Detroit Red Wings midseason grades: Most offseason additions earning their contracts

Detroit Free Press

The proof for first-year head coach Derek Lalonde that the Detroit Red Wings have progressed since last season lies in how many complete games they have played.

Their 18-15-7 record at the midpoint has them only two points ahead of where they were last season (18-17-5). But their goal differential entering Saturday sat at minus-10, compared to last season’s minus-22, and their third-period goal differential was a plus-nine, compared to last season’s minus-14. The Wings put together a five-game point streak to start this season, strung together a 4-0-1 stretch in November, and have limited their regulation-loss skids to three games, which has happened twice.

“Some of the up and down has been results,” Lalonde said. “Because our play, the overall five-on-five play, has been pretty good. Probably the most sporadic has been our special teams. We have to play a complete game to win. If we get a bad goalie performance, if we’re sloppy on special teams, sloppy with our puck play, sloppy with our coverage, we are not going to win.

“We could be on pace for 90 points. I think anybody — myself, guys in the locker room, the average fan, the media — if we would have sat here with this right now, we would have taken it. We got there a different route at times, with some of that being up and down results, but there’s progress here.”

Multiple players have earned high marks at the midseason, while a few need to get their games in order.

F Robby Fabbri: A

Stats: 3 goals, even rating in four games.

Signed through: 2024-25 with a $4 million salary cap hit.

Buzz: A handful of games isn’t really enough to warrant a grade, but Fabbri has injected such energy and all-around good play after a hard three months rehabilitating from his third knee surgery. He gets high marks for perseverance.

ROBBY ROLLING:Steve Yzerman’s prediction about Fabbri coming true

D Filip Hronek: A

Stats: 7 goals, 22 assists, plus-14 in 40 games.

Signed through: 2023-24; $4.4 million.

Buzz: He has rebounded from a subpar 2021-22, looking confident with the puck making plays or getting his shot through to the net, with a dash of abrasiveness. Ranks in top 20 among NHL defensemen in goals and plus-minus.

D Jake Walman: A

Stats: 4 goals, 3 assists, plus-13 in 24 games.

Signed through: 2022-23; $1.05 million.

Buzz: Joined the lineup Nov. 15 after recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. His skating earned him an audition on the top pairing with Seider, and since those two have been together, Walman has two goals, two assists and a plus-1 rating in six games.

F Dylan Larkin: A-

Stats: 14 goals, 23 assists, plus-6 in 39 games.

Signed through: 2022-23; $6.1 million.

Buzz: Draws tough defensive assignments, and plays in all situations. Pretty much on pace for a third 30-goal season. Very cognizant of his role as leader and works hard to set the right example.

G Ville Husso: A-

Stats: 14-8-5, 2.95 goals-against average, .904 save percentage.

Signed through: 2024-25; $4.75 million.

Buzz: The undisputed MVP through the first two months, then buckled a bit under a heavy workload and dealing with illness. He has made highlight-reel saves more times than not.

F Jonatan Berggren: B+

Stats: 7 goals, 9 assists, plus-2 in 27 games.

Signed through: 2023-24; $925,000.

Buzz: Consistently stands out for his offensive skills, which has earned him looks in the top six and a spot on the power play. Needs to be harder defensively, but at 22, he is having a solid rookie season.

D Olli Määttä: B+

Stats: 3 goals, 11 assists, plus-6 in 36 games.

Signed through: 2022-23; $2.25 million.

Buzz: What a bargain for a defenseman who has come in and provided offense and sound defense as a solid second- or third-pairing guy. Doesn’t draw the opposing top line but plays a stable, smart game.

F David Perron: B+

Stats: 12 goals, 15 assists, even rating in 40 games.

Signed through: 2023-24 with a $4.75 million salary cap hit.

Buzz: He has impacted the offense, especially on the power play, which is what he was brought in to do. Plays with poise and brings leadership.

F Dominik Kubalik: B

Stats: 13 goals, 17 assists, minus-9 in 40 games.

Signed through: 2023-24; $2.5 million.

Buzz: He burst into the season with 10 points his first six games, and had 21 points at Thanksgiving (through 19 games). That wasn’t a sustainable pace, but it was noticeable how quiet he went over his next 19, with seven points. Seems to have recovered some confidence of late.

F Michael Rasmussen: B

Stats: 7 goals, 10 assists, minus-7 in 38 games.

Signed through: 2023-24; $1.46 million.

Buzz: Had three goals and seven points in the seven games he spent on Larkin’s wing. Has shown growth in his game but needs to be stronger defensively.

F Joe Veleno: B

Stats: 5 goals, 8 assists, plus-5 in 39 games.

Signed through: 2022-23; $894,167.

Buzz: Has grown on offense and defense. Has done a good job centering the fourth line, earning occasional looks in the top-six and on man advantages.

D Ben Chiarot: B-

Stats: 3 goals, 8 assists, minus-13 in 40 games.

Signed through: 2025-26; $4.75 million.

Buzz: He has strengthened the top-four corps, kills penalties, can fill in on the power play and contributes offensively. He’s physical — at times too much so, leading to penalties. His plus-minus partly reflects how much he has played against opposing top lines. He’s a minus-2 in six games since being moved off the top pairing.

F Lucas Raymond: B-

Stats: 12 goals, 17 assists, minus-3 in 40 games.

Signed through: 2023-24; $925,000.

Buzz: Underperformed the first two months (no goals his first seven games, followed by a nine-game drought in November and December) but has recovered to post numbers similar to last season (11 goals, 21 assists, plus-1 after 40 games).  Consistency is his biggest challenge, along with playing better in his own zone. Seems to click best when he is on Larkin’s wing.

D Moritz Seider: B-

Stats: 3 goals, 15 assists, minus-13 in 40 games.

Signed through: 2022-23; $863,333.

Buzz: His plus-minus after 40 games is far off the plus-1 rating he had after 40 games last season. It’s common for young stars to endure sophomore slumps. Lalonde has pointed to Seider’s improvement in reducing the number of Grade-A chances opponents generate. Six points and an even rating in six games since being paired with Walman.

BUILDING ON THE BLUELINE:How Seider has evolved from ‘chaotic’ to well-rounded

F Oskar Sundqvist: B-

Stats: 6 goals, 10 assists, minus-5 in 33 games.

Signed through: 2022-23; $2.75 million.

Buzz: Brings physicality and energy and a net-front presence, finds a way to be a part of offensive situations and plays both special teams (with six power play points).

D Jordan Oesterle: C+

Stats: 2 goals, 1 assist, even rating in 28 games.

Signed through: 2022-23; $1.35 million.

Buzz: Good third-pairing/reserve guy who generally plays a safe game.

F Tyler Bertuzzi: C

Stats: 1 goal, 3 assists, minus-1 in 11 games.

Signed through: 2022-23; $4.75 million.

Buzz: Two hand injuries have limited his availability this season, part of an extensive injury history. Provides grit and offense, but needs to shore up his defense.

F Adam Erne: C

Stats: 5 goals, 8 assists, minus-5 in 38 games.

Signed through: 2022-23; $2.1 million.

Buzz: At times he is noticeable for his physicality, but other times there’s not much happening on his shifts.

D Gustav Lindstrom: C

Stats: 2 assists, minus-8 in 19 games.

Signed through: 2022-23; $850,000.

Buzz: Hasn’t been able to establish himself as a regular under the new coaching staff, though he plays a fairly safe game.

F Pius Suter: C

Stats: 5 goals, 6 assists, minus-5 in 38 games.

Signed through: 2022-23; $3.25 million.

Buzz: Others have passed him on the depth chart, so he has mostly served as third-line center and penalty killer. Has won 50% of 206 faceoffs.

F Andrew Copp: C-

Stats: 3 goals, 20 assists, minus-1 in 40 games.

Signed through: 2026-27; $5.625 million.

Buzz: Offseason core surgery sidelined him through camp and hampered him through the first month. He has drawn tough defensive assignments, but still, the Wings expected more production when they made him their second-highest paid player.

G Magnus Hellberg: C-

Stats: 2-3-0, 2.81 GAA, .896 save percentage.

Signed through: 2022-23; $750,000.

Buzz: Claimed off waivers, he provided depth to offset Alex Nedeljkovic’s struggles. Has made timely saves but has also let in some weak goals.

G Alex Nedeljkovic: D

Stats: 2-4-2, 4.09 GAA, .880 save percentage.

Signed through: 2022-23; $3 million.

Buzz: Was stellar in the second game of the season, in New Jersey on the second part of a back-to-back, and won the Wings their game at the New York Rangers, but overall this has been a bafflingly poor season for last year’s starter. He has allowed at least four goals in six of his eight starts. Was sent to minors to get his game in order.

WORKING IN THE AHL:Derek Lalonde: Red Wings ‘haven’t given up’ on Alex Nedeljkovic

F Filip Zadina: F

Stats: No points, minus-3 rating in nine games.

Signed through: 2024-25; $1.825 million.

Buzz: It’s going on five years since the Wings drafted Zadina at No. 6 in 2018, and he has been unable to show he should play in the top six — or even the bottom six. There’s no faulting his work ethic or desire, but the results have been disappointing.

Coaching staff: B

Buzz: Lalonde and bench assistants Alex Tanguay (forwards, power play) and Bob Boughner (defensemen, penalty kill) have convinced players to reduce the risky plays that lead to high-quality chances for opponents. The Wings largely have played with solid structure, and done well five-on-five. Special teams have see-sawed between stretches of success and failure. Overall, in his first year, Lalonde gets good marks for advancing the Wings.

Contact Helene St. James at 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.

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