The kids have gone back to school and the NFL started last weekend which means one thing for hockey fans…the NHL is almost back!
We are officially 23 days away from puck-drop on the 2017-18 NHL season and it’s time to look at what you should expect from the Flames’ top players.
If you are not familiar with me, I am the Editor-in-Chief of DailyFaceoff.com, where I do yearly projections for all players expected to make NHL rosters this fall. My projections hit the web last Tuesday and today we’ll look at who (I think) the Red Wings’ top-10 scorers will be during the upcoming season.
1. Henrik Zetterberg (LW)
|2016-17 Season Stats||82||17||51||68|
Entering his 14th NHL season, many prognosticators believed that Zetterberg’s best years were well behind him, but that wasn’t the case. The Red Wings’ captain appeared in all 82 games for the second straight season and recorded 17 goals and 50-plus assists for the second time in his career.
This summer Zetterberg told a Swedish radio station that he only has two years left in him and he enters 2017-18 as the favourite to lead the Red Wings in points yet again. Zetterberg has not scored over 20 goals in five years, so expect him to be in the mid-teens with assists close to 50 again.
2. Anthony Mantha (RW)
|2016-17 Season Stats||60||17||19||36|
After two and a half decades of being one of the most dominant teams in the NHL, the Red Wings are trending in the wrong direction but Mantha gives fans cause for excitement. The 22-year-old has all of the tools to be a high-end goal-scorer in 2017-18 and for years to come.
Mantha skates very well for a big man (6-foot-5 / 221 lbs) and has an elite shot, which gives him 30-goal upside this season. The Quebec native was on-pace for 182 shots (per 82 games) last year and if he sees more ice-time he should push for 200-plus shots this year.
3. Gustav Nyquist (LW)
|2016-17 Season Stats||76||12||36||48|
Nyquist’s 2016-17 was the tale of two halves. In the first half, Nyquist had just 18 points (4G / 14A) in 41 games, but finished the year with 30 points (8G / 22A) in his final 35 contests. The 28-year-old set a career-high in assists (36) but his 12 goals was the lowest of his four-year career. The dip in goals can be attributed to his drop in shooting percentage (7.3%)—if that bounces back to his career average (11.9%) he should push for 20 goals and 50-plus points in 2017-18.
4. Frans Nielsen (C)
|2016-17 Season Stats||79||17||24||41|
During his NHL career, Nielsen has been a consistent, albeit unspectacular producer. In his first year in Detroit, Nielsen had his lowest point total (41) since 2009-10.
Nielsen is known more for his two-way and shootout ability than he is for his offensive production, but the veteran has 20-goal, 30-assist upside. Nielsen is locked into a top-6 role and will see plenty of power-play time, making him a safe bet for at least 40 points, but his upside is limited.
5. Dylan Larkin (RW)
|2016-17 Season Stats||80||17||15||31|
Larkin had a great first half in his rookie season, but cooled off in the second half and that carried into 2016-17. Larkin recorded 30 points (14G / 16A) in his first 43 career games but has been limited to 47 points (26G / 21A) in his last 117 games.
The 21-year-old is not the first person to fall victim to the dreaded sophomore slump and should still be expected to be a difference-maker for the Red Wings in 2017-18. Larkin has exceptional speed and with limited competition for ice-time, he should see consistent top-6 minutes and should get back to 20-20 production at the very least.
6. Tomas Tatar (LW)
|2016-17 Season Stats||82||25||21||46|
Tatar is arguably the Red Wings’ best forward, but is widely underrated across the NHL. The 26-year-old has scored at 20-plus goals in four consecutive seasons, ranking 31st in that category over that stretch.
Tatar’s 13.4% shooting percentage is impressive, giving him 30-goal upside if he starts shooting the puck more frequently—he is 86th in shots over that same four-year span. Tatar will battle with Mantha for the team’s goal-scoring lead.
7. Andreas Athanasiou (LW)
|2016-17 Season Stats||64||18||11||29|
This projection is obviously based on Ken Holland getting Athanasiou signed before he takes off to the KHL. Athanasiou has elite speed with great hands, but his defensive-zone struggles have limited his ice-time. The 23-year-old has scored at a 22-goal, 13-assist pace through his first 101 NHL games, despite averaging just 11:50 TOI/GM.
If he does stay in Detroit, he should be in-line for more minutes this year and that alone gives him immediate 25-goal, 20-assist upside.
8. Justin Abdelkader (LW)
|2016-17 Season Stats||64||7||14||21|
Abdelkader recorded 42 goals and 44 assists (86 points) in the two seasons prior to 2016-17, but struggled mightily last year. The 30-year-old plays a rugged game, but has some decent offensive ability, making him a strong bounce-back candidate for 2017-18.
Some other forwards have passed Abby on the depth chart, making a return to 20-goals, 20-assists rather unlikely, but improved power-play production will help him approach those marks.
9. Mike Green (D)
|2016-17 Season Stats||72||14||22||36|
In 2016-17, Green scored 14 goals (fourth highest mark of his career) with 22 assists (36 points) in 72 games. The 31-year-old is the best defenseman on the Red Wings’ roster and is locked into massive minutes at even-strength and on the power-play. Green’s offensive ability isn’t what it once was, but he still a safe bet for double-digit goals and assist totals that approach, if not top 30.
10. Riley Sheahan (C)
|2016-17 Season Stats||80||2||11||13|
Sheahan’s 2016-17 season can be summed up in one word: Hilarious. In his first 79 games of the season, Sheahan failed to score a goal while compiling jut 11 assists, but managed to score two goals in the season finale and scored the last goal ever at Joe Louis Arena.
Despite all of his struggles last year, Sheahan remained a sought after commodity because of his combination of size and skill. Now 25-years-old, Sheahan hopes that his days of being snakebitten are behind him and a bounce-back is in order for 2017-18. Put it this way; it can’t get worse.