Our off-season grading of Red Wing players continues.
After taking on the Incompletes, the Grinders and the Young Defensemen, we shift our focus to a group of players that we hoped but didn't expect to have an impact on the Wings this year: the rookie forwards.
#63 / Center / Detroit Red Wings
Feb 5, 1989
|2012 - Joakim Andersson||3||5||8||2||8|
An early-season injury call-up, Andersson got his chance thanks to his proficiency killing penalties and his size. He ended up playing in 38 regular season games, recording 3 goals and 5 assists. Averaging about 12 minutes per game, Andersson provided a solid presence on the third line while spending about a minute per game on the PK. In the playoffs, he combined with Damien Brunner and Gustav Nyquist to form a pseudo-Kid Line, and he notched his first career playoff goal and added 4 assists while earning valuable experience.
Andersson was one of those players who was never really in the Wings' long-term plans, but after his performance this year he could find himself seeing significant bottom-6 center minutes, especially if Darren Helm's back problems continue to plague him. I'd consider grading on a curve, but Andersson was good but not great for the Wings.
#21 / Forward / Detroit Red Wings
Dec 01, 1990
|2012 - Tomas Tatar||4||3||7||2||4|
Uh, play a game? Let's go with that.
Souse/Tots/Tartar Sauce/whatever you want to call him was another injury call-up, and in 18 games he put up 4 goals and 3 assists. His time with the Wings wasn't that long, but it was fairly memorable as Tatar displayed a lot of talent and skill while not looking out of place. He was given sheltered minutes in the bottom-6, but he left Wing fans with a sense of wanting more. To tantalize us further, he's got 13 goals in 21 AHL playoff games as the Griffins are 1 win away from the Calder Cup.
I can't be the only one who thinks that Tatar deserves a full-time spot in the lineup last year. Depending on what happens with some of the older players, Tatar could have to earn his spot coming out of training camp vs just being given one, but there's no reason to think that he can't be a contributor on next year's team.
#14 / Forward / Detroit Red Wings
Sept 01, 1989
|2012 - Gustav Nyquist||3||3||6||0||6|
Well, Nyquist didn't get the minutes he deserved initially, but by the end of the year (and after leading the AHL in scoring) it became pretty obvious that he needed to be up with Detroit. He wasn't given top-6 minutes like we all wanted, but after struggling with consistency in the regular season as he adjusted to new linemates, he came alive in the playoffs and formed one of the Wings' best lines. In 14 playoff games, he had 2 goals and 3 assists, and his goal against the Blackhawks after he undressed Brent Seabrook is still in my personal highlight reel.
There was some debate earlier this year about what Ken Holland and Mike Babcock envisioned for Nyquist and his role on the team, but I think it's become obvious that he's a full-time Red Wing and won't be riding buses in Grand Rapids any more. Where he plays could depend on what happens with some of the Wings' free agents, but I'm betting that his role increases significantly next year.
#24 / Forward / Detroit Red Wings
Mar 09, 1986
|2012 - Damien Brunner||12||14||26||-6||12|
He and Zetterberg could keep their good thing going, or he could be another bust a la Leino or Brunnstrom. Mike Babcock has said that Brunner will get a shot, so at the least he's going to have an opportunity to play significant minutes.
Brunner exploded out of the gate, scoring an amazing shootout goal against the Blue Jackets in the second game of the season, and racking up 10 goals in the Wings' first 19 games. Unfortunately he hit a bit of a rookie wall and only potted 2 the rest of the way, but he ended up with 12 goals and 14 assists in only 44 games. In the playoffs, he got scorching hot and had 5 goals and 4 assists in the Wings' 14 playoff games. He was a fixture on the Wings' PP, despite all of our pleas to take him off the point. He wasn't great in his own end, but he wasn't signed to be a two-way player.
This is a tricky one because Brunner only signed a one-year deal with the Wings and there's no guarantee he'll be back. Should be decide to re-up with Detroit I would expect him to play the same role he did this past year, as a winger on the first or second line and an offensive force. A full training camp and season with practices should help his development.