Ian White might jostle with Jonathan Ericsson for spot in Red Wings’ top four

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Maybe the talented offensive defenseman lost a step or two due to injuries last season, but one can imagine that the Detroit Red Wings were a bit stunned by Brian Rafalski’s retirement. The undersized defenseman played in the shadow of some great defensemen in his career, but he deserves credit for being a prolific contributor in his own right. Replacing him won’t be an easy task.

As impressive as Ian White looked during his short post-trade stay with the San Jose Sharks, it’s tough to ask him to fill Rafalski’s void. While they probably hope to close some of that gap by committee, they signed White during the off-season with the hope that he might play a similar puck-moving, offensively adept role.

The Detroit Free Press’ Helene St. James took a look at how White might fit in next season.

White will add a fresh look to the back end. He’s a thicker, bigger and younger body than Rafalski.

White shoots right, a rarity on the team (Patrick Eaves, Jan Mursak and Mike Commodore are the only others), which will help especially on the power play. He has got a physical edge to him, along with a solid set of skills. Picture a top four that’s divided up into pairs of Lidstrom-White and Kronwall-Stuart, and the Wings would have offense and physicality on each set.

Jonathan Ericsson should challenge White to be in the top four, which can only help the Wings.

At one point, Ericsson seemed like the next great Swedish diamond in the rough for the Wings’ vaunted European scouts. It’s stunning how far his stock has plummeted in the last year or two; I’d guess there are at least a few Red Wings fans who shudder at the idea of Ericsson getting a significant increase in ice time.

The Red Wings have a tendency to extract the best out of most of their players though, so it wouldn’t be shocking if White and/or Ericsson play a bit over their heads. It seems like White might have a slight edge at this point, but it could be an interesting battle to follow during training camp and next season in general.