Predicting the Detroit Red Wings Opening Night Lineup

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 26: Detroit Red Wings assistant coach Dan Bylsma before a preseason game between the Boston Bruins and the Detroit Red Wings on September 26, 2018, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Red Wings defeated the Bruins 3-2 (OT). (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 26: Detroit Red Wings assistant coach Dan Bylsma before a preseason game between the Boston Bruins and the Detroit Red Wings on September 26, 2018, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Red Wings defeated the Bruins 3-2 (OT). (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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After the final cuts have been made, we have a look at what Jeff Blashill and the Detroit Red Wings lineup will look like come Thursday, October 4.  The Wings open up the regular season at home hosting the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Detroit Red Wings are expected to keep a handful of young players up with the big club this season.  Dennis Cholowski had a phenomenal camp.  Cholowski skated himself into a Red Wings regular displaying his ability to glide out of trouble.

Cholowski is an offensively gifted defenseman who will be running the top power-play unit opening night for the Detroit Red Wings with the absence of Mike GreenNiklas Kronwall is the other option to head man the point and will also see time on the PP.

Cholowski can skate his way through traffic without panic and feather a lead pass to a breaking forward.  He showed the ability in his preseason final appearance, doing just that as three Maple Leafs converged on him, Cholowski feathered the puck through to a breaking Gustav Nyquist who found twine.

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Dennis Cholowski can be a top-four defenseman for the Detroit Red Wings for the entire season.  It comes with a bit of a surprise; we had Filip Hronek penciled in before the start of training camp.  Cholowski leaped and played his way into the role bypassing Hronek.

Joe Hicketts will make the team out of camp because the Detroit Red Wings are a little banged up on the back-end to start the new season.  Trevor Daley is ailing along with Jonathan Ericsson.  Both are expected to be listed as day-to-day.  Mike Green is skating again as he recovers from his infection but won’t be ready to play on Thursday night.

Daley and Ericsson are both penalty killing defensemen; Joe Hicketts had an excellent camp working in that role along with blocking his fair share of shots. Hicketts should remain with the team he has more upside and is a much better skater than Ericsson.  Ericsson is still Ken Holland‘s project; it is almost like Kenny is still waiting for the big Swede to break-out.  Hey Ken, he hasn’t lived up to our expectations place him on waivers and allow Joe Hicketts to be a regular.

Hicketts does have turnover issues he needs to correct.  Hicketts during his 5 game stint last season and at times throughout his 7 preseason games Hicketts had some brutal looking turnovers.  He will need to clean those up and start making the safe play to gain the trust of his coaching staff to remain on the club for the long haul.

Michael Rasmussen has shown enough to remain with the Detroit Red Wings and avoid being sent back to junior for his final season.  The Wings didn’t have a Grand Rapids option for Rasmussen as they do with Zadina and Svechnikov.

Rasmussen will skate as a top 9 forward this season with the Wings and has 15 plus goal potential.  Rasmussen will find himself starting on the wing, and his sizeable 6’6 frame will be planted in front of the net on the second power-play unit.

Here is my prediction for Jeff Blashill’s opening night line-up taking into consideration the injuries;  Remember this isn’t the line-up I would choose, this is what I think BLASHILL will do;

Bertuzzi Larkin Mantha /  Helm Nielsen Nyquist / Rasmussen Athanasiou Vanek / Abdelkader Glendening Frk / DeKeyser Daley / Cholowski Jensen / Kronwall Hicketts /  Howard, Bernier

Injured; Ericsson, Green

Scratched: Witkowski

The Detroit Red Wings may need Libor Sulak or Luke Witkowski to start in place of Trevor Daley if Daley is unable to play Thursday.  Daley seemed optimistic earlier in the week that he would be ready by opening night.

I would swap Rasmussen and Helm.  I think Helm would be valuable to play alongside Andreas Athanasiou.  Helm is very reliable defensively, and Athanasiou’s defensive abilities are still a work in progress.  Helm and AA would cause havoc with their outstanding speed grouped with the playmaking ability of Thomas Vanek.

Rasmussen could go to school each night learning from Frans Nielsen.  It would be valuable to his development to play alongside two veteran plays like Nielsen and Nyquist to start his NHL career.

I would also play Cholowski with either Daley or DeKesyer.  Both are reliable defenders and limit mistakes.  An early pairing with a stay at home defender Jensen makes some sense but limits the pairings’ upside if Blashill decides to go that way.

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Kronwall with Hicketts seems like a nice third pairing and the Wings should consider keeping it in favour of Ericsson even when Jon is ready to return.  The pressbox for Ericsson should be the only early season option until injuries occur.