When it comes to rebuilds, Olli Maatta has been there and done that. One of the newest members of the Detroit Red Wings, Maatta spent the past two seasons patroling the blueline for the Los Angeles Kings.
There, the defenseman saw the Kings go from a .438 winning percentage in 2021 to a .604 mark and a playoff position last season. Maatta doesn’t see why the Red Wings, a .451 squad last season, can’t engineer a similar increase in production this season.
“I think it’s an exciting time, especially when you look at the team,” Maatta explained. “They’re young, but when you see the players they had before . . . and now adding a bunch of big pieces, I think it’s a great place and it’s an exciting time.”
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The Kings, Stanley Cup champions in 2011-12 and 2013-14, retooled through the draft and an influx of young homegrown talent. The Red Wings are following a similar pattern. Key parts of the core that are homegrown include captain Dylan Larkin, forwards Tyler Bertuzzi and Lucas Raymond and Calder Trophy-winning defenseman Moritz Seider.
“When you look at how they built the team, and I know Steve Yzerman knows how to build a team, he’s done it before, when you look at the young guys they drafted, they’re already top players in the league,” Maatta said. “You look at Seider, Larks, Bertuzzi.”
Veteran Element Will Help Red Wings Grow
Last season, LA’s moves to bring in veteran forwards Viktor Arvidsson and Phillip Danault were the elements that end up helping the Kings take the final step into becoming a playoff club. Looking at the talent Detroit added during the summer beyond himself – goalie Ville Husso, defenseman Ben Chiarot and forwards David Perron, Andrew Copp and Dominik Kubalik – Maatta gets a similar feeling from the surroundings in Detroit.
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“Adding Danault and Arvidsson, those were really big pieces for us,” Maatta said. “We had more depth. I think the depth was the biggest thing. We were a good team before that but we didn’t have those 2-3 lines that we could play.
“Last year, we found that, and it’s hard to play against a team that can roll 3-4 lines and when you’ve got three D pairs that can play. It’s tough to match up against that.
“[In Detroit,] now you’re adding Perron, Chiarot, Copper, When you look at it it definitely feels right.”
He’s of the opinion that the rest of the NHL is already seeing a different opponent when sizing up the new-look Red Wings
“Everybody knows,” Maatta said. “You can definitely see it. They’re up and coming and they want to be contenders.
“I think there’s a big step coming and I want to be a part of it.”