As the Detroit Red Wings’ training camp continues in Traverse City, Michigan, competition for open roster positions is expected to be fierce. With Darren McCarty holding out, Brent Gilchrist on the injured reserve, and Uwe Krupp suspended, the Wings’ have only 20 NHL regulars. Four open positions are up for grabs in order to fill out the NHL regulation 24-man roster.
Up front, twelve Red Wing regulars are expected to begin the season with Detroit. Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Brendan Shanahan, Slava Kozlov, Martin Lapointe, Tomas Holmstrom, Igor Larionov, Kirk Maltby, Kris Draper, Doug Brown, Stacy Roest and Joe Kocur have all reported to camp under contract and in good health.
On the blue line, there are only five returning regulars from last seasons brief playoff run. Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Chelios, Larry Murphy, Mathieu Dandenault and Aaron Ward have all reported to Traverse City and will begin the season in Detroit. Recently signed unrestricted free agent Steve Duchesne rounds out the blue line’s top six.
In the crease, there is little doubt that Chris Osgood will be the starter with Ken Wregget as his backup. The Wings’ are unlikely to carry three goalies, and for that reason Manny Legace is expected to be sent to a minor league franchise to begin the season.
And so, a great deal of discussion has been generated regarding who will earn regular roster positions with the Red Wings’. And likewise, as youngsters begin to realize what opportunities are available, the competition in Traverse City will intensify.
The Red Wings’ are deep in youth on the blue line. The team’s top three prospects, Jiri Fischer, Jesse Wallin, and Yan Golubovsky, could all fill open roster positions in Motown. If the Wings’ decide to carry all three, they would have nine defensemen on the roster. Potentially, Mathieu Dandenault could be returned to his natural position, right wing, where he could fill in for Darren McCarty and perhaps carve a niche as top-nine forward. This move would open up one spot in the Red Wings’ top six defensive unit. Fischer, Wallin and Golubovsky would wage a healthy competition for the open position. A rotation could also be established between the prospects and regulars Ward, Duchesne, and a resting Larry Murphy.
If the Wings’ decide to carry the three defensive prospects and move Dandenault up front, only one position would be available in the forward ranks. The most likely candidates for that spot are Darryl Laplante and Philippe Audet. Both have seen time with Detroit over the past year. Laplante has generally been looked to first in the event of a call-up, but he struggled last season in the minors and needs to show more consistency. Audet has established himself as a proficient minor league scorer, but he must show more strength in training camp. Although it may only be temporarily until McCarty is re-signed, it is probable that one of the two will begin their season in Detroit.
The key competition in Traverse City will be between top prospects Fischer, Wallin, and Golubovsky. Neither has an upper hand going in – Fischer is the team’s prized prospect, Wallin is considered steady and ready for the NHL, and Golubovsky has already appeared in 29 NHL games. Training camp will dictate each player’s season, and with each player determined to be a regular throughout the year, expect competition in Traverse City to heat up in the next few days.