5 Red Wings Prospects That Could Make the Opening Night Roster

The Hockey Writers

In both of the last two seasons, the Detroit Red Wings’ opening night roster featured at least one rookie. Back in 2021-22, it was the pair of Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond. Last season, Elmer Söderblom made his NHL debut in the Red Wings’ first game of the season. With the 2023-24 season on the horizon, there are plenty of prospects that seem positioned to challenge for an NHL roster spot and make it three seasons in a row.

Some of these players have already made their NHL debuts, but they would still be considered rookies in the 2023-24 campaign. Others would be completely new, just like the aforementioned players were in their respective seasons. Regardless of their levels of NHL experience, these players are ones to keep an eye on when training camp begins next month.

(D) Simon Edvinsson

In some ways, Simon Edvinsson is probably the most obvious candidate to make the Red Wings’ opening night roster. On Mar. 21, he was the team’s lone rookie call up following the trade deadline, and he preceded to play nine games with Detroit before the end of the season. He finished his initial stint in the NHL with two points (both goals) while averaging a little over 17 minutes in ice time.

Related: Red Wings Top 25 Prospects: Post-2023 Draft

Latest News & Highlight

During his time in the NHL, Edvinsson’s play varied from night to night. At his best, he was a poised, confident puck-mover from the back-end that was able to read the defense and adjust accordingly. He used his size to his advantage, and he was able to make simple, effective plays to either relieve pressure in the defensive zone or sustain it in the offensive end. At his worst, however, he was a virtual non-factor that looked a step behind everyone else on the ice. That inconsistency is to be expected from 20-year-old defensemen, but the best parts of his game offered up a lot to be excited about as he continues his development.

After bringing in two defensemen in free agency, the Red Wings’ blue line looks to be locked in with Edvinsson on the outside looking in. That being said, the biggest thing preventing him from making a run at an opening night roster spot is the status of his shoulder. Back in May, he underwent shoulder surgery with a recovery time of four to six months. That means he could be ready to go for training camp after a summer of light training, if any, or he may not be available until November, a month into the season. Because of that, he may not start the season in the NHL, but it would surprise no one if he forces his way into the NHL lineup by the end of the season, if not sooner.

(D) Albert Johansson

Albert Johansson is another defenseman in the Red Wings’ pipeline that could be close to getting his shot in the NHL. The 22-year-old defender joined Edvinsson last season as rookies in the AHL and, on some level, was more impressive than Detroit’s top pick in the 2021 draft. Johansson recorded 15 points in 53 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins, the Red Wings’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, but what stood out the most was how mature his game is. That allowed the Griffins’ coaching staff to rely on him in a variety of roles. Unfortunately, his season was cut short in early March due to an injury.

According to Red Wings assistant general manager Shawn Horcoff, who also serves as GM of the Griffins, “[Johansson’s injury was] too bad, because at that time he was probably in a position to be called up and play some NHL games,” Horcoff said following the conclusion of the Griffins’ season. “But for him it’s not a continuation of last summer. He’s got plenty of time.” Now the question becomes whether or not Johansson can pick up where he left off and resume his push for an NHL roster spot.

Again, the Red Wings’ blue line is a bit crowded after bringing in a few bodies in free agency as well as extending the likes of Olli Määttä, Jake Walman and Gustav Lindström. For Johansson to crack the lineup, he is going to have to make a big impact at one end of the ice (likely the defensive end) as well as show off some versatility as a left-handed defender that can play on the right side. Luckily for him, he showed the ability to do both with the Griffins next season, now it’s just a matter of whether or not he can do it with the Red Wings.

(LW/RW) Elmer Söderblom

If you want to tell me I’m cheating by including Söderblom, go ahead. The towering Swedish winger made the Red Wings’ opening night lineup last season and played in 21 games with Detroit before he was sent to the Griffins in January to finish out the season. Players maintain rookie status so long as they have played under 25 games in the NHL, meaning that he still qualifies for this discussion and could make the lineup as a rookie in consecutive seasons.

Söderblom made the Red Wings’ lineup last season by using his size and skill to create pressure in the offensive zone. There aren’t many players in the league world like him, so he becomes a hard beast to contain when he is on his game. Therein lies the problem, however: he isn’t always on his game. In fact, his lack of consistency is what led to his demotion to Grand Rapids, and that lack of consistency was apparent at the AHL level as well.

Elmer Soderblom Detroit Red Wings
Elmer Soderblom, Detroit Red Wings (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

If Söderblom is consistent right out of the gate, he could definitely make the Red Wings’ roster – he has before. While he has higher upside, he is a rare prospect that does not necessarily need to play in a prominent role to justify his spot in the NHL. He was part of the “Redwoods” line last season that also included Oskar Sundqvist and Michael Rasmussen, and their line was mostly a forechecking identity line tasked with being difficult to play against and provide the occasional spark for the team. The Red Wings have a lot of NHL forward talent ahead of him on the depth chart, but Söderblom might have the clearest path to Detroit among his peers.

(LW) Carter Mazur

Out of the five players listed here, Carter Mazur probably has the slimmest chance at making the Red Wings’ roster out of training camp. Nonetheless, he is included here for a reason.

Mazur impressed throughout his two seasons at the University of Denver, including his freshman season which ended with a national championship victory. He had 75 points in 81 games during his stay with the Pioneers, and that level of production followed him to Grand Rapids once he joined the Griffins late in the season. He had his first multi-goal game in his fourth game with the Griffins, and that began a streak of three-straight games with a point as the Griffins’ season came to a close. After impressing in the AHL, he represented the United States in the World Championship. There, he recorded four points in 10 games, and generally stood out from the crowd while playing against his highest level of competition yet.

Mazur is on a major upward trajectory, and that momentum could carry him to an opening night roster spot. He’s a scrappy winger that makes things happen all over the ice, and that’s the kind of energy the Red Wings’ lineup would welcome. He likely has to blow some socks off to have a shot, but that is far from an impossibility.

(C) Marco Kasper

Edvinsson was joined by fellow rookie and first round selection Marco Kasper late last season. The Austrian center played just a tick under 15 minutes against the Toronto Maple Leafs in what would be his only game with the Red Wings. A few days later, it was revealed he played on a broken kneecap, which only made it that much more impressive that he looked pretty good in his NHL debut.

YouTube player

Kasper played a pro-style game last season in the Swedish Hockey League. He battles for pucks, he goes to the net, and he competes at both ends of the ice. He was a second line center last season with Rögle BK at just 18 years of age; he also centered the second line in his lone game with the Red Wings just days before he turned 19 years old. The decision to have him make his North American debut with the Red Wings instead of the Griffins shows that the front office and coaching staff liked what they saw from him this season, and that quick taste of the NHL might have been enough to whet his appetite for more.

Given the style of game he plays, Kasper is the type of player that could begin the season in the Red Wings’ bottom six before steadily working his way up the lineup. He could shine in a role on the fourth line similar to the one Jonatan Berggren played last season. It is worth noting, however, that Kasper lined up with Lucas Raymond and Andrew Copp in his debut last season, and that line could be an option again despite the many additions to the Red Wings’ forward group. Kasper would make the Red Wings harder to play against, and he is versatile in terms of the roles and positions he could play. If there are 10 forwards better than him in training camp and in the preseason, he likely starts in Grand Rapids. But he seems like a sure bet to receive every opportunity to impress in the weeks leading up to the regular season.

Red Wings’ Rebuild Chugging Along

That there are this many young players capable of pushing for NHL jobs is a great sign of a healthy prospect pool. Even though there aren’t enough spots available for every player listed here to make the opening night roster, there remains a strong possibility that most, if not all of them, will wear the winged wheel before the end of the season. Injuries happen, trades are always a possibility, and strong play in the AHL will always be rewarded sooner or later.

In a month, we’ll start to get an idea of which players could be capable of answering Red Wings general manager Yzerman’s challenge. The tougher the decisions they have to make before the season starts, the better off they’ll be when it ends.

Articles You May Like

NHL Rumors: Penguins, Red Wings, Senators, Bruins, Oilers
Red Wings’ Season a Success & Fuel for the Future
Projected Lineups for the Canadiens vs Red Wings – 4/15/24
SSOTD: Red Wings vs. Canadiens, 4/15/2024
Projected Lineups for the Red Wings vs Canadiens – 4/16/24

Leave a Reply

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