The Red Wings came into this preseason with a pretty firm roster, but solid play by a prospect and a tryout, on top of a handful of injuries, have shaken things up a bit. Here are my thoughts on what Detroit’s roster will look like on opening night.
Yeah, I’m starting with the easy one. With Joey MacDonald and Jordan Pearce having been sent down to Grand Rapids today, we already know (not that there was much doubt) that Jimmy Howard and Ty Conklin will be the goaltending tandem. The only interesting thing to come out of this preseason is an extension of last season, that it appears that Pearce has passed Thomas McCollum on the Wings’ depth chart.
With Detroit having eight blueliners signed to one-way deals this year, the preseason wasn’t as much about who would make the team as who wouldn’t. There was talk about Brendan Smith making the team out of camp but a lot would have needed to happen for that to come to pass. Doug Janik is the odd man out, as he’s been sent to Grand Rapids. Like MacDonald, he’ll have to clear waivers to play for the Griffins.
The injury to Mike Commodore makes things a little bit interesting for Detroit’s defense. The Red Wings organization has said he won’t be placed on IR because the team doesn’t play enough games for him to come off when he’s expected to be healthy. This means he takes up a roster spot, so no one will be kept up to replace him. Jakub Kindl wins the sixth defenseman spot by default.
Here’s where the fun is. Detroit came into the preseason with fourteen roster spots available at forward and fourteen forwards signed who would have to clear waivers to go to Grand Rapids. It seemed certain that Jan Mursak and Cory Emmerton had the 13th and 14th forward spots locked up with twelve forwards returning from last season’s roster.
Then Mursak got hurt, Fabian Brunnstrom had a productive try-out, and Gustav Nyquist turned heads in his first Detroit training camp.
Emmerton played well enough to keep the spot that was assumed to be his. Solid on faceoffs but not much scoring, just what a spare part is expected to be.
Brunnstrom played well with the puck and scored a handful of goals. It’s almost certain he’ll sign a two-way deal in the next day or so, the question is whether he starts the season with the Red Wings or Griffins.
Nyquist made the case that he could play in the NHL right now. Two goals in Detroit’s exhibition closer today showed that if nothing else did. Unfortunately for him, he isn’t subject to waivers so he can be sent to GR at no cost.
The way I see it, Brunnstrom is a Red Wing on opening night with Nyquist going to the Griffins. Brunnstrom has until January to prove he belongs with Detroit more than Emmerton, with a decision to be made when Mursak comes back.
Edit: Of course, within minutes of me posting this, the Wings announced that Nyquist was sent to GR. That makes it pretty clear that Brunnstrom has the 14th forward spot.