1. Pavel Datsyuk
2. Henrik Zetterberg
3. Darren Helm
4. Valtteri Filppula
5. Tomas Tatar
6. Cory Emmerton
7. Gustav Nyquist
There are two ways to build a competitive NHL squad these days: from the net out, or down the middle. Detroit's bread, butter and toaster is the center position. The Red Wings draft this position heavily, and seem to be of the mind that there isn't such a thing as too many NHL-level pivots.
Pavel Datsyuk won't see a drop-off during the upcoming season. His play against the Coyotes and Sharks during the playoffs showed that the Russian phenom still has what it takes to be one of the best players on the face of the planet.
I've gone on record in several places stating that this may be the year that a Red Wing gets some love for an individual trophy on offense. In my mind, Pav is the front-runner in that department, and could get a nomination for the Hart Trophy.
Zetterberg needs to get healthy for the Red Wings to take a step forward during the upcoming season. While Franzen needs to find consistency, Z needs to find health. The Wings can get by without him, but they are a much better and more dynamic team with him in the lineup.
If both Zetterberg and Datsyuk suit up, they can both bolt out to wing at any given point. This versatility makes the Wings much tougher to match up against, and the squad is much deeper across the board.
Ah, Darren Helm. What a phenomenal hockey player.
If I could legally clone the guy I would. Hell, if I could illegally clone the guy I would. And with those copies I'd fill out the bottom six of the lineup for Detroit without hesitation. He is all hustle, guts and speed.
Helm brings to the table everything you want to see from a skater on a nightly basis. For that, I spot him ahead of the inconsistent Filppula on the depth chart, despite the latter being the "better" player.
Filppula is technically one of the more talented centers that Detroit employs, but he has proven easy to knock off the puck, and his career has been plagued by inconsistency and a rain of curse words from yours truly.
He showed flashes of the player he could be during the playoffs this past season. If he can somehow maintain that form, then the Red Wings suddenly have one of the stronger 1-2-3 punches down the middle in the league. If not, he may find himself on a lift along with Hudler towards the trade deadline, being lifted out of town for some other assets that can be more useful moving towards the playoffs.
Tomas Tatar is Detroit's second-highest rated prospect according to Hockeysfuture.com. He possesses top-notch hockey sense, and this is probably the season where the Wings will be looking for him to make the big team out of training camp.
What kind of impact he can make remains to be seen, but big things are expected out of the Slovakian as the forward core of the Wings continues to age. The future lies with players such as Tatar—that's what fans have been fed for the last few seasons—and we hope that scouting has been spot-on yet again.
Emmerton is believed to be capable of putting points up on the board at the NHL level. He's a player with a nose for the net, and is another winger who will be looking to show he belongs on the big squad this season.
He can't be sent down to the minors without clearing waivers first, so he'll be given a shot to show what he can do. If he falls a bit short, then he may also be traded. He's one of the three names that seem to pop up most frequently in Detroit's rumor mill.
Last year he had 37 points across 76 games for Grand Rapids, and could be a good third- or fourth-liner in the upcoming season.
Gustav Nyquist is the classic Red Wings player. He plays it safe on both ends of the puck, and has good hockey sense.