The Detroit Red Wings will make the move to the Eastern Conference next season, and will face a different group of opponents than they are used to. The Eastern Conference has a reputation for tough, physical hockey and that could pose problems for a mainly finesse team like the Red Wings (although it hasn’t in the past). One of the things the Red Wings will be helped by is the size of their defensemen and a handful of their forwards. One player who could be incredibly important to the team for the 2013-14 campaign is Justin Abdelkader, a forward who plays a physical game but can also score goals.
In the shortened 2013 season, Abdelakder scored a career-high 10 goals and had 13 points. In September of 2012, the Red Wings put a huge vote of confidence in him with a four-year, $7.2 million deal and he came through with one of the best seasons of his professional career. Abdelkader has a great chance to build on last season’s success, as he could be placed on the top line with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. The additions of free agents Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson – both of whom are projected to be on the team’s second line – makes that possible and could lead to another career year for Abdelkader.
Only four Red Wings were able to play in all 48 games last season, and of those four only Abdelakder and Niklas Kronwall are guaranteed roster spots heading into next season. After a successful career at Michigan State University and steady production at the AHL level, he has shown he can now be a regular contributor in Detroit. If he can chip in 10-15 goals next season, he’s more than worth what the Red Wings are paying him.