Simon Edvinsson's fight for a place on the Detroit Red Wings roster

Mar 23, 2023; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Red Wings defenseman Simon Edvinsson (3) looks on
Mar 23, 2023; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Red Wings defenseman Simon Edvinsson (3) looks on / Brian Bradshaw Sevald-USA TODAY Sports

Every Detroit Red Wings fan cannot wait to have Simon Edvinsson with the big club and eating big second-pairing minutes. The wait is even more frustrating as the Red Wings’ second and third pairings continue to make glaring coverage mistakes and spend large portions of their shifts pinned in their own zone.

Moreover, Moritz Seider and Jake Walman are taking on so many hard minutes that they are almost certainly going to wear down as the season progresses. A cup-contending team cannot have a strong first pairing, no true second-line defensemen, and five solid third-pairing blueliners. This team needs help at the blue line now. And the 2021 sixth overall draft pick is thriving in Grand Rapids. He’s right there! Just down the road. Why not bring him up? It’s a short drive for the big man to join the Detroit Red Wings.

Now in his second year in the AHL, Edvinsson is an all-star and a Grand Rapids Griffins' team leader. He has progressed in all ways. Despite the fan clamor and the immediate needs of the team, the development of the player is always in the team’s long-term interest. Simon Edvinsson needs to stay in the AHL.

How is his fight for a spot on the Detroit Red Wings blue line progressing?

Transitioning from Europe involves adapting to the smaller ice surface. Managing forward attack angles and making decisions at a high speed demand adjustments. A player with a long stride and reach may encounter additional challenges on the smaller ice, and this adjustment should not be underestimated.

Leagues like the SHL and KHL are filled with players who struggle to adapt to the game on smaller ice. Fortunately, Edvinsson has navigated this transition adeptly. He makes quick decisions, cuts off angles, and plays with increasing poise. He has passed this test with ease.

As a laid-back player who seems to glide on the ice effortlessly, he has faced accusations of lethargy or a lack of passion. However, his reluctant fight on January 27th against the five-foot-ten-inch Angus Crookshank (a name befitting Slap Shot) showcased his physical strength and passion for the game. Administering a beatdown and skating off the ice while rallying the crowd was precisely the display we all desired. There is much to develop here, but Edvinsson is having fun, enjoying winning and bringing increasing physicality to his game.

The issue with reaching remains a work in progress. He is accustomed to using his long reach to access pucks, occasionally opting to reach rather than moving his feet to get in position. This tendency results in numerous holding and hooking penalties along the boards. Edvinsson has shown significant improvement in this area, but achieving a new level of proficiency is crucial when he gets to the NHL. Puck battling along the boards and the ability to draw penalties are far more sophisticated in the NHL compared to the AHL.

Many defensemen fear being burned by speed on the rush, often ending up backing into their own goal and conceding easy, dangerous chances. At the AHL level, he has learned to be aggressive, cutting off rush chances with an active stick, physical play, and anticipation. This is a major area of improvement in Edvinsson's game this year. Re-adapting to the increased speed of the NHL will be necessary, but he has demonstrated a capacity to evolve and adjust to speed.

Most importantly, there is significantly more mature confidence in his game. He refrains from taking as many chances with the puck, opting for the safe play more frequently when presented with the opportunity. He excels protecting a lead, on the powerplay, on the penalty kill, in his own zone, and clogging up center ice. He is effective in all situations and has thrived across the board. Edvinsson is no passenger. He stands out as a dominant defenseman in the AHL and is a driving force for the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Barring injury or trade, Edvinsson is better off remaining in Grand Rapids until the completion of the AHL season. This will allow him to intensify his game through the AHL playoff chase and, hopefully, a prolonged playoff run, sharpening his NHL readiness. He is currently in the process of learning how to dominate, gain confidence, and develop leadership qualities.

There will be a new set of hurdles in the NHL as defense coverages are more sophisticated, the speed and skill of the opposition increase, managing gaps is more complex, and decision-making is more challenging. Navigating the steep learning curve of the NHL lies ahead, but he is developing so quickly, and we now know he possesses the ability to learn, adapt, and grow.

These AHL experiences will undoubtedly serve him well. By the fall of 2024, a mature Simon Edvinsson will be the day-one starter with the big team. His maturity will be a significant building block, soon propelling the Red Wings from a fringe playoff team to a legitimate contender. Patience during this maturation process will be rewarded.