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3 overperforming (and 3 underperforming) Red Wings

Which Red Wings are performing above and below expectations?

Edmonton Oilers v Detroit Red Wings Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images

Not everyone can be Lucas Raymond or Moritz Seider.

Whether it be slow starts or sheer puck luck, many of the Detroit Red Wings are playing below their actual skill level. Some others are actually outperforming their expectations, scoring and working at a higher clip than they have in the past. The Red Wings are 14 games into their season. Sooner than later, these overperforming (and underperforming) players are bound for regression.

There are three very clear overperformers — and three underperformers — that stand out from the crowd. It remains to be seen whether this is a trend or a sign of something larger. Using historical examples and numbers (fun!), one can deduce just how these players’ seasons will round out.

Overperformer: Vladislav Namestnikov

During Sunday’s game against the Vegas Golden Knights, Namestnikov scored his second goal in five games. The forward’s had a hot start to the season, netting nine points in 14 games. In fact, he’s fourth in team scoring right now. Namestnikov primarily plays on the third line with Michael Rasmussen and Adam Erne, both of whom are having underwhelming starts to their season. How did Namestnikov get off to such a hot start — and is this sustainable?

To answer the first question, Namestnikov’s shooting percentage currently sits at 36.8%. That means one in three shots he takes winds up in the net. For the record, the average NHL shooting percentage is closer to 9.46%. This means that, sadly, Namestnikov’s current pace is unsustainable. He’s been very, very lucky with his shots, which has helped to generate a ton of his offense. Namestnikov’s current pace is eerily reminiscent to Adam Erne’s last season, where the forward wound up leading the team in goals scored.

As far as the second question goes, Namestkniov’s current pace has him around 54 points to end the season. He’s only obtained close to that number once in his career — in 2017-18, where he scored 46 points between the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers. Having Steven Stamkos at center and Nikita Kucherov on the wing would boost the numbers of just about any NHLer. In Detroit, Namestnikov has Rasmussen and Erne.

For now, the best thing to do is sit back and enjoy the Namestnikov Show. If (and when) he comes back down to earth, he’ll have bolstered numbers and an intriguing resume for potential trade suitors during the deadline.

Underperformer: Michael Rasmussen

I’ve spoken extensively about Rasmussen’s tough start to the season, but I’ll do my best to be succinct. Rasmussen has played far below the level he’s showcased in the past. In the past, he was able to force competition away from the puck and generate offense on his own. Now, he looks lost, unable to skate down the ice without coughing up the puck. It’s fair to assume that this is just a matter of confidence. After all, the center’s only just arrived at the NHL level.

The good news is, he’s slowly gaining confidence. Last night’s game against the Edmonton Oilers was the best game he’s had all season. He suffocated the Oilers’ offense, dug deep for an assist, and used his body to keep the puck on his person. During Dylan Larkin’s absence, he was the first center out at overtime. He was even used to shut down Alex Ovechkin. The chances will come for the big forward — but it’s up to him to work on the finishing.

Overperformer: Tyler Bertuzzi

If you look up the top points/60 in the NHL, the list starts off pretty unsurprising. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, to nobody’s surprise, headline the list. But, as you scour the names, you’ll notice someone in the top-five scoring race: Tyler Bertuzzi. The flashy forward has 15 points in 11 games — which, for the record, is nearly a 111-point pace across an 82 game season. Obviously, he won’t (and cannot) reach the pace, given the NHL’s policy on unvaccinated players. With that said, there’s a lot to uncover from Bertuzzi’s red-hot start.

On the surface, Bertuzzi’s numbers are spectacular. He’s shooting at a 31% shooting percentage. He’s broken Evolving Hockey’s xGF model. The only players with more goals than Bertuzzi are Leon Draisaitl and Alex Ovechkin. It’s safe to say Bertuzzi’s had a fire lit under him following his vaccination choice. While it can be easy to speculate what’s encouraging such a start, it’s important to know that he’s giving it his all whenever he’s on the ice.

It’s hard to know what to expect. On one hand, his play has shown no signs of slowing down. On the other, the team’s momentum comes to a grinding halt whenever he or Dylan Larkin are taken out of the lineup. He’s scoring nearly at will right now, but will the rigors of the season take their toll on the forward? Bertuzzi’s next break won’t come until the end of January, where the Red Wings head off to face the Toronto Maple Leafs. After his shooting percentage regresses, it’s hard to imagine his goal-scoring remains the same.

Underperformer: Filip Zadina

This one’s somewhat of a trick answer. After all, Zadina’s been great on the defensive end. He’s shown a very strong two-way game and has more than earned his ice time on the second line. Having said that, he might be the most unlucky player on the roster when it comes to goals. Nearly every shot he’s taken this season has gone wide of the net or wound up the recipient of a one-in-a-million save. It seems like he’s tried just about everything to get his offense going.

Zadina’s game against the Vegas Golden Knights was the best he’s shown all season long. The team completely dominated on the offensive end and had almost complete control of the puck when Zadina was on the ice. This will be the forward’s first full NHL season. As the game goes on, he’ll learn which of his shots go to the net and how to handle hot and cold streaks. It’s not a question of if Zadina picks things up — it’s a when.

Overperformer: Gustav Lindstrom

So far, Gustav Lindstrom is showing the Red Wings that they made the right call by picking him over Dennis Cholowski in the expansion draft. Where Cholowski was waived by the Seattle Kraken, Lindstrom has stepped into a depth defensemen role in Detroit, subbing in above Troy Stecher and Jordan Oesterle. Lindstrom’s found a nice little niche for himself in Hockeytown. Through just seven games with the Red Wings, his numbers look great. He actually has the third-highest puck possession numbers behind only Dylan Larkin and Lucas Raymond.

Why, then, is he slated to be an overperformer? To put it simply, it’s a matter of a hot start vs. history. Where forwards are easy to analyze with the eye test, defensemen make it much harder. Thankfully, advanced analytics are a great way to look at the efficacy of a defenseman. To start, let’s take a look at Lindstrom’s advanced numbers this season, courtesy of Evolving Hockey:

Gustav Lindstrom’s advanced stats courtesy of Evolving Hockey
Table & Data courtesy of Evolving Hockey
Evolving Hockey

Lindstrom is generating offense whenever he’s on the ice while maintaining great puck possession. While his defensive metrics are less-than-ideal, it’s important to note he’s done this with bottom-four minutes alongside Marc Staal. While Staal’s been decent to start the season, Lindstrom’s tasked with doing the majority of the heavy lifting with his line.

Now that we’ve seen how he’s performed this season, let’s take a look at his last three:

Gustav Lindstrom’s advanced stats over the last three years, courtesy of Evolving Hockey
Table & Data courtesy of Evolving Hockey
Evolving Hockey

It’s fair to assume that a lot of these numbers are negatively skewed given Detroit’s direction over the last few years. Still, can Lindstrom truly keep up top-three possession metrics on this team? Is it realistic to believe he can generate offense at the clip he has over an 82-game season? Finally, can he cement himself as a fixture on the lineup, rather than remain a rotating cast member on Marc Staal’s right side?

Realistically, Lindstrom will be a bottom-pairing NHL defensemen with a slight scoring touch. That’s not a bad thing by any means. Whether he plays like Troy Stecher or, say, Brendan Smith remains to be seen.

Underperformer: Pius Suter

Like Zadina, this one’s a bit of a trick choice. Until his last few games, Suter’s had a less-than-ideal start to his time in Hockeytown. Through the first 11 games of the season, he managed a measly two points. During Dylan Larkin’s absence, however, Suter stepped up, scoring four points across two games on the top line. This little stint appears to have reignited the center’s offense, and it’s imagined that more goals will come.

Last night, Suter played a pivotal role in shutting down Connor McDavid’s line during a tumultuous third period. Without Suter on the ice, Alex Nedeljkovic could’ve faced a series of high-danger shots that would’ve put the game in jeopardy. The fact that Suter can play well on both sides of the ice will likely encourage Blashill to set him up for success, which, in turn, will provide more scoring opportunities.

As the season continues, he’ll have a chance to round back out to form. After all, nearly a third of his shots have missed the net. In addition, Suter’s linemate Filip Zadina is due for a little boost in point production. As one of them returns to form, the other may follow suit.