Quick impressions from the Red Wings’ morning skate ahead of the championship game at the prospect tournament ’18

The Detroit Red Wings’ prospects took part in an “optional” morning skate ahead of tonight’s prospect tournament championship game against the Columbus Blue Jackets (7:00 PM on Fox Sports GO and DetroitRedWings.com), and 15 skaters and 3 goaltenders took part in the “optional.”

The mood was light-hearted and the players were “loose” in the good sense of the term, but the players and abundance of coaches made sure to get a good sweat on over the course of a half-hour skate.

I’ve already posted my audio from the morning skate, in which Zach Gallant, Filip Zadina, Alec Regula, Givani Smith and coach Ben Simon are interviewed, and here are some brief player impressions going into tonight’s game.

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): There was the slightest tinge of frustration in Zadina’s voice, and that’s to be expected when the 6th overall draft pick has only accumulated a single slap shot goal over the course of 3 games played. Zadina is trying very hard to force offense, and oftentimes, that’s the worst thing a scorer can do in attempting to break out. Zadina’s handled the bump and grind at 6′ and 196 pounds, he’s skated very well and complemented Michael Rasmussen and Joe Veleno, but it would be nice to see Zadina streak up the wing and score this evening.

Again, he’s skilled enough and confident enough to make the team out of training camp, but the prospect tournament has been a crash course in getting to know the lack of time and space at the NHL level. Better Zadina learn it now.

21 Dennis Cholowski D Portland (WHL) 2016 1st round (20th overall): Cholowski has looked like a natural over the course of three games, sitting second on the team in scoring and displaying veteran savvy ahead of his 20 years of age. The 6’1,” 195-to-200-pound pro rookie has simplified his game slightly and really embraced his role as the team’s #1 defenseman. He may not make the Wings’ roster out of training camp, but he’s going to do quite well in the AHL.

27 Michael Rasmussen C Tri-City (WHL) 2017 1st round (9th overall): Rasmussen was nearly decapitated several times on Monday night, so he took the morning off to rest his neck after getting tugged and pulled and punched and whacked up high. He was no worse for overall wear, and the 6’6,” 221-pound 19-year-old looks the most ready of any player on the Red Wings’ roster. I believe that Rasmussen will succeed at any position he’s asked to play at the NHL level, and his net-front abilities are excellent.

29 Vili Saarijarvi D Grand Rapids (AHL) 2015 3rd round (73rd overall): Saarijarvi has been almost as good as Cholowski, though the 5’10,” 182-pound Saarijarvi often looks as if he’s on the very edge of losing the puck or losing a battle. Vili wins those little, sometimes scary battling moments, and he’s done a great job of maximizing his skating to afford the Wings a strong fourth man in the rush.

34 Patrik Rybar G Hradec Kralove (Czech) Signed by Red Wings, 5/21/18: Rybar is apparently not playing due to a lingering injury (my best guess is that his ankle is still healing from summertime surgery), but he could have played tonight and would have been damn good. At a massive 6’3″ and 190 pounds, the lanky Slovak goaltender plays a calm, composed butterfly style in which puck-blocking is combined with impeccable rebound control.

36 Kaden Fulcher G Hamilton (OHL) Signed by Red Wings, 10/3/17: Fulcher gets to “go” for the prospect tournament title, and he was excited but relaxed enough to be typing away on his phone after the morning skate was over. Fulcher possesses an unflappable, outgoing personality on top of an athletic, sometimes acrobatic and almost always technically sound game, and while he’s bound for the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye, there’s a tremendous amount of potential in the 20-year-old, 6’3″-going-on-6’4″ goaltender.

46 Lane Zablocki RW Victoria (WHL) 2017 3rd round (79th overall): Out for the tournament, the Wings could have used the 6,’ 190-pound right-shooting winger’s grinding presence…

48 Givani Smith RW Kitchener (OHL) 2016 2nd round (46th overall): And instead, they’ve leaned heavily upon Givani Smith, who’s done a great job of agitating and grinding the opposition down. Smith told me that he didn’t accept the Rangers’ invitations to fight until the Wings were up 4-0, and he’s done a fine job of holding his temper while using his 6’2,” 206-pound frame to make a nuisance of himself. Speedier than anticipated, Smith says that Shawn Horcoff has become a mentor for him, and Horcoff certainly knew how to grind out a role as an NHL player.

49 Axel Holmstrom C Grand Rapids (AHL) 2014 7th round (196th overall): Holmstrom has rounded into form as the tournament progressed, and the 22-year-old seems ready to establish himself as a regular in Grand Rapids while playing a rock-solid two-way game, with hints of the kind of offensive abilities he displayed with Skelleftea AIK in the Swedish league. At 6’1″ and 219 pounds, he can handle the bump and grind as well.

50 Reilly Webb D Saginaw (OHL) 2017 6th round (164th overall): Webb remains a work in progress. The 6’3,” 201-pound defenseman needs to have a very, very big year with the Saginaw Spirit to earn a contract with the Wings, and thus far, the massive stay-at-home defenseman has looked like someone who’s still on his way toward developing into a professional player.

53 Jordan Topping LW Tri-City (WHL) Signed by Griffins, 7/20/18: Topping has been excellent in his role as a 3rd-line winger, providing the Wings with a steady presence and strong defensive play. I don’t think that the 6’1,” 185-pound winger has a ton of offensive upside, but he could be a dark horse defensive prospect down the line.

58 David Pope LW Omaha (NCHC) 2013 4th round (109th overall): Pope didn’t take part in the morning skate, and Pope, like Zadina, is a high-level offensive player who’s been struggling to find time and space to score. No shrinking violet at 24 years of age, 6’3″ and 198 pounds, Pope has to simplify his game a bit and work smarter instead of harder to score goals.

62 Trevor Hamilton D Penn State (B10) Signed by Griffins, 3/28/18: Hamilton’s been the perfect foil to Dennis Cholowski, playing a safe, steady defensive game while using his mobility and his 6,’ 198-pound frame to grind out pucks as the stay-at-home/safety valve defenseman on the first pair.

63 Jared McIsaac D Halifax (QMJHL) 2018 2nd round (36th overall): The Wings are going to have to dig deep to overcome the loss of McIsaac to a self-inflicted shoulder injury. A master of the simple, subtle play at 18, McIsaac has played excellent hockey alongside Vili Saarijarvi, and he’s got a bright future.

64 Zach Gallant C Peterborough (OHL) 2017 3rd round (83rd overall): Gallant did a nice job of adding some offense to his game while playing on the wing, but he’s mostly a checking forward and an efficient one at that. 6’2″ and 198 pounds, he possesses the size, strength and speed to work as a defensive fourth-line center…

67 Brady Gilmour C Saginaw (OHL) 2017 7th round (193rd overall): And Brady Gilmour is close to Gallant’s skill level and effectiveness despite his 5’10,” 170-pound frame. More of a “water bug,” Gilmour glides along the ice and checks, checks, checks.

68 Justin Fazio G Sarnia (OHL) Free Agent Invitee: I can’t say enough about Fazio’s desire to work his butt off in practices while attempting to earn a pro contract with another team. He’s been the 3rd goaltender throughout the tournament, and he’s embraced his role. Not big at 6’1″ and 188 pounds, he maximizes his size with sterling fundamentals.

70 Christoffer Ehn C Frolunda (SHL) 2013 4th round (109th overall): Ehn’s been good. Turning North American pro after several years with the SHL’s Frolunda Indians, the 6’2,” 193-pound Ehn has played as the Wings’ second-line center, steadily providing a strong pivot for Holmstrom and Smith to generate some offense and grind on the opposition without sacrificing defensive opportunities. He’s got to add some size and strength, but Ehn’s going to earn a spot in Grand Rapids.

73 Marcus Crawford D Saginaw (OHL) Signed by Griffins, 4/3/18: Crawford gets a chance to shine tonight as the Wings look to replace McIsaac, and the 5’11,” 190-pound defenseman, headed to either Grand Rapids or Toledo, can prove that he’s more than a useful stop-gap if he plays well this evening.

74 Cole Fraser D Peterborough (OHL) 2017 5th round (131st overall): Fraser seems to have drawn the short straw one more time, and it’s understandable that the 6’2,” 191-pound defenseman is frustrated by that, but he’s put on a happy face and been a good teammate. Fraser is a viciously physical defenseman who can play an effective game.

76 Nicolas Guay C Drummondville (QMJHL) Free Agent Invitee: Guay has also drawn the short end of the stick in terms of ice time, and the 5’11,” 176-pound center needed more ice time to show his stuff. He’ll likely head back to Drummondville after tonight’s game.

81 Trevor Yates C Cornell (ECAC) Signed by Griffins, 3/28/18: Yates stepped into the lineup and worked his tail off on the 4th line, displaying strong two-way form as a 6’2,” 203-pound graduate of Cornell. At 24, Yates is ready and willing to play as a mature checking center for either Grand Rapids or Toledo.

89 Pavel Gogolev RW Peterborough (OHL) Free Agent Invitee: Gogolev, listed by the Wings at 6′ and 168 pounds, hasn’t differentiated himself from a group of small but offensively-gifted prospects, and he’s probably headed back to Peterborough when all is said and done.

90 Joe Veleno C Drummondville (QMJHL) 2018 1st round (30th overall): Veleno’s taken the scoring lead for the Wings in the tournament, and while he’s not overly big at 6’1″ and 191 pounds, Veleno has displayed an efficient, sometimes subtle and at other times bombastic two-way game, lugging the puck up ice with authority, distributing it to his teammates and taking the occasional hard, smart shot at the net when he’s able. Veleno is an excellent skater and has strong defensive awareness.

92 Maxim Golod LW Erie (OHL) Free Agent Invitee: Golod had an Golod, still very young physically as well as in terms of his game, stands at 5’11” and 164 pounds, and he’s going to go back to Erie and carve out a scorer’s role.

94 Alec Regula D London (OHL) 2018 3rd round (67th overall): Regula gets a big opportunity to stick in the lineup and perhaps display his chops as a complementary defenseman this evening. He’s the logical candidate to work with Vili Saarijarvi, and the 6’4,” 203-pound Regula has been steady enough and strong enough of a skater to keep up as he continues to grow into a massively lanky frame. We’ll see what he’s got…

And finally, I’m about $650 from my goal of breaking even for the hotel bill in Traverse City. If you’re willing to lend a hand, https://paypal.me/TheMalikReport is the place to go. Thank you for your readership and your 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.