On September 23, 2022, I published an article about preseason predictions on this site. I wrote about various Detroit Red Wings players, and now that the All-Star break has come and gone and the NHL is back in full swing, I thought it would be better than ever to revisit them at the halfway mark. I am completely ready to be mostly wrong.
Prediction 1: Jakub Vrana scores 35 goals
Already off to a hot start here. Jakub Vrana’s situation has been unfortunate to say the least. According to an article from Max Bultman of The Athletic, he wants to stay a Red Wing. But he also doesn’t know what is going on. After two games in the NHL in 2022-23, Vrana entered the NHLPA’s player assistance program and then was waived and sent down to the AHL to play with the Grand Rapids Griffins, where he has recently found his goal-scoring again. He has 11 points (6 goals, 5 assists) in 17 games with the Griffins, and in 39 total games since coming to Detroit, he has 22 goals.
I still feel comfortable with this prediction in a season that Vrana is healthy and isn’t dealing with things bigger than the game of hockey, but obviously, for 2022-23, this was a giant bust.
Prediction 2: Dylan Larkin gets over the point-per-game mark
Dylan Larkin in 2021-22 was extremely close to hitting the point-per-game mark with 69 in 71 games, and this prediction was one I felt comfortable with as well, considering he’s in a contract year. An explosive statistical output would not have been surprising at all. And once again, he’s close. In 53 games through 2022-23, he has 55 points (21 goals, 34 assists). In 6 games through the second half, he has 12 points, and if he can keep up with that (even if he regresses just slightly), he should be able to reach this plateau.
It’s almost astonishing that Larkin has never reached this mark in his career. One thing that may be contributing to it this season is the clear regression of Lucas Raymond. The points are still coming, but the analytics suggest he is less impactful offensively. It doesn’t appear that he is controlling play as well as he was last season either, and that may be that small step backward that won’t allow Larkin to hit the mark by season’s end.
Prediction 3: Andrew Copp scores at least 20 goals and 45 points again
This one hurts for me, mainly because a prediction that relies on goal-scoring will never go well if the player in question is shooting at a career-low percentage, which is happening with Andrew Copp.
Copp returning to the form he was in during 2021-22 wasn’t something that I believed was likely to happen, but I did think if he could stay healthy for the whole season and shoot at his career average percentage, he could reach the 20-goal, 45-point mark. Unfortunately, as of now, I am wrong. Theoretically, he could still reach the 45-point mark considering he has 23 assists, so hopefully, I’m only going to be half wrong. I don’t see 15 goals coming in the second half of the season, but I’m sure Red Wings fans would be delighted if it did happen.
Prediction 4: Dominik Kubalik scores at least 20 goals
Now, this prediction is one that is more than likely to come true. Dominik Kubalik has 16 goals in 53 games, particularly from the start of the season to the end of the calendar year; he was at his best. He scored 12 of his 16 goals in that time span.
Kubalik has been streaky, as most goal-scorers are, and the new year hasn’t been all that great for him. However, everyone knows his ability, and if he doesn’t reach the 20-goal mark this season with the number of games they have left, then something is seriously wrong.
Prediction 5: Ville Husso takes the reins in net from Alex Nedeljkovic
It’s kind of funny to think that this was the prediction I believed to be the boldest, and now it’s the one that has come true since hitting the all-star break and beyond. Ville Husso has been excellent. He has a .905 save percentage and 1.32 goals saved above expected (GSAx), which is 23rd among 36 goaltenders with 1,000 shot attempts against. He also got the opening night start, and Alex Nedeljkovic just wasn’t the same goalie we saw last season.
Nedeljkovic after putting up an ugly minus-10.21 GSAx in only 9 games and a .880 save percentage. He is currently down in the AHL with the Grand Rapids Griffins after being assigned down there following a conditioning stint and going through waivers.
Not only did Husso take the reins from Nedeljkovic, but he took them, and Nedeljkovic fell off the chariot while it happened. His drop-off has been steep and very unfortunate because it appeared that the Red Wings tandem would be one of the best in the NHL even if Nedeljkovic didn’t have the starting job.
The Red Wings are still in the playoff hunt, only two points back of the second wild-card spot. Some things haven’t gone to plan, while others have worked out quite swimmingly or are trending in that direction. This season isn’t close to lost, and I’m hoping that the majority of these predictions can come true by the end of it.