Hockey

Detroit Red Wings Halfway through 2021-22 Season

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The Detroit Red Wings’ rookies are continuing to shine for the team. Even though he has struggled to score goals recently, Lucas Raymond is only one point behind captain Dylan Larkin for the team lead with 32. This is the most points for any rookie during the 2021-22 season so far. Raymond is making up for this by setting his teammates up on offense with 21 assists. Raymond is eligible for the fan vote as one of the 2022 NHL All-Star Game Last Men In. He recently became the fastest Red Wing to have 20 assists, accomplishing the feat in 36 games, which broke the record held by Steve Yzerman.

There are many rookies across the NHL that deserve to win the Calder trophy. Trevor Zegras of the Anaheim Ducks is a rookie even though he played 24 games for the team during the 2020-21 season. Zegras assisted on one of the most impressive goals of the NHL season so far. The center flipped the puck from behind the against the Buffalo Sabres and Sonny Milano beat Sabres goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. The goal has been dubbed the “Dishigan” as it mirrors the goal scored by former University of Michigan right-winger Mike Legg against the University of Minnesota. Milano said after the game that Zegras yelled ‘Michigan’ to alert him to try to pull off the move.

Arguably the most important Red Wings rookie throughout the first 40 games of the 2021-22 season so far is Moritz Seider. The defenseman has three goals and 21 assists in 21 games played for the team. He has shown the ability to move the puck and be in position defensively beyond his years at only 20-years-old. This is the type of play that general manager Yzerman must have seen when he shocked the hockey world by drafting Seider sixth overall in the first round of the 2019 NHL entry draft. Seider will be one-half of the top pairing of the Red Wings defense moving forward.

Goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic is also in the running to win the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in the NHL. The last Red Wing to win the Calder trophy was also a goaltender in Roger Crozier in 1964. The team has had the fewest Calder trophy winners among the original six teams. Nedeljkovic has cemented himself as the starting goaltender for the Red Wings. The 26-year-old from Parma, Ohio was acquired by Yzerman from the Carolina Hurricanes in the offseason in exchange for a third-round pick and Jonathan Bernier. He had his first shutout for the Red Wings as they beat the Sabres by a score of 4-0. This was the first shutout for the Red Wings since May first of last season.

When asked why the then general manager of the Hurricanes Ron Francis would trade Nedeljkovic for such a small return, Yzerman said that you would have to ask Francis. These kinds of moves by Yzerman are what are giving Red Wings fans hope that things are starting to turn around. The “Yzerplan” is beginning to take shape with the help of the young players that he drafted.

This is despite the fact that the Red Wings have had bad luck when it comes to the draft lottery. The team was eliminated from the playoffs in 2020 before the thanksgiving holiday, which was the quickest elimination for a team since the Ottawa Senators in 1967 when they were an expansion team. The prize at the end of that season was the prospect of drafting Alexis Lafreniere number one overall. Lafreniere would wind up being drafted by the New York Rangers. Early returns suggest that the Red Wings did fine by drafting Raymond fourth overall.

The Red Wings are no longer in playoff position as they have fallen off from their fast start. This was evident on the opening night of the NHL season when they lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in overtime. Larkin was given a match penalty when he got up from a hit from behind by Mathieu Joseph of the Lightning. He certainly reacted this way because of the fact that he missed the majority of last season with a neck injury after he was hit by Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars. If not for rookies Raymond and Seider and the coming together to defend each other the playoffs would not have even been a thought for the Red Wings.

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