Taro Hirose is back in the NHL but his future with the Red Wings is uncertain
Photo credit:Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
By Scott Ony1 year ago
After spending the majority of the last two seasons in the American Hockey League, @Taro Hirose is back with the Detroit Red Wings.
The 25-year-old winger has four points (one goal, three assists) in 10 games with the Red Wings this season after lighting it up with the Grand Rapids Griffins to begin the year. Hirose remains the Griffins’ 2021–22 scoring leader (with 45 points in 52 games) despite not having suited up for the team since March 9.
Since the Red Wings signed Hirose to his entry-level NHL contract out of Michigan State University back in 2019, the 5’10”, 162-lb. winger has played 52 games with Detroit over parts of four seasons while also being highly productive in the AHL.
As a junior with the MSU Spartans in 2019, Hirose racked up 50 points in 35 games and — along with @Adam Fox, @Quinn Hughes, and the eventual winner @Cale Makar — was named a top-ten finalist for the Hobey Baker Award.
Hirose decided to forgo his senior season in college and ultimately chose to join the Red Wings that spring. He impressed immediately, amassing seven points in his first ten NHL games to close out the 2018-19 season.
The early returns on Hirose seemed to indicate Detroit might have found a solid middle-six scorer who could contribute for years to come. Instead, Hirose has racked up just 13 points in 42 games with the Red Wings over the last three seasons.
“The hard part for guys that are kind of in those spots is you don’t just kind of come up and necessarily go right on a top line,” Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill told Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press in March. “You gotta prove that you can be an effective player on different lines and then really shine on the power play.”
Hirose is relatively undersized and doesn’t project to be a prototypical bottom-six grinding forward. He certainly possesses NHL-caliber skill, but his build has likely prevented him from getting more looks with the Red Wings over the years.
With his contract expiring this summer, both Hirose and Yzerman will have a decision to make about the future. Hirose is set to become a Group 6 UFA, as PuckPedia defines here:
“A player becomes a Group 6 UFA if they are 25, completed 3 or more professional seasons, has a contract expiring, and has played less than 80 NHL Games. For goalies, this is 28 NHL games with more than 30 minutes of ice time.”
Hirose will be turning 26 this summer and although that is quite old for a prospect, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he could show more if given a longer look in the NHL.
With his impressive AHL production and more than 50 games of NHL experience, Hirose should command interest from other teams around the league as a free agent this summer. Will he stay in Detroit or will he go elswhere?
The Red Wings have often struggled to find depth scoring this season. Hirose is finally getting more of a look in the NHL and is averaging 1:50 on the power play per game, but Blashill hasn’t shown a ton of interest in playing him up in the lineup at full strength. In Detroit’s last contest, Hirose played on the fourth line with @Jordan Oesterle (a defenseman) and @Kyle Criscuolo.
If the Red Wings make a coaching change, would Blashill’s replacement give Hirose a better chance to play in a role that fits his style? It’s impossible to tell at this point. Nevertheless, teams are always looking to add players who can provide surplus on-ice value compared to their cap hit, and it’s hard to envision Hirose commanding seven figures on his next deal.
Maybe his familiarity with Michigan will entice Hirose to stay with the Red Wings organization beyond this season, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him sign somewhere else in search of a better opportunity to play NHL games.
The Red Wings have just 13 games left to play this season and need players who can step up to help pull them out of their current funk. This could very well be Hirose’s last shot to find a spot for himself in Detroit.
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