I was happy to see David Pope earn a contract with the Red Wings after graduating from the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Pope’s worked his tail off since the age of 18 to “turn pro” at 23, and I can recall attending summer development camps in which Pope, now 6’3″ and 190-ish, was a waif-like 150 pounds (at most).
As Hockeybuzz’s Bob Duff notes, however, a 23-year-old prospect (who will turn 24 before the upcoming season begins) can’t be left in the AHL to “over-ripen” too much–instead, Pope will have to develop quickly to earn a spot in the lineup, as Duff suggests in a conversation with Wings director of player development Shawn Horcoff:
“He’s a big kid, got good size, got a long reach,” Horcoff said. “He’s wiry, hard to knock down. He’s kind of slippery out there. But he’s a shooter.
“He’s a kid that has improved his skating over the years and I think that’s helped him get to the areas where he can score. He’s great on the PP, he’s got a real good one-timer off the flank and a great wrist shot in stride, but he’s a kid that’s really come on the last couple of years and had a great senior year last year. We’re happy to sign him.”
At the same time, the club recognizes that Pope is a project and with his advanced age in terms of hockey prospect status, he’s a limited time offer, hence the two-year deal. And he’s got to work quickly to make it happen and make the necessary improvements to his game to gain an NHL chance.
“Just strength, adding more speed to his game,” Horcoff listed as the top items on Pope’s to-do list. “It’s going to be the little things with him that make him a successful winger in the NHL. His board play, he’s competitive but I think it’s been easy for him in college, so he’s just going to need to raise his compete level a little bit. I think strength is going to be the biggest thing.”