The hockey preseason is about two weeks away if you didn’t realize that I understand, football season is here. I get it. But for those that did, don’t get too excited it’s still only the preseason, #IsItOctoberYet.
It’s fair to say we have already been introduced to a majority of the young faces looking for more playing time this season due to all the injuries the Red Wings accumulated last year. But there is one key player that you should keep an eye on during these September exhibition games, Tomas Tatar. The Jack A. Butterfield trophy winner led the Griffins to the Calder Cup with 21 points (16 goals and 5 assists); confirming that the 22 year old Slovakian is one of the best prospects in the Wings Organization.
Tatar is entering his fifth year in the league after being drafted in 2009 as the Red Wings 2nd round pick (60th overall). Most of that time was spent with the Griffins, but he has recorded 27 games with the Red Wings. Tatar’s stats over those games aren’t very impressive (5 goals, 3 assists, plus minus rating of +2) but he only received limited playing time at the bottom of the roster.
This season that will all change as the Red Wings have to put Tatar on their NHL roster since he would need to pass through waivers in order to join the Griffins. There is no general manager in the NHL that would pass on picking up the reigning AHL playoffs MVP.
The problem the Wings face is they have limited room on their roster to give Tatar a chance. He needs a solid spot in the rotation to make an impact and be effective, but more importantly to develop.
The 3rd line with Joakim Andersson and Gustav Nquist is the most logical place to put Tatar for chemistry reasons as they all played on the same line back when they were Griffins. So, I would expect Tatar to start the season there. But when you fill out the rest of the lines…
Zetterburg – Datsyuk – Abdelkader
Franzen – Weiss – Alfredsson
Nquist – Andersson – Tatar
Miller – Helm – Bertuzzi
You are left with Jordin Tootoo, Patrick Eaves, Cory Emerton, and Mikael Samuelsson without a spot.
While having depth is great, I can easily see Tatar being shuffled out of the rotation and lost on the bench if he struggles. With Tootoo and Eaves waiting in the wings to take his spot, Tatar needs to perform right away.
What makes Tatar’s situation unique is the signing of Alfredsson. Take Alfredsson out of the current picture and Bertuzzi moves up to the 2nd line, Tatar would stay at three, and Tootoo and Eaves would split time on the fourth line. These lines would make sure Tatar would get guaranteed playing time without the pressure that his spot was on the line. Whereas the current step-up screams “blow up” the third line for more experience if things go wrong.
All of this could be nonsense though if Mike Babcock is willing to bench Bertuzzi to give Tootoo and Eaves opportunities now and then. I would prefer this method but one can only wonder what will happen if the inexperience third line can’t perform. Tomas Tatar could find himself a long season on the bench, and I will be the first person to point the blame towards the signing of Daniel Alfredsson.
If Tatar does get pulled I just hope he isn’t forgotten about as it will hinder his long-term development.