Detroit Red Wings: 3 players poised to earn a roster spot in training camp


Happy New Year.  January also signals the beginning of the Detroit Red Wings training camp.

It’s not only the first day of the new year; it’s oddly the start of the pandemic-slowed NHL season.  The Detroit Red Wings will open camp with a few additional spots available for the taking as rosters will be expanded from the usual 21 players to 23.  The league will also allow for a six-man taxi squad due to the uncertainty surrounding the season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Red Wings will welcome 40 players into camp, knowing nearly half will be re-assigned to Grand Rapids. Still, with newcomers, Marc Staal, Bobby Ryan, Troy StecherVladislav Namestnikov, Jon Merrill, and Thomas Greiss will all have a role in 2021.

Here are three players who may end up winning a roster spot over the next two weeks;

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Taro Hirose

After enjoying three productive years at Michigan State with the Spartans, Taro Hirose signed with the Detroit Red Wings as a free agent after the 2018-19 college season.  Hirose then played in 10 NHL games, recording a goal and six assists.

The future looked bright, but Hirose failed to impact the Detroit Red Wings last season immediately and was quickly re-assigned to Grand Rapids.  Hirose recorded five goals totaling 27 points in just 35 contests with the Griffins.

Hirose has the potential to be a third-line NHL winger who projects as primarily a set-up man with limited scoring upside.

At just 24-years old, Hirose has a chance to remain in Detroit’s plans, but with a logjam of veteran forwards such as Valtteri Filppula, Darren Helm, Sam Gagner, and Frans Nielsen squeezed into the teams’ bottom-six; Hirose will need nearly a flawless training camp to make the squad.

Although it’s unlikely Hirose wins a job on the active roster, there is a chance he will edge out forwards like Givani Smith, Turner Elson, and Kyle Criscuolo for a spot on the taxi squad.

Evgeny Svechnikov

The Detroit Red Wings drafted forward Evgeny Svechnikov with the 19th pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Level Draft.

It’s time that Svechnikov finds himself a home on Detroit’s active roster, but he’ll need a strong training camp to prove he belongs.  The 24-year old Russian winger has only amassed 20 NHL games in parts of three seasons but has only been able to record two goals and two assists under the bright lights.

Svechnikov suffered a torn knee that required surgery, forcing him to miss the entire 2018-19 season.  Svechnikov rebounded last season, appearing in 51 games with the Griffins notching 11 goals and 25 points; a far cry from his first year in Detroit’s organization when he recorded 20 goals totaling 51 points in 74 games in Grand Rapids.

After that impressive rookie AHL season, it’s been a downhill slide.

The Detroit Red Wings signed Svechnikov to a one-year deal this past offseason in what may be considered a last call for the young winger.

For the record, I’d love to see a third-line of Svechnikov, Namestnikov, and Zadina to start the season.  Rather than the expected Helm, Filppula, and Nielsen.

Dennis Cholowski

The Detroit Red Wings had been forced to experiment with Dennis Cholowski far earlier than they originally anticipated to start the 2018-19 season after the organization opened the regular season with an abundance of injuries.

Cholowski played in 52 games recording seven goals and 16 points.  During that rookie season, the young defender produced a Corsi For Percentage of 49.6, not great but also somewhat impressive when you understand just how bad the Red Wings were as a whole.

The 22-year old defender appeared in 36 games last season with the Red Wings recording a pair of goals notching eight points but skated as a minus -26.

The Detroit Red Wings drafted Cholowski with the 20th pick in the first round of the 2016 NHL draft.  During both of his NHL stints, Cholowski proved his worth as a puck-moving offensive-minded defenseman but lacked defensive awareness and struggled mightily at times in his own zone identifying defensive-zone coverage.

It’s fine and dandy to be an offensive-minded defenseman, but when a defender becomes a liability in their own zone, it’s detrimental to the team.  Cholowski needs to shore up his defensive abilities before making Detroit’s lineup as a regular.

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If Cholowski has a strong showing in camp, there is an outside chance he’s able to unseat the newly acquired Jon Merrill for a spot on Detroit’s third pairing with Troy Stecher.