The streak has finally ended. After 26 consecutive seasons of making the playoffs, the Detroit Red Wings missed the playoffs last season. They are a team that seems to be stuck in no man’s land. They have an exciting young forward core in place (although some of them disappointed last season) but they also have a older set of players that are approaching the end. Additionally, they have one of the worst bluelines in the league. In a division full of teams on the rise, Detroit seems to be lagging a step behind. Let’s take a look at what Detroit is working with:
Elite Talent – None for redrafts.
Must Draft – I gave you my Anthony Mantha sleeper post here. I want him in every league, plain and simple.
Detroit missing the playoffs had nothing to do with their face of the franchise Henrik Zetterberg. Nothing like casually setting a career high in even strength assists at 36 years old. Zetterberg bounced back in a big way last season with 17 goals and 51 assists for the Red Wings. He was also +15 which is amazing considering how poor the team was. My concern is that his shot rate continues to fall, now barely at league average. Since he turns 37 during the first week of the season, there’s also concern his play can finally drop off. Given his lack of PIM, if he drops back down to 37 assists (where he was in 15/16), then he’ll barely be ownable. I would definitely draft him if I need assists in the middle to back end of a 12 man league but don’t reach for him.
Streamers With Upside – For three straight years, Tomas Tatar has topped 20 goals. That alone puts you on the streaming radar. After 2014-15, where Tatar had 29+27, I thought he was on the verge of becoming a top 100 fantasy asset. Instead, he’s regressed. Last season, Tatar did score 25 goals but it came with only 21 assists, below average PIM and a rapidly declining shot rate. Additionally, his power play role was greatly reduced as he only had 8 PPP. I’m okay with taking him as a late round pick but I’d rather gamble on someone else. Tatar will be a great streamer though. I do like him more for deep leagues for his safety.
Speaking of shattering high hopes, let’s look at Gustav Nyquist. In 2013-14, he scored 28 goals and 20 assists in only 57 games. That’s a 40+30 pace. Last year, Nyquist had 12 goals and 36 assists while his shot rate was barely above two per game. Given poor penalty minutes and lack of power play contribution, it’s just not enough to draft. Could it click? Sure, Nyquist will still be only 28 when the season starts. Again, I’d rather gamble elsewhere.
As wrong as I was on Zetterberg last season, my bigger mistake was Dylan Larkin in the opposite direction. After a promising rookie season, Larkin struggled mightily scoring 17 goals and 15 assists. He also registered 43 less shots in the same number of games. Out of these three guys, I’m more likely to gamble on Larkin. He just turned 21 years old and his PDO was one of the lowest in the league, meaning he was incredibly unlucky in terms of shooting percentage, which explains his horrific plus-minus. I wouldn’t classify him as a must-draft but Larkin is a great flier in the later rounds.
One of my favorite streamers / hot schmotatos last season was Andreas Athanasiou. A player that simply needed opportunity, Athanasiou thrived over a six to eight week stretch. His overall numbers were very good considering the lack of power play time: 18+11 in 64 games with solid PIM. It doesn’t look like he’ll have much power play opportunity this year either and Athanasiou will probably start on the third line so he’s only a streamer for now. He’s a nice deep league target since it could turn out better than expected.
Safe Streamers – Frans Nielsen is your generic 40-50 point player with no penalty minutes. He’ll have his hot streaks but his overall numbers will be yawnstipating.
Must Draft – I think Mike Green barely qualifies as must draft given how poor defensemen were last season. After being a fantasy godsend early in his career, he’s a generic defenseman now. Green played at a 40 point pace last season with solid penalty minutes. My concern is that his shot rate plummeted but he also has the chance to rebound in terms of power play points. He’s a #5 fantasy D so don’t reach for him based on his name value.
Streamers – None. This blue line is disgustingly bad. Maybe someone emerges
if when Green gets hurt but I don’t think any of these guys are even capable.
GOALIES – All reports are that Jimmy Howard will be the Red Wings starter to open the season. Howard was outstanding in his 27 games last season posting a 2.10/.927. However, his highest save percentage from the previous three seasons was .910. I give more credence to that than a 27 game sample. I won’t be drafting Howard this season unless it’s very late as a #3.
I like the idea of taking Petr Mrazek late in drafts, especially in deep leagues as a gamble. Yes, Mrazek was a disaster last season, but he was terrific in the previous two. If I thought Detroit was going to be much improved, I’d be driving the bandwagon, but I highly doubt that happens. That said, I think Mrazek is capable of keeping Detroit in a lot of games if he gets the chance. Sure, it might not work out, but at least we’ve seen his upside in the past and that’s of a strong #2 goalie. Taking him late in redrafts is a nice gamble to take.
HITS / BLOCKS / FACEOFF LEAGUES
Danny DeKeyser becomes semi-relevant given his big totals in hits and blocks. The problem is he had only 12 points last season so he’s not worth drafting. Justin Abdelkader, who is on the Mount Rushmore of worst contracts in the league, piles up hits but I still wouldn’t touch him outside of the deepest of leagues. Otherwise, Green is a clear must-draft but that’s about it. The Red Wings are a pretty boring fantasy team in all formats.
Mantha and Larkin both get massive boosts. I would strongly consider ranking Mantha as a top 50 player if I was doing dynasty rankings. Larkin becomes a clear draft pick but the debate is where. Before last season, I would have said he’s a top 30 player in dynasties. Should one bad season completely kill that? I don’t think so. He’d still be in my top 100 without hesitation but I would take Mantha before him. Otherwise, drop Zetterberg a bunch and I wouldn’t use Nielsen.
Blue Chip – I don’t love the depth of the Detroit prospect pool but I’m a huge fan of their top prospects. My favorite of the bunch is Evgeny Svechnikov. His offensive potential is astronomical. His hands are outstanding, his shot is incredibly accurate and he knows how to use his size. Sure, his defensive game is lacking, but we don’t care about that for fantasy. Svechnikov is an elite fantasy prospect who could easily turn into an annual 25+ goal scorer.
Filip Hronek is a player I’m higher on than consensus. He has all of the tools to be a power play quarterback, his skating is excellent and his ability to get pucks through to the net is outstanding. Hronek was over a point per game last year in Saginaw and his penalty minutes were strong as well. Given how ugly their current blue line is, it wouldn’t shock me if Hronek is the PPQB for Detroit in 2018-19 after a season in Grand Rapids.
Michael Rasmussen, the ninth pick in the 2017 draft, has tremendous upside. He already has NHL size and could become a power forward with above average skating abilities. He’s a couple years away but Rasmussen has the tools to become an elite fantasy option, especially if your league counts hits. I believe he’ll be a #2 center in the NHL but there’s a chance he becomes a first liner.
High Upside – Dennis Cholowski could become a great defenseman if things pan out. He’s far away from that, especially in fantasy, but his skating and puck handling are tremendous. We simply haven’t seen it translate into points at the moment. Cholowski is incredibly raw but if you want to shoot the moon on a defenseman, he’s a solid choice.
Safety First – If you’re in a hits league, Tyler Bertuzzi is your guy. He’s relentless in his pursuit of the puck and that leads to his creating opportunities and taking penalties. What do you know, both are great for fantasy value! I don’t see him coming anywhere close to his father as a goal scorer but his positioning will help him score his fair share of goals. I don’t see big upside but he should stick in the league for a long time due to his energy.
That’s all for now guys. I’ll be back on Monday breaking down my hometown team, the Buffalo Sabres. I’ll also try to get my updated top 50 out next week at some point. As always, feel free to ask any questions or leave any comments below. Thanks for reading, take care!