(Editor’s Note: This is the fifth installment in Detroit Hockey Now’s Tomorrow’s series about Detroit Red Wings’ prospects)
Detroit general manager Steve Yzerman’s short-term plan for improving the team’s offense involves looking at free agents and trade options and expected improvement from younger players. There will be some crossing of fingers as well.
“I hope within our own team we get more production out of some of our younger players that’ll take on a bigger role,” Yzerman said. “I’m not necessarily looking for guys to go from 8-10 goals to 50, but if we can take a guy from 8-9 goals to 14-15, the younger guys play a little bigger role and also contribute a little bit more on the offensive side, that will help.”
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Ultimately, the Red Wings want to grow their own scorers, and Cross Hanas could soon bear fruit. The Red Wings were pleased with his development this season, even though it was cut short by an injury.
“Right before he got hurt he was playing his best hockey,” Detroit assistant general manager Shawn Horcoff said. “There were certain stretches where he was a point a game player for 10-12 games, which is obviously hard to do at that level for a young player.”
Dallas native Hanas finished with nine goals and 17 points in 30 games. That’s a scoring rate for 23 goals and 44 points over a full season,
“One thing I was impressed with Cross was last year he had a really good summer and I think it’s showing,” Horcoff said. “His determination, his compete, his physicality improved. And he was able to go into the league and win some puck battles, win some 50-50s.”
Hanas (drafted 55th overall in 2020) was just a stronger player in 2022-23 and that helped him in many different ways.
“Absolutely the hardest thing you find for young players in the American Hockey League is strength,” Horcoff said. “And also just the grind. You’re playing lots of games, there’s lots of travel. If you’re not in peak physical condition you can really lose your legs. It can become very difficult. So the work that Cross put in paid off I think that’s why he started to play even better hockey right before he got injured. He still had a good chunk of the season but it’s really too bad, because I think he was just starting to find his stride.”
Analysis: The hope for Hanas in 2023-24 is that he has an injury free season and ends up being one of the Griffins’ top scorers. Yzerman likes players to become impact players in the American Hockey League before coming to the NHL. Jonatan Berggren had 77 games with the Griffins before he was called up to Detroit. Simon Edvinsson played 50. Even Moritz Seider logged 49 games in Grand Rapids the season after he was drafted. Lucas Raymond is the exception, not the rule.
Forecast: If Hanas stays on a quick-rise development tract, he could end up getting time in Detroit next season.