At some point during the last year, Simon Edvinsson grew. That is, he grew more. He went from tall to towering. Edvinsson was listed at 6'4 when the Red Wings drafted him sixth overall last July, already an imposing figure on skates. When he took the ice for the first time in Detroit Thursday morning for the final day of Red Wings development camp -- his arrival had been delayed by Visa issues in Sweden -- Edvinsson was listed at 6'6.
Which would give him two inches on reigning Rookie of the Year Moritz Seider, his future blueline partner in Detroit. How's that sound for opposing forwards?
“You have seen him,” said Edvinsson’s teammate in the Swedish Hockey League and fellow Red Wings prospect Theodor Niederbach. “He has the size, the skill and the speed, so he can play O-zone, D-zone, anywhere. I would say he’s almost a complete defenseman.”
There’s no such thing as a complete defenseman at the age of 19. But Edvinsson, who doesn’t turn 20 until next February, is about as close as it gets. One of the top prospects in hockey, he strengthened his game playing against men for two seasons in Sweden and now he has his sights set on Detroit. When the Red Wings start the season Oct. 14 against the Canadians at Little Caesars Arena, Edvinsson intends to be there.
“To take a roster place, to be in the lineup of the first game, that’s the main goal,” Edvinsson said.
It’s not a given, just as it wasn’t last year for Seider. And Edvinsson’s challenge is, well, taller, after the Wings signed a pair of top-four left-shot defensemen Wednesday in Ben Chiarot and Olli Maatta. That leaves Edvinsson, who has no North American experience, to battle Jake Walman and Jordan Oesterle for the final left-side spot on Detroit’s blueline. If he doesn’t outplay both of them in training camp and the preseason, his season will start Oct. 14 in Grand Rapids.
Which would be just fine for his development. Grand Rapids is where Seider spent his first season in North America, too. Indeed, the experience he gained there in 2019-20 is a big reason he adjusted so smoothly to the NHL last season. Who knows if he makes the Wings’ opening night roster without it.
But that’s the thing. Seider leapt from the SHL to the NHL without a hitch. So did Lucas Raymond, Edvinsson’s former teammate with Frolunda, and he did so without ever testing the AHL waters. Naturally, Edvinsson said he wants to “make the same journey as they did.”
“You need to have those expectations that you’re going to take a place on the roster, and to want to do that,” he said. “The SHL is a hard league, there’s a lot of good players and hard games, so it’s a good run-up for the NHL. Watching Lucas and Moritz do that, it gives you more confidence to really do this right here now.”
Seider was named SHL Rookie of the Year the season before he came to Detroit. Edvinsson finished third for the award last season. If there was one minor knock on his game the year he was drafted, it was his judgment on the defensive side of the puck; Edvinsson is always raring to get up the ice. Turns out his growth last year wasn’t just physical.
“At the start of the season (my focus) was just defense,” he said. “I had a great mentor that helped me a lot with defensive work, how to think in all those situations and build muscle to be able to compete against those guys. Then the longer the season went, the more offensive plays I started to make and developed my game.”
His growth didn't go unnoticed by one of Steve Yzerman's most trusted set of eyes, Nicklas Lidstrom. Hired early this year as the Red Wings VP of Hockey Operations, Lidstrom watched Edvinsson closely last season and praised him for "taking big strides to become more comfortable playing against men."
"His ice time has increased, he can skate the puck up the ice all by himself, he plays a lot harder in his own zone. So I’ve seen improvement from him in one year," Lidstrom said in January. "I’ve seen some big steps just from one year to another."
Edvinsson’s size and skating ability will give him a shot to win a job with the Wings out of training camp. So will his offensive instincts. And he’s hoping to get a headstart by staying in Detroit for the next three weeks to train and skate with the organization's other top prospects and then by playing for Team Sweden in the (delayed) World Junior Championships next month. The idea is to hit the ice in stride in Traverse City.
Asked what he needs to show to make the team, Edvinsson said, “I’m a two-way defenseman, so I want to show everything I got. I’m not going to hold back.”
As he aims to follow the path of Seider in his first NHL season, Edvinsson is following the advice of Raymond as he prepares for his first NHL training camp.
“Lucas said, ‘Just be confident in what you do. You’ve played in the SHL and been good there, so just take that with you to Detroit.’ And that’s the plan for me,” said Edvinsson. “Do everything I’ve been doing and even better.”