Detroit Red Wings: Dominik Kubalik is the gift that keeps on giving

Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports /

Boy, it sure seems like Detroit Red Wings general manager, Steve Yzerman, has struck gold again.

Yzerman took a flier in free agency this past summer as he made a conscious effort to inject the Red Wings roster with some much-needed depth scoring. Dominik Kubalik currently leads the Red Wings with nine goals and ranks second on the team, with 21 points, a mere one point behind captain Dylan Larkin.

Looking at it now, it seems crazy that the rebuilding Chicago Blackhawks refused to tender the restricted free agent this past offseason. But as they say, one’s ‘trash’ can often become another fortune. It’s just yet another indication of how dysfunctional the Blackhawks’ organization is and will continue to be as they work on rebuilding their unstable culture. The Blackhawks, when it comes to hockey, have yet to hit the basement floor. Things could get worse on the ice in Chicago before they get better. Don’t be surprised if superstar winger Patrick Kane and captain Jonathan Toews are dealt ahead of the NHL’s trade deadline. Both are 34 years old and pending free agents.

The Detroit Red Wings can thank Chicago for budding star Dominik Kubalik.

Kubalik was expected to be a depth-scoring third-line winger for the Detroit Red Wings heading into the regular season. Still, with a string of injuries, head coach Derek Lalonde quickly moved the scoring winger up to Detroit’s top line. Kubalik filled in admirably as a top-six forward with Jakub Vrana out due to personal reasons and when Tyler Bertuzzi missed a month with a broken hand.

The 27-year-old is everything, and more than Yzerman could have hoped he’d be watching him settle in playing alongside Larkin and usually opposite David Perron or Lucas Raymond.

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Yzerman probably isn’t that surprised with how Kubalik has fit in. As a 24-year-old rookie, Kubalik recorded 30 goals and totaled 46 points with the Blackhawks. Kubalik would finish third in the Calder Trophy voting, awarded to the league’s top rookie. He’d follow that up with a 17-goal and 15-goal campaign in years two and three totaling 70 points over 134 games during that span.

Kubalik is averaging just over 16 minutes of ice time per night, nearly two minutes more than his career average. He’s also become a staple of Detroit’s power play playing on the opposite side of David Perron at the hash marks in the prime one-timer position.

Despite multiple coaching changes this offseason, Lalonde elected to retain Alex Tanguay from Jeff Blashill’s staff to run the forwards with his primary focus on the power play. Detroit’s power play is operating at a 20.9% clip in 2022-23, significantly improving from last season’s near abysmal 16.3% mark. This boost includes coaching, creativity, and the additions of Perron and Kubalik. Ten of Kubalik’s 21 points have come on the power play; he leads Detroit with six power-play assists and tied with Larkin for the team lead with four power-play goals.

Although Kubalik’s 44.1 Corsi For Percentage doesn’t appear all that impressive, his Relative Corsi For Percentage during five-on-five play is a staggering 14.4% this season. If you are not that invested in analytics, to clarify how well that number is, Connor McDavid currently maintains the exact same number for his work this season. Is Kubalik as impactful as McDavid? Certainly not, but he’s having one heck of a season in his first year with Detroit, and it needs to be noted.