Looking at the Wings beyond this season
The Wings have four young players currently with the team who may be key to their future: Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Bertuzzi.
With the Red Wings well out of the playoff race, we offer a few things fans can watch for as the team begins the post-All-Star Break part of the season when they host the San Jose Sharks at Little Caesars Arena Wednesday night:
1. When do the Wings begin dealing?
2. Who will be dealt?
3. What kind of draft choices/prospects will they receive?
4. How will the most important young players with the team continue to develop during the rest of the season?
1. The NHL trading deadline is Feb. 26. Detroit will likely wait until the last two weeks or so before it makes any moves.
2. As has been talked about for much of the season, defenseman Mike Green is the likeliest player to be traded. He is 32, in the last season of a three-year contract worth $6 million a year and is a right-handed-shooting defender with offensive ability. He can move the puck and quarterback the power play, making him a commodity any team looking for playoff success could use. He also did not hurt his trade value with two goals for the Atlantic Division in the final of the All-Star Mini-Tournament, which was won by the Pacific Division.
There are other players the Wings might not mind parting with for draft choices/prospects, but the likes of Darren Helm, Jimmy Howard, Justin Abdelkader and Frans Nielsen all have contracts with too many years and too much money left to even consider taking on. Petr Mrazek will also be available, but he has to prove he can still play consistently well.
3. The Red Wings probably will not be able to get a first-round pick in this year’s draft for Green because the talent level of the 2018 draft-eligible players is considered high. But he will likely bring two second round-picks in return.
4. There are four key young players currently with the team: Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Bertuzzi.
Larkin, 21, has developed into a top-notch center in his third NHL season after a poor second-season in 2016-17. He is Detroit’s points leader with 38 (eight goals and 30 assists) and has recently supplanted captain Henrik Zetterberg as the Wings No.1 center. In fact, look for him to replace Zetterberg as the team’s captain whenever No. 40 retires.
Despite inconsistencies, Mantha, 23, is the Red Wings’ goal leader with 16 in 46 games. He has flashed brilliance the way only someone who is 6-5, 225 pounds, can skate, has a good shot, a goal-scoring touch and doesn’t mind the rough going can muster. The thing to look for with Mantha is if he moves his feet. When he does, he dominates.
Athanasiou, also 23, has great speed and finishing ability. He has been especially productive lately playing with Larkin, who has a knack for getting the puck to Athanasiou as he speeds through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone. Athanasiou has 10 goals and 23 points in 38 games (he missed the first 10 because of a holdout). When Athanasiou focuses on the task at hand, he dominates.
Bertuzzi, 22, who began the season in Grand Rapids due to an injury, has been his usual gritty self recently and shown that he can produce on one of the top two lines. Bertuzzi had been a big goal scorer in the AHL playoffs the last two seasons, winning the playoff MVP award.
With the Wings this season, Bertuzzi, the nephew of former NHL star and Red Wing Todd Bertuzzi, has two goals and nine points in 15 games with Detroit this season.
There is one more player fans should watch for, but he’s not currently with the Red Wings. Defenseman Joe Hicketts, 21, has played one game with Detroit this season – a 3-0 win over the New Jersey Devils in New Jersey on Jan. 22, in which he played a little over 15 minutes. He was sent back to Grand Rapids, but he will be back, and probably soon.
Despite being listed at only 5-8 (that might be a stretch) and a little over 180 pounds, Hicketts has been an impact player everywhere he has played, including his star turns with Canada in two World Junior Championships. In his first pro season, in the AHL last season, Hicketts had seven goals and 34 points. He has eight points with the Griffins in 44 games in 2017-18.
Hicketts, who impressed coach Jeff Blashill with the way he played in his only NHL game, is a tireless worker and has always over achieved. He could be one of those players who rises to the occasion, no matter the level.