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The “Red Wings Way” Has Often Meant Prospects Wait Their Turn

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Elmer Soderblom, Red Wings

It makes perfect sense. The Detroit Red Wings prospects sent back to Grand Rapids need to cut their teeth a bit more. Not all can play quality minutes at the NHL level and beyond that, contribute at levels that pushes the team over the top.

In short, not every Red Wings prospect will do what Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider pulled off last season. Both played 82 games. Both had 50 points or more. Seider walked away with the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s best rookie. Raymond skated away with 23 goals.

Elmer Soderblom making the team is certainly something–a sixth round pick in 2019 who blossomed into a 21-goal scorer last season in the SHL. He showed enough in the rookie tournament as well as the preseason. Now, he’s on the final 23-man roster.

But he’s more the exception than the rule.

Red Wings Have History Waiting on Prospects

Tyler Bertuzzi spent 137 games in the AHL before he finally was brought up for good. Bertuzzi even won a Calder Cup and MVP honors before finally latching on in 2017-18.

What about the curious case of Michael Rasmussen? He only spent time with the big club in 2018-19 because the Red Wings didn’t want him wasting time beating up on junior talent. He couldn’t go to Grand Rapids, so he spent 61 games in the NHL, often looking lost and overmatched. He would spend time in the AHL the next season, honing his craft and finding his way.

It was last season the rugged forward finally started finding his place on the roster, being one of the best Red Wings on the roster during the latter half of 2021-22.

Want one more? How about Filip Hronek? He spent bonus time in Grand Rapids to work on his skating, which many scouts chastised and believed to be one part that would hold him back from being a regular NHL contributor. After 108 games in the AHL, and four seasons since his last one spent there, Hronek put up 38 points last season and has developed into one of Detroit’s steadier defensemen.

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Patience in the “Process”

Jonatan Berggren had 64 points (21-43) in 71 AHL games last season, which set a rookie points record for the Grand Rapids Griffins. Yes, he’s back in Grand Rapids, but the brass would rather him sharpen his game and have real minutes. Sure, it sounds an awful lot like the old “over ripen” days, but it comes the way of a proven builder in general manager Steve Yzerman.

Simon Edvinsson has to adjust to North American ice. His decision making during the preseason seemed just a second short at times. He improved. But he needs more time. And he’s only 19.

Enter Grand Rapids. From head coach Derek Lalonde:

“We could have foreseen Simon starting with us on Day One,” Lalonde said.  “But what would Day One look like Friday here compared with what he’s going to get in Grand Rapids?

“More minutes, more opportunity.  He’ll play in all three situations – five on five, PP, PK.”

But the biggest reason?

“I’ve never understood the black and white of making the team,” Lalonde said.  We don’t want a yo-yo of guys going up and down. We want them to have a significant role, either here or Grand Rapids.”

Yzerman asked for patience when he took the job, and as the rebuild moves forward, the patience shifts to the prospects who are inching closer to their time in the NHL. That patience wasn’t just for the time it would take to rebuild. As the years have rolled on, it seems to apply to every part of Yzerman’s process.

Bertuzzi, Rasmussen, and Hronek all spent their due time developing. They’ve seen their careers ascend.

The patience paid off.

The Red Wings are hoping it does again.

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