Are the Red Wings Ready to Compete?

Photo by: Jordan Nagel

The Detroit Red Wings finished the 2022-23 season with a record of 35-37-10. They finished seventh in the Atlantic Division. Although it doesn’t look like it when you look at the standings, Detroit took a step in the right direction in 2022-23. The Red Wings contended for a wild card spot for most of this season. The fans, including myself, believed we had a good shot at it as Detroit put together a stretch of great hockey. The hype surrounding the possibility of Detroit returning to the playoffs slowed down after losing on back-to-back nights to the Ottawa Senators at the end of February. After the losses, Detroit was still within reach of a wild card spot, but you could feel a playoff berth slipping away. Tyler Bertuzzi got traded just a few days later to the Boston Bruins. Although it wasn’t the ending Detroit was hoping for, there were some things to be excited about throughout the last month and a half of the regular season. Simon Edvinsson, one of Detroit’s top prospects since he was drafted 6th overall in 2021, made his NHL debut toward the end of the season. Edvinsson had two goals in 9 games played in the NHL. Now he’s set up to play his first full NHL season in 2023-24. Another top prospect in the Red Wings organization, 2022 first-round pick Marco Kasper, made his NHL debut at the end of this season. He played in just one game because of an injury, but in that game, he played well. We later discovered that Kasper played through a broken kneecap in his debut. Both Kasper and Simon Edvinsson should play an important role in Detroit’s success next season. They can be a huge help when it comes to getting the Red Wings back in the playoffs.

Youngsters in the system that are almost ready to help compete

It’s been a rough 6 years for the Red Wings organization. They haven’t made the postseason since 2016, and in the time since, Detroit has been one of the worst teams in hockey. As you can imagine, after years of struggle, Detroit has a farm system with a few players ready to make an impact. Detroit hasn’t had much luck with the NHL Draft Lottery, but they have some promising young players on the rise. Can the Red Wings build a contender without the face of the franchise superstar? Sure, but a few more players will have to step up, and Yzerman will need to make some aggressive moves this off-season. I’ll talk more about what Yzerman can do this off-season to make this team a contender right now, but first, I want to talk about the youngsters who will soon make an impact at the NHL level for Detroit.

I’ve had high praise for Amadeus Lombardi ever since Detroit stole him in the 4th round of the NHL Draft in 2022. Amadeus is not at all a big guy. He is only 5′ 10″ and 165 pounds, so the physical side of his game isn’t where he shines. Lombardi is crafty and has all the tools to be an excellent goal scorer in the NHL. If I had to make a comparison for Lombardi, I’d say Dylan Larkin would make a lot of sense. Lombardi is a fast-paced player with great speed. He has incredible puck-handling skills, and he’s not selfish with the puck. He’s great at moving the puck around, an excellent passer, and sets shots up extremely well… that’s one of his most talked about traits. Lombardi is a player that can quickly fill up a highlight reel. He can make Trevor Zegras-style plays. One thing Amadeus said about his game is that he brings the fans to their feet before the play is even over. He’s got a fantastic backhand shot that he’s shown off quite a bit this season with Flint. That shot has made plenty of post-game highlight reels this season. He’ll go around the net, and the goaltender won’t be quick enough to cover the post, and Lombardi will score on the wrap-around almost every time. He’s just age 19, but when you watch him, he looks like a player ready for the NHL. The one thing that Amadeus Lombardi has said he’d like to work on is his defense which is by no means bad. He’s a solid defender.

Sebastian Cossa is another player who is playing at an elite level. The 6′ 6″ goaltender has had a great season with the Toledo Walleye. His season ended a few days ago as they were eliminated from the playoffs. Cossa appeared in 3 games for the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins. Here’s what I said in a previous article about when we could see Cossa in the NHL:

A goaltender can be the most challenging position to develop a player. I’d compare it to developing a pitcher in baseball. Unlike a forward or defenseman, goalies can take a while to reach the NHL level. Cossa struggled in the AHL this season, but he only had a few games to get comfortable at that level. The Grand Rapids Griffins are usually a player’s final destination before reaching the NHL level. You will get your shot in the NHL if you perform at a high level. Cossa’s performance in the ECHL has been very impressive so far, but he will need to start at Grand Rapids next season before we can put a timeline on his arrival and feel confident about it. Ville Husso has been playing well for the Wings this season. Detroit doesn’t have a backup goalie behind him that is solid. Magnus Hellberg has had his moments but it isn’t what we need. Husso has had to do a lot of heavy lifting this season. Alex Nedeljkovic has been down in Grand Rapids and hasn’t seen any play time in the NHL. Ned played well when he started his Red Wings career after being acquired in a trade but is now struggling at the NHL level. I’d imagine that when Cossa gets to Grand Rapids, hopefully to stay this time, he will take over the starting spot at goaltender for the Griffins, and Nedeljkovic will be an AHL backup. Assuming everything goes well with Cossa at the AHL level, It’s possible that if he plays well, he could be late season call-up next season, but if I had to guess, we’ll see Cossa with Detroit in the 2024-25 season. Cossa is 20 years old, and if the 2024-25 season is when we see Cossa, hopefully, by then, the Red Wings will be ready to make a playoff run.

Elmer Soderblom, Albert Johansson, William Wallinder, and Carter Mazur are some of the Red Wings’ top prospects.

Money to spend

Steve Yzerman continues to be one of the most beloved Detroit sports icons in the city. He’s done a solid job since taking over in Detroit, especially regarding the draft. Despite Yzerman and the Red Wings not having a top 3 pick in the NHL Draft, Yzerman has pinpointed the best players available when the Red Wings get on the clock. Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider are two very good examples of that. Last off-season, Steve Yzerman got aggressive with the additions of David Perron, Andrew Copp, Ben Chiarot, Ville Husso, Dominik Kubalik, and Olli Maata via free agency. This off-season, he can come out swinging again with over 31 million dollars in cap space. Don’t expect Yzerman to take the quantity route; he will need to look ahead. Moritz Seider, Lucas Raymond, and Michael Rasmussen will need to be re-signed next season. A quality player or two could be all the help Detroit needs to get to the playoffs. Do I expect them to jump into Stanley Cup contention next season with some moves this off-season? Absolutely not… but this team can make the playoffs and play hard. The Red Wings are only a couple of pieces away. There are some big fish on the market this off-season. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Ryan O’Reilly headline the free agency market. Don’t expect Yzerman to pursue them though. Some of the big names that could possibly be in reach for Detroit, in my opinion, include Kilngberg, DeBrincat, Monahan, and Meier. I also believe that we could see a reunion this off-season. Former Red Wings, Tyler Bertuzzi and Gustav Nyquist are on the market. Plus, Suter, who had a strong season for Detroit, is also a free agent. Andreas Athanasiou and Vladislav Namesntikov are also available and could make a return to Detroit. Nobody knows how it will play out, but I can almost guarantee that it will be a wild off-season for Detroit. When the dust settles, I believe Detroit will emerge as playoff contenders.

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