Detroit Red Wings Preview: This Year's Player to Watch

PJ SapienzaContributor IIISeptember 29, 2011

BUFFALO, NY - FEBRUARY 26: Darren Helm #43 of the Detroit Red Wings skates against the Buffalo Sabres  at HSBC Arena on February 26, 2011 in Buffalo, New York. Detroit won 3-2 in a shootout.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

The Red Wings have plenty of established talent on their roster.  Players like Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Nick Lidstrom will lead the team as the season progresses.  Johan Franzen, Dan Cleary and Niklas Kronwall provide that next tier of talent. 

But for any team to be successful, the role players have to also play well.  A team can really go far if a player steps up from being a role player. The player that has the best chance to make that step up this year is Darren Helm.

Helm has two qualities that will allow him to make that jump.  First, he has tremendous speed and is widely considered one of the fastest players in the league.  Secondly, he has a tireless work ethic.  Often faster players are only work well in open ice where they have plenty of room.  But Helm rounds out that speed with a willingness to bang bodies and play the entire ice.

His goals in his first two seasons have stayed consistent with 11 in his first full season and 12 last year.  His point total increased from 24 to 32 in those seasons. 

While Tomas Holmstrom and Todd Bertuzzi are still important members of the team both are over 35 and slowing down.  By no means are they done, however, Helm will be able to take some of the load off of them.

Last season, Helm saw an increased role on the team and this year his play should merit even more ice time.  His play on the penalty kill is integral to the team’s success.  With his speed and puck stealing ability, he is always a threat to score a shorthanded goal.  This threat forces other teams to play on their heels and tones down how aggressive they can be on the power play.

Helm is not just an open ice speedster.  He is willing to go to the boards, bang bodies and fight for a puck as well.  He is also getting better at finishing his shots.  That combined with his never ending energy should provide in a huge jump in goals this year. 

20 goals should be very attainable and 25 are not out of the question.  Last year he was 12th on the team in scoring, look for him to be in the top eight in points for the team.

By the end of the season, Helm will be counted on as one of the driving forces of the team.  While he will not be in the Zetterberg or Datsyuk level just yet, he will be pushing Cleary and Franzen for that second level.

As the season starts, keep an eye on Helm, as it is always fun to watch a player make the jump and tap into more of their potential and ability.