Maybe it’s just the recency bias speaking, but this training camp felt the most wide open in years. Never has there been this much internal competition among the Red Wings players, all of whom are vying for spots on the NHL roster. You can go down the list, each candidate has made a real argument to remain with the big club.

From Filip Zadina to Jacob de la Rose to Givani Smith, everyone on the bubble has had a chance to showcase their worth throughout the preseason. With the exhibition period nearing its conclusion, we have a better idea of who will be taking the ice in Nashville on Oct. 5, and possibly beyond.

Or so we think.

As a fun little exercise, the staff here at WingsNation decided to formulate our own personal lineups for opening night. The roster creation was up for each individual’s own interpretation, however, we tried to stay somewhere in the realm of realism. Breaking it all down, here is what our writers had to say:

Note: The Red Wings goaltending situation was not discussed in this piece, for obvious reasons.

Alex Drain

F1: Bertuzzi-Larkin-Mantha

F2: Athanasiou-Filppula-Hirose

F3: Erne-Nielsen-Zadina

F4: Ehn-Glendening-Helm

F5: Abdelkader


D1: DeKeyser-Hronek

D2: Nemeth-Green

D3: Daley-Cholowski

D4: Ericsson-Bowey

The easiest answer out there — the first line of Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, and Tyler Bertuzzi is a go-to. This line was dominant at the end of last season and has followed it up with a great preseason, including 4 goals in three games from Mantha. These three will have to generate the vast majority of Detroit’s offense.

The second line has a chance to be very interesting, thanks to what appears to be a strong offseason from Taro Hirose. Many have remarked that the MSU product looks stronger and faster, which culminated in 5 points over 6 preseason games. With Hirose as the skilled passer, Andreas Athanasiou as the goal-scorer (netting 30 last year), and Filppula the defensive center, this line would have a little bit of everything in both ends of the ice.

I decided to plug-in a rookie on the third line, rather than Justin Abdelkader, simply to spice things up. Given that GM Steve Yzerman gave up a decent return for Adam Erne, he will likely play significant minutes, probably here on the third line, where the Wings think he has middle-6 upside. Frans Nielsen is the easy bet to center this unit. Finally, Filip Zadina is probably most suited for this role as an infusion of youth, though you could make a case for Michael Rasmussen after his 4 preseason goals.

The fourth line is not great but the Wings have to hope it can gut out respectable defensive metrics. Luke Glendening is a crafty fourth line center and Darren Helm was that once upon a time. Also slotting in is Christoffer Ehn, who looked like a solid fourth line center of the future at times last year. This line won’t generate much offense but it’s probably the best combo you can put together at this time.

The Danny DeKeyser-Filip Hronek combination was the top pairing on defense by the end of last season and it makes sense to stick with it. DeKeyser is a trusty defensive defenseman and Hronek looks like a budding impact player. Stick them together and it’s a respectable pair. Moving down the top-4, Detroit is hoping for a strong season from Mike Green, with hopes of moving him at the deadline. Patrik Nemeth is the perfect stay-at-home compliment to Green’s offensive style.

I’m putting confidence in Dennis Cholowski to stick for the full season after a very nice preseason that saw him collect 3 assists in 5 games, while also showing improvement in his own end. While Madison Bowey has seemed better than Trevor Daley this preseason, the veteran-youth combo on the third-pair makes more sense.

Tony Ferrari

F1: Bertuzzi-Larkin-Mantha

F2: Athanasiou-Filppula-Hirose

F3: Erne-Nielsen-Zadina

F4: Smith-Glendening-Svechnikov


D1: DeKeyser-Hronek

D2: Nemeth-Green

D3: Cholowski-Bowey

You can’t break up that first-line. Even if they regress from the insane pace they were at last season, they will still be a very good line. Athanasiou has to play on the second line if he isn’t on the top line. Filppula is a better, more consistent option than Nielsen, and Hirose has been the best young kid at camp not named Joe Veleno.

Erne and Nielsen fit onto the third-line perfectly, considering what they are at this stage of their careers. Neither will blow you away, but with decent linemates, they’ll give you solid minutes. Zadina is the wildcard. He’s been snakebitten since the prospect tournament but he hasn’t played bad hockey. Putting him on the opening night roster here gives him a vote of confidence that even though the results aren’t there, the process is and that is what they want from him right now.

The fourth line may be the furthest from reality. Evgeny Svechnikov has had a pretty good training camp and preseason, coming off a serious injury that kept him off the ice for most of last year, but its time to see what he’s made of. Givani Smith was the prospect tournament savior, being a physical presence and offensive contributor. Glendening draws into the lineup, with most of his value serving as a reliable penalty-killer. The purpose of this line’s construction is to take out the negative value. Abdelkader and Helm need to be on the outside in order for this team’s growth upfront to continue.

Detroit’s de facto top-two defenders have looked rock solid together in the preseason and there is no reason not to start the year with the DeKeyser-Hronek pair.

Nemeth brings a steady defensive presence to a pairing that will allow Mike Green to do a little more “Mike Green Stuff” assuming he can stay healthy.

At different times during the preseason, both Cholowski and Bowey have looked very good. Both are mobile defenders who make a good first pass and can help get the puck out of the zone. They will likely need to be sheltered because both blue-liners are still improving defensively. They are a prototypical, modern-day third pairing that skates well, moves the puck up ice and will probably make some mistakes if exposed. They are going to make mistakes that you can live with because of the potential for growth, whereas the alternatives (Daley, Ericsson) are no longer needed with the addition of Nemeth, as well as the existing presence of DeKeyser and Green on the back-end.

Will this be the lineup? Probably not. Should this be the lineup? Its better than the alternatives.

Cameron Kuom

F1: Bertuzzi-Larkin-Mantha

F2: Athanasiou-Nielsen-Erne

F3: Hirose-Filppula-Svechnikov

F4: Ehn-Glendening-Helm

F5: Kuffner


D1: DeKeyser-Hronek

D2: Cholowski-Green

D3: Nemeth-Daley

D4: Ericsson-Bowey

This top-line was borderline unstoppable to close out the 2018-19 season. The trio combined for 38 points over a six game stretch near the tail end of the season — a total that led the NHL by a wide margin over that span. Because of the chemistry they’ve built up so quickly, I think we’ll be seeing these three hit the ice together for a good portion of the year.

You can pencil Athanasiou into that LW2 position. He’s the most dynamic Detroit forward outside of that top-line by a mile. I would even slot him in at center, alas, that seems far from reality. So that leaves one of Nielsen or Filppula to man the second line. I opted for Nielsen because of his past success along side Athanasiou, but in all honestly, they are quite interchangeable. The new comer in Adam Erne has been so impressive this preseason. I think he could mesh well with those two as a hard-skill guy.

Now the third-line…let the controversy begin. Hirose played well enough in the preseason to make the roster for me. However, most of his upside resides on the powerplay. Yes, he was great with Athanasiou last season, but a rather high PDO leads me to believe he won’t be enjoying the same amount of success at five-on-five this time around. Moving down the line, Filppula seems like a natural fit, and Svechnikov is an energetic forward who will give them some juice.

The fourth line is composed of some defensive minded players. While I am a fan of Ehn, and think he has potential to stick around for a while, all three members of this line are replacement level. The hope is that they’ll bring a positive impact on the penalty-kill, and hopefully survive from a defensive standpoint at five-on-five more often than not.

A quick note on the extra forward: I went with Ryan Kuffner, beating out Justin Abdelkader. With that, the Wings would be burying a little over $3m in cap with Abdelkader in GR. Also just missing the cut was Jacob de la Rose, who is subject to waivers.

That top-pair is probably one of the weaker duos in the NHL, but it’s good enough. DeKeyser had a sneaky good 2018-19 season, and he’ll hopefully be able to build off that with an up and coming blue-liner in Hronek.

Cholowski once again beat the odds to make the opening night lineup. He was just too good to ignore in the preseason. The key to his development was to expand his impact outside of the powerplay. At five-on-five he showed progression by constantly making plays. Now that he has taken that next step, I wouldn’t be surprised if he surpasses DeKeyser on the depth chart fairly soon. In Green’s case, he has already been passed over by Hronek, and could even lose his spot on the powerplay. It goes without saying, but Green’s days in Detroit are numbered.

Nemeth was the big offseason signing for the Wings, and while I considered him on the second pair, that would leave Cholowski with Daley, so in the name of development I placed Cholowski with Green. The ugly truth is that Daley is one of the NHL’s worst defensemen. Hopefully the defensively sound Nemeth will help cover up some of those blemishes.

Chaise Patterson

F1: Bertuzzi-Larkin-Mantha

F2: Athanasiou-Veleno-Hirose

F3: Erne-Filppula-Zadina

F4: Helm-Nielsen-Glendening

F5: Abdelkader-de la Rose


D1: Cholowski-Green

D2: Nemeth-Hronek

D3: DeKeyser-Bowey

D4: Ericsson

If Jeff Blashill saw my line combinations, I’m sure he would take a blow torch to them. However, I personally believe these lines make the most sense, and would lead the Red Wings to the most success.

The first line is self-explanatory, Larkin, Mantha, and Bertuzzi are absolutely deadly and we all know it. Larkin is that two-way forward down the middle with above average playmaking, used to set up the big French sniper in Mantha. Bertuzzi plays a key role on this line, as he gets into the corners, provides solid defensive play, and physicality.

My second line is where things start to get different. I have Veleno centering Athanasiou and Hirose. Why? This line is the embodiment of speed, and skill. Athanasiou provides speed, hands, and a great shot, although leaves little to be desired defensively. Veleno is also incredibly fast, with strong playmaking ability, and underrated shooting ability. Although Veleno wouldn’t be great defensively to start, he will certainly improve throughout the season. Hirose isn’t exactly a speedster like the other two, but he’s not slow. He’s got great hands, playmaking ability, and high-end hockey IQ, which he can use to spring Athanasiou and Veleno out of the d-zone. This line is all speed, skill, and offense, which they can use to overwhelm the opposition.

My third line consists of Filppula, Erne, and Zadina. These three just go together, don’t they? Erne would provide some physicality, but I believe he has more offense in him than what he showed in Tampa. Filppula is expected to be that solid third line center who can play a two-way/playmaking center role quite well. Which leads us to Zadina. Throughout the rookie tournament and the preseason, Zadina has looked great, he just hasn’t had any luck or bounces. Zadina is, and will be an elite goal scorer, to go along with underrated playmaking and defensive attributes. On this line, Erne provides the physicality, Filppula the playmaking/defense/experience, Zadina the offense.

The fourth line is also pretty self-explanatory. All the players are strong defensively and are veterans of the game. Honestly, I’d say that’s not a bad fourth line.

Now we get to the defense, and it’s pretty simple — play young player, with older player. Cholowski and Green, when they’ve played together, have been unexpectedly incredible. Usually you wouldn’t want to pair two offensively minded guys together, but it worked quite well. They were just so good at moving the puck, breaking it out with ease.

My second pair of Nemeth and Hronek would work well because of Nemeth’s defensive abilities, and Hronek’s offensive abilities. Nemeth has been billed as a strong defensive defenseman. And while Hronek has been working on his defensive game, it doesn’t hurt to have a reliable veteran behind him.

As for my last pair, I have DeKeyser playing with Bowey. DeKeyser’s smart passing and defensive ability showed signs of the DeKeyser of old. That being said, he would still be a bottom pairing guy on most teams. I think DeKeyser should use his smart, efficient play to help mentor Bowey, who has the raw tools and skill to become a legitimate NHLer.

Nick Seguin

F1: Bertuzzi-Larkin-Mantha

F2: Athanasiou-Filppula-Helm

F3: de la Rose-Nielsen-Svechnikov/Zadina

F4: Abdelkader-Glendening-Rasmussen/Hirose


D1: DeKeyser-Hronek

D2: Green-Nemeth

D3: Daley-Ericsson/Bowey/Cholowski

There’s going to be a lot of turnover on the Red Wings roster this year. While most of the roster is set in stone, there are a few spots that I anticipate being like a revolving door, allowing young players to come in for short stints and start to acclimatize themselves in the NHL. The core players, those regular full-time NHLers who will play most of the 82 game season, make up about 10 of the 12 forward spots and 5 of the 6 defense spots.

The way I see it, Svechnikov, Zadina, Rasmussen, and Hirose will be battling it out for the 3rd and 4th line wing positions. While all four of these players could play in the NHL, Zadina clearly has some more developing to do. He tries to do a little too much all by himself out there and still has to work on his gap management, as he’s often smothered by the opposition. Rasmussen played a full season last year in the NHL, but he seemed a step behind everyone. He’s still growing into his big frame and I think starting the season with the Griffins could be good for him. From what little of the preseason I’ve seen, Svechnikov has looked like a man possessed. He’s been the fastest player out there and very aggressive on the forecheck. Finally, I’ve watched Hirose all offseason and he just seems to be a step ahead of the rest of the prospects. He’s NHL-ready, in my opinion, but what makes it hard for him is his NHL potential is bottom-6 talent and the Red Wings have a lot of that. In any case, I think these four players will rotate in and out of the lineup throughout the year as injuries come up.

As for the D-corps, Cholowski has had an excellent preseason and it’s going to be hard for Yzerman and Blashill to send him down, but I just don’t see who they sit in favor of him. With the addition of Nemeth in free agency, Yzerman has created a huge bottleneck on the blue-line and it’s clear he’s expecting some injuries. Ericsson, Daley, and Green will all likely spend time on the injured reserve, which will give players like Cholowski and Bowey the opportunity to step in.