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Red Wings Role Call: Jake Walman’s Future

Jake Walman is a mobile puck mover who brings a shot mentality to the ice. However, his inability or unwillingness to engage in battle on the ice is concerning.

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Jake Walman, Detroit Red Wings
Red Wings defenseman Jake Walman is a restricted free agent who'll need to be signed to a new contract.

Red Wings Role Call is assessing every player who held a significant place in the fortunes of the 2021-22 Detroit Red Wings season. We’ll be looking at the highs and lows they experienced during the just-completed campaign, as well as what the future holds for them in Detroit. Today, we feature defenseman Jake Walman.

Jake Walman

Position: Defense

2021-22 totals (GP-G-A-P): 19-0-4-4
With Red Wings

Contract Status: Restricted free agent

Season Synopsis

Defenseman Jake Walman was acquired by the Red Wings at the NHL trade deadline. He came from the St. Louis Blues as part of the package for Detroit defenseman Nick Leddy.

Almost immediately, his upside was eivident.

“Certainly he’s a shooter,” former Wings coach Jeff Blashill explained of Walman. “He can really shoot the puck. I think he’s been accountable for the most part defensively, so he’s done a good job. Is there improvement in his game? Sure. But that stands for all of us. Certainly obviously we lost a really good player in Nick Leddy when we made the trade and it’s nice to get somebody back that can provide some solid minutes.”

However, Walman’s downside also wasn’t long in materializing. NHL scouts advised that Walman displays an aversion to becoming engaged with the opposiiton in the defensive zone. It’s similar to the criticisms that ultimately led to the departure of 2016 first-round pick Dennis Cholowski from Detroit.

2021-2022 Detroit Red Wings Highlights

Walman registered an assist on a power-play goal by Jakub Vrana during a 5-3 win over the Boston Bruins on April 5. It was his second point in three games.

He skated a season-high 20:23 during a 2-1 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 26. Walman averaged .210 points per game with Detroit this season. He counted .087 ppg with the Blues.

2021-22 Red Wings Lowlights

In two games against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Walman was a combined minus-six. His indecisiveness in the defensive zone was emphasized on a Mason Marchment goal during a 5-2 loss to the Florida Panthers on April 21.

The last man back on a Florida two-on-one break, Walman slid out of the play as Marchment shot. After regaining his feet, he stood next to the Detroit net and watched as Marchment found the puck between the legs of Red Wings goalie Alex Nedeljkovic and shoveled it into the cage.

What Does His Detroit Future Hold?

A restricted free agent who made $750,000 last season, expect the Red Wings to sign Walman to a new pact. While Walman’s mobility with the puck and powerful shot could make him a valuable asset on the power play, he needs to learn how to utilize his skating ability as a defensive weapon.

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Until he shows that capability and becomes a more determined battler in the defensive zone, he’ll never be more than a 5-6-7 defenseman. The Wings can’t risk playing him in their top-two pairings against the other team’s best players if he’s not willing to consistently engage in battles for the puck and space.

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