With Detroit Red Wings training camp drawing closer, Red Wings 101 will be filling everyone's absence of action in various ways.
Today, we will start the first in a series of player power rankings. These do not reflect future projections for where players could start or what line they will play on.
Up first, the forwards.
- Pavel Datsyuk. Obvious choice. Datsyuk led the Wings in scoring with 49 points, assists with 34, and goals with 15. He also was a finalist for the Selke Trophy for the best defensive forward, and signed a three-year contract extension with the Wings in the summer.
- Henrik Zetterberg. Zetterberg may be the captain of the Red Wings, but he's essentially Robin if Datsyuk is Batman. Zetterberg put the team on his back at the end of the regular season as they had to win their last game of the season to make the playoffs. We will likely see Zetterberg on the wing on a line with Datsyuk more often this season.
- Daniel Alfredsson. Alfie shell-shocked the NHL on July 5 when he left the Ottawa Senators, whom he had spent all 17 years of his career with, and signed a one-year contract with the Red Wings. His main reason was that he wants to win a Stanley Cup, and he feels the Wings give him the best chance to do so. Even at 40 (insert Mike Gundy reference here) Alfredsson can still chip in 20-plus goals a season. Mike Babcock has said that Alfie will play the right point on the power play, given that he shoots right-handed.
- Johan Franzen. Will the real Johan Franzen please stand up? Franzen will either score a lot of goals, or essentially disappear. Perhaps putting him on a line with fellow Swede Alfredsson could help jump his scoring.
- Stephen Weiss. After Valtteri Filppula bolted for Tampa Bay, the Wings lured Weiss to the city not far from his hometown of Windsor, Ontario. Weiss had spent his career with the Florida Panthers before signing a five-year contract with the Wings. He will likely play at second-line center, which was where Filppula played. Babcock also said he hopes Weiss can be more consistent and produce 50-60 points a year.
- Justin Abdalkader. Abdelkader struggled throughout the first half of the season before Babcock put him on a line with Datsyuk. The move worked, as he finished with a career-high ten goals, and was dubbed "the piano puller." He played well in the postseason despite winding up in Brendan Shanahan's doghouse. He may remain on the top line, where he played his best, or play with Weiss and Franzen on the second line. Either way, we could see him top 20-plus goals.
- Gustav Nyquist. Between playing with the Red Wings and Grand Rapids Griffins, Nyquist played in over 100 games last season. His biggest assets are his speed and puck pursuit. Nyquist looks like a bottom-six winger, but like Abdelkader, he too has the potential to top 20 goals.
- Todd Bertuzzi. Despite missing almost all of last season with injuries, Bertuzzi, when healthy, still has a nice scoring touch. He might not end up with top six minutes, but he can be a net-front presence on the power play and the best option not named Datsyuk for shootouts.
- Tomas Tatar. Tatar was at his best with the Wings in a stretch from mid-February to early March, when he scored four goals. While in Grand Rapids, Tatar scored 16 goals in the Calder Cup playoffs en route to leading the Griffins to the Calder Cup, and winning Finals MVP. The Slovakian will likely be one of the core players in the next five to six years.
- Drew Miller. If there is an undervalued forward on the Wings, Miller is likely that guy. He may not score goals consistently, but he is one of the best penalty-killing wingers. The latter was a main reason he was re-signed in the offseason and given a raise.
- Joakim Andersson. Another key piece to the Griffins' Calder Cup run, Andersson made his case for being in the lineup on a regular basis by being steady in the faceoff circle as a third-line center. His breakout game came against the Vancouver Canucks on February 25 when he scored two goals. He may not be as gifted offensively, but like Miller, he is another undervalued player.
- Darren Helm. Had Helm not been injured all season, he would likely be higher up on the list. The man Babcock refers to as "the best third-line center in the NHL" appears to finally be healthy after back problems sidelined him for all but one game this past season. He might have to battle with Andersson for the third-line center spot, but we all should be happy to see Helm back on the ice.
- Cory Emmerton. These next few players will likely end up getting traded or waived for the Wings to get under the cap. Emmerton is one of those players. Despite tying a career-high with five goals in 48 games, with Helm back healthy and names like Riley Sheahan, Landon Ferraro, Tomas Jurco, and Luke Glendenning awaiting a call-up, Emmerton could be the odd man out.
- Patrick Eaves. After almost having his career ended due to concussion problems, Eaves returned to the Wings and played solidly on the fourth line. But much like Emmerton, younger players with more potential have put his job with the Wings in jeopardy.
- Mikael Samuelsson. Year one of Sammy's second stint with the Wings was essentially a disaster. He only played in four games in the regular season due to injuries and never scored a goal until the playoffs. Samuelsson can still post good numbers when he is healthy, but how he performs in training camp will go a long way into determining his role with the team
- Jordin Tootoo. Tootoo became a fan favorite pretty quickly with his knack for dropping the gloves. However, he fell out of favor with Babcock late in the year, and was a healthy scratch for all but one playoff game. He can bring plenty of grit to the team, which is something that the Wings need, but it may be a matter of no room at the inn for Tootoo. If he gets traded, it will likely be by the end of this month.
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