In fact, after three retirements left open roster spots, the 23-year old Mursak had a great chance to make the team out of training camp. Now he'll be out at least two months and maybe longer, according to Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, after leaving a preseason game on Sunday night at Joe Louis Arena with a non-displaced fracture in his left ankle.
The injury occurred late in the second period after a check by Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Dylan Olsen sent Mursak flying into the end boards at full speed -- twisting his left leg awkwardly. Mursak, who was on a rush to the net when hit, needed assistance leaving the ice.
Jan Mursak's chance to make the Wings' opening roster was shelved when the 23-year-old suffered a non-displace fracture in his left ankle on Sunday against the Blackhawks. (Photo: Getty Images)
"It's a real blow to him," Babcock said following Detroit's 4-3 shootout win. "You're always talking about who's going to make the team and who's not going to make the team and every year it's the same thing, usually way more guys make the team than you ever think because you end up with so many injuries. It's unfortunate for him. Guy had a real good chance to make our club and now he's got to start behind the eight-ball."
As to how much time Mursak could miss, Babcock didn't paint a pretty picture for the speedy young Slovenian forward.
"Two months for sure, I would think," Babcock said. "It's tough when you're a kid. It's tough missing the start. It's hard to catch up."
Mursak, a sixth-round pick (No. 182) in the 2006 Entry Draft, was excited to finally be in position to play in the NHL full time. He spent three-plus seasons with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League and made his Red Wings debut last season -- playing 19 games and scoring a goal.
"I know I am ready," Mursak told NHL.com on Sunday morning. "I played pretty well last year when I got called up. I know at the beginning it was a little bit different just to get used to it. Once I got used to it, I think I played well. I think they know that, too. There's a lot of good players here, some good free agents that are trying for the team, so hopefully I can make the team."
Those free agents include Fabian Brunnstrom, Ryan Johnson and Chris Conner.
Brunnstrom and Johnson are in camp with the Wings on tryout offers, while Conner was signed to a one-year, two-way contract this offseason. Conner and Brunnstrom played on Sunday but Johnson didn't. Brunnstrom played on a line with 22-year old playmaking prospect Gustav Nyquist and 23-year old Cory Emmerton, and the trio impressed Babcock.
"I thought they really had a good end to the game," he said. "They really got skating and got jumping. Those guys are all battling for jobs, so that's a good thing."