Detroit Red Wings 2013-14 Preview: Defensemen

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Detroit Red Wings 2013-14 Preview: Defensemen

Detroit Red Wings 2013-14 Preview: Defensemen
Gary A. Vasquez - USA TODAY Sports

The air in Traverse City, Mich. is thick with the anticipation of another Detroit Red Wings season. Training camp is underway there once again, and a combination of new arrivals, young prospects and grizzled veterans has come together to compete for spots on this year’s roster. There has been no shortage of compelling storylines so far, as veteran forward Dan Cleary’s sudden arrival has created a logjam at forward. As many as three players with considerable NHL experience may have to find work elsewhere before the season starts, and that should make this a very intense camp.

For all of the competition at the offensive positions, the Red Wings’ roster on defense is pretty much set and will be quite similar to the one that took the ice late last season. There have been no new additions, and Ian White and Carlo Colaiacovo have departed. Injuries were many and frequent among the team’s blueliners last season, and staying healthy is one of the biggest concerns for 2013-14. Seven defensemen will start the season, although that means one will be in the press box most nights.

The other thing training camp provides is a look at the future. Prospects like Adam Almquist, Max Nicastro and Gleason Fournier were part of an AHL Calder Cup championship last season, while junior standouts Ryan Sproul and Xavier Ouellet will make the jump to the professional ranks this season. Here’s a look at the seven defensemen who will patrol the blue line for the Wings this season - a recap of last season’s performance as well as expectations for the 2013-14 campaign.

Jonathan Katje is an NHL featured columnist for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter or add him to your circles on Google Plus.

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Niklas Kronwall

Niklas Kronwall
Jerome Miron - USA TODAY Sports

Niklas Kronwall isn’t just the best defenseman on the Detroit roster, he’s one of the best defenseman in the league. Last season he chipped in five goals and 29 points, and continued to be a threat on the power play. He sported a negative plus/minus rating for only the second time in his career last season, and will need to have a strong season to help lead a group of younger, less experienced teammates.

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Jonathan Ericsson

Jonathan Ericsson
Tim Fuller - USA TODAY Sports

Jonathan Ericsson is expected to join Kronwall on the top defense pairing, and will look to build on an impressive 2013 season. His three goals and 13 points were just a goal and two points off of his career high, and his plus-6 rating was sixth on the team.

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Danny DeKeyser

Dan DeKeyser
Sergei Belski - USA TODAY Sports

The Red Wings beat out several other teams to sign free agent college standout Danny DeKeyser, and early returns did not disappoint. DeKeyser earned high priase before being sidelined with a hand injury, but recovered in time to join the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins for the Calder Cup Finals. He won’t put up a ton of offense, but is responsible in his own end and should only get better over the course of a full season.

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Jakub Kindl

Jakub Kindl
Gary A. Vasquez - USA TODAY Sports

Jakub Kindl waited a long time for his shot at full-time duty, and he made the most of his opportunity last season. A career-high four goals and 13 points helped him earn a contract extension, and he’ll be looked to for even more this season.

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Brendan Smith

Brendan Smith
Sergei Belski - USA TODAY Sports

One player who needs to recover quickly from a poor showing in 2013 is Brendan Smith. The former top pick struggled during his rookie season, and was able to only chip in eight assists. He’s flashed offensive potential in college and the AHL, but has yet to match that at the highest level. If he can use last season as a learning experience, he could be poised for a breakout season.

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Kyle Quincey

Kyle Quincey
Rick Osentoski - USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Quincey’s second stint with the Wings hasn’t quite been what the team hoped for. Injuries continue to be a concern each season, and offensive output has declined. If he wants to stay in Detroit, Quincey will need to vastly improve on a 2013 season that saw him make many mistakes yet somehow still finish with a plus-7 rating.

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Brian Lashoff

Brian Lashoff
Jerome Miron - USA TODAY Sports

Brian Lashoff stepped up for the team last season when veterans went down injured, but the addition of DeKeyser left him in the press box most of the time. He rejoined the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins for the Calder Cup playoff run, and will need to continue to improve if he hopes to see a lot of ice time this season.

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