The changing of the guard in Hockeytown was bound to happen eventually, and while Redwing fans are going to miss their beloved stars that they have grown to love since the early 2000s, there is plenty to be excited about moving forward. Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Niklas Kronwall, and even fellow Swede Daniel Alfredsson are still all playing at top notch levels, and show no signs of losing a step to the younger faster NHL. Besides the wear and tear of getting older and having injuries that catch up with their aging bodies, the most recognizable of faces in Detroit are still on PPG paces, where as Kronwall is on pace to match if not surpass his career high point total of 51. These guys are all freaks of nature, and their emergence as some of the league’s greatest talent for the last 10+ years is a testament to the importance and magnificence of Detroit’s European scouting system and GM Ken Holland.
Any die hard Redwing fan will tell you that they have the utmost confidence in their system, and the ability to have some of the best veterans in the sport around to teach the youth movement is invaluable. Zetterberg and Kronwall are 33, Datsyuk is 35, and Alfredsson is 41 (Im including Alfredsson in this article because he belongs in Detroit with his fellow countrymen, and his experience will be incredibly useful to the locker room). They’re not going to be around forever. Although Detroit has a history of it, not everyone can play into their 40s.
One of the most impressive young prospects that i’ve seen so far out of Motown is Tomáš Tatar. The 23 year old Slovak was drafted 60th overall in 2009, and when given his opportunities with the big club, he has proven he belongs. He helped the Grand Rapid Griffins to a Calder Cup championship with 49 points in 61 games, and his speed, vision, and hands make up for his smaller frame. He’s taking full advantage of the veteran leadership surrounding him, and hes showing the the guys upstairs that he belongs on the ice. As an Islander fan, it comes to no surprise that Tatar scored his first NHL goal against us and Dwayne Roloson on New Years Eve in 2010. That would be his only point of his nine game stint with the club, but being around the team in the professional environment is crucial for a young player to experience.
Fast forward to this current season, one in which Detroit has been devastated by injuries, and you’ll see Tatar has consistently been one of the bright spots for the wings. He always finds a way to create offense no matter who he’s playing with, and he leaves his heart out on the ice every single night. Characteristics like that have led to teammates praising the kid. Jimmy Howard said “He’s a great kid, He comes to the rink every single day and works hard. He’s got a constant smile on his face and he’s a very likable guy, a great teammate. We enjoy having him around.” Tatar has had a tough month emotionally, with the passing of his father and having to travel back and forth so Slovokia in a short period of time while not letting it affect his game. Assistant captain Niklas Kronwall said “With what he’s gone through it’s amazing how strong he is, He lays his heart on the line every night; plays really hard. I know he was really tired after flying back and forth but he played another really, really good game for us.” There is reason for all the praise given from his teammates. I’m sure everyone’s seen his dismantling of the Dallas Stars.
Detroit has a handful of young players/prospects who have shown that the future will be in good hands. Whether it be Tomáš Tatar, Danny Dekeyser, Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, Tomáš Jurčo, or Riley Sheahan, I feel that the storied franchise of the Detroit Redwings will still be a contender for the foreseeable future.