Now Hronek is on Detroit's top defense pair, averaging the most ice time of any Wing and facing other teams' best players on a nightly basis.
Hronek, who just turned 22 Nov. 2, is fourth on the team in points with eight (3-5-8) and first among Wings defensemen.
"First, it's a testament to him that when he got sent down, he didn't pout, he went and got better," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "I think that's why our guys spend time in the minors, to get better so that when they are up here, they can flourish. You want to see young guys flourishing and getting better, seeing them get better in front of your eyes and not struggling. When he came back up here, he was in position to do that.
"He's been thrust into probably too much ice time because of the injury to DK (Danny DeKeyser), we don't have lots of guys that are ahead of him. So he's got to bite off tons of minutes and hard minutes but he's doing a good job with it. Would I like to have him maybe backed off a little bit? Yeah, probably at his age. But he's also pretty mentally tough. I don't think the last few games have been quite as good as they were before but I thought last night he kind of answered the bell back a little bit. He's out there against one of the best lines in the league. I think he's got a good skill set, he's really competitive and he's mentally tough. Those are good attributes."
In the 4-2 victory over the Boston Bruins, Hronek not only held his own against the line of Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak, he even took on the ultra pest Marchand in a fight.
"I was surprised he dropped (his gloves)," Hronek said. "I don't know. I just looked at him and he dropped it. If he tries to hit me, why shouldn't I respond?"
It was Hronek's first NHL fight after having just one in the AHL.
"It's great," center Dylan Larkin said. "I think it was clear that that line was frustrated and Fil and Nemo (Patrik Nemeth) were going against them all night and didn't give them much. That's the way he has to play and he's willing to play like that. I think it's great to see as a young player coming into our lineup and make an impact in all facets of the game. He battles every night and he makes smart plays with the puck. To see him set the tone for the future against Marchand and that line and not backing down, hopefully every time we play those guys we get them off their game. It helps our team."
Defenseman Dylan McIlrath, who played with Hronek in Grand Rapids, enjoys seeing the young defenseman bring that abrasiveness with him to the NHL.
"The star players hate him, which is a good quality to have," McIlrath said. "If (you) can get a matchup, him and Marchand going at it, that's great. Obviously, we want him on the ice because he's an amazing player but he has a knack for getting under people's skin and that can help him out in the future."
Of course, a big part of Marchand's game is getting under opponents' skin and trying to get them to take a penalty.
He and Hronek kept the "conversation" going all throughout the game, but Hronek never took Marchand's bait.
"He's chippy," McIlrath said. "When he's hard on star players, they don't like that and they want to retaliate. If that can get us on the power play, that huge. Obviously, you got to tote the line because if he's taking bad penalties, that's not good but I think he's learned throughout his young career to manage it well."
Hronek is happy to be with the Wings and playing as much as he is, averaging 22:33 per game.
"It's nice having coaches' trust and I can play a lot. It's helped me with confidence," Hronek said. "I just keep playing and trying to get better and trying to get the trust."
LARKIN HAD ENOUGH: It's easy to see how much of a competitor Larkin is by the anguish on his face after a loss.
Larkin has always had the reputation of running with a high motor, but it's his gritty determination and his revulsion to losing that have made him the player he is today.
On Friday, the Bruins scored early in the first period and there was a collective sigh of disappointment from the home crowd.
With the Red Wings mired in a horrible slump, you couldn't blame the crowd for having a 'here we go ago feeling,' but that's when Larkin decided he had had enough.
The speedster from Waterford made an end-to-end rush and scored a goal on a wraparound play where the puck went into the net off a Bruins skate.
The fans and the Wings bench erupted.
One determined play by Larkin switched the momentum and the outcome of the game.
"I did have a good feeling when I picked up that puck. Right when I got it, I felt like I was going to make something happen," Larkin said. "I thought I could have a burst of speed and could've got around and cut to the net but I decided to go around and just throw it. I was trying to get it to Mo (Anthony Mantha) but I think it was a big play for us to get back into the game.
"It's an emotional game. There's so many emotions that go on during a hockey game. Sometimes you need to control it and channel it to something positive, and sometimes you let yourself get a little (ticked) off and sometimes that works for your game. Everyone's different but I go through a lot of emotions in a game. Absolutely."
On his game-tying goal, Larking wasn't ticked off.
"I was more driven. I just wanted to get the puck and put it in the net," he said. It was such a big play for the Wings, Blashill called it a "huge, huge thing" in his post-game press conference.
Teammate Tyler Bertuzzi was a little more succinct, saying, "That's what Dyl does, he skates and he makes plays."
But it was Larkin being Larkin, putting the team on his back and leading the Red Wings to victory, a win Detroit needed badly.
"It's huge (the win). Just to get that, the way we played, too is the way we need to play. It was an emotionally high victory," Larkin said. "We need to channel that into tomorrow night (Sunday versus Vegas), and tomorrow night is a new game. We're not going to just because we won the last game, it doesn't mean anything's (taken) for granted tomorrow night, so we're going to have to come out with the same intensity and the same energy we did (against Boston) last night." It may be just one game, but it did prove one thing - an emotionally charged Larkin is a good thing.
EHN BACK IN: The trade of Jacob de la Rose was a double-edged sword for Christoffer Ehn.
Ehn, 23, had been a healthy scratch seven times this season but with de la Rose now in St. Louis, it opened the door for Ehn to return to the lineup.
"I mean, it's not fun to see Jacob go, of course," Ehn said of his fellow Swede. "Probably my best and closest friend on the team. It always comes as a bit of a shock but it's part of the business. I'm just hoping that everything turns out good for him in St. Louis and that they have a good year. We just gotta keep doing what we've been trying to do all along these losses, too. It was nice to get a win yesterday. That for sure helps."
Ehn said even when he wasn't playing, he tried to maintain the same work ethic as when he was.
"I just try to work hard in practice and try to earn my games or minutes by working hard and doing the right things," Ehn said. "You just gotta keep, even if you're not playing, you gotta keep believing in yourself, keep working hard and be a good teammate and help out all the guys. We're really trying to win games here and everybody has to contribute in different ways. Just in every way I can, try to battle and play as hard as I can."
Ehn, who has not recorded a point in the 11 games he's played, has always been a defense-first type of player, which is what the Wings will need him to continue to be.
"Obviously when you trade Jacob de la Rose, you're trading a good, solid fourth-line centerman who can kill penalties," Blashill said. "One of the reasons that we felt that we could make that move was we felt Christoffer Ehn, had been in and out of the lineup, but can provide a lot of the same stuff. I think Christoffer Ehn isn't the same player but has a lot of the same attributes. He's a little faster than Jacob, not quite as big. Jacob shoots a little bit better. But in the end, offensively they kind of have produced the same.
"He just needs to be a really good penalty killer, needs to win face-offs, needs to be somebody that can go out there and check when we want them to check against the other teams' best. I've used that line at times as a secondary match. I use Larkin's line a lot, but then if I want to get Larkin's line out there more in different situations and I come back with that line. So he's gotta defend great, forecheck hard, be real good on the penalty kill and be real good on face-offs."
DEKEYSER UPDATE: While center Luke Glendening (hand) is skating with the team in limited fashion, defenseman Danny DeKeyser has been mostly out of sight.
DeKeyser has been out the last nine games with a lower-body injury. He last played Oct. 22 in Vancouver.
"I can't remember what the original timeframe was but it's the same kind of timeframe," Blashill said. "So he skated a little bit on his own and I don't expect him to be back anytime soon."