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Detroit Red Wings Young Guns: Pushing the Vets and Each Other

Detroit Red Wings' Gustav Nyquist

Source: AP

It’s been said that the younger players on the Red Wings will need to push the vets to make them and the team better this upcoming season. What hasn’t been explicitly stated is that the younger group will be battling each other for prime lineup spots.

Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar have established themselves as goal scorers and dangerous playmakers. Riley Sheahan could potentially slot in at second line center. Teemu Pulkkinen, Tomas Jurco, and Anthony Mantha will all battle for playing time (and in Mantha’s case, a roster spot).

All of these players figure to be battling for top-9 spots in the forward lineup. Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Darren Helm, and Justin Abdelkader have locked up spots in the top-nine as well. Stephen Weiss is under contract and management would likely prefer to not play a $5 million player on the fourth line. He will be battling for a top-nine spot as well.

Provided that all of these players are on the roster when the Red Wings break camp, there are five spots to battle for in the top nine. Nyquist and Tatar will easily claim two spots, but it’s just a matter of where since they played on all three top lines last season. Sheahan will likely center the third line to start the season. That leaves two spots for Jurco, Mantha, Pulkkinen, (and Weiss). Mantha can be assigned to Grand Rapids to start the season if need be.

A secondary roster spot battle will be flying under the radar as well. Joakim Andersson and Landon Ferraro will be competing for the fourth line right wing spot alongside Luke Glendening and Drew Miller. Out of options Mitch Callahan could be in the running as well. He, along with Andersson and Ferraro, are all restricted free agents this summer and can’t be assigned to the minors without passing through waivers. There’s a good chance one of these three won’t be with the Red Wings next season.

A healthy Johan Franzen or a potentially re-signed Dan Cleary can further complicate these roster battles as well. Tyler Bertuzzi, Dylan Larkin, and Andreas Athanasiou are putting up solid numbers for the Griffins on their playoff run. They could factor into roster decisions with their current coach, Jeff Blashill, expected to take over the Red Wings’ coaching position.

Ken Holland was clear earlier this summer: the young players need to challenge the vets. They will need to earn their spot in the lineup first though.

It’s nice to have a bunch of talented players, huh?

Detroit Red Wings Offseason Outlook

Johan Franzen

Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images

Sigh. We all feel robbed that the Red Wings did not advance further in the playoffs. But, it also signifies that there is still work to do in Detroit. Scoring and team defense were issues this playoff season, much like last year. Those areas of concern should be addressed this offseason, which looks to be a big one for the Detroit Red Wings.

We are going to count down the top five offseason storylines, briefly touching on each of the five in this post. All five storylines will also get an in-depth look in their own post. Enjoy the fireworks this summer, both for America and the Red Wings.

5. The Future of Johan Franzen

While Franzen barely played 30 games this season, he is a big part of the Red Wings and their success. When healthy, Johan Franzen possesses a lethal shot and size to bully his way around the offensive zone. Unfortunately, he has suffered quite a few concussions over his career, with the last one leaving doubts about returning to hockey. Can Franzen fully recover and return to form?

4. Young Guns Taking Charge

Mike Babcock said it in his season-ending press conference: the young guys need to step up and make the older players better. The Red Wings have Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, Luke Glendening, and Tomas Jurco contributing, but not taking control. They need to in order to set the Wings apart form the competition. It wasn’t that long ago that Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg stepped up in place of aging Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan. You can forget about Teemu Pulkkinen, Anthony Mantha, and Dylan Larkin coming soon as well.

3. The Tendys

It has already been said that Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek will compete for the starting goaltender position heading into training camp. Will one or both goalies come into camp hungry for playing time? Petr Mrazek is heading into a contract year that could pay huge dividends if he can seize the opportunity. Howard needs to prove that he can be the #1 goalie the Red Wings thought was worth over $30 million.

2. Improving the Defense

Dion Phaneuf stated that he wanted to be traded to Detroit at the trade deadline. Mike Green has long been linked to the Wings. Jeff Petry grew up in Michigan with his dad pitching for the Tigers. The Red Wings need to improve their defense beyond Niklas Kronwall, Danny DeKeyser, and Kyle Quincey (I know right? Quincey?). Marek Zidlicky was a nice addition this season, but is almost 40, and not a long-term solution. Will youngsters like Xavier Ouellet, Alexey Marchenko, or Ryan Sproul step up and earn a starting spot? Will the Wings make a splash in free agency or offseason trades?

1. Babs

Please stay. Jeff Blashill isn’t a bad #2 option, but Mike Babcock is the best coach in the NHL. Please stay. Please.