year, which ended with Seider beaming next to the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year. Even a noteworthy four-assist performance this week — which got him a piece of franchise history — left Seider with 17 points and a minus-13 rating after 39 games; at the same point last season, he had 24 points and a plus-2 rating. Cognizant that his numbers are “not up there” among top defensemen in the NHL, Seider takes comfort in playing, as he put it, “a more mature game. I don’t get ahead of myself, stay patient, come to the rink every day, try to get a little better and I think I will be just fine.”
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What his new head coach likes is how Seider manages his game. He tops the team with an average ice time in the 23-minute range, has to defend against the opponent’s top line and plays both special teams. Derek Lalonde saw Seider last season as an assistant coach with the Tampa Bay Lightning and says there’s progress in Seider’s performances.
“From seeing him from afar, he obviously had a presence, but looked chaotic at times,” Lalonde said. “I just think he’s had a good presence. He loves the challenge of those matchups. I think he’s at his best when he’s physically engaged.
“For a 21-year-old, we ask a ton of him. I know a lot has been made maybe of his point production being down from last year, but I think when you look at his development, where we need him to be and want him to be, he’s definitely taken strides in the right direction.”
Lalonde gave an example of Seider’s commitment: On Wednesday, the coaching staff gave Seider the option to only be a part of practice. Seider opted to also take part in a pre-practice session with a skating coach.
Seider’s enthusiasm is one reason Jake Walman is enjoying their newly forged partnership. Lalonde said Walman earned a promotion to the top pairing based on his play and his ability to skate, and Walman relishes the opportunity to play with Seider.
“He’s a world-class player,” Walman said. “I love it. It’s really easy playing with him. He can break the puck out on his own — he is like a one-man wrecking crew back there. It’s fun playing with him. We work really well off the ice and I just want him to keep going.
“He’s got a crazy level of confidence. You can see it anywhere on the ice. I love watching him battle guys. He’s a beast.”
(Walman had an addendum he wanted to include after Seider tied a franchise record for most assists by a defenseman in one game Tuesday: “Just want to shout out Texas Roadhouse,” Walman said, explaining it’s his go-to for dinner the day before each game. “Mo came with me the day before the Jets game. Look what happened.”)
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Walman sits a couple stalls down from Seider, making for easy conversation. The guy directly opposite in the locker room is Lucas Raymond, a fellow first-round pick — Seider was No. 6 in 2019, Raymond No. 4 in 2020, both selected by general manager Steve Yzerman — and European transplant with whom Seider hit it off immediately. The two shared a house for a while and enjoy one another’s company.
“We share the same hobbies, so it’s really nice to have someone on your side,” Seider said. “We have the same interest in music, like our hip-hop, a little bit of rap, mixing in some country here and there. I like to go to the movies with him and just really chill.”
(The last one they saw was “Top Gun: Maverick.” The latest “Avatar” is next on their list.)
Seider, who turns 22 in April, figures to be a key part of the Wings’ rebuild for a decade and beyond. His plus-minus isn’t overly concerning given the role he plays and that Lalonde looks much more at “chances-for and chances-against,” he said. “If those numbers are really high on both ends, there’s something to that, but there’s a lot that goes into plus-minus. You can look past it a little bit, the actual hard plus-minus.”
Seider knows his value, and firmly believes it has risen.
“My game is still better than last year, even though the production isn’t there, I still think I play a better overall game than last year,” he said. “I just come to the rink with a smile on my face every day.”
Contact Helene St. James at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames.
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Her latest book, “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft,” is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.