MLive’s Ansar Khan profiles Mitchell Stephens, the would-be fourth line center who hopes to earn a prominent grinding role on this year’s Red Wings team:
“Coming into this organization, they wanted to give me a shot, an opportunity to play a bigger role,” Stephens said. “I’m grateful for my time in Tampa. I played with a lot of great players. For the next chapter of my career, it’s growing, establishing myself and coming in here to do what I can to help the team, wherever that may be.”
It most likely will be as the fourth-line center, a spot Detroit needs to fill after Luke Glendening signed with Dallas. Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman acquired Stephens for a sixth-round pick in 2022. The Lightning, under Yzerman’s watch, selected Stephens 33rd overall (second round) in 2015. But he appeared in only 45 NHL games over the past two seasons (three goals, seven points).
Stephens has looked good the first few days of training camp. He scored two goals in Sunday’s Red and White scrimmage in Traverse City, utilizing his skating ability.
“I think the skating can lead to momentum and that’s important,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “From a skating aspect, he’s definitely been involved and brought energy. Ultimately, if he’s in this spot on a fourth-line role, it doesn’t mean you can’t add offense. We need offense from all four lines if possible.
“So, I’ve liked him. He’s certainly come to work every day. He brings an element of speed, he’s a right shot. He seems to have done a pretty good job on the penalty kill. If he can win face-offs on that right side, it would be huge.”