Detroit added 2 UFAs on July 1st: defenseman Trevor Daley and although listed as a defensemen, is expected to take up a forward spot on Detroit’s final roster, Luke Witkowski. Assuming Detroit comes to terms with RFAs Tomas Tatar and Andreas Athanasiou this leaves just one final roster spot remaining for the 17-18 season.
The Red Wings currently have 12 forwards and 8 defensemen expected to go into next season with. These forwards include Henrik Zetterberg, Anthony Mantha, Dylan Larkin, Frans Nielsen, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Andreas Athanasiou, Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm, Riley Sheahan, Luke Glendening, and Luke Witkowski. These defensemen include Mike Green, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Xavier Ouellet, Nick Jensen, Danny Dekeyser, Trevor Daley, and Ryan Sproul.
This leaves Detroit with 20 out of 21 allowed skaters, meaning one skater from Grand Rapids will get the chance to be a regular on the NHL roster. Several candidates will compete for this spot, but there can only be one.
The most likely candidate to get the final roster spot, Bertuzzi is coming off of a tremendous season with the Grand Rapids Griffins, putting up 37 points in 48 games and adding 19 points in 19 playoffs games on route to a Calder Cup Championship, as well as becoming the AHL playoff MVP. Bertuzzi also has more AHL experience than other possible candidates such as Evegeny Svechnikov, playing in 119 regular season games over the last 2 years. While it is not a large amount, Bertuzzi also has the most NHL experience playing 7 games for the Red Wings last season, however he put up 0 points and was a minus 1. Bertuzzi could play in a bottom 6 scoring role if he does crack the lineup.
Detroit’s first round pick in 2015 made a strong case for himself to play in the NHL next season. Putting up 51 points in 74 games and also adding 12 points in 19 playoff games. While these numbers are very impressive for a rookie season in the AHL, I feel that Detroit will want to continue his development for at least another year. This is because Svechnikov put up very similar numbers that Tomas Tatar did in 2010-2011 when Tatar was the same age as Svechnikov is right now, putting up 57 points in 70 games. In comparison, Svechnikov had a PT/G of 0.69 vs Tatar’s 0.81 which isn’t too far off considering this was not Tatar’s rookie season (played 58 games the year before.) Tatar would spend another 2 years in Grand Rapids before making the jump to Detroit full time. Due to this I think Svechnikov will not get the final roster spot, however if he has a very strong camp things could change for Svechnikov.
A few other names that could be in the mix are Joe Hicketts, Martin Frk, and Ben Street. Hicketts being a defenseman will most likely stay in Grand Rapids as Detroit already has 8 defensemen in the NHL plus Luke Witkowski who can sub in on defense if needed. Martin Frk (currently an RFA), who has failed to make the jump to the NHL level for the past few seasons, will have a chance coming off of another strong season in Grand Rapids, however he has not shown signs of taking his game to the next level, but nevertheless he should still be in the conversation. Ben Street’s name has been floated around as a possibility, but I don’t see him being able to beat out previously mentioned names such as Bertuzzi, Svechnikov, and Frk.
In the end I think it will come down to either Bertuzzi or Svechnikov. Both have shown they have what it takes to play in the NHL based on their playing styles and development. Bertuzzi plays a sandpaper like game who can play in a depth scoring role, while Svechnikov is an energetic goal scorer who feeds off of momentum. If I were to predict which one of the 2 comes out on top, I would say Bertuzzi as he is further along in his development then Svechnikov is.