Brian Gornick, Sports Editor
Red Wings celebrate after winning against the Montreal Canadiens on April 4, 2023. Photo//GettyImages
As the NHL offseason slowly draws near its end, and the beginning of the regular season draws closer, the Detroit Red Wings have some tough decisions to make.
Plenty of new faces have been signed in free agency, alongside a blockbuster trade that brought key players that Red Wings management are counting on contributing to a team fighting for a playoff spot in a tough Atlantic Division. With a shakeup of the roster leading up to the season opener against the New Jersey Devils on October 12, here’s my prediction of the Red Wings 2023 opening day lines.
1st Line: Lucas Raymond - Dylan Larkin - Alex DeBrincat
2nd Line: David Perron - J.T. Compher - Jonatan Berggren
3rd Line: Michael Rasmussen - Andrew Copp - Daniel Sprong
4th Line: Klim Kostin - Joe Veleno - Robby Fabbri
With Dylan Larkin entrenched in the 1C spot, and Raymond looking for a bounce back in his third season, the Red Wings looked to add a spark to the top line. They traded for Ottawa Senator Alex DeBrincat in a trade that saw forward Dominik Kubalik, defense prospect Donovan Sebrango, and a first-round pick and a fourth-round pick in the 2024 draft. Detroit later signed DeBrincat to a four-year extension with an AAV of $7.875 million.
Alex DeBrincat chases the puck against the Detroit Red Wings on February 27, 2023. Photo//GettyImages.
The 25-year-old forward finished the 22-23 season playing all 82 games and scoring 66 points, 27 of those being goals. He will be heavily relied on for scoring on a first line that returns Larkin after his best season statistically last year, with 79 points in 80 games, and Lucas Raymond who going into his third season is looking to up his scoring total.
As for the rest of the roster, the 2C under Larkin will go to J.T. Compher to start the season. With Compher signing a 5-year, $25.5 million contract, and Andrew Copp going into year two of his 5-year contract, both have similar cap hits. Comparing last season’s point totals, Compher provides more scoring than Copp, with Compher scoring 8 more goals and 2 more assists in the same amount of games. Copp also had strong chemistry late in the season with Michael Rasmussen, and the two will hope to strengthen their connection this season. On the fourth line, Red Wings' second 1st round pick from 2019 Joe Veleno holds down the center spot. While Fabbri has struggled with injuries, playing only 28 games last season, he still scored 16 points in that time. Both Veleno and Fabbri are joined by Russian forward Klim Kostin, who was traded to the Red Wings alongside Kailer Yamamoto June 29, 2023 for future considerations. Kostin scored 21 points in 57 games last season with the Edmonton Oilers, and signed a 2-year, $4 million contract with the Red Wings after rumors he was heading to Russia to play for the KHL’s Avangard Omsk.
Klim Kostin (left) and J.T. Compher (right) check each other on January 7, 2023. Photo//GettyImages
With all four offensive lines having a new face, the Red Wings are going to look to them to alleviate the Wings' scoring woes. The Red Wings finished bottom 10 in the NHL for goals-per-game, and with the new signings focusing on guys who play a strong two-way game and can score, they’ll look to support their new team in a hopeful playoff push.
1st Pair: Jake Walman - Moritz Seider
2nd Pair: Olli Määttä - Shayne Gostisbehere
3rd Pair: Ben Chiarot - Justin Holl
The first defensive pairing is the only line that has no new players. 2022 Calder Trophy winner Moritz Seider returns with his linemate Jake Walman. Seider had a sophomore slump alongside fellow second-year player Lucas Raymond last season, but with a familiar face alongside him and more skilled forwards, Seider will look to rebound both his offensive game as well as his defensive prowess.
Moritz Seider brings the puck up against the Montreal Canadiens on April 4, 2023. Photo//GettyImages
The rest of the defensive pairings have been switched up in my prediction. Olli Määttä returns alongside new addition Shayne Gostisbehere, with Määttä being promoted to the second line. Gostisbehere signed a 1-year, $4.125 million contract with the Red Wings this offseason, and he will look to bring an offensive spark to the blue line alongside Määttä’s defensive style. The only concern with the second line is health, as Gostisbehere has missed over 30 games the past two seasons, but during the 21-22 season played a full 82 games, scoring 51 points.
The final line returns Ben Chiarot alongside new signee Justin Holl from Toronto Maple Leafs. Chiarot was signed last season with the hope of being a competent defensive defenseman alongside Seider, but it became clear early on the pairing didn’t work. While they featured on a line together for over three quarters of the season, the pairing of Chiarot and Seider had the most goals scored against them than any other defensive pairing the Red Wings fielded. With Chiarot on the third pair alongside Holl, he will join a few other returning Red Wings on looking to rebound with less pressure on them to perform.
Starter: Ville Husso
Backup: Alex Lyon
Heading into the offseason, one of the checks on the to-do list was to find a capable backup goalie behind Ville Husso, and the Red Wings signed two NHL caliber goalies. Alex Lyon served mostly as a backup behind Sergei Bobrovsky of the Florida Panthers but put up a respectable .914 SV% and 2.89 GAA in 15 games, winning 9. The other goalie, James Reimer, comes from the San Jose Sharks where he had a less impressive season on the box sheet. Reimer shared the starting goaltender job last season for San Jose, and put up a .890 SV% and 3.48 GAA in 43 games with the Sharks. While some have Reimer beating Lyon for the position with more seniority and experience, Lyon’s skill and ability to protect the crease better than Reimer will give him the edge in the battle for backup goalie.
Ville Husso makes a glove save against Tyler Bertuzzi of the Boston Bruins on March 12, 2023. Photo//GettyImages