Although seen throughout the summer as trade-bait, Valtteri Filppula is likely to stay on with the Detroit Red Wings this season. It is a good thing, too, as Filppula had an excellent 2011-2012 season playing on the wing with Henrik Zetterberg, scoring 23 goals and racking up 66 points, both personal bests in his NHL career. Both the Red Wings and their fans hope that Filppula continues his success and we can expect that he will.
The Finnish left-hander has played his entire career at center. He has been known for his solid defensive ability, good passing and being a reliable third-line player. Last year he played on the second line and, on Zetterberg’s wing, he became a true scoring threat without losing his strong two-way play. With either newcomer Damien Brunner from Switzerland or ex-Red Wing Mikael Samuelsson playing on Zetterberg’s other side, Filppula’s value on the ice only increases.
Both Europeans, Brunner and Samuelsson, are shoot-first players. Even though the Wings staff has been pressing Filppula to shoot more, old habits die hard and he still has his head up looking for an open player when around the net. These shoot-first players will hopefully add more assists to the talented Finn’s total while his success last season will likely boost his confidence to shoot when needed. In summary, Filppula’s new line mates only make him more of an offensive threat every time he’s on the ice.
The fact that this is a contract year for Filppula should add on the extra pressure to perform, giving him a raise that he definitely deserves. The Wings are looking for Filppula to start taking on more responsibilities that previously were almost solely occupied by Zetterberg or Pavel Datsyuk. So long as Filppula continues his progression this season, we will begin to see a possible late-blooming superstar rise up the ranks of NHL forwards.