Detroit Red Wings Prospect Profile: Let Gustav Nyquist Play
By Rhys Richards (@RREsq)
The Detroit Red Wings have made 21 straight playoff appearances, the longest streak in professional sports. During that streak, the organization has regularly brought in veteran players to fill its top two forward lines while its prospects mature on the bottom two lines or in the farm system.
Detroit’s 1997 Stanley Cup Champion forward corps consisted of Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Brendan Shanahan, Igor Larionov, Doug Brown, Tomas Sandstrom, Martin Lapointe, Joey Kocur, Tim Taylor, Tomas Holmstrom, Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, Darren McCarty, and Vyacheslav Kozlov. The youngest was Lapointe at 22, but only five others were 25 or under.
In 1998, Detroit’s Stanley Cup Champion forward corps consisted of veterans Yzerman, Fedorov, Shanahan, Larionov, Brown, Kocur, LaPointe, Holmstrom, Draper, Maltby, McCarty, Kozlov, Mathieau Dandenault, Mike Knuble, Brent Gilchrist, and Dmitri Mironov. Dandenault was the youngest at 21, but only six others were 25 or under.
In 2002, Detroit’s Stanley Cup Champion forward corps consisted of veterans Yzerman, Fedorov, Shanahan, Larionov, and recent additions Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille, the youngest of which was still Fedorov at 31. The rest of the forward corps included Draper, Holmstrom, Maltby, McCarty, Dandenault, and newcomers Pavel Datsyuk, Boyd Devereaux, and Jason Williams. Williams was the youngest forward at 21, but only three other players were 25 or under.
In 2008, Detroit won the Stanley Cup again with veteran forwards Henrik Zetterberg, Dallas Drake, Dan Cleary, Johan Franzen, Mikael Samuelsson, Mark Hartigan, and Datsyuk. Zetterberg was the youngest at 26. The rest of the forward corps was made up of Draper, Holmstrom, Maltby, McCarty, and newcomers Valtteri Filppula and Jiri Hudler. Filppula and Hudler were both 23 and were the only forwards under the age of 25.
Of the home grown prospects on those rosters, only Datsyuk and Zetterberg played for the Red Wings without first playing in the AHL.
As many NHL commentators and fans already know, Detroit forward prospects are not often given the same opportunities to hone their skills with the big club as prospects in other organizations are.
NASHVILLE, TN – APRIL 20: Gustav Nyquist #14 of the Detroit Red Wings skates against Nick Spaling #13 of the Nashville Predators in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
22-year-old Gustav Nyquist is no exception as the young Swede played the end of the 2010-2011 and majority of the 2011-2012 seasons with the Grand Rapids Griffins. Unlike so many young players before him, however, Detroit has an opportunity for him to take on a substantial role in its forward corps now.
Nyquist’s career at the University of Maine was nothing short of sterling. He contributed 13 goals and 19 assists in 38 games in 2008-2009, 19 goals and 42 assists in 39 games in 2009-2010, and 18 goals and 33 assists in 36 games in his final season as a Black Bear in 2010-2011. Nyquist was one of the Hobey Baker finalists in 2009-2010.
In 2010-2011, Nyquist turned pro and quickly posted 1 goal and 3 assists in 8 games in Grand Rapids. Last season, 22 goals and 36 assists in 56 games for the Griffins while adding one goal and six assist in 18 games with the Red Wings.
While the 4th rounder in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft did not score in four playoff games, he appeared ready for a permanent spot with the big club.
At 5’11,” 185 pounds, Nyquist needs to add some muscle. His skating is ready for the pro game, but he can still be knocked off the puck with more ease than most of his veteran teammates.
This offseason has been disappointing for Detroit. The Red Wings missed out on top free agent forward Zach Parise. Alex Semin recently signed with Carolina. Detroit may very well be left on the outside looking in when veteran Shane Doan finally signs a contract.
While Detroit brought back veteran Mikael Samuelsson and added Jordan Tootoo, the team lost home grown prospect Jiri Hudler, who signed in Calgary.
With Samuelsson and Tootoo in the fold, the team’s forward corps consists of Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen, Cleary, Filppula, Todd Bertuzzi, Darren Helm, Patrick Eaves, Drew Miller, Jan Mursak, Cory Emmerton, and newcomer Damien Brunner. Justin Abdelkader, a restricted free agent, is expected to sign in the near future.
Unlike the previous Stanley Cup Champion Detroit teams, the top two lines are by no means set. Of the forward group, only Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen, and Filppula are locks in the top six. Cleary and Bertuzzi have played in the top six before and could do so again, but both may also be better suited to play on the third and fourth lines with some time on the power play.
Nyquist turns 23 on September 1st and will be the youngest forward. Presuming a new collective bargaining agreement is reached and this season begins on time, only four other players will be 25 or younger when the puck drops.
Barring the unlikely addition of Doan or a trade for another forward to contend for a spot on the top two lines, Nyquist is the first youngster in a long time with a legitimate shot at substantial playing time in Detroit’s top six forwards. Given his pedigree, that may very well be a role in which he flourishes. In that role, Nyquist can reasonably be expected to score 15 goals while adding 25 assists and could surpass 50 points if he avoids injury and any extended slumps.
Statistics and other information obtained at www.nhlnumbers.com and www.hockeydb.com, and http://redwings.nhl.com/club/roster.htm.
Share your thoughts about the NHL, the Detroit Red Wings, and hockey in general with Rhys at Twitter: @RREsq. He can be reached via email at RhysJRichards@gmail.com. Join the many fans of The Hockey Guys on Facebook and Twitter @TheHockeyGuys