Blashill Most Impressed By One Red Wings Youngster In 2019-20


It's hard to find any positives in a season in which the Red Wings finished last in the NHL, a whopping 23 points behind the next-worst team. That doesn't mean none exist. 

Take Dylan Larkin, who shook off a difficult first half to cement himself as Detroit's next captain

Take Tyler Bertuzzi, who found another level in his game to earn a trip to the All-Star Game. 

Take Filip Zadina, who proved in his second NHL stint that he's ready for what comes next.

It's fitting that we're talking about the team's young players. The 2019-20 season was always going to be about the development of the core. And to Jeff Blashill, there's one guy who stood out from start to finish. 

"I think without a doubt Fil Hronek had a real good season, and he’s one of the younger guys or newest guys on the team," Blashill told the Jamie and Stoney Show. "I thought he had a real good season overall. He got forced into a lot of minutes and did a really good job for most of the season of handling those minutes."

Hronek, 22, had a big opportunity to start with, after flourishing at the end of 2018-19 and in the World Championships that summer. Then Danny DeKeyser went down with a back injury in October. Hronek saw his ice time jump by nearly two minutes per game the rest of the way, finishing with a team-high 23:54. 

More importantly, he proved up to the challenge. His 31 points ranked fourth on the team, and ninth among NHL defensemen drafted since 2016. That's what the Wings were hoping for out of their first-round pick that year, Dennis Cholowski. Hronek, taken one round later, has become the more promising player. 

No, he's not a finished product. It's impossible not to notice he finished minus-38 this season, the third worst mark in the NHL. But Hronek's advanced metrics were strong relative to the rest of the team, and he showed an edge to his game that Blashill and the Red Wings like. 

"There’s things he needs to get better at, and he knows that," Blashill said. "But he showed he’s highly competitive. He’s a good NHL defenseman that if he gets better and better can work toward becoming a really good NHL defenseman. I thought he was one guy that showed lots of progress."

Blashill also commended Zadina, who took big strides in his second taste of the NHL. The Red Wings called him up from Grand Rapids in November after losing Anthony Mantha to injury, and Zadina put up eight goals and 15 points in 28 games. 

He was a quicker, more decisive player than the one who looked out of place in 2018-19. 

"He had a fine start in the American League, not a great start. But out of necessity we ended up pulling him up and he did a pretty good job," Blashill said. "I thought he showed more confidence, more swagger than he had when he was up previously, so I thought that was a step in the right direction as well." 

It was arguably the most important development in the second half of the season for the Wings, who have high hopes for the sharpshooter they drafted sixth overall in 2018. 

The lesson?