The fantasy season is upon us — another year of tears of joy and heartbreak.
To help you along, here’s your fantasy outlook for the Detroit Red Wings.
2022-23 Fantasy Outlook: Detroit Red Wings
Last season: 32-40-10, 6th Atlantic, 25th overall. GF: 25th, GA: 31st, PP: 26th, PK: 32nd.
The improved record was nice, but it misses the point of the Yzerplan. Entering their fourth season under GM Steve Yzerman, the key metric for the Red Wings wasn’t wins, but how quickly they could build up their prospect pipeline and develop them into a winning team rather than trying to stay afloat with half-measures. The offense was good enough on most nights, but what killed the Wings’ season was mediocre defense and bad goaltending. Their bet on Alex Nedeljkovic to be the starter, whom the Hurricanes had passed on even though he set NHL bests with a .932 Sv% and 1.90 GAA the previous season, did not work out; his .901 Sv% and 3.31 GAA ranked 27th and 29th, respectively, out of 30 goalies with at least 41 appearances, and according to naturalstattrick.com’s 5v5 GSAA model, ranked 97th out of 119 goalies.
But for the most part, the good outweighed the bad since the Wings were surprisingly in playoff contention, if only for a brief second. They were inching closer, but last season’s emergence of Moritz Seider as a potential franchise defenseman kickstarted the next phase of their rebuild with a busy off-season, signing Andrew Copp, David Perron, Ben Chiarot and Ville Husso to contracts worth a combined $70.9 million after spending just $19.1 million on 11 UFA’s in July 2021.
Best fantasy option: Moritz Seider, D
Dylan Larkin is their most consistent forward with the highest floor in fantasy, but it’s unlikely he’ll be drafted before Seider in most leagues. Seider’s ability to contribute in all categories makes him particularly valuable at a pretty thin position, especially in banger leagues. He ranked 14th in assists, 19th in points (50), 19th in shots (187), 31st in hits (151) and ninth in blocked shots (161) while playing all 82 games and averaging over 23 minutes per game. He became a No. 1 defenseman the moment he stepped onto NHL ice and tied Cale Makar for the second-highest point total by a rookie defenseman in the cap era behind Quinn Hughes’ 56 points. He’s already better than Victor Hedman at the same age and belongs in the conversation as one of the top-5 best fantasy defensemen in keeper leagues.
Hidden gem: Lucas Raymond, RW
Raymond’s not exactly “hidden,” having finished fourth in Calder voting last season and third on the team in scoring, but he’s not a name that comes to mind among players with point-per-game potential for 2022-23 even though he should be part of that group. Fantasy managers will be banking on Raymond to continue his rocket-like upward trajectory, and by shooting the puck more and an improved power play, there’s a chance he could even lead the team in scoring. THN’s Pool Guide is projecting Raymond to finish with 68 points, only seven shy of Larkin.
There are two additional options that are more under-the-radar: Tyler Bertuzzi and Jakub Vrana. Bertuzzi, who has dual-winger eligibility and scored at a 74-point pace last season, offering up excellent value as a mid-round pick, but note Canada still does not allow unvaccinated players to play, so Bertuzzi will have to sit out 10 of their road games. Vrana has been riddled with injuries since being swapped for Anthony Mantha, but in 37 games with the Wings has scored at a 46-goal pace. This should be his first healthy season, giving him a chance to set career highs.
Training camp will determine the starter between Nedeljkovic, who is trying to bounce back from a horrendous season, and Husso, who has to prove that last season’s 25-7-6/.919/2.56 performance with the Blues was no fluke. The Wings made a similar gamble on Nedeljkovic after acquiring him from the Canes and it didn’t work out so well, and with two wild cards in net, it’s anyone’s guess what could happen. They could push each other into a 1A-1B timeshare and ensure the Wings are good enough to at least compete for a playoff spot, or it could implode completely and leave a huge void in the only position the Yzerplan has not adequately addressed. It’s far too risky for fantasy managers to gamble on one or the other, and drafting both would cost two goalie slots for a tandem that won’t be Swayman-Ullmark good even in the best-case scenario. You’re better off taking a wait-and-see approach and hopefully be quick enough to nab them on the waiver wire.
The Wings bought themselves a whole line with Copp, Perron and Dominik Kubalik, and shored up their defense and goaltending. On paper, they look vastly improved, and new coach Derek Lalonde brings a lot of winning experience having served as the assistant on the Lightning since 2018. Jeff Blashill was not a bad coach; he just didn’t have a lot to work with, and a new voice in the room might coax out better seasons from their underperformers, including Filip Hronek and former top prospect Filip Zadina. In years past, Larkin was the only player worth rostering in fantasy, but as the Wings improve, the number of options has also increased. Larkin, Raymond, Seider, Bertuzzi, Perron and Vrana are all projected to score at least 50 points, according to THN’s Pool Guide.