Impressions from Saturday’s morning skate at the Red Wings’ prospect tournament ’18

The Detroit Red Wings’ prospects engaged in a short but spirited morning skate ahead of tonight’s game against the Dallas Stars’ prospects (7:00 PM on FSD GO and

Kaden Fulcher will start this evening, and Vili Saarijarvi is good to go despite missing the third period of last night’s game with cramps.

Coach Ben Simon suggested that the Texas Stars play a speedy, high-scoring game, so ahead of tonight’s tilt, Simon made sure that his players spent the majority of their 25-minute morning skate working on attacking the net, moving the puck with pace in all situations and skating hard and fast.

While the almost-full complement of players participated in their morning skate, a couple of players looked be distracted, if not plain old tired as they embraced the grind of playing until 10 PM, not getting back to the hotel till 11 and having to get up early to head to the rink. As such, here are my player impressions:

2018 Detroit Red Wings NHL Prospect Tournament Roster

# Name Pos. 2017-18 Team Acquired

11 Filip Zadina RW Halifax (QMJHL) 2018 1st round (6th overall): Zadina was particularly subdued on Saturday. While the 6,’ 196-pound star-in-the-making displays tremendous amounts of talent when he’s emotionally pumped up, when he’s not as interested, he fades into the crowd a bit. His skill level is still evident, and that skill level is at least near-NHL levels already, from skating and passing to that tremendous shot of his, but he experienced a bit of a let-down this morning:

21 Dennis Cholowski D Portland (WHL) 2016 1st round (20th overall): No let-down for Cholowski. The Wings’ steadiest defenseman went out and had a professional skate, working on one-timed slap shots and puck movement with all the effort that you’d expect from the 20-year-old turning-pro defenseman. Again, I really can’t say enough about Cholowski’s ability to embrace the learning curves of physical and mental development. He’s come a long way since he was a skinny little kid skating in summer development camps.

27 Michael Rasmussen C Tri-City (WHL) 2017 1st round (9th overall): Rasmussen had a quiet morning, but he and Cholowski were among the first players on the ice, and Rasmussen and Cholowski, who both wear “A’s” on their jerseys, led the stretches for the second day in a row. Rasmussen looked more like he was in energy-saving mode, and as long as the 6’6″ behemoth can push a little harder offensively to help the Wings score goals during the rest of the tournament, Rasmussen can have as bland a morning skate as he wishes.

29 Vili Saarijarvi D Grand Rapids (AHL) 2015 3rd round (73rd overall): Saarijarvi apparently experienced cramps during the third period of last night’s game vs. Minnesota, so he sat out the latter portion of the game, but he’s good to go for this evening. Vili looked energetic and engaged as the 5’10,” 182-pound defenseman worked on his slap and one-timer shots. Saarijarvi is by far the Wings’ smoothest defenseman.

34 Patrik Rybar G Hradec Kralove (Czech) Signed by Red Wings, 5/21/18: I’m a little surprised that Rybar didn’t get the starting nod this evening. The 6’3,” 190-pound goaltender was excellent in a losing effort on Friday night, and on Saturday morning, he displayed the same level of aplomb in closing what few holes he possesses and playing a strong puck-blocking style, booting rebounds into areas of little to no danger.

36 Kaden Fulcher G Hamilton (OHL) Signed by Red Wings, 10/3/17: Fulcher will get his chance to shine this evening, and the 6’3,” 182-pound netminder worked very hard to rein in his youthful tendencies to over-commit to low shots and squeeze his chest into a hunched-over position in the butterfly. When Fulcher plays within his technical playbook, he’s a little more sound, and able to throw out the rules when necessary to make a dramatic save. We’ll see how well he holds up vs. the Stars.

46 Lane Zablocki RW Victoria (WHL) 2017 3rd round (79th overall): No Zablocki again. Whatever is bothering the 6,’ 180-pound winger is enough to keep him out of the lineup, and that Brady Gilmour-Zach Gallant line could use him.

48 Givani Smith RW Kitchener (OHL) 2016 2nd round (46th overall): Smith is not in his element during morning skates, but the 6’2,” 206-pound turning-pro winger was happy to work on his skills and keep an excellent pace during the drills the Wings went through. Smith’s energy level never seems to wane.

49 Axel Holmstrom C Grand Rapids (AHL) 2014 7th round (196th overall): Holmstrom looked solid out there, not spectacular, but at least good enough to continue putting his knee injury-marred seasons behind him. The 6’1,” 219-pound center will probably play on the wing again tonight, and he’s quite effective there.

50 Reilly Webb D Saginaw (OHL) 2017 6th round (164th overall): Webb works hard and displays good work habits, but the 6’3″ defender needs to get in a game to prove that his massive wingspan can handle bump-and-grind hockey, and I don’t know if he’s going to get that opportunity given the Wings’ other options on defense.

53 Jordan Topping LW Tri-City (WHL) Signed by Griffins, 7/20/18: Topping is a very solid third-or-fourth-line player, and thus far, the 6’1,” 185-pound graduate of the Tri-City Americans has impressed with his work ethic and determination.

58 David Pope LW Omaha (NCHC) 2013 4th round (109th overall): Pope is one of the players who has to step up in a big way if the Wings are to generate some second-line scoring, and the 6’3,” 198-pound graduate of UNO is more than physically ready to embrace the challenges he faces, but can he shake off a slow start?

62 Trevor Hamilton D Penn State (B10) Signed by Griffins, 3/28/18: The 6,’ 198-pound Hamilton got into the lineup on Friday, but he may not be so lucky on Saturday as he got banged around a bit while playing on the third pairing with Alec Regula.

63 Jared McIsaac D Halifax (QMJHL) 2018 2nd round (36th overall): I continue to be impressed with McIsaac’s grasp of the subtle, simple play, and it’s actually very difficult to teach players to make the simple play more often than not, but that tendency seems to come naturally for the 6’1,” 193-pound defenseman. He’s still got to fill out, though, to really make a professional impact.

64 Zach Gallant C Peterborough (OHL) 2017 3rd round (83rd overall): Gallant wasn’t very visible during the morning skate, but the 6’2,” 198-pound center should provide excellent third-or-fourth-line checking abilities this evening.

67 Brady Gilmour C Saginaw (OHL) 2017 7th round (193rd overall): Gallant’s partner in crime, Gilmour plays much larger than his 5’10,” 170-pound frame, and he’s going to continue to grind upon his opponents.

68 Justin Fazio G Sarnia (OHL) Free Agent Invitee: Fazio continued to do what he needs to do to earn a pro contract with another team–he worked his ass off in practice, listening to the Wings’ goalie coaches as he provided back-up’s-back-up presence.

70 Christoffer Ehn C Frolunda (SHL) 2013 4th round (109th overall): Ehn’s speed is very deceptive, and I’d like to see him utilize it more regularly. The 6’2,” 193-pound Frolunda Indians graduate had a bit of a culture shock game on Friday, and he’s going to have to adjust to the pace of the North American game in short order.

73 Marcus Crawford D Saginaw (OHL) Signed by Griffins, 4/3/18: Crawford didn’t play on Friday, and I’m not sure whether the 5’11,” 190-pound defender will get a chance to shine.

74 Cole Fraser D Peterborough (OHL) 2017 5th round (131st overall): Fraser had a strong third period on Friday night, and while a physical player like Cole is not exactly in his element during a morning skate, the 6’2,” 191-pound defenseman seemed content to work on the skill drills and improve his shot.

76 Nicolas Guay C Drummondville (QMJHL) Free Agent Invitee: Guay has speed and has some hands, and the 5’11,” 174-pound forward may or may not earn his way into the lineup as the Wings try to shake things up tonight.

81 Trevor Yates C Cornell (ECAC) Signed by Griffins, 3/28/18: I’m expecting the 6’2,” 201-pound Cornell grad to get into the lineup tonight, playing in a checking role. The Wings could use some “veteran leadership,” and at 23, Yates should be able to provide that quality.

89 Pavel Gogolev RW Peterborough (OHL) Free Agent Invitee: Gogolev has very solid goal-scoring chops, but his 6’1,” 175-pound frame needs to fill out considerably if he harbors intentions of earning a pro contract. He’s been fairly good, but not great.

90 Joe Veleno C Drummondville (QMJHL) 2018 1st round (30th overall): Veleno was rather surprisingly taken aback by the pace of play during Friday’s game, but he still posted two assists, displaying flashes of tremendous offensive potential. The 6’1,” 195-pound center was quiet on Saturday morning, but his work ethic in games can’t be underscored. He’s a busy bee who needs to display more offense tonight.

92 Maxim Golod LW Erie (OHL) Free Agent Invitee: Golod had an OK game vs. Minnesota, but at 5’11” and 164 pounds, he may be out of the lineup after getting banged around last night.

94 Alec Regula D London (OHL) 2018 3rd round (67th overall): Regula was OK but not great during Friday night’s game, and the 6’4,” 203-pound behemoth looked strong when he was making plays with the puck, but he was also prone to taking some big hits away from play. He needs to maximize his reach and minimize the incidences of instances where he’s getting taken out of the play.

FYI: I am still raising funds for the Traverse City trip, hoping to get another $800 so that I can fit the hotel bill for 2 weeks’ stay. If you are willing to lend a hand, is the place to go. Thank you!

Update: Looks like Rasmussen has been shifted to the wing full-time:

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George Malik

My name is George Malik, and I'm the Malik Report's editor/blogger/poster. I have been blogging about the Red Wings since 2006, when MLive hired me to work their SlapShots blog, and I joined Kukla's Korner in 2011 as The Malik Report. I'm starting The Malik Report as a stand-alone site, hoping that having my readers fund the website is indeed the way to go to build a better community and create better content.