Detroit Red Wings: Projecting the 2016-2017 Roster
The future of your favorite team is something every die-hard fan thinks about, and while some of them are excited for the future, others are not.
Certainly, Red Wings fans don't mind how things are going in the present and what happened in the past, but they shouldn't be too worried about their future either.
Many people have surfaced again, saying the Red Wings' window is closing as the core of Lidstrom, Zetterberg, and Datsyuk gets older. While they are certainly getting older, weren't those same nay-sayers reciting the exact same message when Yzerman, Shanahan, and Fedorov were in their 30s?
The future looks good in hockeytown, as the Red Wings have a lot of good young prospects in their system. So with that in mind, we'll take a look at the Wings 2016-2017 Roster.
While we're looking, keep in mind that free agents will undoubtedly be signed, and there's no way to predict that, so all roster predictions are filled with players currently playing for the Red Wings or currently in one of the Red Wings' farm teams.
Position: First Line, Left-Wing. Captain of the Red Wings.
When people think of Henrik Zetterberg, they'll think of him as one of the Red Wings' best late round picks in team history.
While Zetterberg has a history of back problems, he will still be good enough to be a first line player for the Red Wings, provided he has some youth up there to blend in his experience.
Zetterberg likely wont be putting up 90 points a year when he's 35, but he'll still be an effective player.
And if anyone questions his positioning, remember that while he does frequently play center, he was drafted as a left wing and plays on the power play as a left wing.
Position: First line Center.
Tomas Tatar is one of the Red Wings top prospects. He probably wont be a full time guy in Detroit for another year or two, but he's got the potential to be a star in the NHL.
Tatar played nine games in the NHL, and while he only scored one goal, he looked great on the ice and appeared that he was ready to play on the NHL level.
Add that extra year or two in the minors, and Tatar might be over-ripe and ready to explode in the NHL.
Position: First line Right wing.
If you don't believe this kid is gonna be a superstar in the NHL, I would highly recommend you watch this video.
If you were able to track the puck, you've got better eyes than me. Pulkkinen, at one point, was debated with Taylor Hall to be the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft. After only playing 13 games over the next two seasons due to injury, he fell to the Wings in the fourth round.
Now, Pulkkinen is back to being a point-per game player in the Finnish league and has the potential to be a 40-50 goal scorer in the NHL.
Position: Second line Left wing.
Johan Franzen is the 40 goal scorer who still hasn't scored 40 goals. After seeing him score five goals in one game last year, he went cold for the rest of the season and didn't score another goal during the regular season.
Regardless, Franzen is still young enough to hit that marker, and he certainly has the potential to do so.
While the Mule isn't getting any younger, , he'll still be good enough to hang with everybody else in the NHL at the age of 36, and barring a trade, he'll still be under contract by the Red Wings.
Position: Second Line center. Assistant Captain of the Red Wings.
Surprised Datsyuk is this low? You shouldn't be. While Datsyuk is easily the best all-around player in the NHL, and arguably the best overall, debatable with Sidney Crosby, Datsyuk will be 38 years of age by the time the 2016-2017 season begins.
By this time in his career, I see Datsyuk being the Igor Larionov or Brett Hull of the 01-02 and 02-03 seasons. If you don't know who I mean by that, Datsyuk and Zetterberg do. Hull was the linemate of Datsyuk and Zetterberg in 02-03, and Larionov mentored Datsyuk to be the puck-magician that he is.
So I see Datsyuk still being a very good at this point, albeit a slower puck mover whose most important role will be taking the next superstars of Detroit under his wing.
Position: Second line Right wing.
If you don't know much about Jarnkrok, the first think you should probably know is that he's nicknamed "Henrik Zetterberg's Clone," and there's probably a reason for it. First off, his favorite NHL player is Zetterberg, his size in terms of height is similar to Zetterberg, and his point totals in the Swedish Elite League are comparable to Zetterberg's at the same age.
Jarnkrok's one downfall is his weight. He's tiny. One source reports him as weighing 156 pounds, while the other says he's 165 pounds. Either way, Jarnkrok should stay out of the way of heavy winds, because even if you added his weight with Jiri Hudler's, they'd still be tiny.
All that said, Jarnkrok still has a few years to add on 20-30 pounds, and provided he can do that, he'll turn out to be a star for the Red Wings.
Position: Third line Left wing.
Yes, five years from now I still see Filppula with the Wings.
Filppula is a player who had all the potential in the world to be an NHL superstar and has never achieved it. He has had flashes of brilliance, such as the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when he dominated for a short time with Henrik Zetterberg, but Filppula has never really reached the level he was expected to reach.
Still, Filppula is a good player, and at the age of 32, he will be in his NHL prime. With the talent the Red Wings roster looks to have, Filppula could be in for the best seasons of his career in the near future.
Position: Third line Center.
If you're a Red Wings fan or follower, you've probably heard a lot about Tomas Jurco in the last few days, and if you haven't seen it yet, I would suggest watching a video that highlight's Jurco's skills.
Some people in Detroit are already calling Jurco the next Datsyuk. I'd say that's a bit hasty, but Jurco definitely does have talent, and those in the Red Wings' front office are drawing a lot of comparisons to ex-Red Wing Marian Hossa. While I'm sure we'd prefer Datsyuk, I wouldn't be complaining about having a future Hossa on my team.
And provided Jurco is more than just a human highlight reel, he does have all the potential in the world to be as good or better than those he's compared to.
Position: Third line Right wing.
This is probably the most dangerous pick of the litter, as Cleary's skills are certainly replaceable, the Red Wings have a lot of developing talent that could replace it, and Cleary has a long list of past injuries.
Regardless, Cleary made the cut, and if he doesn't retire early, he could still be an effective NHL forward on Detroit's third line.
Position: Grind Line: Left Wing
Justin Abdelkader's most noticeable development since his NHL debut is how he now seems to hit everything in sight. Abdelkader is great on the forecheck and could be one of the pieces to Detroit's new grind line.
However, we have a few requests from Red Wings' fans, Justin. First of all, stop taking stupid penalties in big games, and secondly, either learn to fight or stop dropping the gloves.
Position: Grind Line: Center
Darren Helm is another player that has a lot of potential. Honestly, if Helm could learn how to deke, he has the potential of being a 30-40 goal scorer when it's combined with his speed.
However, with every year that goes by, that potential begins to decrease, and Helm looks to just be a grinder. But being "just a grinder" isn't necessarily a bad thing. Helm's forecheck is outstanding, and he's arguably the fastest skater in the NHL. He's also very effective on the penalty kill.
While we'd all like to see Darren Helm become a superstar in Detroit, that's seeming less and less likely every year, and that's OK. Helm can still be a star by being the puck hound and penalty kill guy that he is, and that role needs to be filled just as much as any other in the NHL.
Position: Grind Line: Right wing
In the present, it's 99 percent certain that Jan Mursak be a full-time player for the Red Wings next season. In 2009 and 2010, the talk of the Red Wings future was Jan Mursak and Tomas Tatar. Now it seems like, at least in Mursak's case, he's being passed by Pulkkinen, Jarnkrok, and Jurco.
Still, Mursak is another puck hound and has the potential to be more than that in the NHL, but for the case of putting together one heck of a nasty grind line, I kept him on the fourth line group.
And let's be honest, Abdelkader-Helm-Mursak is one hell of a nasty grind line.
Position: First line Defenseman.
It's been obvious for the last few years that when Nicklas Lidstrom retired, Kronwall would be the new number one defender in Detroit.
While Kronwall is known best for his bone crushing hits, he's quite a defender as well. Kronwall finished off last season with 11 goals as a part of his 37 total points. His defensive qualities are nothing to snub either.
By the 2016-2017 season, Kronwall may be a bit older, but he will have some experience as Detroit's number one defender, assuming Nicklas Lidstrom wont be around for another three or four years.
Position: First line Defenseman
If you're not familiar with Brendan Smith, you should be, whether you're a Red Wings fan or not. Smith is regarded by Hockey's Future as Detroit's number one prospect and will likely be called up to the Wings' roster full time this year or next year.
Smith is a highly touted offensive defender, and while his defensive skills aren't as highly praised, he has every opportunity to improve on them under the teachings of Nicklas Lidstrom and Chris Chelios (who is in charge of the Red Wings' player development).
Smith should be on the radar of other NHL teams, as he will likely turn out to be a future NHL All-Star.
Position: Second line Defenseman
Stuart is another one of those risky picks, because it's hard to tell what he'll do after next season.
He currently makes more than his former line-mate Kronwall, and with Kronwall in line for a decent-sized raise, one has to question if Stuart will want one as well. The issue there is that Kronwall is on another level compared to Stuart.
But with all the defensive changes Detroit is undergoing currently, it's hard to decipher who will be on their defensive corps in five years, so I went with Stuart.
Brad will be 36 in 2016, and he could fall to the third line defense depending on how well Detroit's other defensive prospects turn out.
Position: Second line Defenseman
Currently it's unclear as of where Kindl's peak potential is. Obviously, he's good enough to play in the NHL as a third line defenseman, and with his staggering improvement last season, he could go even higher than the second line.
Kindl played 48 games for the Red Wings last season as the seventh defender, and while he only put up four points, he looked to have made a vast improvement by the end of the season.
Again, the future for Detroit's defensive lineup is unclear, but Kindl is easily in that picture, whether he's a top defender or number six.
Position: Third line Defenseman
Almqvist is a guy who I didn't even know before hearing he signed his entry level with Detroit about a month ago.
He's one of those low-risk, high-reward players. I say low risk because Almqvist was picked 210th by Detroit. I think that may be one of the reasons I like him, as Detroit fans know a lot about drafting superstars at the 210th pick.
According to Hockey's Future, Almqvist "possesses a great deal of control with the puck and makes smart offensive decisions" and has hockey sense that is "said to be through the roof."
No doubt, as it says in Almqvist's profile "the sky is the limit."
Position: Third line Defenseman
Ericsson is another guesstimation, like Stuart. Honestly, it's unclear if he'll even be in Detroit for the 2011-2012 season.
Ericsson makes the list simply because it's too soon to tell if 2011 NHL Entry Draft picks Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul will make any noise in the NHL.
Regardless of what happens, Ericsson's potential is matched by his laziness. He has the talent to be a good NHL defender, but if his work ethic doesn't improve, he'll never reach that plateau.
Position: Starting Goaltender.
Jimmy Howard is obviously the starting goaltender of the Red Wings' future. Howard was a Calder Trophy Finalist in the 2009-2010 season after taking the starting job from Chris Osgood.
Osgood has mentored Howard over the last two years, and despite some criticism, Howard had a stellar performance during the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Detroit hasn't liked to spend money for goaltending and they wont have to with Howard, because if he wanted the money, he wouldn't be playing for the $2.25 million Detroit is paying him for each of the next two years.
Position: Backup Goaltender
Take this prediction for what it's worth, and what it's worth is probably nothing. It's highly likely that Detroit will be looking for backup goalies on the free-agent market, and predicting who they get is impossible.
At this point, Pearce and Red Wings prospect Tomas McCollum have as good a shot as anybody to be Jimmy Howard's backup in five years.
Position: Head Coach
Yes, Babcock will indeed still be behind the bench of the Red Wings in five years. First of all, he already signed a four year extension with the Wings. Secondly, there have been no rifts in their relationship.
Why wouldn't the Wings want to keep the coach with the best winning percentage over the last decade?
Why wouldn't Babcock want to stay with the team with the most success over the last two decades?
If you can find the answer to either, let me know.
Position: General Manager
BOOM! Goes the dynamite.
For the last few years Ken Holland has joked that after Nicklas Lidstrom announces his retirement, the next day would be headlined by his own. Holland is joking of course, but you have to question whether he'll still want to be around when he's 61 years old.
Tampa Bay Lightning fans wont like the idea of the GM of the Year leaving, but I've said since day one that I believe Yzerman was leaving the Wings so that he could get some experience under his belt before Ken Holland retires.
Whether it's in 2016 or 2026, I believe the Red Wings have left the door wide open for Steve Yzerman, and Yzerman has left the door wide open for the Red Wings. Don't be surprised if and when the two re-unite.