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The Final Cutdown – Raymond Makes Red Wings; Veleno To GR

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Lucas Raymond, Detroit Red Wings
Will Lucas Raymond be making the Detroit Red Wings? The signs appear to be indicating that yes he will.

At the Detroit Red Wings’ conclusion of training camp, the perennially-popular arena anthem The Final Countdown came to mind. In that song, the lyrics suggest, “We’re leavin’ together. But still it’s farewell. And maybe we’ll come back . . . who can tell?”

For the Red Wings, Monday is the final cutdown and those words also seem appropriate. This was the day the clubs had be down to a 23-player roster.

They did so by releasing veteran forward Bobby Ryan from his pro tryout and assigning center Joe Veleno to AHL Grand Rapids

You might think this is a stressful time within the confines of the Red Wings dressing room but captain Dylan Larkin insists you’d be dead wrong.

“Today is a good day,” Larkin said. “I think our team’s back together. We haven’t been together throughout much of camp. Just us, just the guys. Not many distractions.

“We had a great practice today, great energy. We had two more before opening night. There’s a lot of excitement in the locker room right now.”

Which Red Wings’ Bubbles Will Be Bursting?

Still, there are some players who were in that room on Monday who everyone knew wouldn’t be there on Tuesday. Call them the bubble boys.

Certainly, there are mitigating factors that could have impacted these decisions. Forwards Adam Erne, Michael Rasmussen and Givani Smith are all battling injury. If any go on IR, it at least temporarily opens another roster spot. Tha isn’t happening, so we can assume that none are seriously hurt.

Let’s analyze the fate of the boys on the bubble – the reasons the Red Wings are keeping them, and what ended up causing some of them to go.

Lucas Raymond

Pros: Arriving with plenty of hype, Lucas Raymond has been delivering the goods. He ended up finishing the preseason as the Red Wings’ top scorer with six points. He’s made an impact, made the team better, which was what coach Jeff Blashill was demanding of Raymond when training camp opened.

Cons: There just don’t seem to be any that suggest sending Raymond down at this moment is the best option. At Monday’s practice, he was skating with Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi on the top line. “Right away I knew he was a special player,” Larkin said of Raymond. “He thinks the game, has great hands and can skate. He always looked like a good player. Then I saw him on the ice in training camp and he’s a smart player. I think he thinks at a different level.”

Joe Veleno

Pros: Veleno has sigificantly upped his strength level. Weighing in at 206 pounds, he’s certainly ready to compete physically at the NHL level. Veleno is also displaying a level of defensive responsibility that will make him a useful NHLer.

Cons: The same questions being asked today about Veleno, hockey people were asking about him three years ago when he was selected by Detroit in the NHL entry draft. Can he produce enough offense to be a top-six or top-nine NHL forward? The team needs to find this out. “That’s a huge part of the decision, even beyond my call,” Blashill admitted.

That’s why he’s probably better served going to Grand Rapids. He’ll play top-six minutes in the AHL. “Two things can happen if Joe were to get sent down,” Blashill said earlier Monday. “One, he may be in a role that’s higher than he is here, which hopefully would maximize his development. And two, it gives us more organizational depth, because he is a guy who can get sent down without exposing to waivers.”

Carter Rowney

Pros: Rowney is an experienced NHL forward with 223 games on his resume. He played a regular bottom-six role wih the 2016-17 Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. He’s an expert penalty killer and he’s accustomed to filling a lesser role. “There’s a learned process of understanding how to maximize 10 minutes a night, how to be a positive factor in those,” Blashill said. “Young guys sometimes haven’t been in that spot, and they struggle with it.”

Cons: Rowney is 32. He missed all but 19 games last season after undergoing season-ending sugery for a torn meniscus in his left knee. Rowney also didn’t score a goal last season.

Givani Smith

Pros: At 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, Smith brings a size to the Red Wings forward group that is seriously lacking. He can also play game with a mean streak. He scares people. Those are other elements he provides that aren’t readily prevalent anywhere else on the roser.

Cons: In the preseason, Smith hasn’t been playing the game the way he needs to in order to be an effective NHLer. “Givani’s got to do what can separate him,” Blashill explained. “He’s got to make sure he does a great job of getting the puck out of our end so he’s not playing tons of D-zone coverage.

“Then he’s got to get the puck deep when he gets in the neutral zone. He’s got to forecheck hard and then when he gets it in the offensive zone, he’s either got to take it to the net or give it to somebody who can get it to the net, and then win all those net-front battles.” Perhaps it’s the injury that’s finally caused his exit from the lineup that’s been impacting Smith’s performance. Regardless, Smith must clear waivers to be assiged to GR. Players of his ilk are back in vogue in the NHL. There’s a real chance some team would put a claim in for him.

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