Each year players from the AHL jump straight to the NHL. It isn’t anything new. After winning a Calder Cup, often there is a mass exodus to the NHL. It usually means that young players and prospects played on the team, helping them get all the way to that goal.
The Grand Rapids Griffins did have young players all throughout their lineup but they also had veteran players in key roles as well. It is tough to differentiate which players are ready to make the jump and which are bound to toil in the AHL.
These are the three players that I believe are slam dunk choices to be on the Red Wings’ opening day roster.
Already seeing time with the Red Wings the past two seasons, Nosek isn’t exactly coming out of nowhere. His performance in the Calder Cup playoffs is what really sticks out. Playing at over a point per game pace, the Red Wings are going to hope that he can continue it by sticking him on the fourth line this next year.
He likely will never truly be a difference maker in the NHL, yet he could provide good scoring depth for a team that desperately needs it. His dominance was really evident in the Calder Cup finals where he was the catalyst for plenty of goals.
This feels like the most slam dunk pick because of his playoffs. While another player on this list won the playoff MVP, Nosek feels like he fits into the immediate plans regardless of what the team does this offseason.
I am slightly less certain on Bertuzzi just because I am not sure where he slots into a Red Wings team that already has plenty of forward contracts on it. Bertuzzi can play and bump around on the fourth line but it may be a waste of his skills. He isn’t the next coming of Andreas Athanasiou or Anthony Mantha. However, he did improve on his points per game during the regular season and was a point per game player in the Calder Cup playoffs.
Compared to Nosek, he is relatively young and that bodes well for his future. He has room to grow yet and with his style of play, he might be able to find another gear. It’ll be interesting to see how he adapts to the NHL and if eventually fits his play style.
A little bit off the board comparatively to the two before him, Hicketts has always had plenty of potential. It may be time for him to realize it in the NHL. The Red Wings have invested a lot of time and money in slow and plodding defensemen. It hasn’t worked and in the modern game, it’s either get with the times or get left behind. As of right now, they’re getting left behind.
Hicketts is the exact opposite of that. He didn’t tear up the AHL this season and in the playoffs he didn’t exactly wow the world but he led all Griffins’ defensemen in scoring. Not too bad for a player that just turned 21 years old. If general manager Ken Holland has truly turned a corner, Hicketts should be on the opening day roster on the third pairing. He is the offensive spark plug the team needs on the back end.