The Detroit Red Wings are not having as successful of a season as they are used to. Usually making the playoffs is not in doubt for them, but this season it is. Despite their record, there are still reasons to be optimistic. With injuries, retirements and players leaving via free agency, several younger players have been given a chance to play, and many have responded well.
There are several young players who have shown they are ready to play for the team. Ideally, they will be getting more playing time, as they are the future of the organization.
Many might expect to see Danny DeKeyser on the list; however, he just played his first game for the organization this week. While his future looks bright, this list will focus on the players who have a longer history with the organization. Who knows, by the end of the season, he may work his way onto the list.
Here are the five players with the brightest futures.
Brendan Smith arrived to the team with much fanfare. He has been a highly touted prospect for several years.
In the minors he was known as being an offensive-minded defender. He worked on being more defensive-minded. He has played well with the team; however, the team does need his offensive touch to return.
Last season he had a 14-game run with the team as an injury replacement. In that time, he was plus-three and had 17 hits, one goal and six assists. This season, in 26 games, he is minus-one, 16 hits, zero goals and five assists.
While there is room for improvement, he has played solid defense. He needs to add in more of the offense that he was known for in order to fully reach his potential. Still, he looks like he will be wearing the winged wheel for years to come.
When the season started, most fans had not heard of Brian Lashoff. After a few short weeks into the season, he was helping to hold a battered defensive unit together.
Although he scored a goal in his first game, that is not his style of play. He is a defensive-minded player and more of a passer and setup player.
That goal in his first game has been his only one. He does have five assists, but one would hope that that number will increase.
He is second on the team in blocks and fifth in hits. He probably could have used another year in the minors to fine-tune his game, but he is adjusting well to the NHL and learning on the fly.
He may not have the flashy type of numbers that are expected from Smith, but he should be a solid defender for the team.
Joakim Andersson has provided a spark to the team this season. He has three goals and four assists in limited ice time.
He is a player that, if given more ice time, could really shine for the team. He is more of a defensive forward but has improved his offensive touch in the minors.
Last season, in Grand Rapids, he scored 21 goals to go along with 30 assists in 73 games.
At the NHL level, he is not going to be a leading scorer but more of a physical forward presence who will be an important contributor.
Tomas Tatar has been an offensive force in the minor leagues. He has been among the team leaders in scoring while playing for the Grand Rapids Griffins over the past three seasons.
In 190 games for the Griffins he has 154 points. In limited time with the Red Wings, he has eight points, including five goals, in 25 games. Good numbers, especially considering how spread apart his games are and the fact that he averages less than 12 minutes of ice time when he does play.
He has yet to really be able to get into a rhythm and feel comfortable. Once he is given an opportunity, he should be able to excel. The only real concern was that he is a little small, but so far he has shown that is not an issue.
Gustav Nyquist is in the mold of a typically successful Red Wing player: good skater and great passer with a high hockey IQ. Like Tatar, he is a little undersized, but he hustles and plays hard to eliminate that as a concern.
While playing with the Grand Rapids Griffins, he has been a point-per-game player with 122 points in 122 games. Over the past two seasons, he has actually been slightly above that and has 45 goals in 114 games.
Over the past two seasons, he has played 30 games with the Red Wings. He has three goals and 12 points in limited playing time. Like Tatar, once he is allowed more ice time, he should really be able to show his full game.