The Detroit Red Wings‘ deep prospect pool started paying dividends in the 2022-23 season. Many players took a major step forward in their development, and a few got to play a couple of games in the NHL to get their feet wet.
Elmer Soderblom, Jonatan Berggren, Simon Edvinsson, and Marco Kasper all got a snippet of NHL action. Some impressed more than others, and some will be on the 2023-24 opening-night roster. Here are the three most likely Red Wings prospects to start the season in the NHL.
Honorable Mention: Simon Edvinsson
Edvinsson receives an honorable mention on this list. Management and the coaching staff were so happy with his stint last season that the only thing that will prevent him from starting the campaign in Detroit will be if he is still recovering from surgery.
Edvinsson lit the lamp twice in his nine-game audition for the Red Wings. He also had 11 hits and eight blocks, displaying his commitment to defence and physicality. He’ll need to utilize all of those tools, plus his offensive creativity, to stick past opening night.
3. Carter Mazur
Carter Mazur rose rapidly through the ranks of Red Wings prospects this season. He was drafted in his second year of eligibility in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. With 22 goals in 40 games for the University of Denver, he’s developing into a goal scorer. He also tallied three goals and three assists in six games with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League (AHL).
In his debut in the AHL, he displayed a high compete level and got some shots on goal. He’s been a speedy winger with a high hockey IQ since his draft year. That combination could be utilized in the Red Wings’ lineup on a nightly basis. With head coach Derek Lalonde’s commitment to defense, Mazur could carve out a role in the bottom six and, in time, work his way up the roster.
2. Jonatan Berggren
Berggren split his time between the AHL and the NHL in 2022-23. In 67 NHL games, he scored 15 goals and 28 points. He only played seven games in the AHL and collected seven points.
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Teams want as many 20-goal scorers as possible, and Berggren could hit that benchmark next season, and his offensive creativity and speed could land him in the top six.
“He continues to make plays. He’s one of our skilled guys on entries, poised with the puck, any line he’s been on, he’s driven offense.”
– Red Wings head coach Derek Lalonde (from ‘Berggren making strong case to stay with Red Wings,’ The Detroit News, Jan. 7, 2023).
After dressing for 67 games with the Red Wings last season, Berggren might be there already, especially if he can produce consistently.
1. Marco Kasper
Kasper was a force for Rogle BK in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) this season. Playing top-six minutes in a league dominated by men, he recorded 23 points in 52 games, along with 72 penalty minutes. He followed that up with three points in nine games in the SHL Playoffs. That was impressive enough to warrant a call-up to the Red Wings. Unfortunately, he played one game and suffered an injury.
Related: Red Wings’ Kasper Is Better than Joel Eriksson-Ek & Dylan Larkin
Kasper’s skill and tenacity will almost certainly make him a fan favorite in Detroit. He has a “nose to the grindstone” mentality and fights for every inch in front of the net. He’s also not afraid to mix it up and throw his body around for good measure.
Mazur, Berggren, and Kasper should all be on the opening-night roster in 2023-24. They have too much skill, creativity, and work ethic to not make the big club. Unless general manager Steve Yzerman makes several big moves via trade or free agency, I expect at least one of these three to wear the Winged Wheel come October.