Despite a 2021-22 season full of ups and downs, the Detroit Red Wings are headed into next season with a better lineup of players they know they can count on to produce. With another young gun like Simon Edvinsson potentially getting a roster spot if his training camp goes well, and the additions of plenty of free agents both on defense and in the forward core, there are lots of different things to look forward to on both team and individual levels.
Making predictions is one of the most fun things to do, especially with a team like the Red Wings, who have gone out and acquired plenty of new players to fill holes in the roster. Some can go horribly wrong; others can go very well. So in this article, I’ll do my best to make it the latter instead of the former.
1. Jakub Vrana scores 35 goals
I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to say that if Vrana can stay healthy, he will score...a ton. In 26 games during the 2021-22 season, he scored 13 goals, which put him 9th on the squad. He also scored 8 goals in his first 11 games, bringing his Red Wings to total to 21 in 37 games.
Vrana staying healthy is the make or break factor. Shooting at 20 percent consistently is also unlikely, but he has the talent to make it close. Not only will he have other threats with Lucas Raymond, Dylan Larkin, and Tyler Bertuzzi continuing to mature, but the additions of David Perron, Dominik Kubalik, and Andrew Copp will provide some other scoring depth. Vrana scoring 25-30 would be perfect, but my confidence in him to score more is high.
2. Dylan Larkin gets over the point per game mark
It’s about time. Larkin was two points away from the point per game plateau in 2021-22 and has flirted with it before in 2018-19, where he hit 73 points in 76 games. It feels overdue.
Heading into his 26-year-old season, Larkin is entering the prime of his career, and with two scorers like Raymond and Bertuzzi on his wings (or Vrana, for all we know), I have no problem predicting this stat line for him. The talent is there. The only concern is health. The production is not what may pull people off this bandwagon, but instead, Larkin’s ability to stay on the ice. Over his seven-year career, he has only played 82 games once. That’s not encouraging. However, given the maturation of his game and those around him, this take is another one I feel confident in headed into 2022-23.
3. Andrew Copp scores at least 20 goals and 45 points again
A solid addition made by Steve Yzerman in the free agent period, Andrew Copp is going to prove as a strong second line center for a team that didn't previously have one. It came at the cost of $5.625 million AAV for the next five seasons, but a surplus of cap space allowed some wiggle room.
Copp in 72 games last season had 21 goals and 53 points. The season prior, which was Covid-19 shortened, he scored 39 points in 55 games with 15 goals.
Copp is going to have to share the wealth with a player like Vrana and it may take him some adjusting after he comes off the injured list in the first week of the season. However, that’s still plenty of time to hit these parameters. The year-over-year improvement is an excellent sign, and if he can be even close to as effective as he was last season, the Red Wings have a very capable second line player.
4. Dominik Kubalik scores at least 20 goals
The Red Wings adding 27-year-old Dominik Kubalik may end up being one of the more underrated pickups of the offseason. In just 202 NHL games, he has scored 62 goals and 54 assists for 116 points. In his rookie season, he scored 30 goals and was a finalist for the Calder Trophy. Since then, he has fallen off a cliff, partially to no fault of his own. A Covid-19 shortened season saw him score 17 goals and 38 points in 56 games.
Last season was probably the worst of his so-far brief NHL career, but given the new environment and new teammates, a revitalization of his scoring could be on the horizon. The talent is there, and Kubalik feels like he has improved every season. A new start is bound to be helpful, and if he can bring what we have seen him bring in the past, the Red Wings added another threat to the lineup.
5. Ville Husso takes the reins in net from Alex Nedeljkovic
This take is my boldest. The Red Wings are lucky enough to have two very talented netminders for the 2022-23 campaign. Yzerman got the job done because, while Thomas Greiss did his best, there wasn’t a fit. The performance was not good enough. But now, the tides have changed, and a 27-year-old goaltender has entered the fray looking to nab a full-time starting job from another talented goaltender.
Husso, in 2021-22, posted some excellent numbers with 2.56 goals against average, a .919 save percentage, and 14.14 goals saved above expected (GSAx), which ranked seventh among all NHL goaltenders. He only played 40 games as well. Every netminder above him had at least 50. Some might argue that he had the benefit of the St. Louis Blues defense in front of him . At the same time,Nedeljkovic did not, but according at even strength according to Evolving-Hockey’s regularized adjusted plus-minus (RAPM) expected goals against per 60 (xGA/60), the Blues weren’t that much more superior to the Red Wings in terms of containing high-quality chances.
I don’t think that Nedeljkovic was given much to work with, though. After watching most of the Red Wings games last season, there were plenty of times when his defense could have done more. Outside of Moritz Seider, the pickings were slim.
If the two goalies have the same seasons they did previously, Husso should have the net. However, with the additions to the defense and forward cores made by Yzerman over the offseason, a bounceback by Nedeljkovic is possible. Regardless the Red Wings organization and fans can be confident in their backstops for 2022-23.
There are so many other predictions out there of varying boldness, and it would be great if all of these came true. Although, the NHL is an unforgiving league full of unpredictability, so we will just have to wait and see what’s in store for the upcoming Red Wings season.