As the sun begins to set on the 22-23 NHL season for the Red Wings, there has been quite the breathe of fresh air pumped into the team over the past 2 weeks. Perhaps no one is happier about a pair of early exits from other teams than Red Wings’ fans.
With the University of Denver being stunned as the top seed in the NCAA’s Manchester regional by Cornell 2-0, the Pioneers season ended 2 weeks prematurely. Just three days later, Rogle BK fell to Skelleftea (of the Swedish Hockey League) in game 6 of their playoff series, ending their season somewhat expectedly as well. What ensued was an exciting few days, with a peek of where the beloved GM Steve Yzerman sees things headed next season at Little Caesars arena.
Denver defeat means Carter Mazur signs
As a result of Denver’s first round exit in the NCAA Tournament, the Red Wings were able to sign Jackson, Michigan native and lifelong Red Wings fan Carter Mazur to a 3 year entry-level contract on March 28th. Drafted 70th overall by the Wings in 2021, Mazur won a National Championship with Pioneers last season while being a unanimous selection to the NCHC All-Rookie team. He finished his Denver career with 36 goals, 39 assists, 75 points and 76 penalty minutes in 81 total games for the Pioneers.
Since beginning with the Griffins he’s already showed his gritty style of play, doing the dirty work in tough areas and making a good impression for the Griffins and Coach Ben Simon. Simon shared his pleasure with how Mazur played in his first games in Grand Rapids. Moreover, Mazur wasn’t the only addition to the organization coming late in March…
Wallinder joins Wings thanks to Rogle BK loss
Just a day after Rogle BK bowed out of the SHL playoffs, William Wallinder decided to make his way west to join the organization. On March 30th, Wallinder signed his entry deal with the Griffins. Originally the 32nd pick in the 2020 draft, he spent the last two years in Detroit East (Sweden) playing for Rogle. He also could be found playing for Team Sweden in the World Junior Championships. With the SHL being the training grounds for both Moritz Seider and Simon Edvinsson, it’s easy to see the reason for excitement in Wallinder’s trip across the Atlantic. Getting a few games under their belts in Grand Rapids will be great to see some starting points for offseason work. It will show everyone where exactly the development needs are for those players as they prepare to push for permanent roster spots next season.
Kasper the friendly goal scorer
March 30th brought a tidbit of news that excited every Red Wings fan. The Wings recalled Marco Kasper from his loan to Rogle. The transaction triggered a move to the big club, and he immediately met the team Winnipeg. His NHL debut came 3 days later. April 2nd saw all four of Yzerman’s top first round draft picks in the 18 skater lineup (Seider, Raymond, Edvinsson, Kasper). Not only that, but that day also saw these new kids on block beat the 100 point Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2.
Kasper saw the 4th most time on ice among forwards while Seider and Edvinsson were 1-2 in overall time on ice. They both clocked over 22 minutes of action that night. This has certainly been a cause for excitement as this team works to the finish line for the season, but fans must ask themselves, what does this mean for the Red Wings going forward?
What does it all mean for the Detroit Red Wings?
The events of the last few weeks should bring the bigger Yzer-plan into focus. This year’s NHL trade deadline saw Yzerman move many pieces with initially mixed reviews. The deadline saw defensemen Filip Hronek and Steven Kampfer along with forwards Oskar Sundqvist, Jakub Vrana, and Tyler Bertuzzi all traded for various draft assets and prospects. One could argue that the Red Wings were very much alive in the postseason chase at that point. However, these deals all but cemented another season on the outside of the playoffs. In hindsight, it shows exactly what Yzerman felt he had in these prospects who are now in the organization playing in either Grand Rapids or Detroit.
Probably the most shocking of the trades (but also the one with the biggest return) was the trade of Filip Hronek. Paired with a 4th-round pick in 2023, he was sent to the Vancouver Canucks for a conditional 1st-round pick and a 2nd-round pick in 2023. While there were many names potentially on the block, this was one not talked about quite as much.
Passing the buck
This was a great case of selling high as Hronek was having a great season, and also a way of passing the buck (literally) of who would be paying him a deserved salary raise on his next contract. However, losing someone playing Top Four minutes was a tough blow to the Wings’ defense. Looking back after seeing Edvinsson play 22 minutes against a team with 100 points and one of the best players in the world, and winning the game, makes that part clearer. Yzerman clearly felt comfortable with the defense in the pipeline. It also provided Edvinsson with an opportunity to come play some games to get acclimated to “the show.” Add in the ability to bring Wallinder over to get acclimated to the smaller ice and find things to work on this offseason and you can see the plan is already in place for next year.
Mazur and Kasper replenishing the grit
Losing Bertuzzi and Sundqvist dramatically hurt the grit of the Red Wings. Both were heart and soul players who were great in the locker room. They were also fan favorites for the grit and determination they displayed on the ice. While many hoped they could resign Bertuzzi, it was clear his price was going to be higher than what Yzerman wanted to spend. However, it’s hard not to notice the way Carter Mazur plays. He and Marco Kasper both blend incredibly well into those roles. They are 200-foot guys who are sound defensively, and play with an edge to their game. They also have some offensive ability that is expected to improve. Sound familiar? Kasper took all of five minutes before getting chippy in his debut. It’s not hard to see who Yzerman believes will move into those roles next year.
With this youth movement, it’s becoming clearer that the time is now fast approaching for the next step of the rebuild to commence. Going 4-4 with first rounders is exactly what Yzerman preached since the NHL draft. Adding in some 2nd rounders making it and you can quickly get close to a half roster of drafted players. Let’s not forget the only other 1st round pick (Cossa) is having quite the year in Toledo and should move to Grand Rapids full-time next year.
Core coming into focus
The core is beginning to come into focus, and the time for aggressively pursuing the right piece is fast approaching. God forbid the Wings receive some lottery luck…okay never mind there let’s not jinx it. The new kids on Woodward are quickly providing something Detroit sports fans are in dire need of….HOPE!
Article written by Woodward Sports guest writer, Steve Steele
Photo Credit: © Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Tweet:@WoodwoodSports or comment on your favorite social media platform!