The Hockey News’s Matt Larkin took on an Herculean task in the name of fantasy hockey players, publishing a ranking of his top 250 fantasy hockey performers with one or more sentences’ worth of analysis included for each and every one of the players who made his cut.
That’s damn, damn impressive work, and here are his seven Red Wings selections, notes included:
98. Jakub Vrana, LW, Red Wings: Vrana was among the most efficient goal scorers in the league during his time with the Caps, so it made perfect sense when he busted out for eight goals and 11 points in 11 games after a trade to Detroit boosted his average TOI by close to three minutes. He’s ready to start delivering 30-goal seasons, though the weak team around him keeps the ceiling lower than it should be.
135. Dylan Larkin, C, Red Wings: His totals are all over the place in his past few seasons, and coach Jeff Blashill felt Larkin pressed in his first season as captain. Don’t get off the train just yet, though, as Detroit’s next wave of talent is starting to flow in. Larkin’s floor is still probably 50 points and big pile of shots. Nothing to sneeze at.
195. Alex Nedeljkovic, G, Red Wings: Noooo. After a stellar rookie season in which he posted a .932 SP, he was ready for top-10 goalie status. Now he’s inexplicably been traded to lowly Detroit. If the Wings surprise, it’ll largely be because of ‘Ned,’ but joining a rebuilding squad will damage his win potential and rate stats.
205. Filip Hronek, D, Red Wings: Still their primary source of offense on the point. He’s draftable if you’re willing to pay the plus-minus tax.
230. Tyler Bertuzzi, LW, Red Wings: A back injury cost him pretty much all of 2021-22. Does he still return to a first-line spot? It depends on whether Vrana shifts to the right wing.
234. Lucas Raymond, LW, Red Wings: With his mature all-round game and exceptional intelligence, he just feels like a throwback Red Wings player, doesn’t he? He’s thus one to watch if he makes Detroit out of camp. As their best forward prospect, he could have a noteworthy impact immediately.
236. Pius Suter, C, Red Wings: Had 27 points in 55 games as a rookie and appeared on four writers’ Calder ballots…yet Chicago didn’t qualify him as an RFA, he walked, and Detroit scooped him up. He should cruise up the depth chart into the No. 2 center job. He offers medium-reward potential for minimal risk.
238. Moritz Seider, D, Red Wings: He’s going to be a S.T.U.D., a workhorse who plays high-leverage minutes and in all situations. I think Seider makes Detroit this year. What we don’t know yet is what his fantasy profile will be. Best case: he’s a two-way beast who stuffs the scoresheet across multiple categories. As we saw with Alexander Romanov in Montreal last season, though, not every top-prospect defenseman brings his offense with him as a rookie.
I have H.O.P.E. that Moritz Seider is eventually a S.T.U.D., but I witnessed Nicklas Lidstrom make the occasional bobble with the puck and mistake on the ice adjusting to the North American ice surface way back in 1991-92, so I’m expecting Seider (and Raymond) to take his time adjusting to both NHL ice (in case you don’t already know, the rink in Europe is 200′ long by 100′ wide, whereas the NHL rink is 200′ long by 85′ wide) and NHL pace.
Seider laid out some amazing hits in the SHL against vulnerable players on big ice, and I don’t expect him to fear anyone, but guys are bigger, stronger, faster and smarter in the NHL, and he’s going to have to adjust to that.
Eventually, do I expect Seider to deliver on his promise in a way that Jonathan Ericsson never did? Yeah. But I don’t expect it to happen all at once.
As for the rest:
- Lucas Raymond, to me, is going to need time to acclimate to North American hockey as well, and the fact that he’s coming off an elbow surgery that healed a nagging injury means that he’s going to be on the learning curve in terms of shooting and passing with that surgically-repaired elbow, so I want to see how he handles himself in the prospect tournament and training camp before betting on NHL time for him during the first half of the season;
- Regarding Jakub Vrana, Mr. Larkin’s highest pick, he’s theoretically in his prime and theoretically ready to rock based upon scoring metrics which suggest that an increase in ice time will yield 20+ goals and 50+ points. I still wonder if he’s going to need to “find his spot” on the Wings’ roster before really settling in.
- Captain Larkin had a pretty shitty season scoring-wise while buckling under the weight of the “C” on his chest, enduring a leadership role on a losing team, and I do expect him to rebound, barring any setbacks in recovering from that nasty check to the neck by Jamie Benn at the end of last season. I don’t know whether Larkin is going to end up as an elite scorer or more of a Gabriel Landeskog-style heart-and-soul second line center who’s more of a 40-to-50-point guy, but I don’t doubt his resolve, determination, or his work ethic.
- I’m still learning how to type Alex Nedeljkovic without stumbling, and, again, you look at his limited resume, combine that with the Red Wings’ record over the past couple of years, and you understand why he’s ranked so low in Mr. Larkin’s top 250, despite his glittering record and still-Calder-Trophy-eligible status. He’s not a very big goaltender, either, and while he’s nowhere near as scrambly as former Wings goalie Petr Mrazek, he has to compensate for being only 6 feet tall with acrobatic saves. He’ll need time to settle in, too.
- Tyler Bertuzzi is something of an X Factor to me. Like Captain Larkin, everything is going to depend on how Bertuzzi’s recovery from back surgery goes, but, should he rebound nicely, he’s really the “straw that stirs the drink” on scoring lines, skating in first on the forecheck and mucking it up down low to grind out loose pucks to both generate scoring chances and retrieve rebounds. He’s too small to be a Tomas Holmstrom 2.0 in front of those increasingly large goaltenders, but I see a lot of Homer’s blue-collar game in Bertuzzi, and whether that work ethic results in points, penalty minutes, penalties drawn or a good plus-minus…I think he’s a good late-round fantasy pick for his “intangibles.”
- And that brings us to the Wings’ newest scoring acquisition, Pius Suter, a player who may have written himself a contract with the Red Wings by being so damn good against them as a Blackhawk last season. Suter is small by today’s standards at a listed 5’11” and 176 pounds, but the Red Wings have an abundance of 2nd-or-3rd-line centers and no real #1 in my book, so he’s got every opportunity to earn a lot of ice time on whatever line splits time with Larkin’s, forming the Wings’ “top six.” He’s a 25-year-old sophomore at the NHL level, but Suter’s put up a good set of stats in terms of his near-point-per-game production in Switzerland, so I expect him to be very steady on the Wings’ second line. Whoever doesn’t get Jakub Vrana and Tyler Bertuzzi on their line will get Filip Zadina (one of Mr. Larkin’s 3 Wings who earn “honorable mentions,” along with Robby Fabbri and Adam Erne), and I know that we’re all hoping that Zadina breaks out working with a productive center. Suter could be that guy.