Things are finally starting to look up for the Detroit Red Wings.
They entered the 2021-22 season riding a five-year playoff drought, and while their ongoing rebuild is still very much a work in progress that would seemingly make the postseason a long shot, you can finally see some signs of hope in the very near future.
Not only are they looking like early season Calder Trophy contenders, they might be the cornerstone building blocks the team needs to make its rebuild a success.
For any rebuild to work long-term you have to find difference makers. Players that can take over a game, control a game, and be the foundation of your team for years down the line. It does not necessarily have to be a Sidney Crosby or a Connor McDavid (though that certainly helps if they are), but definitely an All-Star level player that is among the best at their position.
Up until now, the Red Wings’ rebuild had not really produced that or anything close to it.
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Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi are very good players that will have a key spot on a contending team. Same goes for Jakub Vrana (when healthy) and Filip Hronek. But they are not really players you build a team around. Filip Zadina still has a ton of potential, but needs to take a step forward at some point.
Seider, the No. 6 overall pick in 2019, and Raymond, the No. 4 overall pick in 2020, might end up being those cornerstone players.
Both have seen their NHL careers get off to strong starts this season.
Seider, who was just named the NHL’s rookie of the month on Tuesday, is the player that Red Wings fans should really be getting excited about given his position and the role he could play.
When the Red Wings picked him in 2019 there was a consensus that it was a bit of a reach and drew plenty of criticism from draft observers. That consensus has rapidly changed over the past year. Seider had a dominant 2020-21 season in Sweden (where he was named the league’s top defender) and has already become one of the Red Wings’ top players this season.
Entering play on Tuesday he is playing more than 22 minutes per game, has a team-leading eight assists, and is posting strong underlying numbers in terms of scoring chances, expected goals, and shot attempt differential, all of which have him among the team’s best players.
Look at any Stanley Cup winning roster and they all have two things: A top-tier center that can drive the offense, and a top-tier defender that can play in all situations and help control a game. While he may not be there just yet, Seider certainly has that potential for the Red Wings.
Raymond, meanwhile, has been equally impressive at forward.
He enters Tuesday tied for the team lead in scoring with nine points in nine games and has been their best possession driver, with the Red Wings controlling 57% of the total shot attempts, 63% of the expected goals, 57% of the scoring chances, 54% of the high-danger scoring chances, and also owning a 7-2 goal differential with him on the ice during 5-on-5 play.
The current Red Wings roster is still lacking in depth and, at least on paper, is still pretty far behind the other contenders in their division and Eastern Conference. But they might finally have the type of players that can be the cornerstones of their next contending team in a couple of years. Those players are not only the most important to have, they are also the most difficult to find and it usually requires a lot of luck at the top of the draft to get them. The Red Wings might have found some of that luck. The continued development of Seider and Raymond, along with Zadina and Vrana when he returns, are going to be the most important things to watch for the Red Wings this season.
If they continue on their current trajectory the season will be a success no matter how many games they win or lose as a team. Because if their trajectory continues it should help lead to a lot more wins in the future.