Well, it’s happened, he had a great career, but now the Detroit Red Wings will have to get used to life without forward Pavel Datsyuk. Judging by some of Red Wing’s GM Ken Holland’s off-season moves, there are several candidates to take Datsyuk’s spot.
Darren Helm is certainly a candidate to be the club’s next number one center. The 29 year has just signed another five year deal with the Wings and has plenty of experience playing along-side Captain Henrik Zetterberg already. Helm has struggled with injuries in recent seasons but if he can stay healthy, he would be a wonderful addition to the top line. Last season he scored 13 goals and added 13 assists in 77 games.
Red Wing’s Head Coach Jeff Blashill may look to younger players like Gustov Nyquist or Dylan Larkin to take on the challenge. Larkin had a breakout season with the Red Wings last year, scoring 23 goals and adding 22 assists in 80 games. That record put Larkin in sixth place in rookie scoring last season as well. This kid has explosive speed and loves playing under pressure.
The last two possibilities would be recently acquired forward Frans Nielson or Steve Ott. Both these guys bring plenty of experience and grit. Ott is an agitator as well as a playmaker. He’s accumulated 1,475 penalty minutes throughout his career so far. This number proves that Ott was brought in for two purposes, to “crash the net” and protect guys like Larkin when required. 32 year old forward Nielson has proven his worth in the faceoff circle throughout his career. He can kill penalties and isn’t afraid to shoot the puck from anywhere.
Any of these players could end up getting a shot on the Wings top line this season. Dylan Larkin will likely be given a chance during the preseason games coming up. Consistency will be the key issue in whether or not he stays there throughout the season. Frans Nielson has the experience and the consistency to match what’s required, but in a game that’s demanding more and more speed, will he be able to stay there? These are the questions Red Wing’s fans will be asking for the remainder of the off-season. It will be interesting to see which of these guys will claim the number one spot this season.