Chopping Block: Final Roster Spot On the Line
It’s been a battle that has been seven years in the making for Cory Emmerton and Jan Mursak. With Todd Bertuzzi (Mono) and Darren helm (back) out, the pair of 2006 Red Wings draft picks will both get a chance to play in tonight’s season opener against the St. Louis Blues. After that it is unclear which player will earn the final spot on the Wings 23-man roster or when the decision will be made.
Detroit was expecting to open the season with Patrick Eaves on injury reserve for a concussion dating back to last season. With the 28 year-old forward being cleared to play on Friday, the Wings brass will face a tough call on the final roster spot once Helm and Bertuzzi are both helathy. The choice will likely be a decision between Mursak and Emmerton.
Cory Emmerton, who is coming off a broken finger suffered while playing in Finland during the lockout, may have the inside edge on the spot having played nearly a full season with the Red Wings last season including five playoff games. Over all the 24 year-old has played 73 NHL regular season games notching 7 goals and 11 points. Emmerton’s hockey sense, play making ability and two-way play have long been touted by Detroit scouts. At one point he was believed to have top two line potential, but in his short stint with Detroit he has mostly centered the fourth line. The 6-foot, 191 pound center has battled inconsistency throughout his hockey career and has never put up the type of numbers he produced during his draft year which included 29 goals and 66 points while playing for Kingston of the OHL. In his three seasons with Grand Rapids, Emmerton plateaued at just under 40 points each season despite seeing plenty of ice time.
Jan Mursak is coming off an ankle injury that saw him miss most of the 2011-2012 NHL season. The 24 year-old forward had the inside track to full time NHL roster spot last year after playing well in call-up duty the previous season but the skill left wing suffered a fractured ankle in a preseason game against the Chicago Black Hawks. The injury limited him to just 25 games with the Wings last year. The Slovenian born winger is one of Detroit’s fastest skaters and has used his speed mostly in an energy role playing on the third and fourth lines playing in 44 NHL games the past two seasons. The 5-foot-11, 190 pound forward has plenty of untapped upside with his stick handling and play making skills. Mursak, who has always been streaky, hasn’t been able to find his scoring ability at the NHL level picking up just two goals and four points over the last two season.
Detroit has invested a lot into both players over the last seven years, but a decision will be based on who is a better long-term fit for the Wings. If a trade can’t be negotiated, then either Mursak or Emmerton will likely end up on waivers in order to be sent to Grand Rapids. With a limited training camp and no exhibition season, both players have a lot riding on these first few weeks of the shortened season. The NHL is back and so are the roster battles.