The defense was covered last week, J.J. previewed the goalies on Monday, and today we begin to take a look at the crop of forwards leading the charge for the 2011-12 season. With the retirement of Kris Draper and the potential retirement/departure from the Red Wings by Mike Modano, Detroit needed to replace some 40-year-old legs. Instead of signing a few old veterans to feed into the stereotype that the Wings are old, the team is dipping into the farm system and looking to promote a few of the kids, Jan Mursak and Cory Emmerton. This move will surely drop the team's average age by a few years.
Last Year's Benchmark: There isn't much of a benchmark to look at for these two when it comes to NHL experience. The two have a combined 21 games in the NHL, with 19 of those games coming from Mursak. Both have scored 1 goal. Mursak's coming in his 8th game last season and Emmerton scoring in his first game.
#39 / Left Wing / Detroit Red Wings
Jan 20, 1988
|2010 - Jan Mursak||19||1||0||1||-3||4||0||0||0||20|
The kid provided some energy and filled in admirably last season when the Wings were plagued with some injuries. He made his debut in Colorado, becoming the 2nd ever Slovenian-born player to suit up in the NHL (Anze Kopitar of the L.A. Kings is the other). From there, he continued to plug away on the fourth line as grinder and energy guy before being sent back down to Grand Rapids.
Strengths: Wheels...the kid has some real wheels. He might be the fastest guy on the team or at the very least he's not to far behind Darren Helm in a race. He's a good forechecker thanks to his speed and has great skating ability. He'll can hound the puck carrier and brings energy to the team.
Weaknesses: He isn't the most offensively gifted player. That's not to say he cant find his touch on the offensive end, but he isn't going to wow you like Pavel Datsyuk or Henrik Zetterberg (then again, most players won't).
Expectations: Not much in the point department. If Mursak can net 5 goals and put up 12-20 points, I'd say that's a successful rookie campaign. I expect Mursak to make his impact on the team by being a pest on the forecheck and bringing his youthful energy to the fourth line.
#48 / Center / Detroit Red Wings
Jun 01, 1988
|2010 - Cory Emmerton||2||1||0||1||1||0||0||0||0||3|
Emmerton is in the "must make the team or will have to clear waivers in order to be set down" department. The forward from Ontario had a very small cup of coffee with the Wings last season, but spent the majority of the year in Grand Rapids. His three seasons with the Griffins were all very similar. He registered 35 points in 69 games his rookie AHL season, followed that up with 37 points in 76 games, and finally put up 38 in 65 games last season. If anything, he's consistent (even if it's consistently below his original expectations when drafted).
Strengths: According to Ken Holland to Mlive in March 2011 via Red Wings Central, "He's smart, he's got good hands, good hockey sense, he's good at carrying the puck into the offensive zone..."
Weaknesses: He isn't going to light the world on fire with his offensive skill. He was drafted with the potential to be a top six forward and it appears that he's on his way to becoming a bottom six forward. To finish Holland's quote from above, "...Don't know if he's going to be a big time point producer in the NHL."
Expectations: A whole lot of "ifs" when if comes to Emmerton's expectations. If he makes the team, I expect him to be excellent at getting drinks for Jakub Kindl and/or Mike Commodore in the Leino Lounge. He'll be a fourth liner and will probably put up around 5 points in the limited ice time he sees. If he doesn't make the team and is placed on waivers, I wouldn't be shocked to see someone claim him, maybe a team like the Senators? Paul MacLean knows him from his time with the Wings. If he clears and makes it to Grand Rapids, he'll put up around 39 points and have the honor of playing on the same team with Brendan Smith (that is until Smith gets called up to play with Nicklas Lidstrom).