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  • Writer's pictureGarth Wickham

6 Players With The Most To Prove in Preseason

AP Photo/ Paul Sancya

For the first time in which feels like a long time there are quality players competing for every spot on the opening night roster. This season's preseason for the Detroit Red Wings is shaping up to be the most important one in recent memory. The way the roster is structured currently there are truly only a few spots that feel up for grabs and what seems to be a cluster of guys fighting for those spots. Here are some guys that need to have a big preseason and prove what they can be for the Red Wings.


Bobby Ryan

It kind of goes with out saying as he is on a PTO (professional try-out agreement), but Bobby Ryan needs to have a big pre season. Ryan signed with the Wings last summer on a one-year deal worth $1 million after Ottawa bought him out a few weeks before. Bobby Ryan came in as great comeback story, he spent most of the 19-20 season undergoing treatment for alcohol abuse but in his first game back to Ottawa he scored a hat-trick. He also would go on to win the Masterton Trophy for perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. With the Red Wings Ryan came out flying scoring 4 goals in his first 3 games setting a franchise record.

The rest of Ryan's season was not as strong, scoring only 3 goals his last 30 games and suffering an upper-body that caused him to miss the rest of the season and require offseason surgery. At this point in his career, Bobby Ryan is not a top-6 forward anymore, but a useable bottom-6 player? Definitely. In his press conference, Ryan talked about changing the way he plays "I came here with expectation of being a bottom-6 guy or even a 13th forward. I need to broaden my game, be more physical and be more demanding of the puck below the circle." With the announcement that Jakub Vrana would miss at least 4 months due to needing shoulder surgery and with Ryan scoring the game-tying goal and the shootout winner last night, it is looking more likely that his PTO will turn into a contract.


Givani Smith

The saying "now or never" comes to mind when talking about Givani Smith. The recently re-signed 23 year old forward is in an interesting spot as with his new contract ($750k x 2 years) is a 1-way deal, meaning that he will now require waivers to be sent to the AHL. Last season Smith played only a total of 16 games and notched a goal and 4 points. Production has never been a huge part of his game at the pro level he is definitely a grinder but he doesn’t penalty kill nor plays a high speed game. With guys like Stephens and Rowney brought in to play a 4th line role it going to be tough for Givani to be a regular this season. He showed flashes of talent especially games in Florida as he had a beautiful assist to Dylan Larkin and also had a Gordie Howe hat-trick against the Panthers as well. I like Givani a lot and I think what he brings to the lineup is valuable the question is it going to be consistent enough to keep him in the NHL.


Mitchell Stephens

The recent acquisition has been a highlight so far In camp with two goals in the Red and White scrimmage and a goal last night in the 4-3 OT win in Chicago. Drafted 33rd overall in 2015 by Steve Yzerman when he ran Tampa, he has yet to really play an NHL role yet having only played 45 games and only 7 points (4 goals and 3 assists). Stephens and Smith are in similar positions as they are no longer protected from waivers and need to prove that they belong. With the way he has looked so far and the fact the red wings traded a 6th round pick for him, I am willing to bet he will be on the opening night roster.


Joe Veleno

Different situation from the first three guys as Veleno is still a prospect as he was drafted 30th overall in 2018 and has only played 5 games in the NHL. Veleno spent the majority of last season in Sweden playing for Malmö scoring 20 points in 46 games before returning back to Michigan and splitting time between Grand Rapids and Detroit. He also scored his first NHL goal in the second to last game vs the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Veleno looked really comfortable playing in his 5-game stint and a few weeks ago I projected him to make the opening night roster on the podcast. Blashill has said in press conferences recently that they would like to keep Veleno at center but he could make the team on the wing. I don't think that there is pressure from management for Veleno to make the team right away but with the off-season that he had in the gym it looks like there is some personal expectations to make it right away. With the Vrana injury there is another spot up for grabs and I wouldn't be surprised if Veleno grabs one of them.


Moritz Seider

Seider is going to make the Red Wings there is almost no debate about that, but for better or worse the fans (myself included) have really hyped him up this off-season. Granted that most of it is warranted, SHL defenseman of the year, World Championship Best Defenseman, etc the NHL is whole other challenge. It is important for Seider to use this pre-season to build momentum into the season show that he can live up to being an impact NHL defenseman from Day 1. Through camp he has been paired with veteran Nick Leddy and the pair has looked solid and compliment each other's playing styles very well. I am looking for Seider to show how he can influence a game over the next couple of weeks in both the offensive and defensive zone like he was able to do last season with Rogle in the SHL. I would not be mad if we were able to see some huge hits like this one from Seider as well.


Lucas Raymond

Speaking of hype, over the past month the Lucas Raymond has really made Red Wings' fans go from thinking him making the team is a long-shot to a real chance. The 19 year old played in the Traverse City Prospects Tournament and played strong as he notched three goals in two games including this beauty from a tough angle.

With the Vrana injury, this gives Raymond the opportunity to show what he can do in a top-6 role in pre-season as he has been skating with Robby Fabbri and Pius Suter. Blashill joked that for Raymond to make the opening night roster he would need to be so good that his wife would be able to tell that he is ready. What Raymond needs to do this preseason is be a key guy on the power play, something the Red Wings struggled with last season as they finished 30th in the league. If he contributes on the power play and is one of the best forwards 5 on 5, we could see the 4th overall pick from 2020 play in the winged wheel on October 14th versus Tampa Bay at Little Caesars Arena.

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