Teammates heard the hype surrounding Moritz Seider for a couple of years. Some played with him at training camp in 2019, a few alongside him in Grand Rapids. Many saw highlights of his stellar season in Sweden.
The Detroit Red Wings expected big things from the big defenseman. Then Seider joined them in 2021-22 and exceeded those expectations.
Seider is the favorite to win the Calder Trophy as NHL’s rookie of the year Tuesday when the league reveals its major individual award winners in Tampa Bay, between Games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Lightning and Avalanche (7 p.m., ESPN).
Teammates can say, without bias, that he has earned it.
“It was special to watch,” Robby Fabbri said. “It’s not every day you see a defenseman like that come in and have the impact on each and every game — in the D-zone, in the offensive zone — that he had and just getting better and better as the year went on.”
Seider and forwards Michael Bunting (Toronto) and Trevor Zegras (Anaheim) are the Calder finalists. Six Red Wings have been runner-up for this award since 1966 – Bert Marshall, Mike Foligno, Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Nicklas Lidstrom and Jimmy Howard. No Red Wing has won it since goaltender Roger Crozier in 1965.
The 6-4 Seider was solid defensively on a team that struggled in its own zone, particularly the final two months when the season went south. Matched up against opponents’ top lines and best players throughout the season, Seider moved the puck quickly and efficiently and played with a physical edge.
He appeared in all 82 games and led the Red Wings and all rookies in average ice time (23:09).
The No. 6 pick in 2019 provided more offense than the Red Wings anticipated. He led the team and all rookies with 43 assists and finished fourth among rookies in points (50). He manned the point on the top power-play unit and led all rookies with 21 power-play points.
“I think Mo earned a ton of respect around the league, not only from his teammates but from opponents,” Sam Gagner said. “Just the way he played, the way he carried himself. You look back to the first game of the year against Tampa and he was already kind of commanding that respect, not afraid of the moment. He just continued to grow. It’s a long year when you haven’t played in the NHL before. There’s a lot of ups and downs. Specifically with our season, with the struggles we
went through in the second half, it makes it feel even longer, and Mo just kept playing, kept improving. He really did it all for us.
“From an off-ice perspective, he’s already become a leader for us. He understands the leadership aspect and isn’t afraid to be himself. I think the sky’s the limit for him.”
Lucas Raymond, who also had a strong rookie season but didn’t finish in the top three in Calder balloting, said it’s a lot of fun being on the ice with Seider.
“I think it’s fascinating how he’s so big and so strong but still so mobile on his skates,” Raymond said. “I think those are the toughest D to play against. And he has a good shot and great vision.”
Alex Nedeljkovic said Seider has a chance to be an elite defenseman.
“Every night he was in the spotlight. Every night he was being talked about,” Nedeljkovic said. “And he showed up every single night and did something special. If he didn’t score, he was solid defensively. He was taking away scoring chances and was tying guys up, or he was being physical.
“Hopefully, he keeps getting bigger and stronger and keeps being that presence on the blueline that we need. Everybody needs a solid No. 1 guy on that blueline and obviously he showed he was that guy this year and I think he can be that guy for a long time. It’s exciting to see the potential there.”
Nedeljkovic likes Seider’s demeanor.
“It’s a game to him and that’s great. That’s what it needs to be,” Nedeljkovic said. “We’re playing a game and he looks at it that way and he loves it. He’s very vocal in the room, he’s vocal on the ice. In practices he’s having a good time, he’s goofing around. He’s an easy-going guy and it’s easy to get along with him. You need that kind of energy. Throughout an 82-game season you need to have a lot of positivity.”
Marc Staal, drafted 12th overall by the Rangers in 2005, knows the challenges a young defenseman faces his second season.
“The more you play against someone the more you learn about their tendencies, what they like to do, where they like to go,” Staal said. “He’ll have to deal with that a bit more and he’s going to have a lot more attention on him from opposing teams and opposing forwards. I think he has the mental makeup and physical gifts to be able to deal with that in an outstanding way. I look forward to keep on watching him improve and dominating like he has been.”
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