The Red Wings’ summer development camp concluded with a spirited scrimmage between Teams Howe and Lindsay, and Team Howe rallied from a 5-1 deficit to win 7-6 in overtime, on a Filip Zadina goal.
After four days’ worth of skill and team drill work, it was exciting to see the Wings’ prospects unleashed in a competitive hockey environment. The only difficult part of the scrimmage involved checking one’s expectations after massive performances from the usual suspects (and a few surprises, like Malte Setkov).
While I don’t disagree with Wings director of player development Shawn Horcoff, who suggested that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting excited about the Wings’ future (assuming that the players are afforded opportunities to actually play–which is a topic for another day), I also understand that the Wings’ prospects played a fast and furious game on June 30th, and it’s at the prospect tournament in the fall that jobs are won and lost.
Credit is still due where credit is due, so, in terms of player impressions, on a team-by-team and player-by-player basis:
#15 Jonatan Berggren: Berggren had an excellent scrimmage, solidifying his promise as an undersized playmaking forward with some spunk. The 5’10,” 181-pound Skelleftea AIK forward generated a primary assist and a couple of secondary helpers while buzzing up the ice and drawing opponents to him before distributing the puck. He’s never going to be a massive physical specimen, but Berggren has impressed in fits and spurts over the course of development camp, and after dominating the Swedish J20 league, Berggren told me what’s next: making Skelleftea’s men’s team.
#20 Nicolas Guay**: Everybody looked better in motion, including the Drummondville Voltigeurs’ Guay. A 6’1,” 183-pound winger, Guay looked solid in terms of his ability to skate up and down the ice with or without the puck, but once again, he didn’t stand out. At 19, Guay will head back to Drummondville this fall and attempt to fill out a bit.
#45 David Pope: Pope looked excellent in the scrimmage as well, displaying his arsenal of shots (wrist, snap, slap, one-timer) while plain old looking big and strong on a body I never thought would stand at 6’3″ and 198 pounds. Pope’s superior statistical season still involved ups and downs, and it looks like David’s work ethic is going to form the background of a strong professional debut for the 23-year-old forward. Pope is heading to Grand Rapids this fall, but there is legitimate 15-goal potential in the hard-charging, ever-serious Pope.
#64 Zach Gallant: Gallant is far better utilized in motion than in a drill, and the 6’2,” 198-pound Peterborough Petes center hauled ass chasing down his checking assignments, and he was quite solid in his role. He does possess a good shot and a decent pass, and after the prospect tournament, Gallant will head back to Peterborough and work hard to stand out.
#70 Jack Adams: The reach and wingspan of Adams are very temptingly tantalizing. The Union College sophomore had a crappy Freshman season, but Adams is dedicated toward improving the 6’5,” 204-pound frame he possesses, and he possesses an excellent range of shots and shot itself. He needs to go back to Union and become a regular–and a regular goal-scorer. I believe he will accomplish his task.
#78 Taro Hirose**: On his 22nd birthday, the 5’10,” 160-pound Michigan State University forward scored a goal and played strong hockey during the scrimmage. Hirose is a point-per-game player at the NCAA level and he’s going to need to post back-to-back point-per-game campaigns to really start turning some heads.
#82 Colt Conrad**: Conrad was a little less visible, and the 23-year-old Western Michigan University Center has speed at a compact 5’10” and 187 pounds, as well as a physical bite, but he’s heading back to college to try and best his 27 points in 26 games.
#84 Otto Kivenmaki: It is possible but not necessarily probable that the 5’8,” 154-pound Kivenmaki may make Assat Pori’s men’s team because the little bugger has a HARD shot and takes no shit despite his small stature. I was extremely impressed with his pluck and poise in traffic, and while he is a long-shot prospect, I wouldn’t rule out Kivenmaki making the jump from J20 to Finnish Liiga hockey.
#88 Ryan Savage**: Perhaps the fastest of the NCAA try-outs, the USHL forward transported the puck up ice superbly, and the 5’11,” 180-pound Fargo Force forward did a fairly good job of standing up and standing out physically. He laid a couple of guys out, and he’s going to Miami of Ohio to begin his NCAA career.
#89 Pavel Gogolev**: I’m pretty sure that Gogolev at least did enough to earn a spot in the prospect tournament. A remarkably lanky 6′ and 168 pounds, Gogolev possessed an excellent drivetrain as a speedy, undersized center, and the Peterborough Petes forward is probably Traverse City bound before returning to the OHL.
#90 Joe Veleno: It’s hard to say where Joe Veleno will be this fall, because he either has to make the NHL (unlikely but possible) or head back to Drummondville in the QMJHL, but it is easy to say where the 6’1,” 191-pound forward will be in three years. Veleno will either be in Grand Rapids or Detroit as a 21-year-old, and the superb-skating, two-way stalwart possesses a man’s physique, excellent shooting, passing and playmaking skills, great checking abilities and a strong amount of heart, grit and leadership. Veleno has a professional attitude and plays professionally already.
#21 Dennis Cholowski: I struggle to endorse Cholowski as an NHL’er simply because the Wings’ depth chart and the presences of Filip Hronek and Joe Hicketts make it less likely that the cerebral defenseman will make the jump to the NHL right out of his first pro season…But the talent and attitude are definitely there as the 6’1,” 195-pound defenseman continues to improve in terms of both physicality and his skill set. Cholowski gaps up well, his vision is excellent, so he’s equally adept at head-manning the play via outlet passing and carrying the puck up ice himself, he moves superbly laterally and skating backwards, so he can change his shot angle, and his passing is intuitive and superb. Cholowski is going to spend the next two years developing into a point-producing top-three defender.
#53 Kasper Kotkansalo: Kotkansalo has a longer developmental curve, but the 6’2,” 196-pound Boston University sophomore played a full step more agile than he was last year at this time, and that’s encouraging when you’re looking at a physical second-pair defender. Kotkansalo can keep up with the Cholowskis of the world skill-wise, but Kotkansalo is more of a checking, shut-down defenseman who serves as a complement to a top-pair guy.
#62 Trevor Hamilton*: The Grand Rapids Griffins/Toledo Walleye signees looked excellent on Saturday, and Hamilton was no exception. The 6,’ 198-pound right-shooting defender out of Penn State was speedy and gritty, and I believe he’s going to form an important part of the Walleye’s blueline this upcoming year.
#74 Cole Fraser: Fraser found his form during the scrimmage, like a lot of players, and his form is HEAVY-hitting. The 6’2,” 191-pound Peterborough Petes defenseman has excellent core and lower-body strength, and he can really manhandle his opponents when he’s on his game. Fraser also possesses a solid shot and good passing skills, and he’s got a way of turning his hips into checks along the side boards that mashes players into the wall. He’s going to have to have a strong prospect tournament before returning to Peterborough for another Major Junior campaign.
#86 Alfons Malmstrom: Malmstrom looked quite mobile and sharp on the ice Saturday, and it’s hard to believe that the 6’2,” 190-pound HV71 defenseman had all of 12 points in 34 games this past season, but the Swedish version of Kotkansalo–another “complementary” player–needs to get his game in order as he returns to the J20 league as a 20-year-old. He needs to have a strong push to make the men’s league next season.
#94 Alec Regula: After the prospect tournament, Regula is going to return to the OHL’s London Knights, and there he’s likely to try to fill the void left by his defensive partner this past season, Evan Bouchard. I don’t know whether Regula is a #1 defenseman on his own, but the 6’4,” 203-pound right-shooting defender does an excellent job of moving up the ice with speed and authority, and as a heads-up player, he’s always in on the play. Regula lugs the puck up ice superbly, he passes the puck quite well, and he’s got a hard shot and is working on becoming more physical as he fills out his lanky frame. He’s another top-four defender in the making.
#95 Seth Barton: Barton had a good scrimmage and displayed some of the heady-but-hard defensive play that he’s going to need to bring to UMass-Lowell for his freshman season. At 6’3″ but 174 pounds, there is room to grow for Barton in terms of skill, physique and form.
#31 Jesper Eliasson: Eliasson was one of the few people that did not have a good scrimmage. The 6’3,” 209-pound Eliasson got lit up at times because he plays “narrow” hockey–he’s technically sound as a square butterfly goaltender, but he tries to squeeze pucks to a point in his saves, and sometimes less precision is more when you’re a shot-blocking machine. Eliasson is going to graduate to the Vaxjo Lakers’ J20 team, and he needs to utilize better technique to “fill out” as a more in-position-for-the-first-and-second-save goalie.
#38 Joren van Pottelberghe: JvP won’t be back for the prospect tournament, so the 6’2,” 201-pound HC Davos netminder is leaves Detroit with a simple prescription: take the net you’ve been splitting with Gilles Senn, a fairly strong goalie in his own right, and keep the net as your own. Joren has done a lot of work to refine what was once a very formulaec game, and now JvP looks like a strong and thoroughly sound hybrid goalie whose self-comparison to Marc-Andre Fleury is apt. If he could develop into a poor man’s Fleury, the Wings would be very happy.
#60 Kaden Fulcher: Fulcher gave up a couple too many goals late in the game, but that’s part of what will likely be professional growing pains for the superb technical minder. The 6’3″ but lanky 183-pound goaltender needs to battle a little harder to keep his torso upright, and as Fulcher himself has said, he needs to make already superb legs spectacular. Fulcher made some spectacular squeezes, pushes and pad stacks, and his upright, forward-facing hands provide an excellent glove and blocker hand presented to the shooter. Avoiding squeaky goals will be a professional priority after the prospect tournament, most likely in Toledo.
* = Grand Rapids Griffins signing, ** = free agent invite.
#11 Filip Zadina: It was almost as refreshing to watch Zadina struggle through the first part of the scrimmage as it was to watch Zadina dominate at the end of the scrimmage, because the kid didn’t look human for most of the week. The 6,’ 196-pound Halifax Mooseheads winger has raced to the top of the Wings’ prospect pool, and there is an outside chance that Zadina really could be a regular 20-goal-scoring winger with dazzling dangles for days and the Dylan Larkin-like work ethic to make professional hockey stardom happen. For the present moment, he’s going to stay in Detroit and continue to train with the team (he loves hard work, and that’s a great characteristic to have), and then he’s going to try to make the team in the fall. According to HSJ, Zadina will play in the AHL if he can’t make the Wings’ roster.
#17 Ryan O’Reilly: O’Reilly’s prescription as he plays in one more USHL season is simple: keep scoring, kid, and fill out. The 6’2,” 201-pound winger has the speed and speed with the puck on his stick to expertly transport the puck into scoring areas, and he possesses the shooting skills to make goals happen. At 18 years of age, and with an NCAA career on the horizon, he’ll take the time necessary to become a right-handed version of David Pope (I hope).
#27 Michael Rasmussen: Like Joe Veleno, Rasmussen probably came out of the womb and shook hands with the doctor and nurses, thanking them for delivering him. A professional’s professional, the serious and studious Rasmussen is a massive 6’6″ and 221 pounds of either first or second-line center’s potential wrapped up in a gigantic package. Full of hustle, hard work and energy, Rasmussen goes to the front of the net and stays there and tips shots, and the Wings haven’t had a power play specialist who’s a natural at playing the Holmstrom role since, well, Tomas Holmstrom. Rasmussen does more, however, as a puck-lugging forward with good playmaking and sniping skills, and he is going to make the NHL team this fall.
#37 Mattias Elfstrom: So frustrating! Elfstrom showed, at times, the fact that he’s already an adult in an adult’s body at 6’3″ and 200 pounds, and the left-shooting left-wing still has some time to develop into a goal-scorer in the Swedish J20 league, but man, does he need to go back to Vasterviks IK and finally show some balls. He’s got the physique and skills to star on TV, but he rarely tunes in.
#46 Lane Zablocki: You can visibly watch Lane Zablocki work hard with every hitch-in-his-giddy-up stride, and his giddy-up is pretty damn fast. Like Zach Nastasiuk before him, Zablocki is going to have to stand out from the crowd of ready grinding forwards, and the 6,’ 190-pound right-shooting wing has to have a good prospect tournament, and then he needs to establish himself as an elite checker at the WHL level.
#48 Givani Smith: Smith may very well be the third element of the Zadina-Rasmussen line some day, or Smith may be the Kirk Maltby-or-Darren-McCarty-like foil to a Joel Veleno one day. Either way, the Red Wings have a classic “energy forward” who is continuing to improve physically and skill-wise because “Gio” understands that he needs to keep working on his game despite possessing excellent speed, a good shot, pass, and especially a superb give-and-go game, and he’s definitely going to have to keep fortifying that 6’2,” 206-pound frame to stand up to the checks that Smith will both take and receive. He’s an exciting heart-and-soul player who will turn pro with Grand Rapids this fall.
#67 Brady Gilmour: Gilmour had a superb scrimmage, doing exactly what the 5’10,” 170-pound Saginaw Spirit center needs to do–prove that he can play as the equal of guys who are half-a-foot taller and 30 pounds heavier. Gilmour’s speed and puck-carrying abilities provide a fine platform for a superb-checking forward, but Gilmour, Gallant and Zablocki all need to spend the prospect tournament and their upcoming Major Junior seasons proving that they can develop in the ways that Givani Smith has taken himself from 4th-liner in the making to something more.
#75 Sebastian Vidmar**: Vidmar possesses more than enough skill to earn a pro spot somewhere, but I don’t believe that the 6’3,” 189-pound Swedish center out of Union College did enough to impress the Wings as a 24-year-old forward in need of a pro home. Vidmar possessed good skating speed and a lanky body full of strength, but even at his size, the Wings have enough grinding forwards who are half-a-decade younger to pass on Vidmar.
#76 Chase Pearson: Pearson had an up-and-down scrimmage game, but that does nothing to discourage his potential as a top-six center who can pass, pass, score a little, and pass some more. The 6’2,” 200-pound University of Maine co-captain will go back to college and try to post a point per game as he reaches the halfway point of his NCAA career, and he will continue to develop physically and continue to display superb leadership qualities. He’s an NHL’er’s son who will probably make the NHL one day.
#81 Trevor Yates*: On a different developmental path, the 23-year-old Cornell center will head to the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye looking to crash and bang as a 6’2,” 203-pound middle-of-the-lineup player.
#85 Luke Morgan**: College hockey fans and University of Michigan fans, be glad, because you’ve got a really, really solid little forward transferring out of red shirt status this season. The 5’11,” 190-pound Morgan isn’t going to knock anybody into next week, but the speedy puck-mover provides oodles of energy and speed to burn. He’ll head to Michigan and impress.
#92 Maxim Golod**: Golod and Gogolev trace similar paths. The 5’10,” 160-pound Erie Otters center has energy and skating ability, but a strong transmission is nothing without an engine block, and it will come down to the prospect tournament for the skilled but small Golod to prove that there’s more than an Erie Otter there.
#50 Reilly Webb: Webb had an excellent scrimmage, working together with Malte Setkov on a massive defensive pair, and the 6’3,” 201-pound Saginaw Spirit defenseman did exactly what he needed to do in serving as the “straight man” to Setkov’s dashing, dancing defensive partner. A deft skater for his size and wingspan, Webb can keep up with the rush and then rush back to bash the puck off opposing players’ sticks, and after a 4-point campaign, Webb needs to have a good prospect tournament and go back to Saginaw to establish himself as a physical foil to a top-flight partner.
#54 Gustav Lindstrom: Lindstrom didn’t play in the scrimmage due to a back issue, but that did nothing to diminish Lindstrom’s top-three potential. The 6’2,” 187-pound right-shooting defenseman possesses near-elite shooting, passing, playmaking, head-manning and puck-lugging skills; Lindstrom is not physical per se, but he possesses a Cholowski-like level of stick-checking, and he readjusts seamlessly from international-width ice to 85-foot rinks, so he sees the ice very, very well. Lindstrom needs to become a regular on the Frolunda Indians’ men’s team this upcoming season.
#63 Jared McIsaac: McIsaac literally and figuratively has room to grow as a player and person. At 6’1″ and 193 pounds, McIsaac is still arms and legs, and I wonder whether he still has an inch or two to grow at 18. McIsaac displayed strong skating skills and excellent physicality during the scrimmage, playing with the authority and presence of a player half-a-foot taller. McIsaac may or may not be a top-pair or bottom-pair guy, but wherever he lands in a team’s lineup, he’s going to bring a nasty edge and a no-nonsense game. After the prospect tournament, he needs to go back to Halifax and grow, grow, grow.
#73 Marcus Crawford*: Crawford had a good scrimmage, and the 5’11,” 190-pound defenseman is likely headed to the Toledo Walleye after posting 53 points with Saginaw this past season. At 21, there is still potential for advancement here.
#79 Malte Setkov: Setkov had the kind of scrimmage performance you pray for and the kind of scrimmage performance that makes you cringe if you’re a long-range thinker like me, because he was FANTASTIC, and I don’t know if Malte can bring the game he brought Saturday all the way to the NHL. At a ridiculous 6’6″ and 192 lanky pounds, Malte moved the puck up and down the ice with poise and pluck, passing expertly and playmaking like somebody who’s grown up on the “big ice” of European hockey rinks. Sektov skated just fantastically in all three directions (forward, laterally, backward) and his flow and poise were tremendous, as was the timing of his passes. Even more remarkably, Setkov stood up well to physical play, and held his position with relative ease, working well with Reilly Webb…
But Malte had a shitty season in the J20 league, partially due to a case of mononucleosis, and the 19-year-old defenseman needs to try his damnedest to make the Malmo Redhawks’ men’s team this fall, not an easy feat. Let’s hope that Setkov’s star performance in Saturday’s scrimmage is a sign of things to come.
#87 Patrick Holway: While Setkov stole the show, Holway had a quietly superb game. Holway and Pearson represented the University of Maine’s incoming junior class with nothing less than heart and determination over the past week, and in Holway’s case, the 6’4,” 204-pound right-shooting defenseman helps give the Wings’ blueline an abundance of right-shooting second-pair guys. He’s poised and polished in terms of his puck-moving, shooting and playmaking skills, and Holway has come a long way in terms of growing into his big body. He simply needs to keep on keepin’ on over the next two seasons in NCAA hockey.
#34 Patrik Rybar: Rybar will head into the prospect tournament something of a mystery. The 24-year-old graduate of HC Hradek Kralove (a.k.a. HC Mountfield) in the Czech Extraliga, the Slovakian netminder posted stellar stats (23-13-and-0, 1.73 GAA, .931 save percentage) and had a stellar year, earning a spot on the Slovakian World Championship team, but: he was unable to take part in the Wings’ summer development camp due to injury, his English was shaky and it was just incredibly hard to paint a picture of what Rybar will become without seeing him play.
I do know that the Wings will probably add another two goaltenders to fill out the Griffins and Walleye, so Rybar and Fulcher are not going to have easy tasks trying to climb the Wings’ depth chart, but at 24, I can’t imagine that Detroit plans on letting Rybar languish for long. We’ll see what he looks like come fall.
#68 Victor Brattstrom: Brattstrom spent the week displaying exactly why the Wings drafted him at 21 years of age. The 6’5,” 198-pound hybrid of Jonas Gustavsson and a poor man’s Henrik Lundqvist did a great job of proving that shot-blocking goalies don’t have to be machines to be repeatable and reliable. I was really impressed by Brattstrom’s consistent form and ability to adapt to North American ice, and he’s going to go back to Timra and try to make the men’s team.
#80 Keith Petruzzelli: Petruzzelli didn’t get to take part in the development camp save goalie-specific drills due to an injury, and the 6’6,” 185-pound goaltender comes from a tremendous pedigree of hockey playing in both Massachusetts and Michigan, where he was the USHL’s goalie of the year with Muskegon, but he had a crappy freshman season at Quinnipiac, and that’s where Petruzzelli will have to return to swipe the starter’s spot away from his netminding partner. I’ve seen Petruzzelli play, and he’s technically superb despite his massive wingspan, and he just needs to close the holes that appear from time to time on his massive frame.
#30 Justin Fazio**: Fazio won’t turn pro with the Red Wings this fall–he’s going to another organization–but the Wings owe Fazio a thank-you note and a recommendation for his willingness to show up at Little Caesars Arena at the end of June to fill a net for a week. The 21-year-old Sarnia Sting graduate displayed the same kind of form that Kaden Fulcher does–hands-front, strong hybrid goaltending with excellent rebound control. Fazio didn’t let many pucks through, and I sincerely hope that he finds a pro landing spot.
* = Grand Rapids Griffins signing, ** = free agent invite.
That’s it for the prospect development camp. I want to thank you for your support, comments, encouragement and criticism over the past five days. It’s been a grind and a half, but it’s been worth it to put in these 16-to-18-hour days, and I hope that you’ve enjoyed the fruits thereof.
If you have any further comments or wish for me to post any further analysis or commentary, please let me know via Twitter, email, Facebook, the comments section, etc (heck, you could drop a penny or two at paypal.me/TheMalikReport or my Patreon page).
Thanks for your time, readership and support. It’s been fun this week, and free agency will hopefully be less of a downer knowing that “the kids” are starting to knock down the door, regardless of the number of veteran players in front of them. This generation of Wings prospects will make itself heard yet. Just wait.