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Red Wings Reset: 2021-22 defensemen breakdown

Detroit enters training camp with veteran, experienced group along blueline

by Brett McWethy @DetroitRedWings / DetroitRedWings.com

DETROIT -- When considering the club's draft strategy the past few seasons, it may appear that a youth movement is alive and well along the blueline for the Detroit Red Wings. Dig a little deeper, and you'll find a seasoned position group with a wealth of NHL experience.

Since becoming the Red Wings' Executive Vice President and General Manager prior to the 2019-20 season, Steve Yzerman has had defensive depth on his mind. Yzerman and his amateur scouting staff have selected 13 defensemen, including a combined six blueliners in the first and second rounds of the NHL Entry Draft.

The prevailing thought in Hockeytown is that Moritz Seider, selected with the sixth overall pick in 2019, is next in line and will plug in on defense for the 2021-22 season. While he figures to have every chance to make the Opening Night roster, Seider will undoubtedly need to earn his spot with a solid performance and a standout compete level in Training Camp.

However next season shakes out for Seider and Detroit's other young defensemen, they'll have a chance to learn from some accomplished veterans. The Red Wings currently have seven blueliners on their active roster, encompassing 51 seasons of NHL experience and 2,990 games played.

Leading the group is 23-year-old defenseman Filip Hronek, who played in all 56 games last season and paced the club in scoring with 26 points among 24 assists and two goals. Hronek has been a mainstay on Detroit's back end the past three seasons, skating in 167 games since making his debut in the 2018-19 campaign. He also led Detroit in ice time last season at an average of more than 23 minutes per game (23:13).

Video: CBJ@DET: Hronek sends puck down ice into empty net

Veteran Marc Staal also appeared in all 56 contests during the 2020-21 shortened season, his first in Detroit. Staal chipped in offensively with three goals and seven assists, passing 150 helpers for his career. He signed a one-year extension with the Red Wings in late July, and enters the 2021-22 season within quick striking distance of 200 career points (198) and 1,000 games played (948).

Staal, who spent 13 years with the New York Rangers before being traded to Detroit prior to the 2020-21 campaign, was appreciative of the opportunity to return to Hockeytown for a second season.

"I liked their attitude; I liked the organization. It's just a first-class organization," Staal said after signing his new contract. "The facility is beautiful, the fans, the hockey market; just a lot of great things about playing for the Red Wings and I learned that pretty quickly last year. I had an opportunity to sign up for it again and it didn't take me too long to make the decision, so I'm excited to be back."

Video: DET@TBL: Staal powers a wrist shot through traffic

Troy Stecher also heads into his second season with Detroit after signing as a free agent last October. The 27-year-old British Columbia native skated in 44 games in his fifth NHL season, totaling 11 points among three goals and eight assists. Stecher logged 17:19 of ice time per game, and provides another steadying presence along the blueline. In each of his four full seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, he played an average of nearly 72 games, and eclipsed 20 points in both the 2016-17 and 2018-19 campaigns.

Detroit's current injection of youth on the back end comes in the form of Gustav Lindstrom, who has played a total of 29 games the past two seasons. The Red Wings selected Lindstrom with the 38th overall pick in the second round of the 2017 NHL Draft. Lindstrom chipped in with three assists in 16:07 of average ice time last season, and will look to take another step in his development heading into the upcoming campaign.

Another veteran defenseman making his way to Detroit is Nick Leddy, whom the Red Wings acquired via trade with the New York Islanders in July. Leddy spent the last seven seasons with the Isles, compiling 45 goals and 198 assists in 518 games and helping lead his club to the playoffs five times. The 6-foot, 207-pound blueliner led Islanders defensemen with 31 points last season, and he's been incredibly durable throughout his career.

Video: Red Wings defenseman Nick Leddy speaks with the media

Leddy is eager to help bring a winning environment to Detroit, and to take on a leadership role with the Red Wings' young, developing roster.

"I've been fortunate enough to be with some winning cultures and I really want to bring that to the Red Wings," Leddy said during his introductory press conference. "Their history speaks for itself with all the Cups. At the end of the day, winning is everything and I'm just excited for the opportunity.

"I'm just here to do my best every day. Whether it's teaching younger guys or learning from them. Taking younger guys under my wing is something I've always tried to do. And for me, leading on the ice by example is what I've always been about."

Another new face in Hockeytown, acquired during the free-agency period, is Dearborn Heights, Mich., native Jordan Oesterle. The defenseman earned a full-time role the last three years in Arizona, compiling 44 points (10-34-44) in 172 games, including 11 points in 43 games last season. He is two years removed from his most productive NHL campaign, in which he posted 20 points (6-14-20) in 71 games with Arizona in 2018-19.

Oesterle, who played alongside fellow blueliner Danny DeKeyser in college at Western Michigan, grew up as a Red Wings fan and is thrilled to be back in Detroit.

"It's a place where I can come back home," Oesterle said. "It's obviously something I've dreamed about since I was a little kid, having season tickets to Joe Louis (Arena). I have a lot of fond memories going to those games. I can't be more excited and happier to be coming back and playing for this organization."

DeKeyser has spent his entire career in Detroit, skating in 488 games and tallying 135 points among 33 goals and 102 assists. After being limited to just eight games in 2019-20 and undergoing back surgery, DeKeyser bounced back last season by skating in 47 contests while chipping in with four goals and eight assists. The 31-year-old Detroit native will look to come back stronger and even healthier in 2021-22, and regain his form as one of the Red Wings' top defensemen.

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