What Andrew Copp wants to prove in his second year with Detroit Red Wings

Detroit Free Press

The contract was the biggest one handed out by general manager Steve Yzerman his four offseasons as Detroit Red Wings general manager, and with that came significant expectations.

Expectations that, one year later, are leading Andrew Copp into the offseason with a mission: “To prove that I’m a top-six player.”

Those were Copp’s words in his end-of-season availability, days after he wrapped his first year in red and white with nine goals and 33 assists in 82 games.

“I think that my defensive game has always been there; penalty kill, I feel like that’s been really consistent throughout my whole career,” Copp said. “I think I took some offensive strides over the last few years. Didn’t score as many goals this year as I would have liked, but produced pretty well five-on-five and had a career year assist-wise.”

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Yzerman signed Copp, 28, last July for $28.125 million over five seasons, which works out to $5.625 million annually. At the time, Yzerman said Copp “filled an important need,” which was a second-line center. The Wings had tried Pius Suter there the year before, that that didn’t pan out. That led to committing to Copp, an Ann Arbor native coming off a career highs in goals (21) and points (53) in 72 games (split between the Winnipeg Jets and the New York Rangers, who he joined at the 2022 trade deadline).

Copp ended up needing core surgery, which prevented him from participating in training camp. He gutted it out and was in the lineup on opening night, but missing camp and exhibition games was a setback for a player new to a team that was new to the systems implemented by a new head coach.

Copp began the season on a line with David Perron and Jakub Vrana, and picked up assists in each of the first two games. Then the Wings lost Vrana and first-line winger Tyler Bertuzzi, forcing some new looks. At the season’s midpoint, Copp had three goals and 20 assists, and, despite being a power play regular, only two man-advantage points.

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“At the beginning of the season, I don’t think I was playing my best,” Copp said. “I think I got very pass happy — kind of related to the injury, not really being able to drive and skate with the puck as well as I would have liked.”

Copp looked better in the second half and was at his best around the time he played with Michael Rasmussen, whose strengths are forechecking and puck-hunting. Rasmussen suffered a season-ending knee injury Feb. 25, however, and then came the trade deadline, when the Wings dealt away Bertuzzi and Vrana, leaving the lineup a mish-mash of NHLers and minor leaguers to close out the season.

Copp took pride in being one of three Red Wings (along with Perron and Moritz Seider) to appear in all 82 games, saying, “I was battling through some stuff. It was only the second time in my career I was able to do it. Anytime anyone can play all 82, it’s impressive.”

He has decided against representing the U.S. during May’s World Championship, because he wants to “take a little time, let the body heal up, decompress, and then we have a decent amount of time before we go to Traverse City in September. The whole goal this summer is to get the body 100% and my power and everything, and get a little more scoring confidence back.

“Two years ago, I scored 27 goals in the regular season and postseason play, so nine this year to me was a little bit of a letdown.”

Going into next season fully healthy should help Copp fulfill the expectations that came when he signed.

“For me, it’s proving I can play in every situation, be relied to play upon 18 to 20 minute a night,” Copp said, “and be a top-six player on a winning team.”

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. 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.

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