Predicting Detroit Red Wings' Best Player at Each Position in 5 Years
The Detroit Red Wings have been stocking up their cupboard of prospects, and some could crack the lineup as soon as the 2014-15 season.
Over the next couple of years these prospects will either flourish or fade in an attempt to secure a roster spot. It is difficult to adjust from the minor leagues to the NHL level, and it is inevitable some won’t make it.
In five years the Detroit Red Wings could look significantly different. The team’s current core could be enjoying life after hockey, some players could be on their last legs and the coaching staff could be a lineup of unfamiliar faces. The city itself will undergo a massive overhaul to account for a new arena in 2017.
So much can change in such a short time in the NHL, but for now, here are predictions for Detroit’s best players at each position in five years.
Center: Riley Sheahan
Realistically the team’s best center in five years is probably not in the picture at this point, but a case can be made for Riley Sheahan.
Currently preparing to establish himself as a regular, Sheahan will be on the cusp of his prime five years from now.
He is a solid, two-way forward who shows both excellent net-front presence and defensive reliability. He’ll get an opportunity to play the entire season with the Red Wings, and his workload and responsibility will continue to grow in coming years.
He is looking to build off an impressive first season in which he amassed 24 points in 42 games. He signed a two-year, $1.9 million deal earlier this summer and will likely be a staple in the lineup down the road.
He has the makings of a solid contributor in multiple aspects who could develop into an excellent leader. With the opportunity to learn from some of the best players in the league, he’s well-equipped to become a true professional in the NHL.
Left Wing: Tomas Tatar
Tomas Tatar is on the brink of breaking out, and after an impressive first full NHL season he is sure to be a threat for years to come.
Tatar netted 19 goals and 39 points in 73 games in 2013-14 and is primed to pursue his first 20-goal season next year. He only needs to re-sign with the club first.
The 23-year-old is a restricted free agent and is currently not close to a new deal. Although Detroit has made an offer it has yet to hear back from Tatar’s camp, according to George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press.
Tatar has an excellent skill set, and his ability to create offense on his own makes him an invaluable part of the team’s forward corps.
He enjoys learning under Henrik Zetterberg and aspires to follow in his captain’s footsteps, per Ansar Khan of MLive.com. Tatar's leadership will evolve as his role continues to expand, and there’s no better player than Zetterberg to serve as a model for a future team leader.
Right Wing: Anthony Mantha
Mantha has the skill set to make any head coach salivate, and to think he could earn a roster spot (especially with Detroit) at 19 years old (he'll turn 20 on Sept. 16) is incredible.
In five years’ time he could become one of the NHL’s most prolific young scorers. Detroit hasn’t had a homegrown prospect with Mantha’s size and skill since Sergei Fedorov. He has such a high ceiling, and it won’t be too long before he’s making waves in red and white.
On the ice, he’s sure to be the main offensive contributor. His 120 points in 57 games earned him top-scoring honors in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 2013-14 and displayed his ability to take over games.
Detroit hasn’t had a player under the age of 30 lead the team in scoring since Zetterberg (29) in 2009-2010. With Mantha in the lineup, it could happen anytime between now and 2024.
Defense: Danny DeKeyser
In five years, Danny DeKeyser could be the stable, shutdown defenseman Detroit has needed for some time.
DeKeyser has already shown the ability to limit opponent’s top lines and could be among the NHL’s most reliable D-men in the next half-decade.
He is currently a restricted free agent who has yet to ink a long-term deal with Detroit. While the two sides are in the midst of the waiting-out process, GM Ken Holland believes he has offered the 24-year-old a fair deal, per the Detroit Free Press’ George Sipple.
DeKeyser has been one of Detroit’s most reliable blueliners over his first two seasons and will be a staple in the lineup for years to come. He’ll be entering his prime in five years and will become a tremendous leader on and off the ice.
He has a calm, fluid style and demeanor that resembles that of Nicklas Lidstrom. There is no replacing the great No. 5 in Detroit, but if he can play and lead half as well as Lidstrom, then Detroit is in great hands with No. 65.
Goaltending: Petr Mrazek
Already labeled as Detroit’s goalie of the future, Petr Mrazek could receive his official NHL opportunity in the 2015-16 season.
Mrazek inked an extension with the Red Wings this summer and is likely going to receive a lucrative long-term deal if he continues to adapt as swiftly to each professional level. With an AHL title under his belt, there is little left to prove in the minor leagues.
He has excellent flexibility and lateral movement, and if he can shore up his fundamentals he’ll be a really tough goaltender to beat in the NHL. He shows similar athletic prowess to Jonathan Quick and has impressive numbers through 11 career appearances with the Red Wings.
Detroit re-signed Jonas Gustavsson to a one-year deal to give Mrazek one more season to marinate in the AHL, but he’s sure to be the backup to Jimmy Howard in 2015-16.
With Howard already 30 years old, Mrazek could steal the job sooner than later.