A deep look at predicting the full Detroit Red Wings roster for opening night

(Photo by Derek Cain/Getty Images)
(Photo by Derek Cain/Getty Images) /
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Detroit Red Wings, Dylan Larkin
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Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman has always said he doesn’t pencil any prospect or veteran, for that matter, into the lineup during the off-season but always gives them a fair opportunity to make the roster during training camp and the preseason. We’ve seen this in recent years with Lucas Raymond,  Elmer Soderblom, and Bobby Ryan, among others.

I appreciate Yzerman’s willingness to make an unpopular decision for the better of the team. That goes for starting a highly touted prospect many fans want to see begin the year immediately in Detroit in Grand Rapids. It also means starting a player like Soderblom in Detroit over someone like Jonatan Berggren, as the Red Wings did last season. Or like Lucas Raymond over Bobby Ryan in previous years. Many of us, myself included, hope to see Detroit’s top two prospects, Simon Edvinsson and Marco Kasper, start the season in Detroit, but Yzerman’s busy off-season suggests otherwise.

This philosophy that Yzerman and his staff maintain is intriguing but difficult to predict. I can only assume Detroit Red Wings head coach Derek Lalonde has been writing out lineup cards all off-season, trying to figure out where he’d like to insert all of Detroit’s new players. This has likely intensified since the addition of star forward Alex DeBrincat. I picture Lalonde sitting on his couch in his living room, examining a whiteboard. He’s likely written down a lineup on a napkin at a restaurant.

In addition to adding DeBrincat, the Detroit Red Wings also traded for depth forward Klim Kostin. Yzerman also signed several free agents: J.T. Compher, Daniel Sprong, Christian Fischer, Justin Holl, Shayne Gostisbehere, James Reimer, and Alex Lyon. I expect Reimer to begin the season as Ville Husso’s primary backup netminder.

I will take a far too early attempt to guess Detroit’s opening night lineup, which will presumably change multiple times between now and October.

The Detroit Red Wings top line: Michael Rasmussen-Dylan Larkin-Alex DeBrincat

The Detroit Red Wings are finally adding a bona fide scorer to the top unit, playing alongside Dylan Larkin. DeBrincat, 25, a two-time 41-goal scorer, gives the Red Wings a much-needed offensive punch. DeBrincat does have defensive deficiencies, but playing with Larkin will help mask them. Larkin is an excellent two-way center coming off a near-point-per-game pace last season.

Expect a career year from Detroit’s captain this coming season. Larkin is coming off back-to-back 30-plus goal seasons. He’s (finally) established himself as a top NHL center; although he’s not in the elite category, he’s an exceptionally talented player. If the Detroit Red Wings want to make a run at the Stanley Cup eventually, they need to find a running mate for Larkin down the middle of their lineup. Perhaps Marco Kasper will grow into that role over the next few seasons.

DeBrincat is coming off a 27-goal, 66-point season with the Ottawa Senators; if that production is his ‘floor’ the Detroit Red Wings will be in great shape moving forward.

I’ve added Michael Rasmussen to this unit for size, his ability to work the wall down low, and a net-front presence to round out the line with Detroit’s two top offensive options. Rasmussen began to soar last season before suffering a season-ending injury when Lalonde moved him to the wing. Rasmussen has scoring touch around the net, and if he can remain healthy should be able to crack the 20-goal mark for the first time in his career.