The Wings selected star prospect Lucas Raymond with the fourth overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, they added several veteran free agents and named Dylan Larkin the 37th captain in franchise history.
But one of the most underrated storylines of the offseason was the continued development of Detroit's young Fil's, Filip Hronek and Filip Zadina.
Last August, Hronek and Zadina were both loaned to clubs in the Czech Extraliga in their native Czech Republic to get playing time while hockey in North America was shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hronek earned 23 points in 22 games for Mountfield HK while on loan, and Red Wings assistant general manager Ryan Martin said the defenseman benefited greatly from the extra game action.
"He's been one of the players that has taken full advantage of an assignment to Europe," Martin said before the season. "It's been great for him to continue along that development path. One of the positives (that came from the pause in March), was the extended offseason for these players, the ability to train more and get into the gym. Filip's one of the guys that took advantage of that."
Hronek was selected by the Red Wings with the 53rd overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, and he made his NHL debut on Opening Night in 2018. He played 46 games his rookie season, earning 23 points on five goals and 18 assists, and earned a full-time role last season, playing all but six of Detroit's games, earning 31 points.
At just 22 years old, Hronek led Red Wings skaters in ice time last season and played in all situations.
Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said after Hronek's summer in Europe, the defenseman looked even better and hungrier coming into training camp this season.
"Fil is a tremendous competitor. He's a good hockey player, does a lot of things good," Blashill said during camp. "He's been really, really good, he's really competed hard. He looks like he's on top of his game."
Blashill has been right about Hronek's immense improvement through 18 games this season, as he's tied for the team lead in points (9), leads all skaters in average ice time by more than three minutes (23:59) and leads the club in power-play assists (3). Hronek has also been durable as one of only six Red Wings to play in every game this season.
Blashill said Hronek is a student of the game and is the type of player you have to drag off the ice.
"He's going to try to fight to be on the ice as much as he can," the Wings' coach said. "He's going to go out and play as well as possible, and he wants to play all night. That's the way he's wired, and you love that about him."
Like Hronek, Zadina was also loaned to the Czech Extraliga this past summer, where he earned 14 points on eight goals and six assists in 17 games for HC Ocelari Trinec.
Zadina was selected sixth overall in the 2018 NHL Draft and has shown flashes of brilliance in his sporadic time with the Red Wings. The 21-year-old had several highlight-reel goals last season and earned .53 points per game, which was good for fifth-most on the team.
"I want to be better all over the ice," Zadina said during training camp. "I've worked on probably everything I could this summer because it was a long summer. I've put on some muscle and put on some weight. I believe in the offensive zone and around the net, I'm stronger and I can find the pucks and create the chances for my teammates."
Video: DET@FLA: Zadina wires wrister past Bobrovsky
Blashill said a 10-month layoff without game action could've been detrimental to Zadina's development, especially at such a young age.
"I think it's helped him for certain," Blashill said about Zadina's summer in Europe. "He's a guy who has had a lot of growth. (He) missed some hockey last year but had a good year in terms of growth. If he would have been off for 10 months, like a lot of us were, I think that stunts some of that growth.
"I think he's learning how to compete on that puck on a consistent basis and when he does it, he's got the puck way more. So I think it was a good, valuable couple months to be able to play over there and I think it's helped him hit the ground running here."
Zadina did hit the ground running to start the 2020-21 campaign, earning two assists in the Red Wings' second game of the season and helping the Wings jump out to a 2-2-0 start. But Zadina's progress was halted as he was placed on the COVID-19 protocol list In January after just four games.
The forward missed seven games on the COVID-19 list, but after his busy summer, Zadina didn't let the setback slow him down. He picked up where he left off when he returned to the lineup on February 5, earning two points in his first three games back, impressing his teammates along the way.
Robby Fabbri has been a frequent linemate of Zadina this season, and Fabbri said the Czech's confidence is starting to blossom.
"Seeing him from last year to this year has been great. You can tell he's putting in the work, and it's paying off," Fabbri said. "He's got all the tools. When he's playing with confidence with the puck and he's patient with it, you notice it right away. Whether it was just what he's done in the summer or during the time off, (the hard work) is paying off."
The Red Wings haven't seen the results they've wanted as a team this season, but the club has played well despite the losses, and Hronek and Zadina have contributed to that team improvement. Hronek and Zadina lead the Wings back into action Friday night as they host the Florida Panthers for a back-to-back weekend series at Little Caesars Arena.