Red Wings defenceman Moritz Seider putting in 'pretty remarkable' rookie season

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Moritz Seider set a modest goal back in the fall.

"Making the team," said the Detroit Red Wings defenceman. "That was about it."

After quickly blowing past that mile marker, he turned to his next task — starting to repay the faith the organization showed in selecting him higher than most observers expected at the 2019 draft.

Seider has done that, and more, in 2021-22. He's also just getting started.

Playing a shutdown role against the opposition's best, logging big minutes in all situations, and providing a string of devastating hits has him sitting as the odds-on choice to win the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year.

Just don't mention the impending accolade.

"Nothing, to be honest," Moritz said this week when asked what the Calder would mean to him. "It's definitely an honour, but I don't even think about that."

"Unnecessary distraction," he explained. "It's not what I need right now.

"I want to enjoy the moment."

Picked sixth overall by Detroit in 2019 — a call that surprised many, namely the player — Seider has had plenty of those throughout his freshman campaign, including a solid six goals and 49 points while leading the team in ice time.

Standing six foot four and weighing 197 pounds, the blue-liner has faced elite talent on an almost daily basis playing in an Atlantic Division featuring the likes of Aleksander Barkov, Auston Matthews, Nikita Kucherov and Patrice Bergeron.

Seider, who turned 21 earlier this month, hasn't disappointed.

"Pretty remarkable, the season he's had," Detroit head coach Jeff Blashill said. "You're seeing the stars of the league most nights.

"He's a really good all-situations defenceman."

Blashill scouted Seider at the world championships prior to the draft and watched him grow in the American Hockey League in 2019-20 with Detroit's farm club before he was named the Swedish Hockey League's defenceman of the year last season.

"I had pretty high expectations," said Blashill, adding that those lofty heights have been exceeded. "Our management team did a really good job of bringing him up slowly.

"He was very ready to step in and be a good impact player."

One of the most surprising parts of Seider's rise has been defensive acumen after not playing big minutes against No. 1 lines in Europe.

"You mature, you grow as a person, and you put in the time in the summer to get better," he said. "It's still a very long way, but I think I've progressed.

"I'm feeling very comfortable."

Seider went head-to-head in four games this season against Matthews, who came away impressed.

"Big, really good poise with the puck," said the Maple Leafs' 60-goal man and 2017 Calder winner. "He just makes really good passes.

"Always a challenge."

And even though the German's aim for next season is to produce more offence, he's enjoyed the tough work.

"Making (the other team's best players) uncomfortable gives you a good feeling," said Seider, who would be just the 13th defenceman to win rookie of the year.

"Maybe you're not playing your best offensive game, but at least you're helping the team."

Blashill added decision-making has been Seider's biggest area of improvement from the start of the schedule to Friday's Game 82, when Detroit wraps up a sixth straight season without playoff hockey.

"He's gotten better at knowing when to try to make a play," Blashill said.

"And when to live another day."

Seider has also served notice he can defend himself with his frame and physical play, including a couple of reverse hits on unsuspecting forwards intent on getting a piece of the youngster.

"He's learned how to leverage his body," Blashill said. "You're not intimidating Moritz Seider.

"Every once in a while you might get the best of him. (But) most of the time he's getting the best of you, and he's not going to back down."

As far as Seider is concerned, the same is true for his Wings as they look for a return to past glory in a division that includes powerhouses like Florida, Toronto, Tampa Bay and Boston — teams that don't appear eager to relinquish the top half of the standings any time soon.

"Got to be realistic and honest," Seider said. "We're far away from that, but we're adding pieces every single year. I think we took big strides.

"We're hungry."

SURGING STAMKOS

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos registered his fifth consecutive game with at least three points Tuesday to reach 100 for the first time in his career.

Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri are the only players in NHL history to register three-plus points in six straight contests.

Tampa visits Columbus on Thursday.

JETS PICK UP THE PIECES

Winnipeg had high expectations heading into the season, but never really got going on the way to missing the playoffs despite a roster led by Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, Kyle Connor, Nikolaj Ehlers and Connor Hellebuyck.

"Disappointing," Jets defenceman Neal Pionk said. "I don't know if it was one specific area — it was almost every area."

Then he took it a step further.

"It was kind of embarrassing," Pionk added. "Totally underachieved."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 27, 2022.

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Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter.

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

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