Red Wings’ Logjam on Defense Could Be Good For Edvinsson

The Hockey Writers

Detroit Red Wings general manager (GM) Steve Yzerman was active in free agency for the second year in a row, signing a plethora of players to short and long-term contracts. Surprisingly, even with a defense corps consisting of Moritz Seider, Ben Chiarot, Jake Walman, Olli Maatta, and Gustav Lindstrom, he still felt the need to add Justin Holl and Shayne Gostisbehere to the mix.

THW Free Agency Coverage Header

Now when training camp gets underway in the fall, top prospect Simon Edvinsson will face an uphill battle to grab a spot on the blue line for opening night. He is already behind the eight ball due to offseason shoulder surgery, now he will have to work extra hard to make it past the new players Yzerman signed on July 1.

Without the additions of Holl and Gostisbehere, Edvinsson’s path would have been pretty clear to make the team; now not so much. On the surface, this may seem like a bad thing, but as we all know, added competition usually brings out the best in players. That could be the case for Edvinsson as he tries to usurp a veteran and force his way onto the roster.

Edvinsson’s Dominance in the AHL With the Griffins

Edvinsson played most of the 2022-23 season in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Grand Rapids Griffins where he scored five goals and 27 points in 52 games. Arguably too good for the AHL at times, he impressed his teammates in Grand Rapids including his captain Brian Lashoff, who knew it was only a matter of time before the 6-foot-6 Swede would get his chance in the NHL.

“He was starting to get more comfortable,” Lashoff said. “There were a lot of games where I thought he was too good for the AHL. When a player like that gets to that point in the American Hockey League, you know they’re ready for the next step…His edgework is already elite at a young age…He’s able to break free from checks and use his feet as a weapon in the defensive zone.”

Simon Edvinsson Grand Rapids Griffins
Simon Edvinsson, Grand Rapids Griffins (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Throughout his rookie season in the AHL, Edvinsson showcased his elite skating and defensive game – two things that made him a highly touted pick in the 2021 Draft – to become one of the best shutdown defensemen in the league. He was the Griffins’ minute muncher on the blue line playing an average of 21:52 a night in all situations and dominating the competition every time he was on the ice.

Edvinsson Belongs in the NHL

Edvinsson made his long-awaited NHL debut on March 18, 2023, against the Colorado Avalanche where he played 15:34 and got on the stat sheet with a shot, a hit, and two penalty minutes. He followed that up with eight more solid games, including a performance against the Toronto Maple Leafs on April 2, where he played a career-high 22:25 and threw three hits. By the end of the season, he had his first two NHL goals under his belt and a lot of excitement from the fanbase about where his 2023-24 campaign could go.

Edvinsson not only impressed the fans but also his new teammates in Detroit. After garnering praise from his captain in the AHL, he got the same treatment in the NHL from Dylan Larkin.

“I think he’s a dynamic player…It’s not every day you see a 6-foot-6 player move like that and have vision and skating ability like that…He’s a very exciting prospect. I kind of expect him to really come into camp and battle. I was impressed with how he was physical, how he really understood that he was there to leave an impression and a good impression.”

Walman was floored by his size and mobility saying, “For his size, he can move really well…I told everybody I wish I had that size. It helps a lot as a hockey player. It’ll be good to see him next year and see the strides in his game that he’s going to make.”

Related: The Grind Line: Thoughts on Red Wings’ 2023 Draft Class

Latest News & Highlight

Overall, even though it was only a small sample size of nine games, Edvinsson burst onto the scene as one of the best defensive prospects in the NHL. Ranked by many as the Red Wings’ top prospect, he has the potential to form a massive one-two punch on defense with Seider on the top pairing. Unfortunately, fans will have to be patient for that to happen as the aforementioned offseason surgery and additions on the blue line might block his rise to stardom.

Offseason Surgery & New Additions Could Slow Edvinsson’s Rise

On May 1, it was announced that Edvinsson underwent successful surgery on his left shoulder and that it carried a four to six-month recovery period. If all goes well and the rehab takes four months, that would put his return right before training camp. On the other hand, if it goes the full six, then he might not return until November. Either way, he won’t have a regular offseason of training, and that alone could put him behind the pack when the NHL gets back together in September.

Simon Edvinsson Detroit Red Wings
Simon Edvinsson, Detroit Red Wings (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Throw in the added roadblocks of Holl and Gostisbehere, and Edvinsson has a slim chance of making the opening night roster. However, if all goes well with his rehab and he hits the ground running in training camp and (hopefully) the Traverse City Prospect Tournament, then he could force Yzerman and new assistant GM Kris Draper to trade someone to make room for him.

As it is right now, the top-six and even the seventh defenceman slots are filled with Seider, Walman, Gostisbehere, Holl, Ben Chiarot, Olli Maatta, and Gustav Lindstrom. So, as mentioned, it would take Edvinsson outperforming one of these veterans – along with a healthy body – to make the NHL for opening night against the New Jersey Devils on Oct. 12.

Competition Breeds Success

They say competition breeds success and that cannot be more true when it comes to training camp in the NHL. GMs bring in players to overflow the coffers in the hopes of rookies impressing enough to force them into tough decisions. Every season, there are at least a few surprising veterans on waivers because they couldn’t keep up with the youth. If Edvinsson is healthy and ready to go, he could make Yzerman regret signing some of the defensemen he did in the offseason. Fortunately, he is not ruling out the possibility of that happening.

“We have high hopes for Simon…I’m not prepared to put him on the team in a top-six role. Certainly, I don’t think it’s beyond a possibility that Simon comes in and has an outstanding training camp, and outstanding preseason and simply forces his way into the lineup. That’s what every one of us – our fans, our organization – would love to see. And if that happens, that’s great and we’ll figure it out” (from ‘Yzerman not penciling in Edvinsson, Kasper on Red Wings’ season-opening roster’, MLive, 7/4/23).

Steve Yzerman Detroit Red Wings
Steve Yzerman, General Manager of the Detroit Red Wings (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

While it’s disappointing to see a few mountains in Edvinsson’s path to full-time employment with the Red Wings, it might be better for his development in the long run. Whether it is motivation to up his game to beat out a veteran or more pro experience in the AHL (which is never a bad thing, especially when you’re only 20 years old), he should be a better player for it. Who knows, fans might be surprised and see him in the opening night lineup even though it looks almost impossible right now. After all, stranger things have happened.

Articles You May Like

SSOTD: Canadiens vs. Red Wings, 4/16/2024
Red Wings’ Simon Edvinsson: The Future Is Now
SSOTD: Maple Leafs vs. Red Wings, 4/13/2024
On NHL Salt Lake City and Domain Name Registrations
SSOTD: Penguins vs. Red Wings, 4/11/2024

Leave a Reply

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