Detroit Red Wings: 4 Young Players Detroit Fans Will Learn to Love in 2013
The Detroit Red Wings may not have many young players on their team as they are the third oldest team in the NHL, but they still have quite a few talented youngsters that are ready to break into the NHL on a full-time basis (via nhlnumbers.com).
The Red Wings seem to have patented how to "groom" their prospects to fit their organizational needs. This gives prospects enough time to mature before coming to the NHL and being thrust into the limelight.
Despite the average age of the current Red Wings team, there are younger players that fans should get excited about for the coming season (or, if this season is cancelled, for the 2013-14 season).
Here are four players that fans will learn to love in the coming season.
1. Damien Brunner
If you haven't heard of Damien Brunner, it is time to get on the bandwagon.
This 26-year-old is phenomenally talented and has dominated the Swiss top leagues over the past couple of years in point-scoring (via hockeydb.com), but has never played in the NHL.
Brunner is playing with Henrik Zetterberg on Zug of the Swiss-A League. The two have complemented each other beautifully.
Brunner (or "Burner," considering his blazing speed) has incredible footwork that helps him with deking players. Brunner has great vision on the ice and won't hesitate to find an open teammate with a pass.
The real problem in defending Brunner is that not only is his passing and knowledge of his teammates' whereabouts stellar, to say the least, but he also has a wicked wrist shot and is equally comfortable letting it go as opposed to passing the puck.
This will make him a treat to watch. If he gets a step on a defenseman, he's gone for a scoring chance.
Only problem is, if Detroit misses this season due to a lockout, he'll need to re-up in the offseason as his contract expires this offseason.
This means that his $1.35 million, one-year contract (entry-level plus bonuses) would grow in dollar value substantially if the Red Wings wanted to retain his services for coming years.
2. Gustav Nyquist
Gustav Nyquist is having a more difficult time than he would like getting solid playing time in the NHL, but in the process, he's tearing up the AHL.
Nyquist has 20 points in 22 AHL games this year, and his point totals have helped the Grand Rapids Griffins reach first place in the Midwest Division.
The Griffins are tied for the fourth highest points-per-game played with 28 points in 22 games or earning 63.6 of all points possible.
Nyquist is only playing his second full season in the AHL, but already seems like he could contribute on a consistent basis as a top-six forward with the Red Wings.
His road to that spot wouldn't be easy as the Wings have 16 forwards (per CapGeek.com) signed for this season, but he does have the talent and work ethic to get a roster spot and, more importantly, significant playing time.
3. Brendan Smith
Brendan Smith has four goals and 13 points in 22 games this season, and he also leads the Griffins in shots with 69 through 22 games.
Although his offensive potential seems to be unbridled, he won't put up the Justin Schultz-like numbers (32 points in 22 games) that many Red Wings fans would be hoping for.
Smith has a definite upside to him, though, as he improved his career high in AHL points last season (his second full season) despite playing in fewer games than the previous year.
Smith also put up seven points in 14 games with the Red Wings last season after drawing a lengthy suspension for this hit (via YouTube) on Ben Smith of the Chicago Blackhawks in a preseason game last year.
If he can keep himself disciplined, Smith has an opportunity to make a real impact in the Red Wings lineup for years to come.
4. Jakub Kindl
Jakub Kindl is a player you should get excited about for next season.
Yes, you did read that correctly.
The 25-year-old Czech defenseman put up 13 points in 55 games last season with the Red Wings, and while this wasn't an overly convincing effort offensively, Kindl more than tripled his point total from the previous season (four points) and bulked up to 216 pounds (via his NHL player page).
This bulking up led Kindl to throw more hits (61, via his player page) and turned his plus-minus from minus-six in 2010-11 to a plus-seven in 2011-12.
Kindl has taken a while to hit his stride as a Red Wing, but if he can continue his positive development and see his stats increase a bit more as well, he will receiving more ice time than the 14:03 that he averaged per contest last season.
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