DETROIT – The Red Wings have completed their sixth consecutive losing season, but there is still a buzz in Motor City that one of the NHL’s most storied franchises may finally be on its way to making a comeback.
A lot has to do with Moritz Seider, the most pleasantly surprising rookie in the league during the 2021-22 season. Seider, a 21-year-old German defender whose selection to sixth overall in 2019 initially confused many conscripts, Seider proved more than worthy of being one of the top picks.
He displayed a poise and tenacity rarely found in first-year blueliners, as well as an offensive touch that inspired confrontations with former Wings Hall of Fame defender Nicklas Lidstrom. And, after playing all 82 games, leading Detroit skaters in average time on the ice and outperforming all rookies with 43 assists, he won the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year on Tuesday.
“He’s a star in the making,” said Keith Jones, a former NHL player and veteran. “Whenever a young defender can come in and play position so well, and with such maturity, it’s incredible. The baby’s ceiling is so high.
Seider received 170 of the 195 first place votes from members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. He said he didn’t prepare a speech, but still managed to make a joke at the awards ceremony in Tampa, Florida where the Lightning will host Colorado in Game 4 of the finals on Wednesday.
“My parents didn’t make it,” he said impassively. “They just got back from Croatia and thought it was more important to go on vacation.”
Seider isn’t the only reason Detroit’s prospects have brightened. Another newcomer, winger Lucas Raymond, fourth overall in 2020, finished third among rookies with 57 points and fourth in Calder’s vote.
The Wings also have a group of other rising stars in their first half of 20, including Dylan Larkin, who has scored 31 goals and 38 assists this season; Tyler Bertuzzi, who scored 30 goals with 32 assists; and defender Filip Hronek, who scored 38 points and blocked 81 shots.
The team has been in contention for the playoffs for much of the season and was playing above .500 in February, but injuries and a decline in goalkeeping play accelerated as the team only won seven of 28 games. Three of his wins in April came against some of the league’s top teams, including Tampa Bay, which is vying for its third straight Stanley Cup championship, but Detroit finished sixth in the Atlantic Division and out of the playoffs for sixth. consecutive season.
The Wings could use another first-rate center and play better on the net. Alex Nedeljkovic, who started 52 games, has scored an average of 3.31 goals, up from his best 1.90 in the league a year ago when he was Calder’s finalist with the Carolina Hurricanes.
“They need a few more pieces, but it won’t take long,” Jones said. “They will get there.”
The choice of Seider and Raymond has fueled fan confidence that CEO Steve Yzerman and his eye for talent will restore Detroit to the glory it had during its playing days. Yzerman, who took three Stanley Cups to Detroit as a player, largely built the Lightning’s Cup winners squad before returning to the city in 2019.
The club has commitments from both picks from last year’s draft first round after Simon Edvinsson, a promising Swedish defender who was selected sixth overall, signed in April. The Wings will also have pick number 8 in the 2022 draft in July in Montreal.
“There is definitely a buzz around the team,” said Ryan Hana, a host of the “Winged Wheel Podcast”. “This is the most excited I’ve seen the fan base in a while.”
A Detroit resurgence would be welcomed in many hockey circles. An Original Six team, the Wings are the most successful NHL franchise based in the United States, with 11 Stanley Cups. Some of the NHL’s biggest stars – Gordie Howe, Sergei Fedorov, Brett Hull, Pavel Datsyuk – have worn the winged wheel on their sweater.
The Wings last won the Cup in 2008 and the following year they lost in the final to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Since then, they have failed to make it through the conference semifinals as they swapped draft picks and hired endangered veterans as their star players retired. The Wings had just 19 wins in a 56-game season in 2021 and just 17 wins in 71 games before the pandemic forced the league to suspend the 2019-20 season. With the help of the 6-foot-4 Seider, the team has scored 32 wins this season.
Seider grew up in Erfurt, a city of around 200,000 people in eastern Germany. But when he got the chance to join the development program of Adler Mannheim, a club in Germany’s top professional league, the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, his family moved to the western part of the country to further his ambitions of hockey. After gaining experience in international competitions and playing in the DEL at 18, it was predicted that at best he would be a late pick in the first round.
When Yzerman announced it to the project, Seider sat gaping and staring a moment before standing up and hugging his mother. “It was seat number 6, so I wasn’t really paying attention,” Seider said in a phone interview at the end of this season. “I said to my mom, ‘You’re excited, I’m nervous, so somebody just stay calm here.’ It was about not tripping down the stairs and not looking stupid.
Wings fans, many of whom had no idea who Seider was, were baffled, especially as many other major perspectives were still available, including Trevor Zegras, the Anaheim Ducks phenom who finished second among rookies with 61 points. and finished second in Calder’s vote. “When he was picked out of six in total, it was pure shock and disappointment,” said Hana.
After spending 2019-20 with the American Hockey League affiliate in Detroit and 2020-21 in the Swedish top league, he eliminated the Wings roster from retirement this season. Before long, he performed the power play, killing penalties and providing bone-crushing controls, all with aplomb. He scored eight assists in his first nine games, was named rookie of the month in October and scored his first goal in November by beating the Buffalo Sabers in extra time.
In a match in March, Seider found himself defending a run by Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, and when the Oilers star tried to turn the corner towards the net, Seider calmly threw the puck from the stick of the best player of the world. game.
“In the draft, I was like, ‘Stevie Y, what are you doing?’ But Seider just blew me away, ”said Lon Grantham, a high school women’s hockey coach and fan of Wings for four decades. “You have to have a strong D to compete. Each cup team has an elite defender. So yeah, I feel optimistic with this guy. “
Seider said he was aware of some of the reactions to the draft and used it as a motivation. “I think it gave me the confidence to come overseas and prove everyone was wrong,” he said. “That’s just what I’m trying to do.”
As for where the Wings are going, Seider said the team was very motivated to improve. “We as a team may not seem like we want to be, but the boys are really determined to become a playoff team in the future,” he told her. “Everyone is sick and tired of losing. Everyone is working hard to take the next step ”.