The Detroit Red Wings will have some questions to answer as they head into training camp and the preseason slate. Gone are the questions that surround the compete and talent level. Talent is there now in large quantities.
The question now: Which talent is going to stay with the team?
The top nine forwards seem pretty locked in, with just shuffling here and there between the lines. The fourth line then likely consists of Adam Erne, Joe Veleno, Givani Smith, and Michael Rasmussen. Any one of them could shuffle between the fourth, or even the second line.
It doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room. In fact, if some of the rookies make a hard push out of the preseason, it will only make things more complicated. Jonatan Berggren and Elmer Soderblom are two that immediately come to mind.
So if we’re looking simply at the fourth line, who are the likeliest candidates?
Smith is one of those guys who hasn’t really had a full chance to demonstrate what he brings to the table. Last season, he was one of the few Red Wings who exchanged in physical battles and was often out there doing what he could to agitate the opponents. His offensive game never really got going because he was either a healthy scratch or his role was to play “heavy” hockey.
This really feels like the opportunity for Smith to make his presence known.
Joe Veleno and Michael Rasmussen
Many once slotted Veleno in as a top six forward. The former 2018 first round pick is still only 22, but looks firmly cemented as a top nine forward. But the question around him is more about whether he’ll be on the wing or down the middle. The latter certainly seems the safer bet, but perhaps new coach Derek Lalonde sees something different.
The same goes for Rasmussen. The hulking forward really came into his own during the second half of the season and arguably was one of the best Red Wings on the roster during that stretch. He, too, can shuffle between wing and center, but seems the likelier option at this point to be anywhere from the second to the fourth line.
He’s one of the more physical players on the team but saw his offensive numbers fall off significantly, placing him firmly in the bottom half of the forwards. Regardless, Erne plays with an edge and could potentially have a chance at scoring more with talent now stocked throughout the forward lines.
Other Red Wings To Consider
Jonathan Berggren stands to be the greatest possibility to make the team after a terrific campaign with Grand Rapids last season. Elmer Soderblom is likelier to be on the roster in Grand Rapids for seasoning, but after notching 20 goals in the SHL last season, it’s not unfair to wonder if he too could push his way onto the fourth line in the NHL.
Pontus Andreasson is also a possibility, last season having 18 goals with Luleå HF. Finally, don’t forget about Taro Hirose, who likely will be in Grand Rapids but has shown flashes while in the NHL.