Is Joe gonna go? Has Lucas’ luck run out? What about Bob? Has he done enough to garner a Detroir Red Wings contract?
All NHL teams must be down to their 23-player roster for the 2021-22 regular season by Monday. The Red Wings are facing some difficult choices at the forward position as the unkindest cut of all looms for some.
Can the Wings find a home with the big club for center Joe Veleno? Is there really a world, as Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill is claiming, where veteran Bobby Ryan and teenager Lucas Raymond both are making the team?
First of all, let’s look at what appears to be set in stone.
Alex Nedeljkovic and Thomas Greiss will be the goalies. Blashill has also been making it abundantly clear that he’s keeping eight defensemen – Danny DeKeyser, Filip Hronek, Nick Leddy, Moritz Seider, Marc Staal, Jordan Oesterle, Troy Stecher and Gustav Lindstrom.
Red Wings Won’t Risk Sending Gustav Lindstrom Down
There’s absolutely no chance that the Red Wings will consider sending Lindstrom down in order to make room for an extra forward. He must clear waivers to be assigned to the AHL and there’s a real chance that he wouldn’t.
On top of that, Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman opted to protect Lindstrom over one-time first-round pick Dennis Cholowski for the NHL expansion draft. That spoke volumes about what the organization is thinking about Lindstrom’s upside. They weren’t giving him away for free then. They aren’t about to risk giving him away for free now.
At forward, you can write these guys down in pen – Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, Adam Erne, Robbie Fabbri, Sam Gagner, Vladislav Namestnikov, Michael Rasmussen, Pius Suter, Filip Zadina and Mitchell Stephens. That’s 10 of 13 forward spots spoken for, and five players still fighting for three available spots.
Injury didn’t provide Jonatan Beggren enough time to display his wares, so he’ll be Grand Rapids bounds. If you think Riley Barber, Taro Hirose or Kyle Criscuolo are making the team, we’ll put you in touch with FloridaHockeyNow compatriot George Richards. He can hook you up with some Sunshine State swampland.
The five bubble boys battling for those three spots are Veleno, Ryan, Raymond, Givani Smith and Carter Rowney. A case can be made for each finding a spot in the final 23. Just as easily, a case against them can also be presented.
Let’s do that.
Keep Him: Raymond has delivered offense, displayed an ability to play with and without the puck and a hockey IQ wise beyond his 19 years. “He’s done a good job of offensively having some deception but also taking what’s given, and I think defensively he’s done a good job of making reads in a lot of different situations,” Blashill said.
Ship Him: As a teenager, Raymond still has much to learn. Will there be time for teaching moments during an NHL season compacted by an Olympic break? Blashill started the preason citing the need for Raymond to be a presence in every game. His start was great but Raymond’s last two games were nothing to write home about.
Keep Him: Veleno has developed physically over three years as a pro and appears to have the requisite strength to handle the NHL. Veleno’s game is also growing stronger with each preseason outing. “I thought I’ve done a pretty good job of being responsible in my own end, somewhat creating some offense with my linemates,” Veleno said. Veleno can play a two-way game. He didn’t shoot his bolt early and burn out. That’s a common mistake young players are making when seeking to impress.
Joe Veleno had all the juice on that shot. pic.twitter.com/mEGJFi9kNY
— NHL (@NHL) October 8, 2021
Ship Him: Are the Red Wings better serving Veleno’s future by skating him as a bottom-six NHL forward, or as the No. 1 center in Grand Rapids? Like Raymond, he can go down without clearing waivers. Like it or not, that’s going to be factoring into the decision process.
Keep Him: At 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, Smith brings size and physical presence, two qualities the Red Wings are desperately needing. “He’s a big body,” Blashill said. “He’s tough, he’s physical. We don’t have lots of that.” As well, the Wngs musbe risking Smith on waivers to go to GR. He’s the type of player who just might get claimed.
Waive Him: Smith isn’t delivering his advertised goods. “Some of the physical toughness hasn’t shown yet,” Blashill said. “Can he be a little bit better? Yeah.”
Keep Him: Rowney has logged a lot of PK time. Detroit needs players to void the forward void left in PK ice time by the departures of Luke Glendening, Darren Helm and Frans Nielsen. He’s a vet who won a Stanley Cup in Pittsburgh. “Carter seems to be a real smart hockey player,” Blashill said.
Waive Him: Rowney is on a one-way deal. It’s unlikely that a team would be claiming him on waivers.
Sign Him: Early in the preseason, with the loss of Jakub Vrana to shoulder surgery, the notion that Ryan would garner a contract with the Red Wings from his PTO seemed a no-brainer. He was a strong performer in his first couple of preseason appearances.
Bobby Ryan on the power play + a nice feed from Lucas Raymond. pic.twitter.com/3cZtTQms2a
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) October 5, 2021
Release Him: Lately, though, it hasn’t seemed that Ryan’s play is as inspiring. Has he done enough to warrant signing a contract and keeping him around for another year? That’s going to be a tough call for the Red Wings.
Red Wings Injuries A Factor
Both Rasmussen and Smith are missing time this week due to undisclosed ailments. Are they going to be good to go by Wednesday’s opener against Tampa Bay? If not and both end up going on IR, it could be a problem solver for the Red Wings in the short term. There might be no need to burst the bubble of any of the bubble boys.