College hockey’s leading scorer has officially signed a pro contract. After leading the nation in points and assists, Michigan State’s Taro Hirose will sign with the Detroit Red Wings and skip out on his senior season.
I personally thought he would sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He attended their development camp last year. Furthermore, he is the type of player that GM Kyle Dubas would have loved to have as a cheap depth piece with high upside. Hirose has been at his best when he’s with linemates who can score. The Maple Leafs and their AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, have plenty of such players. Unlike the Red Wings, the Leafs are contenders for the Stanley Cup. The opportunity to play for a contender right out of the gates had to be enticing.
With the Red Wings, however, he should get the chance to immediately show what he’s got on the big club. The Leafs have pretty much got their roster set as they push for playoff position. The Red Wings are essentially eliminated.
But the Red Wings are indeed the destination for one of the front-runners for the Hobey Baker award. What role will he fill with the Red Wings?
The Great Rebuild
Detroit has tons of young talent in the system. They’ve been compiling assets and young talent through a rebuild that has gone well for the most part. Forwards like Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou need to break out as they prepare to enter their prime years. Centerman Dylan Larkin looks to be the future face of the franchise, if he isn’t already. Evgeny Svechnikov has spent the year rehabbing a knee injury, but he’s ready for The Show.
All this doesn’t even mention last year’s sixth-overall pick Filip Zadina. The young Czech forward got a solid look with the Wings and looks every bit like he belongs in the NHL. It won’t even be a question whether or not he makes the team out of camp next year, he will.
The other first rounder from last season is Joe Veleno. Veleno was granted ‘exceptional’ status by the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. If you don’t know exactly what that means, here’s a list of the other players who have been granted exceptional status: John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad, Connor McDavid and Sean Day. That’s very good company to be in. Veleno is gonna be a stud.
If everything goes right, the Red Wings could potentially look very dangerous up front.
Where Hirose Fits In
I imagine Hirose will get a look with both the Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL affiliate) and the Red Wings before the season is over. He’s an elite playmaker and passer which is something the other forwards in the organization could thrive on.
Had the Red Wings moved Tomas Vanek at the trade deadline, there would easily be a spot open on the left wing for Hirose to potentially occupy. Christoffer Ehn is the guy Hirose could slot in for. Ehn is the fourth-line left winger for the Red Wings and has only seven points in 47 games. If I’m the Red Wings, I would prefer not to play Hirose on the fourth line.
Last night’s fourth line for the Wings was Jacob De La Rose slotting in between Christoffer Ehn and former first rounder Michael Rasmussen. I’d like to see what Hirose can do with Rasmussen. If Hirose can spark some offense with Rasmussen, it would go a long way toward proving he can be part of the long-term plan for the Red Wings.
The Red Wings have loved having local products feature on the team when the situation was right. Though Hirose is from Calgary, he did play for MSU. Danny DeKeyser (Western Michigan), Dylan Larkin (Michigan), Luke Glendening (Michigan) and Justin Abdelkader (Michigan State) all played their college hockey in Michigan. Taro Hirose could be the next in a long line of guys that have been successful for the Red Wings after playing their college hockey in the Mitten.