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Detroit Red Wings

Red Wings Center Position Needs More Attention

Red Wings are 2-9 in last 11 games without Dylan Larkin



J.T. Compher, Detroit red wings
J.T, Compher's goal against Vegas was the first point in five games for the Red Wings center.

Over the past two summers, Detroit Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman has sought to address his team’s center position. He’s given lengthy term to both Andrew Copp (five years, $28.125 million) and J.T. Compher (five years, $25.5 million).

Thowing money at the problem isn’t solving the problem, though. The injury absence of captain Dylan Larkin is seving to yet again establish what most everyone in the game already knew.

The Red Wings still don’t have a second legit top-six center on the club’s roster, a player capable of consistently driving offense.

That’s not to suggest that Copp and Compher aren’t offering value to the team. Copp is a tenacious forechecker and stout penalty killer.

“I don’t think Steve had the vision of needly only the offense out of them,” Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde said of Copp and Compher. “It’s growing our depth.”

Clearly, though, Copp is not a No. 2 center. He has two assists with Larkin out of the lineup. He’s goalless over the past 16 games.

Compher is a solid 200-foot player capable of helping the team in many areas.

“I’ve got to be careful how I use him,” Lalonde admitted. “There’s some games he’s getting 22, 23 (minutes). I don’t know if that’s healthy or productive for him over time.”

While he’s filled in as a second-line center during his NHL career, over the long haul on a quality team, Compher is merely an upgraded version of Copp. He’s not a No. 2 center.

His goal against Vegas on Saturday was Compher’s first point in five games.

Veleno Not The Answer For Red Wings

Lalonde sought to utilize Joe Veleno as Larkin’s replacement between Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat on the club’s top line. The results speak volumes about this not being the answer. In three games, Veleno is pointless and -3. The Red Wings coach gave up the experiment on Saturday, moving Compher into the top-line slot.

“He needs to be more assertive with the puck,” Lalonde said of Veleno.

The more you see of Veleno, the less appealing he becomes, although admittedly, it didn’t start out that way. He’s played 15+ minutes of ice time in 29 games this season. Over the first 12 games, his production showed four goals, three assists and a +3 rating. In 17 games since, Veleno has one goal, three assists and is -14.

When he’s been asked to step up in Larkin’s absence this season, the data adds up even more abysmally. In those nine games, Veleno is 1-2-3 and -9.

Kasper Cut From Same Cloth

According to NHL scouts who’ve seen a lot of Marco Kasper this season with AHL the Grand Rapids Griffins, he’s going to be more of the same. His 200-foot game is outstanding. Kasper plays with an edge to his game.

Will Detroit’s top pick in the 2022 NHL entry draft produce consistently at the NHL level? Most hockey people doubt it.

In fact, the only center currently in the Detroit system who’s showing an offensive upside is Nate Danielson. Chosen ninth overall in the 2023 draft, Danielson is displaying 21 goals and 56 points in 48 WHL games this season. Since moving from the Brandon Wheat Kings to the Portland Winterhawks, Danielson has accounted for 9-21-30 totals over 22 games.