Predicting what the Detroit Red Wings’ defense corps will look like next season

Detroit Free Press

One of the encouraging storylines to emerge as the Detroit Red Wings close out this season is Simon Edvinsson’s ascension on the defense’s depth chart.

The Wings have seven games left before they head into another long offseason. For general manager Steve Yzerman the work never really ends: It’s on him and his staff to make improvements that will lead the Wings back to the playoffs. He may not need to tinker much with the defense corps, though, as Edvinsson’s promotion has shed some light on where he fits.

With that in mind, here is an early prediction of what the Wings’ defense corps will look like in 2023-24.

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTWEIGHTS: Winnipeg Jets clip Detroit Red Wings, 6-2, but at least a loss helps draft lottery odds

IN THE CREASE: How Ville Husso’s late-season push affects Red Wings’ goaltending situation

Moritz Seider

With 39 points in 75 games, he probably won’t match his output from last season, when his 50 points in 82 games helped him win the Calder Trophy. But Seider, who turns 22 Thursday, has better numbers elsewhere: 179 blocked shots and 189 hits, compared to last season’s 161 blocked shots and 151 hits. He is noticeably more physical (and to his credit, he has never wasted time fighting and hurting his team by landing in the penalty box for five minutes) and has embraced facing the opponent’s best players every game. Seider, the No. 6 pick in 2019, runs the first power play unit and is the team’s top penalty killer. The only question regarding Seider is how much he’ll get when he is signed to an extension next season.

GROWTH ON THE BLUE LINE: How Red Wings’ Moritz Seider has evolved from ‘chaotic’ to well-rounded

Jake Walman

No wonder Yzerman got the 27-year-old signed to a three-year, $10.2 million extension in February; Walman is a fast, mobile defender who never hesitates to shoot the puck when he has a good chance. (His decision to do so with seconds left on the clock in last week’s Carolina game directly resulted in a a 3-2 victory for the Wings.) What makes Walman’s spot on the Wings even better is that he was acquired at the 2022 trade deadline from the St. Louis Blues in a deal that mostly was swung for a 2023 second-round pick. The Wings got a defenseman they feel comfortable playing on the top pairing, and all it cost was trading away Nick Leddy, who didn’t figure into the rebuild.

SIGNED AND SEALED: Why Jake Walman’s 3-year extension makes sense for Red Wings

Simon Edvinsson

He showed how far he has come since training camp when he made his NHL debut on March 18. Edvinsson, the No. 6 pick in 2021, has played with an assertiveness befitting a guy who is 6 feet 6 and 209 pounds (and who, at 20 years old, will still put on more muscle). He has brought that physicality to his game, too. Spending most of the season getting acclimated to North American hockey has paid off, as he’s making quicker decisions with the puck. He needs to learn what he can get away with and what he can’t — he has been penalized twice in two of his four appearances — but overall, Edvinsson has shown he’s ready to be in the NHL full time.

PLAY AND LEARN: How Simon Edvinsson has benefitted from his time with Detroit Red Wings

Ben Chiarot

Chiarot, 31, was one of Yzerman’s big free-agent signings last summer, brought in on a four-year, $19 million deal. He started out paired with Seider, but seemed in a better groove on the second pairing. Chiarot has gotten caught up in taking hot-headed penalties at times, but the 6-3, 232-pounder plays a heavy, punishing game, adding a much-needed dimension. He stands up for teammates, too, like when he took on Minnesota’s Ryan Reaves back in December, which sparked the Wings.

Olli Määttä

Määttä joined the Wings last summer on a one-year deal, but he earned a two-year, $6 million extension in February on the strength of his growth. When he agreed to his new deal, he had 17 points and a plus-five rating through 49 games. He has two points and a minus-15 rating in 22 games since then, but that partly reflects being cast into a bigger role after FIlip Hronek was traded on March 1. Määttä, 28, generally makes good decisions with the puck and limits risky plays and, at 6-2 and 207 pounds, brings good size, too.

Open spots

With the expectation the Wings will carry seven defensemen, that leaves open open spots. Gustav Lindström is a restricted free agent. Given how often he has been a healthy scratch — he has played 33 of a possible 75 games — he doesn’t seem to fit into future plans. Robert Hägg has only played 34 games, but he has an edge and is harder to play against than Lindström or pending unrestricted free agent Jordan Oesterle. Hägg, 28, could be brought back on a one-year deal for about $1 million to serve on the third pairing.

The future

The Wings may leave room for Albert Johansson to show if he’s NHL ready at camp. Touching on the prospects when he spoke at the trade deadline, Yzerman said that Johansson “has quietly had a very, very good year in Grand Rapids.” Unfortunately, Johansson, drafted No. 60 in 2019, has been sidelined by injury since March 3, so there hasn’t been an opportunity to call him up. Beyond that, last month the Wings signed Antti Tuomisto, the No. 35 pick in 2019, and William Wallinder, the No. 32 pick in 2020, to entry-level contracts that begin next season.

Tuomisto, 22, is 6-5 and 205 pounds and has a huge shot — and he shoots right, which the Wings lack on the back end after trading Hronek. Seider and Edvinsson have shown how much it benefits young defensemen, especially those used to playing on a bigger European sheet, to begin their North American careers in the AHL. That will be a story line to track next season: Whether Tuomisto and Wallinder will be the next prospects drafted by Yzerman to improve the defense corps.

Contact Helene St. James at Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames.

Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter.

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.

Articles You May Like

Red Wings Prospect Rankings: #7 William Wallinder
Detroit Red Wings: Is something brewing with the Artem Anisimov PTO?
4 Takeaways From Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman’s Presser
Red Wings Prospect Rankings: #6 Carter Mazur

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *