The Detroit Red Wings’ prospects engaged in one final day of skating and then skate-testing at the BELFOR Training Center on Friday, building upon Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday’s sessions with a little “hockey calculus” in terms of drills and a lot of hustle as the players engaged in the dreaded “skate test,” a 3-lap, 3-repetition drill held at the end of a 45-minute practice which absolutely gasses the players via intervals of skating up and down the ice after 3, 2, and then 1 minute’s worth of rest.
The “hockey calculus” came at the hands of coach Ben Simon, who’s worked very hard to take the lead over the past four days, and it’s been encouraging to watch the Grand Rapids Griffins coach find his lungs, erm, I mean “coaching legs,” despite the lack of AHL assistants at his disposal.
That’s not to say that Shawn Horcoff, Daniel Cleary, Dan Watson, Andy Delmore, Brian Mahoney-Wilson, Jeff Salajko or Maciej Szwoch are chopped liver, but a coach tends to want to break in his lieutenants by July, and Griffins coach Todd Nelson left Simon by his lonesome.
So Friday, on a hot day that felt a little colder than usual in the dug-out-of-the-dirt-ditch that is the BELFOR Training Center complex, the Red Wings’ prospects engaged in a fair chunk of 5-on-5 hockey, whether that involved migrating through a maze of 3-on-3 players at a morass of players and coaches skating through center ice like a jigsaw, or it plainly involved full 5-man-vs.-5-man units.
I sat next to a charming hockey mom who was filming the drills with her phone, and she said the same thing I did during a good quarter-to-third of the drills–“That’s a new one!”–as the players, somewhat oblivious to the fact that a fourth straight day of drill work should tire them, gobbled up the information that Simon demanded their young brains and bodies to process.
I will say that the coaches’ whistles were out a little more often than usual today, but today’s drills involved angles of attack and players trying to stay in lanes, so you want to make sure that a professional takes an inside tack, and that the defending player competes for the same “inside lane” that the player should take toward the net.
I don’t believe that the players got the same kind of layering of drills that is possible with more than one coach at the helm of the operation, which I suppose is my one point of complaint and/or critique, but there was a re-dedication of focus to on-ice activities at this year’s development camp, and that was good to see given that so much emphasis had been given to the off-ice seminars over the past year or two.
The players will now take part in a scrimmage set to take place on Saturday at 12 PM, and the players will be packing up their gear and thinking about flights home by the time I speak with them next.
In terms of player impressions, on a team-by-team and player-by-player basis:
#15 Jonatan Berggren: Over the course of four days of on-ice activities, I could see why the Wings drafted Berggren in what was essentially a late-1st-round spot, and I could see why he slipped to them in the early 2nd round, too. The 5’10,” 181-pound left-shooting right-winger is, as it turns out, both superb at puck possession and at distributing pucks to bigger, heavier players and then darting into shooting or passing lanes to generate scoring chances. Berggren won’t turn 18 until mid-July, and the water bug forward will head back to Skelleftea AIK’s J20 team to continue to dominate the J20 league.
#20 Nicolas Guay**: The Drummondville Voltigeurs invite impressed subtly as the week progressed. At 6’1″ and 183 pounds, with 55 points in 68 games to his credit, Guay eventually found his comfort zone in displaying strong all-round skating, passing and shooting skills, but he didn’t stand out in the way that a player who lands a professional contract tends to stand out.
#45 David Pope: Make that 23-going-on-24 for Pope, who has rounded out his game tremendously while staying true to his core purpose as a sniping forward. Pope isn’t going to overpower his opposition per se, but watching the 6’3,” 198-pound graduate of Nebraska-Omaha grow from a beanpole of a skinny sniper to a well-rounded professional goal-scorer has been a pleasure over the past five or six years’ worth of developmental camps. Pope skates with authority, he’s filled out to the tune of nearly 30 pounds of muscle, and he’s matured in terms of both his scorer’s outlook and his off-ice outlook. Most importantly for someone who’s turning pro at 23 going on 24, Pope believes that he can earn a spot on the Wings’ roster in short order, and with 15+ goal potential, that kind of self-belief is encouraging.
Pope aced the skating test, too, and that’s a good sign of strong aerobic and anaerobic fitness.
#64 Zach Gallant: Gallant sometimes dazzles and sometimes frustrates. The 6’2,” 198-pound Peterborough Petes center has speed to spare and is an excellent worker bee of a checking forward, but he’s going to have to continue developing skill-wise to step out of the Wings’ overflowing crop of checking forwards.
#70 Jack Adams: Adams displayed growth over the course of 4 days’ worth of skating and skill drills, but it’s the potential of the 6’5,” 204-pound forward that tantalizes, because the Union College sophomore is just so frickin’ big that he finds his way into scoring areas and is able to then use his size to his advantage. Whether he’s able to follow Pope’s lead is up to him.
#78 Taro Hirose**: Hirose continued to stick with the pack, and the 5’10,” 160-pound MSU forward will turn 24 on Saturday looking to make an impact during the scrimmage. His 42-points-in-36-games resume has left me wanting to see more in the scoring department.
#82 Colt Conrad**: Conrad has also stuck with the pack, and the 5’10,” 187-pound WMU center has played competent but not outstanding hockey.
#84 Otto Kivenmaki: Like Berggren, the 5’8,” 154-pound left-shooting forward does a great job of getting into and out of scoring areas with and without the puck, and Kivenmaki’s shot can at times display elite tendencies, but he’s very small and very raw. The Wings took a flyer on the Finn hoping that he fills out in a big way.
#88 Ryan Savage**: Savage’s speed impresses and the right-shooting free agent forward did display a modicum of all-round potential, but he mostly bobbed along with the try-outs.
#89 Pavel Gogolev**: If Gogolev was another 20 pounds heavier, I’d have more enthusiasm for the Peterborough Petes center’s potential. At 6′ and 168 pounds, the Russian forward motored his way up and down the rink with authority, but his sniper’s skills are more likely to earn their opportunity to impress during this fall’s prospect tournament as most of the Wings’ free agent invites receive a return receipt.
#90 Joe Veleno: In his own way, the 6’1,” 191-pound center is perplexing, because he could be the next Kris Draper, circa heart-and-soul fourth-line-forward version, or he could be the next Kris Draper, circa Selke Trophy via a surprisingly offensive 2002-2003 season version. Veleno is a complete player whose skating, passing, shooting, playmaking, goal-scoring and checking abilities are all superb, and he could add another 10 or 15 pounds to a man’s body’s worth of muscle, but scouts struggling to pin his potential down is the reason why he fell to the 30th overall pick.
#21 Dennis Cholowski: Cholowski displayed good fitness during the skating test, only fading back into the pack in the test’s third and final lap. Cholowski still looks like someone who needs a little AHL polishing in my opinion, but the 6’1,” 195-pound defenseman has the vision and skill to challenge for a spot on the Wings’ roster sooner than later, possessing both puck-lugging and play-head-manning potential as a top-pair offensive defenseman.
#53 Kasper Kotkansalo: I will keep comparing Kasper Kotkansalo to Kyle Quincey at his best until Kotkansalo can find a better analogue as a comparison. The 6’2,” 196-pound Boston University sophomore is a mobile skater and at most times a no-frills, efficient all-round defenseman who still needs a little work in the skating department.
#62 Trevor Hamilton*: Hamilton will probably head to the Toledo Walleye to embark upon his first pro campaign this fall. Standing at 6′ and 198 pounds, the Penn State grad has played at the level of the Wings’ free agent invites while giving the Wings another professioanl option in terms of right-shooting defensemen.
#74 Cole Fraser: Fraser’s highs are high and his lows are lulls. The 6’2,” 191-pound Peterborough Petes defenseman can hit the snot out of his opponents and he can actually lug the puck out of trouble quite well, but his intensity and positioning wax and wane on a shift-by-shift basis, and he’s going to have to carve out a physical spot at this fall’s prospect tournament.
#86 Alfons Malmstrom: My hope is that Malmstrom shakes out the doldrums of his struggles in the Swedish J20 league this upcoming season. The 6’2,” 190-pound defenseman has displayed much more talent and jam than his stats with HV71 would suggest, but the all-round defenseman needs to back up his skill set with production or pugnaciousness, if not both.
#94 Alec Regula: Regula faded a bit into the background as the week progressed, but that tends to happen when you’re a hometown boy emptying your tank during every shift. I’ve been impressed with the 6’4,” 203-pound right-shooting defenseman’s wingspan, mobility and especially his skill set as a high-octane partner for a top-pair defender with the OHL’s London Knights. He’s going to earn the opportunity to step up and prove that he’s top-four material this season.
#95 Seth Barton: Barton has displayed a fair amount of raw potential over the course of four days of skating and skill drills, but the 6’3,” 174-pound right-shooting defenseman is going to need time with UMass-Lowell to take his 3-4-5-spot potential and build a professional player out of what is presently a still unfinished project.
#31 Jesper Eliasson: Okay, the Swedish Butterfly: Eliasson has a very narrow stance and honestly reminds me of a very young Jimmy Howard, with lots of blocking and stopping surface at 6’3″ and 209 pounds, but often too far back in his net or too intent upon squeezing the puck into one part of his body as opposed to simply stopping a shot. Some goalies make things complicated by being “too fine,” and while Eliasson possesses the reflexes and all around catch-glove-blocker-pads-and-stick skills to man the twine with aplomb, he tries too often for the perfect save.
#38 Joren van Pottelberghe: Hands over the pads while in the butterfly. The 6’2,” 201-pound HC Davos netminder reminded me that the reason those shots over the pads and under the gloves could be getting through is the fact that he’s not used to North American-width ice. JvP has really done a great job of transforming from a formulaic goaltender to a dynamic, athletic netminder with hints of Fleury-like athleticism. He needs to seize the starter’s spot and prepare to come over to play North American pro hockey a year from now.
#60 Kaden Fulcher: If it is possible to compare someone to a late-model Chris Osgood in the positive vein, Fulcher’s particularly active glove and blocker hands and poised, sharp toes do indeed remind me of #30’s fine fundamentals. Fulcher is also prone to the occasional squeaker at 19-going-on-turning-pro, and he needs to keep his chest and shoulders more square, but he’s a thoroughly modern goaltender who’s fixing the few flaws in his game.
* = Grand Rapids Griffins signing, ** = free agent invite.
#11 Filip Zadina: Nothing less than an elite goal-scorer in the making, what separates the 6,’ 196-pound Halifax Mooseheads winger from the pack is that he has a tremendous amount of fun working hard. Zadina really enjoys being challenged and works his chip-in-his-stride-skating ass off while trying to convert on elegant and excellent scoring plays. Zadina is going to start out as a sniping winger, most likely on the Red Wings’ roster, and he understands how fortunate he is to be as skilled as he is, so Zadina rides the fine line between being cocky and plain old confident in his tremendous natural abilities.
#17 Ryan O’Reilly: O’Reilly has at least displayed as much potential as Jack Adams as the similarly-lanky 6’2,” 201-pound USHL forward transports the puck to goal-scoring areas and deposits said puck in the net via sneaky snap and wrist shots. He skates well and with urgency to his stride, and the longer he has to fill out, the better.
#27 Michael Rasmussen: Another case of talent meeting drive, the 6’6,” 221-pound center-or-wing is all but a lock to make the Red Wings’ roster, maybe even more than Zadina, because the man in a man’s body with a man’s mature outlook wants to out-compete his competition. An excellent skater for a big man, with strong shooting, passing, forechecking and backchecking skills, Rasmussen is a leader and a professional at 19.
#37 Mattias Elfstrom: I audibly let out a sigh before writing about Elfstrom. There are players with men’s brains and kids’ bodies and players with kids’ brains and men’s bodies, and I think that the 21-year-old Elfstrom is of the latter variety, because he’s got 6’3″ and 200 pounds’ worth of bulk and physical oomph, but he doesn’t commit himself to using his physical talents to score.
#46 Lane Zablocki: Zablocki is another one of the Wings’ many grinding forwards, and the 6,’ 190-pound right-shooting right winger readily admitted that he needs to work on his superb skating and find a home after bouncing between 3 WHL teams this past season.
#48 Givani Smith: Zadina, Rasmussen and Smith.
It’s been a line during development camp, those were the names of the players who did best during the skating test, and if Zadina is the scorer and Rasmussen is the all-round center that does the heavy lifting, Smith is the glue that keeps it all together. He’s going to experience some difficulty turning pro as a 3rd-line shift disturber, but getting banged around won’t hurt the 6’2,” 206-pound graduate of the OHL’s Guelph Storm. Smith needs to keep developing his skills so that he and Dominic Turgeon remain the cream of the grinding forward crop.
#67 Brady Gilmour: Speedy little bugger, needs to find a way to be more than a speedy little bugger. At 5’10” and 170 pounds, the Saginaw Spirit center needs to differentiate himself from the pack of grinding forwards, and that’s going to necessitate an excellent season in the OHL this fall.
#75 Sebastian Vidmar**: Vidmar has puzzled more than anything, because the 6’3,” 189-pound winger and graduate of Jack Adams’ Union College needs to find a professional home, and the big, bulky forward has the rangy skating stride to make that happen…but his skills are more attuned to a middle-of-the-lineup game, and the Wings have a lineup of middle-of-the-lineup guys.
#76 Chase Pearson: Pearson didn’t dazzle during the skating test, and that was surprising given how much the 6’2,” 200-pound Maine center has filled out over the course of the past season. The co-captain is a superb passing and playmaking center whose non-anaerobic skating is excellent and whose enthusiasm for the game can be contagious.
#81 Trevor Yates*: Probably Walleye-bound, the 23-year-old center from Cornell has looked safe and steady at 6’2″ and 203 pounds of right-shooting forward.
#85 Luke Morgan**: Morgan is all but literally pressing the re-set button on his college career, and halfway through, the 5’11,” 190-pound winger looks like a little speed merchant who’s going to make the Wolverines very happy.
#92 Maxim Golod**: Golod has fairly good potential as an all-round scoring forward for the OHL’s Erie Otters, but the 5’10,” 160-pound forward wasn’t drafted this year because he didn’t have a great statistical season and doesn’t have a professional-sized body, and those two issues need to be rectified.
#50 Reilly Webb: The theme for Webb and Malte Setkov is, “Big Reach, but is the Big Drive there?” Webb looks much bigger than his 6’3,” 201-pound listed size thanks to his lanky physique, and the surprisingly nimble skater is an excellent complementary defenseman who cleans up the messes made by more offensively-inclined partners, but the concern is that his shift-to-shift effort and shift-to-shift conditioning aren’t quite there yet. Webb will have the opportunity to impress with the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit this upcoming season.
#54 Gustav Lindstrom: I could see Lindstrom and Kotkansalo on a defensive pair 3-5 years down the line if both players continue to improve upon their skating and physical conditioning. The 6’2,” 187-pound Frolunda Indians defender, like Cholowski, possesses excellent vision and head-manning-the-play abilities, and Lindstrom may possess the most flat-out skill of any of the Wings’ defensive prospects. He simply needs to continue developing his top-pair talents.
#63 Jared McIsaac: Four days in, McIsaac has displayed flashes of top-pair defenseman’s skill and flashes of bottom-pair defenseman’s physicality and simplicity. The 6’1,” 193-pound Nova Scotian just doesn’t screw around, playing a simple, efficient game, and the Wings drafted him 36th overall because there is complementary potential in the no-nonsense defenseman.
#73 Marcus Crawford*: Probably Walleye-bound, the 5’11,” 190-pound right-shooting graduate of the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit posted an excellent 53 points in 68 games, but he finds himself up against a lengthy list of small, skilled defensemen.
#79 Malte Setkov: Setkov’s size certainly tantalized the crowd and the people I talked to during Friday’s sessions. At 6’6″ and 192 pounds, there’s an immense amount of reach in Setkov, but a really rough season in the Swedish J20 league suggests that the towering rearguard needs to play much more assertively. He’s not going to be a physical beast, but Setkov could use his wingspan to be an effective second-pair defender, should his skillset, vision and gap control continue to develop.
#87 Patrick Holway: Holway provides a bit of a template for players like Webb and Setkov to follow.. Two years ago, Holway was all arms and legs askew, and he has slowly but surely reined in his massive body and made strides in terms of his strength and conditioning. The University of Maine junior is an assist-producing defender whose vision and poise with the puck are evident and superb. Add in his strong skating and occasionally physical pop and the Wings have a superb second-pair defender in the pipeline.
#34 Patrik Rybar: Rybar will at least get the fall prospect tournament to get his feet wet, and given that the 24-year-old Slovak-who-played-for-a-Czech-team goaltender needs playing time to establish himself on North American ice, the athletically-inclined goaltender needs to make sure that he continues to work closely with the Wings’ goaltending coaches after not being able to participate in this summer development camp.
#68 Victor Brattstrom: The 6’5,” 198-pound Timra IK goaltender has used his pads to his advantage during his North American debut, blocking and bolting stray shots off his pads, blocker and glove, and that’s fine for starters, but the 21-year-old will make the jump to the men’s team by reining in his tendency to rely on rebounds to do the work for him. At the same time, he has at least displayed very consistent form and strong fundamentals, and that’s yielded (again) a repeatable performance.
#80 Keith Petruzzelli: I’m crossing my fingers for “Petro.” The 6’6,” 185-pound goaltender isn’t participating in the summer development camp save some goalie-specific drills, and, like Rybar, Petruzzelli really needed this summer camp to build a foundation for his sophomore campaign at Quinnipiac. As a massive and principled goaltender, Petruzzelli has the resume to suggest that he will do more than battle for a back-up’s spot this upcoming season…but what you don’t see, you can’t judge.
#30 Justin Fazio**: Fazio, like Fulcher and Connor Ingram before him, is going to make somebody very happy that the Red Wings looked to the local scene for a depth netminder. The 21-year-old Sarnia Sting graduate isn’t big at 6’1″ and 192 pounds, but Fazio did a great job of stepping in and subbing for Petruzzelli and Rybar this week, displaying impeccable form. His glove, blocker and pad control are excellent, he’s got a good stick, rebound stick to him, and Fazio remains upright and compact in tight spaces. He’s done a gerat job, and he’s going to find a job with a pro team this upcoming year.
* = Grand Rapids Griffins signing, ** = free agent invite.
As stated, tomorrow’s schedule consists of one and only one thing–a scrimmage that starts at noon, with warm-ups beginning around 11:30 AM at the BELFOR Training Center.
I will do my best to “get the spirit of the thing” out on online paper tomorrow, and I hope that my work has been satisfactory.
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