Every Detroit Red Wings fan knew that this 2020-21 season was going to be a tough watch. However, the growth of the core players was something to keep an eye on. The core players are defined as Anthony Mantha, Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Filip Zadina.
Here’s a check-in on those players:
Let’s start by giving Bertuzzi a pass. Bert has been injured for quite some time (he missed the entire month of February), and he still remains sixth in points for the team with his five goals and two assists. He was on pace for a great year, and his absence in the offense has been noticeable.
Filip Zadina can also be excused a bit. At just 21 years old, Zadina is still very much a developing player. Many Wings fans were hoping that this would be the season Zadina would really break out, but so far that has yet to come to fruition.
It’d be unfair to call Zadina’s season thus far a disappointment. He has looked solid, winning numerous puck battles, and consistently playing like one of the better members of the team – but
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his numbers aren’t reflecting that yet. With only one goal and five assists, Zadina barely cracks the top ten in team points.
Regardless, Zadina is still learning the ropes in the league and the goals, with a certain infusion of more puck moving players, should come with it.
Captain Dylan Larkin also had relatively high expectations placed on him heading into this season, especially after finally receiving the C. With 11 points, Larkin is second on the team in points and makes a noticeable difference on the ice. Larkin’s speed and puck protection often create chances that few others on the team are capable of doing.
However, Larkin has regressed a bit. 22 games into last year, Larkin had 16 points – this year he’s at 11. While that’s not a massive dip, it is a little disappointing that we aren’t seeing him stay even or increase. Although Larkin is still one of the best players on the team, an increase in production would help nudge the rebuild a little more in the right direction.
Coming off of the 2019-20 season in which Anthony Mantha scored 38 points in 43 games and looked pretty comfortable on the top line, it seemed like a no brainer to sign him to an extension. General Manager Steve Yzerman did just that, locking him up in a four year, $22.8 million deal.
So far, Mantha in 23 games has just 9 points. It’s been rough, to say the least. If this continues, he’s on pace to have 22 points, and if we’re looking exclusively at goals, he would finish with 12. Hardly what Yzerman is paying for.
Besides a couple of solid games, Mantha has looked lost this season. His lackluster effort led head coach Jeff Blashill to list him as a healthy scratch against Tampa last month.
It’s more than a little frustrating, especially considering the contract Mantha received in the offseason. Mantha has been considered one of the pieces of the Detroit core for quite some time – but if he continues to play like this, that future is no question in doubt.
The season is not over yet – as many of the core have time to reach some of their goals. However, if Detroit is looking to contend within the next few years, the success of the core forwards is absolutely key.