From Steve Yzerman and Sergei Fedorov to Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, the Red Wings have always managed to phase in top-notch offensive players. Two more are about to emerge as well – Valtteri Filppula and Ville Leino.
If you pore over the yearly stats for Motown over the past 15 or 20 years, you’ll find the biggest two scorers have been consistently similar. Yzerman and Fedorov early on, Datsyuk and Zetterberg as of late. Granted, there have been smatterings of Brendan Shanahan here or Dino Ciccarelli there, but those are often the result of injuries.
The supporting casts have been strong as well. From Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille to Slava Kozlov and Keith Primeau, the Red Wings seem to always have four to six forwards in that 40- to 75-point range. We’re focusing on the forwards because Nicklas Lidstrom has been a roster mainstay; the future Hall of Famer would need his own article.
In 2008-09, the supporting forwards were Marian Hossa, Johan Franzen, Jiri Hudler, Mikael Samuelsson, Dan Cleary and Filppula, with the latter three just barely making the cut at 40 points. Hudler and Franzen have emerged to become legitimate top six forwards and both will top 65 points next campaign. In the cases of Hossa and Samuelsson, however, they’ll be free agents this summer and it would be a surprise if either returned – the Wings have more than $51 million tied up against next season’s cap.
With those two likely gone who will fill the void? Filppula, who tallied three points Sunday and is riding a five-game point streak, is already showing signs he can handle a top-six role. With 13 points in 15 post-season games, he’s performed admirably under the intense pressure of the NHL playoffs. What’s more, he will be entering his fourth season – my favorite season for developing players. A 60-point campaign is something to look out for.
Another player who could step up is Leino. Coach Mike Babcock once described him as the best player (along with checker Darren Helm) that he ever had to cut. Leino is ready for full-time duty after a very successful North American debut in the American League (59 points in 67 regular season and playoff games). He’ll be 26 next season and should have the usual progression common among Detroit players. That is to say, look forward to something in the neighborhood of 40 points next year, followed by 50, followed by 60.
Expect Detroit’s carousel of greatness to continue for a few more years yet…
Farm Report: Dallas prospect Jamie Benn has become an elite blue-chipper. After leading the Western League playoffs in scoring with 33 points in 19 games, Benn really stepped it up in the Memorial Cup, picking up nine points in four contests. Unfortunately, he and his Kelowna Rockets fell short of the title in Sunday’s final, but Benn has a real good shot at a roster spot in Dallas next season. His upside is similar to that of a young Shanahan.
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Get the edge in your league - check out the latest scoop every Tuesday throughout the off-season. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section.
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