At the age of 22, former Griffins defenseman Moritz Seider continues to get stronger as he builds his Calder Trophy-winning career in the NHL.
Story and photo by Mark Newman
Moritz Seider is often regarded as one of the best young defensemen in the NHL, and the German-born Red Wing is willing to throw his weight behind the argument.
As the workhorse of the Detroit defense, Seider usually logs 20-25 minutes each night as he makes his presence felt, both figuratively and physically. His value to the Red Wings certainly is not confined to his number of goals and assists.
For instance, an impressive 2-1 win over the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning on Jan. 21 saw Seider do those little things that don’t necessarily show on the scoresheet. In a team-high 25:08 of ice time, he recorded one shot on goal and a game-leading four hits, but his impact went beyond the numbers.
He deployed his stick for a goal-saving clearance of the puck in the third period. Earlier, he used his body to slow Victor Hedman as the veteran Lightning defenseman skated into the zone. Although the five-time Norris Trophy finalist outweighed him by 40 pounds, Seider pushed the 6-foot-7 Hedman into the boards, forcing him to cough up the puck.
Seider is not resting on his laurels. After winning the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year for his debut season in 2021-22, the former Griffins defenseman has continued to strengthen his play, adding the necessary muscle to compete against the best hockey players in the world.
Seider returns every summer to his home in Mannheim, Germany, where he works out daily with his long-time trainer Adrian Konig, who had previously been his physiotherapist while being treated for an injury several years ago.
“Having tons of friends there, it’s usually a lot of fun working out in the summer,” Seider said. “We usually start at 8 a.m. with a half-hour prep before one and a half hours of strength and conditioning, then an hour of cardio before an hour of corrective stuff where I work on my shoulders and ankles to prevent injuries – it’s mostly little movements, not too hard, but just time-consuming.
“After that, I have an hour of treatment, so usually the early mornings are pretty packed. Then I do something with the boys, maybe go out and enjoy the sun a little bit, or drink coffee. I’m trying to get into golf more but that’s still far away.”’
Golf, like his workout sessions, will require more time. In reality, he is still adding muscle.
“It’s going to take a little bit more,” he said. “I think it’s just a matter of years for my body to follow and grow out, and I feel like I’m still not there. Hopefully, I’ll be there in a couple more years. I feel like I’m getting stronger every summer.”
Seider concedes he has come a long way since the Red Wings selected him with the sixth overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. He joined the Griffins at the start of the 2019-20 season, which would eventually be abbreviated due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I have great memories of Grand Rapids,” he said. “It was my first time living on my own and I enjoyed living with Joe [Veleno, current Red Wings teammate], which was my first time living with someone. On the ice, I think we did a good job of coming together as a team and it was a lot of fun. I had a good time playing really solid hockey and getting to know the American culture.”
Seider said he benefitted from playing with the veteran defensemen on the Griffins’ roster at the time: Brian Lashoff, Dylan McIlrath, and Joe Hicketts.
“I think every player had a little story to tell or something to share,” he said. “We talked a lot about their experiences, and I saw how they stayed calm even though the schedule got pretty busy. I had never played that many games in my life, so it was a big change, but I enjoyed the challenge. They knew how to treat their body and it’s something I incorporated into my game.”
Seider remembers feeling the weight of the schedule around the Christmas break. “After around 30 games in less than three months, it catches up to you pretty quick,” he said. “But I enjoyed visiting every city and all the different rinks, so there were enough distractions for sure.”
He admits he felt his share of homesickness that first year. “I mean, who doesn’t? I think I still feel that way to this day. I really enjoy having the family around,” Seider explained, which is why he still returns to Mannheim, where his parents continue to live.
When COVID-19 delayed the start of the 2020-21 AHL season, the Red Wings loaned Seider back to his original club, Adler Mannheim of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL). With no start date for the DEL in sight, Detroit eventually terminated the agreement and instead loaned Seider to Rogle BK of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) for the remainder of the season.
“It was exactly what I needed,” he said. “I think I wasn’t fully ready for a competitive NHL season and I needed a little bit more time. When the chance to play in Sweden came up, I was really happy and thankful for the opportunity. It worked out in a good way and definitely prepared me in the long run.”
Seider eventually would be named the SHL’s defenseman of the year. “I had a lot of trust from the coaches, and they helped me get comfortable with Swedish hockey and just have fun every day on the ice. That’s what makes the difference.
“I think if you want to become one of the best, you have to enjoy it. You have to be willing to grind and do the dirty work and still have a smile on your face when you walk off the ice. If you want to be a difference maker, there are so many reasons to put in the extra work.”
Playing for Rogle BK in Sweden also put Seider in close contact with former Red Wings greats Nicklas Lidstrom and Niklas Kronwall. “And [Henrik] Zetterberg, too, because he lived around the corner,” Seider said. “Mostly, we just talked socially. I liked talking about personal life and getting to know them a little better on a deeper level rather than just always talking about hockey.”
Seider made the Red Wings’ opening day roster out of training camp to start 2021-22, which would end up being a banner season.
He opened his rookie campaign on a high note with two assists in his NHL debut against the two-time defending Stanley Cup-champion Lightning. It was the first time a Red Wings player had multiple assists in his NHL debut since Vyacheslav Kozlov achieved the feat in St. Louis on March 12, 1992.
Seider continued to excel, becoming the NHL’s Rookie of the Month for October after collecting eight assists in his first nine games. It marked the first time a Detroit rookie tallied at least eight helpers in a calendar month since January 2022, when Pavel Datsyuk had eight in 13 games.
That strong play continued, with Seider becoming the second player – and first defenseman – in Red Wings history to score his first career goal in overtime when he netted the game-winner on Nov. 6, 2021 in Buffalo during a 4-3 victory, joining Modere “Mud” Bruneteau (Dec. 14, 1935, at Toronto).
From Feb. 9 to March 4, 2022, Seider set a franchise record for the longest point streak by a rookie defenseman, recording 12 points with a plus-6 rating in eight games. It was the fifth time a Red Wings rookie, at any position, recorded an eight-game point streak, and he became the first Detroit defenseman to accomplish the feat since Lidstrom did so twice in 2010-11.
Seider became the fifth rookie blueliner in more than three decades to record 50 points in an NHL season, joining Quinn Hughes (2019-20), Cale Maker (2019-20), Vladimir Malakhov (1992-93), and Lidstrom (1991-92). He led all rookies in assists (43), power-play points (21), and average time on ice (23:03), and he was one of only three first-year NHL players – along with Red Wings teammate Lucas Raymond and New Jersey Devils forward Dawson Mercer – to play in all 82 games.
For his efforts, Seider became just the sixth player in Red Wings franchise history to win the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie, and the first since Roger Crozier in 1964-65.
“It was something really special for the whole organization because it’s a credit to all the great teammates around me,” Seider said. “They really pushed me and battled for me. Obviously, it’s a huge honor and it’s something nobody can ever take from you.”
But Seider being Seider, he took the award as notice that there was still room for improvement.
“I think I can improve in every category,” he said. “If you look at Makar, [Roman] Josi, Hughes, and Hedman, they are all so consistent, and I think that consistency level is something you always want to improve. It’s not necessarily always being on the scoresheet. There are ways to have an impact on the game and I think on most nights I can do that.
“I want to continue to grow, whether it’s blocking shots or just playing solid defense trying to shut down the opponent’s best line. The secret is to keep it simple. The simpler you can keep your play, the easier it is for everyone on your team to read off.”
For Seider, the hits keep coming. During his three seasons in Detroit, he has knocked dozens of opponents off their feet, whether it’s catching unsuspecting skaters with their heads down or repelling retaliatory checks from opponents seeking imaginary revenge.
“Most of the time, it’s a timing thing,” he said. “It’s catching the guy when he least expects to get hit or before he wants to throw a big hit. It’s not necessarily a huge strength thing. You’re just absorbing as much power from them and usually, the glass is doing a pretty good job of bumping, too. Usually the louder it gets, the less it hurts.”
As his willingness to check a player of Hedman’s stature shows, Seider does not back down from anyone. “There’s a lot of respect for a lot of guys in this league, but I think you shouldn’t be afraid of anyone and that’s the mindset I’m trying to have.”
Seider recently passed Red Wings great Steve Yzerman on the franchise list for most consecutive games played to begin a career. He takes great pride in being on the ice night after night.
“Just putting on a jersey means a lot and that’s kind of the mindset we have in our locker room,” he said. “You should be really proud of wearing that jersey and it’s something we don’t take for granted.”
Seider feels good about the progress being made by the organization to return to the playoffs.
“We’ve been working really hard,” he said. “We’ve been putting in the work and we want to get there eventually and, if we continue, hopefully, we’ll be in that spot at the end of the year. Winning is always way more fun and the more we can win, the easier it will be to reach the playoffs.”
Seider has already drawn comparisons to the best defensemen in Red Wings history, with observers suggesting he offers a mix of Lidstrom and Kronwall. But he believes he has a long way to go to reach their heights. “Obviously, it’s nice hearing those two names around your name, but it’s a long process to get there. Two or three years doesn’t make a whole career,” he said.
“If I want to take the next step and become one of the top defensemen in the NHL, it is going to take a lot of work and a lot of extra hours. I think I am different [from those players] and I want to make a name for myself. I want to create my own story.”