Filip Hronek Needs to Step Up to Remain on Red Wings Roster
Detroit Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill recently said that the team’s defensive identity has ‘not been good enough all season.’ This is despite the fact that rookie Moritz Seider is a candidate for the Calder Trophy given to the rookie of the year each season.
One defenseman that has not improved his play during the 2021-22 season is Filip Hronek. Hronek had a hot start to his career but has since fallen off when it comes to offensive output. It is only a small sample size but Hronek has scored one goal and added four assists in his last five games played.
It is not fair to hold Hronek to the standard of Seider. Seider was shocked by the fact that he was drafted 6th overall out of Zell, Germany. He is in third place when it comes to rookie scoring at the time of writing this with 40 points behind Lucas Raymond of the Red Wings and Michael Bunting of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Beyond this Seider has proven again and again that he is an intelligent defenseman. Seider is currently on a seven-game point streak. This is a franchise record for rookie defensemen that was previously set by Reed Larson in 1977-78.
Hronek was drafted by the Red Wings 53rd overall in the 2016 NHL entry draft out of Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic. At only 6’0” Hronek has a small frame but makes up for it by playing a 200-foot game and being aware of his role at all times. Hronek was asked to be the Red Wings’ number one defenseman after he was drafted.
The team thought that Hronek could one day be the “quarterback” of the team’s first powerplay unit. For now, Seider has proven that the first powerplay unit is in capable hands.
In his first season with the Grand Rapids Griffins in 2017 Hronek scored 11 goals and added 28 assists for a total of 39 points in 78 games. This was a good step for Hronek to the professional hockey ranks. He would make his debut with the Red Wings in the next season. This could be seen as the beginning of the track for Hronek that hindered his development.
This was in large part due to the fact that the Red Wings’ defensive corps was in shambles. He came in third place in scoring for the Red Wings defence during his rookie season behind only Niklas Kronwall and Mike Green with 5 goals and 18 assists in 46 games played.
Other names on the roster at that time when it comes to defensemen were the likes of Jonathan Ericsson and Nick Jensen. These names did not inspire confidence. Red Wings fans have been spoiled by the number of great defensemen in franchise history.
Beyond that Hronek has struggled to adjust to the game at the NHL level. His development was sped up beyond what he could handle. This is not the first time that this has happened to a young player trying to make it in the best hockey league in the world. Hronek was re-signed by the Red Wings to a three-year contract in September with an average annual value of $4.4 million.
As the Red Wings’ defensive corps begins to take shape the 24-year-old can slide into his role as a second-pairing defenseman. Steve Yzerman was seen as being up to his old tricks at the time of the Hronek signing because the Red Wings only had one defenseman on the roster through the end of the 2022 season.
I wrote at the time that Hronek was the last of the big free-agent signing that the Red Wings needed to have done at the time. Sean Dery of Overtime Heroics wrote at the time of the re-signing that the problem with the statistical profile of Hronek was that his two goals came with the opposing team’s net empty. Hronek added 24 assists in his first 56 games played during the 2020-21 season. This was seen as a hot start but again a deeper look at how Hronek scored his goals could lead to them being seen as fool’s gold.
Defenseman Dennis Cholowski was also drafted by the Red Wings in the 2016 draft. This was seen at the time that these two defensemen would be the building blocks of the future defence for the franchise. Unfortunately, due to the accelerated development timeline and advanced workload Hronek may have missed his chance to develop into the second-pairing defenseman that the Red Wings saw when they drafted him in 2016. Drafted by Ken Holland, Cholowski has since been picked up by the Washington Capitals. He is currently on the roster of the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League, where he has scored 2 goals and 4 assists in 9 games.
The drafting of Cholowski and Hronek has not panned out so far. This is just one aspect of the team that general manager Yzerman has had to rebuild. Missing on these draft picks has hurt the growth of the Red Wings’ defensive corps. This is one of the reasons that the team has not made the playoffs since the 2015-16 season, where they lost in the first round. Hronek has to improve in order to ensure that he is on the team’s roster when the team makes the playoffs again.
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