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2013 Red Wings Preview: Flying East

Zach Kukkonen

Zach Kukkonen writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

As was expected after the departure of long-time captain and franchise face Nicklas Lidstrom, the Red Wings went through highs and lows throughout 2012-13.

While Detroit had to scrap just to make the playoffs for the 22nd straight season, the Wings eked past Anaheim in the first round and had Chicago on the ropes at three games to one in the second round. However, the future champions made adjustments Detroit couldn't combat, and the Red Wings lost the final three games of the series.

Still, the Red Wings outperformed expectations and retooled in the offseason. Their AHL club is the defending Calder Cup champion and a few of the players involved in the title run should contribute heavily in Detroit in 2013-14.

Most importantly, the Red Wings found some second-line ammunition after Chicago exposed offensive depth issues in the playoffs. Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson will bolster a stellar second line, allowing Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg to unite on the first line. Darren Helm, Todd Bertuzzi and Mikael Samuelsson all appear healthy and ready to contribute, and goalie Jimmy Howard stepped into the upper echelon of goaltenders in the regular season and playoffs in 2012-13. The young defensive corps also has another year under its belt, and will be led by the bruising Niklas Kronwall.

Detroit should garner more than a No. 7 seed in 2013-14, and has a stockpile of fantasy talent. Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Howard and Kronwall are fantasy studs, and Weiss could be a nice sleeper pick. All in all, Red Wings fans have reasons for optimism even after the disappointing finish to the season in Chicago.

The Big Guns

Pavel Datsyuk (C): The 35-year-old "Magic Man" Datsyuk has shown no sign of slowing with age, as he had another spectacular season in 2012-13. He was a Selke Trophy finalist, was plus-21 and scored 49 points in 47 games. If he stays healthy, he has the potential for an even bigger season in 2013-14, as the addition of Stephen Weiss provides the Red Wings the opportunity they've always wanted: to put Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg on the same line full time. Expect at least 75 points from Datsyuk and another solid fantasy season.

Henrik Zetterberg (LW): Zetterberg put together another great season in 2012-13, with 48 points in 46 games. The winger has averaged nearly a point a game his entire career, and now will get to play alongside Pavel Datsyuk full-time this season which can only help his production. The two seem to know where each other are at all times and could form one of the more potent scoring duos in the NHL. Zetterberg should get his usual point a game pace throughout the season, and will provide a stellar fantasy option for anyone who drafts him.

Jimmy Howard (G): Howard took the step into the upper echelon of goalies in 2012-13, posting a 2.13 goals against average to go with 21 wins and five shutouts. He also kept the Red Wings in games throughout the playoffs and helped Detroit nearly knock off the future champion Blackhawks. His defensive corps will be more experienced in 2013-14, and Howard is primed for a stellar year as the Red Wings improved in the offseason. Expect him to be in the top 10 in every goaltending category, especially as he is still relatively young and can handle a huge workload.

Niklas Kronwall (D): The bruising defenseman put on an offensive show in 2012-13, tying for fourth in scoring by defensemen. After Nicklas Lidstrom left, the onus was on Kronwall to carry the defense and he carry it he most certainly did. With a full season ahead of him, Kronwall could reach his career high of 51 points back in 2008-09, especially as he will be quarterbacking the power play.

On The Rise

Danny DeKeyser (D): Don't be misled by DeKeyser's single point in 11 games for the Red Wings in 2012-13. He had a much larger impact. Coach Babcock is extremely high on the youngster and hated it when an injury kept him out of the Red Wings' playoff run. DeKeyser will have every opportunity to make the Red Wings' roster in the fall, and should take up residence there for a long time.

Justin Abdelkader (LW): Abdelkader found a solid role on the Red Wings in 2012-13, keeping people off linemate Pavel Datsyuk and chipping in with occasional points. If he remains on the first line this season, he could settle into a Tomas Holmstrom-like niche with Detroit. While Abdelkader hasn't scored much in the NHL, keep an eye on him early in the year and he could be a nice sleeper off the waiver wire.

Two To Watch

Stephen Weiss (C): After spending 10 productive years in Florida, Weiss finally gets to play for a contender as he signed with the Red Wings in the offseason. His injured wrist limited him to only 17 games in 2012-13, but the cast is off and Weiss appears healthy and ready to contribute. He will center a solid second line in Detroit and hopes to get back to the days where he would put up 20 goals and 50-plus points a season. Weiss certainly has the opportunity with a lot of talent around him, and while he's not a top tier center, he could be a good steal later in drafts.

Daniel Alfredsson (RW): Alfredsson bid a sad farewell to Ottawa in the offseason, where he spent all 17 years of his career. However, he felt Detroit provided a better chance for the elusive Cup he's been fruitlessly searching for. He still seems to have gas in the tank, with 26 points in 47 games in 2012-13, and may find a nice home next to Stephen Weiss on the Wings' second line. His 80-point seasons may be behind him, but he should be good for a solid 50-point campaign.

Don't Overrate

Todd Bertuzzi (RW): Bertuzzi is attempting to return from a back injury that kept him out of most of the season and playoffs. He's still a big presence, but his scoring has markedly dropped off over the last few years. If he remains in Detroit, he will likely be used more as a grinder on the third or fourth line.

Jonathan Ericsson (D): Ericsson had a solid, if unspectacular, season in the first post-Lidstrom year in Detroit, posting 13 points in 45 games and only three in his final 25. While he may have been expected to contribute more offensively, he did steadily improve as the season went on and will start 2013-14 on the first defensive line. He should put up 20-30 points in 2013-14, making him a middle of the road fantasy defenseman.

Top Prospects

Joakim Andersson (C): Andersson stepped right into the third-line center role last season, picking up eight points in 38 games and providing a solid contribution all year. After leading the Griffins to the Calder Cup following Detroit's playoff exit, he will likely settle into the checking line center position heading into the season.

Gustav Nyquist (C): Nyquist impressed in Detroit over the last part of the season and especially in the playoffs, where he provided the Wings with quite a spark when things weren't going well. He should be the frontrunner for the fourth-line center position, although he doesn't have a ton of fantasy value with six points in 22 games last season. There have been rumblings of him playing winger besides Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson, however, which would bump up his value quite a bit.