Detroit Red Wings’ 2023-24 Final Grades: Forwards

The Hockey Writers

With the 2023-24 season in the rearview mirror for the Detroit Red Wings, there is plenty for fans and the organization to look back on as bright spots (strong seasons from multiple players) and low lights as well (missing the playoffs for yet another season). Among the strong seasons from multiple players included Lucas Raymond and Dylan Larkin, but how did the rest of the forward group that filled out the lineup grade for the season?

High Honors

JT Compher

2023-24 stats: 77 GP- 19 goals, 29 assists, 48 points, minus-five

As stated in my previous grades at the 60-game mark, JT Compher continued to be one of the Red Wings’ most consistent players throughout the entire season and put to rest the doubters of the long-term contract that general manager Steve Yzerman signed him to last offseason. He played a key role in the offense and also chipped in on the power play with 10 total power-play points. But where Compher was able to stick out the most seemed to be on the penalty kill, where he was a constant top-level killer and also chipped in two shorthanded goals on the year.

With another full offseason and training camp with the team, Compher should slot himself into a second-line role once again next season and look to build off a strong first season in a winged wheel jersey.

Grade: A


Patrick Kane

2023-24 stats: 50 GP- 20 goals, 27 assists, 47 points, minus-five

The mid-season signing of one of the greatest American-born players in league history was met with some doubt. Many did not know what Patrick Kane had left in the tank, thanks to a major hip surgery that caused him to miss the start of the 2023-24 season. But the 35-year-old put those questions and doubts to rest with a strong season that saw him play at almost a point-per-game pace.

While he did miss a handful of games during the season, Kane gave Red Wing fans several highlight reel plays and memories with some flashes of his old “Showtime” play. The veteran leadership and play seemed to also help elevate the play of his fellow teammates and linemates. The chemistry between himself and Alex DeBrincat was once again put on display this season, and many hope that he will end up back in Detroit beyond this season (he is a pending unrestricted free agent).

Grade: A


Dylan Larkin

2023-24 stats: 68 GP- 33 goals, 36 assists, 69 points, plus-five

The no-brainer team MVP for the 2023-24 Red Wings was the captain, Dylan Larkin. When he was in the lineup, he brought a relentless work ethic and strong two-way game to the ice that seemed to help his teammates get themselves going. It was very evident that Larkin was the engine that drove the bus when he went down to injury, and the team struggled mightily in his absence.

Dylan Larkin Andrew Copp Detroit Red Wings
Dylan Larkin and Andrew Copp celebrate a goal for the Detroit Red Wings (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Whether it was big-time back checks or scoring game-winning goals for the team (five game-winning goals), Larkin was a sight to see for Red Wing fans. As Mickey Redmond would say, “He has the diesel engine going.” Larkin played some of, if not the best, hockey he has played in his career this season.

Grade: A


Lucas Raymond

2023-24 stats: 82 GP- 31 goals, 41 assists, 72 points, minus-12

While Larkin was the team MVP this season, it could easily be said that Lucas Raymond became one of the team’s unsung heroes. When Larkin was out with his injury, Raymond barred the load offensively and passed with flying colors. After a down season last season, he bounced back in a huge way and set career highs in all three offensive statistical categories while also being a wrecking ball at times with his forechecking and physical play (thanks to some added muscle and weight to his frame).

Related: Detroit Red Wings 2023-24 Team Awards

The season that Raymond had adds even more excitement, hope, and expectations for the Swede heading into next season.

Grade: A


Honors

Alex DeBrincat

2023-24 stats: 82 GP- 27 goals, 40 assists, 67 points, plus-one

While putting up almost 70 points would usually be a really strong season for an NHL player, the start that DeBrincat had this season easily could have had him on pace to be in the 80-90 point range. The biggest offseason acquisition by Yzerman started scorching hot, but seemed to taper off and almost disappear at times throughout the season offensively. But even with that happening, he did find ways to impact the game in different aspects.

Whether mixing it up and getting into the physicality aspect of the game or making some strong defensive plays (he has not been considered a super-strong defensive forward), DeBrincat made his presence felt on the ice in multiple ways for the Red Wings this season. If he can play a full season at the level he started off the 2023-24 season at, there is no reason he can not end up being a 40-goal scorer for the Red Wings next season.

Grade: A-


Andrew Copp/ Robby Fabbri

Copp 2023-24 stats: 79 GP- 13 goals, 20 assists, 33 points, plus-eight
Fabbri 2023-24 stats: 68 GP- 18 goals, 14 assists, 32 points, minus-13

Wrapping these two players into one grouping/grade is based on the fact that they have both had solid seasons leading up to this season but also struggled to live up to the expectations, albeit for different reasons. Andrew Copp was brought in two seasons ago on a long-term contract by Yzerman and has not really been able to live up to it. He did have a solid season on the penalty kill with Compher, but he was just unable to get himself truly going offensively at five-on-five.

Robby Fabbri once again struggled with injuries during the season and, like Copp, had a solid season to a certain extent. He was unable to get his game to a full-time constant that was hoped of him and found himself playing middle to bottom-six in the lineup throughout the season. With younger players in the Red Wings’ system possibly making a push for the lineup next season, a player like Fabbri could find himself in a tough spot.

Grades: B-


Christan Fischer

2023-24 stats: 79 GP- Five goals, 14 assists, 19 points

Brought in this last offseason to bring some depth to the bottom half of the forward grouping, Christian Fischer was able to do just that for the Red Wings this season. He did not add a ton of offensive stats-wise but was able to fill the role of the “grinder,” being a relentless forechecker, helping lead to sustained offensive zone pressure, and playing a sound game for the team. He also helped bring an added level of energy to the lineup and was a strong penalty-killer for the team this season.

Grade: B+


David Perron

2023-24 stats: 76 GP- 17 goals, 30 assists, 47 points, minus-12

As a pending free agent, David Perron once again added a veteran presence to the Red Wings lineup and played a strong offensive game for the team this season. He was a strong option on the power play the entire season and was a reliable player in the offensive zone. Where Perron did negatively impact the Red Wings, though, came in the form of tending to take penalties at inopportune times that led to hurting the team. Heading into the offseason, it seems like Perron does want to return to the organization, but like Fabbri, the possible youth movement could put him in a spot where he could be looking for another team for the 2024-25 season.

Grade: B


Daniel Sprong

2023-24 stats: 76 GP- 18 goals, 25 assists, 43 points, minus-five

Daniel Sprong started off on a high note this season but was a player that seemed to hit a wall later on. He looked solid at times but also found himself sliding up and down the lineup. He found himself getting scratched for a few games down the stretch due to the lack of production and play. With the impressive start that he had, there were hopes he would be able to put together a strong season, but he was unable to do so and will likely end up finding himself elsewhere next season.

Grade: B


Michael Rasmussen / Joe Veleno

Rasmussen 2023-24 stats: 75 GP- 13 goals, 20 assists, 33 points, plus-eight
Veleno 2023-24 stats: 80 GP- 12 goals, 16 assists, 28 points, minus-16

Another grading where two players are grouped together, this time because they truly had something to prove this season. The big-bodied Michael Rasmussen found himself having a solid season offensively while also being strong without the puck. He played a strong game on the forecheck and also showed off his offensive touch with the puck. He was rewarded with an extension this season before missing the last handful of games due to injury.

Joe Veleno entered the season on basically a prove-it type deal that is leading to him being a restricted free agent come the offseason, and he was looking to prove he should be in the long-term plans for the organization. While his numbers may not jump off the screen, he did play fairly well this season and earned opportunities in crunch time/high-stress moments. The former first-round pick of the Red Wings will likely earn another short-term deal this offseason after having the season he did.

Rasmussen grade: B

Veleno grade: B-


Strong Season for Many, Room for Growth Elsewhere

While the 2023-24 season ended in an unfortunate manner for the Red Wings, there were plenty of bright spots from their forward group. A number of players also have room for growth, though, and it should make for an interesting offseason for Yzerman, the organization, and its fans.

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