On Wednesday (Sept. 20), the Detroit Red Wings signed veterans Artem Anisimov and Michael Hutchinson to professional tryout contracts (PTOs). The roster is already jam-packed with bodies, so it will be interesting to see if one of them can usurp one of the other veterans on the team and earn a contract (either to play in the NHL or the American Hockey League). With that said, let’s take a look at their background, their chances of actually making the roster, and what they might bring to the organization if signed.
Anisimov last played in the NHL in 2020-21 with the Ottawa Senators where he scored only two goals and nine points in 19 games. He then returned to his native Russia in 2021-22 to join Yaroslavi Lokomotiv in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and had a solid campaign scoring eight goals and 19 points in 27 games. Last season he made the trek back to North America and settled for a spot in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms where he potted 19 goals and 36 points in 55 games. His last stint in the AHL was back in 2008-09 when he blew apart the league with 37 goals and 81 points.
The former 2006 second-round pick of the New York Rangers has had a solid NHL career up to this point with 180 goals and 376 points in 771 games. He has bounced around the league a bit playing for the Rangers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Chicago Blackhawks and Senators, but has been a productive piece of every lineup he’s been a part of. He has only failed to hit double digits twice in his career (not including the one game he played in 2008-09) and has four 20-goal seasons under his belt.
Anisimov’s prime years are well behind him, but the fact that he put up solid numbers in the AHL last season shows that he could still contribute if given the chance. The Red Wings’ forward group doesn’t necessarily have room for him, but if he can impress in training camp, he might earn a spot on the roster for opening night. He will also have a familiar face to potentially play with in Alex DeBrincat; he was often his centerman in Chicago and was there when he posted his first 40-goal season. That was a long time ago, and I am not suggesting he will play with him even if he gets a contract, but it’s an interesting tidbit nonetheless.
Just like the forward group, the goaltending depth is pretty loaded to start the season with Ville Husso and James Reimer taking the starter and backup duties in the NHL and Alex Lyon as insurance in the AHL. They also have Jan Bednar, John Lethemon and top prospect Sebastian Cossa in the minors, too. Signing Hutchinson to a PTO could be nothing more than competition and filling spots in training camp, but considering Cossa’s struggles in Traverse City, it might be an indication that the Red Wings want to have him starting in the ECHL rather than the AHL this season. That will become more clear if Hutchinson is eventually signed to either an NHL or AHL deal before the season begins.
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In the meantime, Hutchinson will try to impress the Red Wings brass and force them to re-think the signings of Reimer and Lyon in the offseason. It will be an uphill battle, but he has shown in the past to be a very good third goaltender; I wouldn’t put it past him to have a solid training camp and earn a contract. Last season, he had to play behind a very porous Blue Jackets defense and ended with a career-worst 4.21 goals-against average (GAA). He also only won two games in his 16 appearances. I don’t foresee him making the big club, but a strong showing could have other teams calling for his services.
Hockey is Back in Hockeytown
We are finally approaching the regular season after a long offseason in Hockeytown. Hopefully, the additions general manager Steve Yzerman made in the summer will pay off with a return to the playoffs. It will be a tough mountain to climb, but as we outlined in our divisional matchup series on The Grind Line, the Red Wings have the depth on both offense and defense to potentially make it as a wildcard team.
Could Anisimov or Hutchinson be part of the festivities on Oct. 12 when they travel to the Meadowlands to face Jack Hughes and the New Jersey Devils? It’s unlikely, but stranger things have happened. Regardless, Red Wings hockey is back and it should be an interesting season to follow as they try to secure their first playoff berth since 2015-16.