Detroit Red Wings: Analyzing Every Center in the Organization

AP Photo/Paul Sancya

The Detroit Red Wings are deeper down the middle than they were one year ago but remain thin throughout most of the organization. Dylan Larkin was the best Red Wings player for most of the season, and Pius Suter proved to be a middle-six center on a non-playoff team. The next couple of drafts will likely be pivotal to deepening the prospect pool at the center-ice position. 

Here is a look at Detroit’s current situation at center.

Returning Centers

Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings

Dylan Larkin

Age: 25
GP: 71
G: 31
A: 38
PTS: 69
+/-: -18

Dylan Larkin recently completed his 7th season in the NHL and second season as the Detroit captain. Larkin was the top scorer on the Red Wings this year and reached the 30-goal mark for the second time in his career, and averaged almost one point per game during the regular season. Larkin will have a cap hit of $6.1M next season. He is currently negotiating a contract extension with Detroit and can become a UFA after next season.

Michael Rasmussen

Age: 23
GP: 80
G: 15
A: 12
PTS: 27
+/-: -25

Michael Rasmussen just completed his 3rd season in the NHL. Rasmussen recorded career highs for goals, assists, and points during the season. He may find his way onto the wing, but for now, Rasmussen looks like he will be an essential part of the rebuild. Rasmussen has a cap hit of $1.46M for each of the next two seasons before becoming an RFA.

Joe Veleno

Age: 22
GP: 66
G: 8
A: 7
PTS: 15
+/-: -14

Joe Veleno played most of the season in the NHL with Detroit. He has established himself as a reliable two-way center who can chip in offensively. Moving forward, Veleno will only improve and should become the #2 center that the Red Wings desire. Veleno has a cap hit of $894,167 for one more season before he can become an RFA.

Pius Suter

Age: 26
GP: 82
G: 15
A: 21
PTS: 36
+/-: -11

Pius Suter just completed his second NHL season and first with Detroit. Suter got off to a slow start with the Red Wings but seemed to get more comfortable as the season went on. He had good chemistry with his junior teammates, Tyler Bertuzzi and Robby Fabbri. Suter has a cap hit of $3.25M for one more season before he can become a UFA.

Centers in the System

Kyle, Criscuolo, Grand Rapids (AHL)

Kyle Criscuolo

2021 Team: Grand Rapids (AHL)
Age: 30
GP: 57
G: 15
A: 24
PTS: 39
+/-: -15

Kyle Criscuolo played most of the season in Grand Rapids (AHL). He is a serviceable callup when needed and provides veteran leadership in Grand Rapids. Criscuolo has an NHL cap hit of $750,000 and will earn $190,000 if he plays in the AHL next year. Criscuolo will become a UFA after next season.

Restricted Free Agents

Mitchell Stephens, Detroit Red Wings

Mitchell Stephens

2021 Team: Detroit (NHL)
Age: 25
GP: 27
G: 0
A: 6
PTS: 6
+/-: -8

Mitchell Stephens was injured for most of his first season in Detroit. When healthy, Stephens plays an important defensive role on the 4th line. Stephens completed his most recent contract that called for him to have a cap hit of $737,500. It has yet to be determined if he will be extended an extension with Detroit.

Chase Pearson

2021 Team: Grand Rapids (AHL)
Age: 24
GP: 50
G: 7
A: 11
PTS: 18
+/-: -17

Chase Pearson has spent the last four seasons in the Detroit organization. He spent most of last season in Grand Rapids (AHL). Last season, Pearson had an NHL cap hit of $874,125 and earned $70,000 while playing in the AHL. It has yet to be determined if Pearson will be offered an extension with Detroit.

Unsigned Centers

Theodore Niederbach, Frolunda (SHL)

Theodor Niederbach

2021 Team: Frolunda (SHL)
Age: 20
GP: 51
G: 9
A: 7
PTS: 16
+/-: -1

Theodor Niederbach played his first full season in the SHL last year. His playing time was limited in Frolunda, so he has decided to continue his career in the SHL with Rogle next year. Niederbach remains one of Detroit’s top center prospects playing in Europe. At 20, Niederbach still has time to impress the Red Wings to earn a contract. Detroit owns Niederbach’s rights until June 2024.

Robert Mastrosimone

2021 Team: Boston Univ. (NCAA)
Age: 21
GP: 34
G: 11
A: 14
PTS: 25
+/-: +5

Robert Mastrosimone recently completed his junior year in Boston (NCAA). He will transfer and play his final NCAA season at Arizona State next year. Detroit has until June 2023 to sign Mastrosimone, or he will become a free agent.

Red Savage

2021 Team: Miami Univ. (Ohio) (NCAA)
Age: 19
GP: 35
G: 6
A: 10
PTS: 16
+/-: -10

Red Savage just completed his freshman year at Miami-Ohio (NCAA). Savage will likely play for Team USA at the World Junior Championships in August. Savage will return to Miami for his sophomore season next year. Detroit holds Savage’s rights until June 2025.

Liam Dower Nilsson

2021 Team: Frolunda HC J20 (J20 Nationell)
Age: 19
GP: 34
G: 19
A: 31
PTS: 50
+/-: +19

Liam Dower Nilsson played most of last year in the J20 Nationell. He will look to play full-time for Frolunda in the SHL next season. Detroit holds Nilsson’s rights until June 2025.

Ethan Phillips

2021 Team: Boston University (NCAA)
Age: 21
GP: 28
G: 6
A: 11
PTS: 17
+/-: +4

Ethan Phillips recently finished his junior year at Boston (NCAA). Phillips set career highs in goals, assists, and points last year. Phillips will return to play his final season at Boston in the fall. Phillips needs to sign a contract with Detroit by June 2023, or he can become a free agent.

Alexander Kadeykin

2021 Team: Salavat Yulaev Ufa (KHL)
Age: 28
GP: 43
G: 11
A: 20
PTS: 31
+/-: +17

Alexander Kadeykin recently completed his 11th season in the KHL. Kadeykin is not really a prospect anymore, but he has the size (6’5″) and professional experience to help Detroit down the middle. It has yet to be determined where Kadeykin will play next year.

Final Thoughts

The Detroit Red Wings need to find more organizational depth at the center-ice position. Most of the top playoff teams have terrific depth down the middle. Look for the Red Wings to continue stockpiling centers during the subsequent few drafts to build this depth.

Chris Giles

Chris Giles is a former junior hockey player and coach from Canada. He has been a diehard Detroit Red Wings fan for almost 50 years. Chris is an avid golfer who has volunteered at several PGA and Canadian Open Championships throughout North America.

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