The Detroit Red Wings’ prospects had a difficult game in their championship match-up vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets. The prospects really came apart in a 3rd period they led 3-2, surrendering 5 goals en route to a 7-3 loss.
It was a disappointing finish to a solid prospect tournament, a tournament in which the Wings went 2-and-2, rebounding from a tough loss to Minnesota with strong performances against Dallas and New York.
As someone who has partisan feelings for the team I cover, this one was really hard to cover, and this is going to be a hard couple of hours trying to evaluate the Wings prospects’ performances.
The ugly plus-minuses of Dennis Cholowski, Michael Rasmussen and Joe Veleno don’t reflect their prospect tournament performances–they reflect one really horrific period–and I’m not about to consign Filip Zadina (who is fine after getting smoked in the head cutting across the blueline, yielding little more than a slight wrist sprain) to the scrap-heap because he found himself in over his head trying to play Major Junior hockey against professional competition, nor am I going to bash Kaden Fulcher for one shitty game–but they had hiccups in a championship game.
Here’s MLive’s Ansar Khan’s concise recap of the game…
The Columbus Blue Jackets scored five unanswered goals in the third period Tuesday to defeat the Detroit Red Wings 7-3 in the championship game of the NHL Prospects Tournament at Centre I.C.E. in Traverse City.
Givani Smith scored a pair of goals and Dennis Cholowski scored on the power play to put Detroit ahead 3-2 at 1:35 of the third period.
It was all Blue Jackets after that as Columbus finished the tournament 4-0. The Red Wings went 2-2.
Kaden Fulcher allowed six goals on 17 shots. Columbus scored a pair of empty-net goals.
Joe Veleno picked up an assist and led the Red Wings in scoring during the tournament with seven points (two goals, five assists). Cholowski had six points (two goals, four assists) and Michael Rasmussen collected five points (three goals, two assists).
ColumbusBlueJackets.com’s Brian Hedger certainly paints a different picture of the Blue Jackets’ win…
Leaning heavily on goalie Matiss Kivlenieks (20 saves) and a third line that was dominant in the final two games, Columbus downed the host Red Wings 7-3 Tuesday night at Centre Ice Arena – making up for losing in the championship last year to the Chicago Blackhawks.
“You look at the roster and [there were] maybe six first-round draft picks [for Detroit],” said Cleveland Monsters coach John Madden, who’s coached the Jackets’ team here the past two seasons. “I’m sure the guys were a little bit: ‘Wow, six first-rounders’ – and they’re very talented and very good players. Our gameplan was to play a game that was conducive to what we had and the guys bought in.”
The championship makes Columbus the lone team to win five tournament titles here, which ended a tie at four between the Jackets and the St. Louis Blues. Columbus also won it in 2005, 2006, 2014 and 2015.
After allowing two goals in the first 1:35 of the third period, putting them behind 3-2, the Blue Jackets (4-0-0) stormed back to win on five straight goals in the remaining 18:25 – scored by Eric Robinson, Sam Vigneault, Trey Fix-Wolansky, Garret Cockerill and Sherwood.
“We were determined,” said New Albany’s Sherwood, who finished with four points (two goals and two assists) and a plus-5 rating in the tournament. “Not one guy cracked. We fell down there in the third and we don’t let that ruin us. We stayed composed and we got the win. That’s all that matters.”
Than DetroitRedWings.com’s Arthur J. Regner and Dana Wakiji paint of the Wings prospects’ loss, and Filip Zadina’s self-criticism:
Filip Zadina : The entire Detroit organization likely held its collective breath at 12:25 of the third period when Zadina got the puck on a pass from Michael Rasmussen and was hit in what appeared to be a high hit by Columbus defenseman Justin Wade. Zadina crumpled to the ice and had to be helped off. Meanwhile, Detroit defenseman Vili Saarijarvi responded by immediately hitting Wade, breaking his stick in the process. After the referees conferred, they deemed it to be a clean hit and Wade and Saarijarvi received roughing penalties. At 16:45, Zadina skated back onto the ice, much to the relief of the Wings fans and front office staff. Zadina finished the tournament with one goal and two assists in the four games. Now his focus shifts to Red Wings training camp, which starts Friday.
Quotable: “I got a pass from Ras and I tried to shoot the puck but the guy, the second guy from behind, he step in and he hit me. I hit my wrist beside my chest and it just squeezed it so it hurt but it’s going to be good. Nothing changing, we are lost. I didn’t help the team to win. They were just checking my wrist and just said I want to go back. But I probably should stay in the room because I didn’t help the team. It was a horrible game.” — Zadina
Quotable II: “We saw it and I looked at it on tape. Whenever you cut across the blue line you are somewhat vulnerable and there is an onus on the player making the hit not to hit him in the head but we looked at it on tape, but I didn’t see it live so I didn’t make a big stink with the referees. They made the right calls. Maybe it was a little late but he didn’t catch him in the head at all. The biggest thing is he competes and he cares, almost cares too much at times. He’s got high expectations and he’ll have to learn to measure those highs and lows. That’s part of growing up and being a pro.” — Ben Simon, Grand Rapids Griffins head coach
Each and every one of the Red Wings’ prospects felt at least a little bit like Filip Zadina on Tuesday night. They were upset, pissed off, quietly disconsolate, or just plain disappointed and sad…
But, at the same time, the players packed their equipment into bags and mostly prepared to take part in the Red Wings’ training camp, whose physicals and charity golf outing take place on Thursday, and whose on-ice events begin on Friday.
Things change in a hurry, and to some extent, the facile minds of young men are going to compartmentalize this tournament and prepare for the big events to come, as Michael Rasmussen suggested.
If you’re a professional athlete and shit happens, you deal with it and move on, especially when the NHL’ers are coming to town to compete for jobs in two days.
Here are the Wings’ player/coach comment videos. They aren’t as long as my audio posts, but one can’t compete with video:
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) September 12, 2018
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) September 12, 2018
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) September 12, 2018
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) September 12, 2018
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) September 12, 2018
In terms of player impressions, here are my thoughts regarding the Wings’ individual performances:
27 Michael Rasmussen: Rasmussen had a rough championship game statistically, going -3 with an assist, but he was arguably one of the Wings’ stronger players, and while Rasmussen still needs to find some shift-to-shift consistency, the 6’6,” 221-pound forward is ready to join the Red Wings’ roster as a 19-year-old rookie.
Throughout the tournament, in which Rasmussen finished with 3 goals and 2 assists for 5 points over the course of 4 games played, Rasmussen was an excellent player, displaying excellent goal-scoring abilities, jam and verve down low, a willingness to lug the puck up ice and carry the mail, and for a big, calm man, he displayed a surprising edge at times.
Rasmussen wore an “A” on his jersey, and he spoke with the media after every game, spoke at the morning skate, smiled once or twice and mostly conducted his business as someone who understands he has to unseat a Red Wing to earn a spot on the Red Wings’ team. He’s a legitimate power forward prospect who could wind up scoring 15+ goals in a net-front role, and that’s exciting.
90 Joe Veleno: Veleno hopes to be like Rasmussen a season from now. Fleet of foot and equally speedy with or without the puck on his stick, the 6’1,” 191-pound Drummondville Voltigeurs center is heading back to the Q for another season, but he’s on a quick developmental curve, both physically, mentally and in terms of the game he plays–which is near-professional in its quality.
Veleno led the Wings in scoring with 2 goals and 5 assists for 7 points over the course of 4 games played, and he served as the team’s #1 center, winning draws, playing on both the power play and PK, and displaying superb two-way acumen. He still needs to add another 5-10 pounds of muscle, and it would be great if he could rid the few Major Junior-playing tendencies out of a relatively mature game, but he’s going to be an NHL center.
11 Filip Zadina: Zadina had a tremendously disappointing, frustrating prospect tournament, finishing with a goal and 2 assists for 3 points in 4 games played, and Zadina displayed far too much of a willingness to over-complicate the game trying to score on beautiful one-timers or deke-dangle-and-drag plays that involved giving up time and space on the ice to make a prettier, more aesthetically-pleasing play. He played Quebec League hockey in a professional environment, and his tendencies limited his effectiveness.
As a result, Zadina got smoked cutting across the blueline in the championship game, and luck yielded a sore wrist instead of a major concussion or shoulder injury.
At the same time, Filip is physically mature at 6′ and 196 pounds, Filip’s an elite puck-handler and fantastic skater, he’s dynamic, arrogant in all the right ways and senses of the term, and he works his butt off in attempts to unleash an NHL shot upon the opposition.
Zadina could still make the team out of training camp and score 15 goals, and Zadina could spend the season in Grand Rapids and learn the hard way that men who are putting food on the table via playing hockey aren’t going to give you that extra half-second to deke and dangle and drag. What happens over the course of training camp and the exhibition season will matter far more than the heavy dose of learning Zadina endured during the prospect tournament, but he’s going to have to learn in a hurry and simplify his game in a hurry.
49 Axel Holmstrom: Holmstrom finished with 1 goal in the prospect tournament, and Holmstrom was one of the Wings’ steadiest players throughout the course of the tournament. It’s hard to peg Holmstrom’s overall upside, however, because he’s still missing half-a-step from multiple knee injuries in Sweden. Holmstrom is a fine grinding forward at 22, with a year of AHL seasoning under his belt and at a steady 6’1″ and 219 pounds, but he possesses hands above the level at which he can keep up with the play, and those hands haven’t gone away.
Most likely, Holmstrom will earn a more regular AHL spot this upcoming season and determine whether he’s a support player on the bottom two lines or something more than that over the course of this AHL season. I like his poise, I like his grit, and he used to love going to the front of the net, but that’s gone away a bit. I don’t know how much of that bright top-six scoring forward’s potential is still held up by knee braces, but I believe in Holmstrom’s work ethic for sure.
70 Christoffer Ehn: Ehn earned some top-line center’s work when the Wings were scrambling for offense in the third period, and someone who’s all but plugged into his future role as a 3rd line checking center with “legs” fit into Rasmussen and Zadina’s centerman’s spot with aplomb.
That was just a period’s worth of play for the 6’2,” 193-pound center coming over to North American pro hockey after a full developmental career with the SHL’s Frolunda Indians, but it was an intriguing glimpse of the fact that Ehn can keep up with an elite level of play, pass well and make plays. Whether Ehn can live up to that potential depends upon how he plays over the course of the next couple of AHL seasons.
48 Givani Smith: Smith scored 2 goals on Tuesday night, and from time to time, that’s his game. Most of the time, the 20-year-old Smith plays a tremendously gritty game, utilizing his speed, strength and work ethic to piss off the opposition over the course of shift after shift and game after game. Smith turned down more fights than he got into, but he managed to get in a spirited scrap and managed to accumulate 11 penalty minutes over the course of 4 games played. Givani did not take any dumb penalties, however, taking opponents with him, and from his game to his actions to his words and perspective, Smith is a team-first-me-second player in the best sense of the term.
Smith is going to attempt to establish himself as an AHL regular and he’s going to find the hoeing more difficult than even he anticipates, but over the course of a season or two of development, he’s going to become a good agitator and beloved player among his teammates.
64 Zach Gallant: Gallant is going into his “contract year” of Major Junior play, and the Red Wings prospects’ coaches may have unleashed Gallant’s best chance of differentiating himself from a large pool of grinding forward prospects by placing Gallant, a 6’2,” 198-pound center, on the wing.
When Gallant played on the wing, he displayed a level of offensive play that simply didn’t manifest itself when he played as a center, and Gallant at least looked like a two-way forward who was also a two-way threat. He stepped into the role and scored a goal and added an assist because of it, in no small part thanks to his superb speed.
Gallant is likely to return to the Peterborough Petes and work his tail off trying to earn a contract.
67 Brady Gilmour: Gallant’s compatriot in checking, Gilmour stands shorter at 5’10” and 170 pounds, but he’s a meaty little bugger who skates tremendously well and checks hard. Gilmour was a stalwart on the third line, grinding his opponents down and providing a solid-enough presence that he facilitated some offensive chances for David Pope.
Gilmour has a hard road ahead in attempting to earn a contract as another grinding forward, but he’ll go back to Saginaw after training camp and work his “little” tail off.
58 David Pope: Pope’s “upside” is hard to peg down, even after watching him for four years’ worth of development camps and one prospect tournament. Pope, who’s 24 years old going into his first pro season, is on a very short developmental curve, because he either sticks and scores goals in Grand Rapids within a couple of seasons, or he finds himself heading over to Europe to try and make cash before he ages out of profitability.
Pope is in excellent shape at 6’3″ and 198 pounds, he skates superbly and possesses a heavy, hard and accurate shot, and Pope should have displayed a lot more scoring punch on the third line than he did. As a 4-year college graduate and a 24-year-old, he needs to adjust to the pace of professional hockey and bounce back from a sub-par prospect tournament, because he’s supposed to be one of the Wings’ better goal-scoring prospects.
53 Jordan Topping: Topping is a Griffins-bound forward and he isn’t overly big at 6’1″ and 185 pounds, but Topping had an excellent showing in the prospect tournament, skating hard and fast, checking efficiently and battling for body position in all three zones.
At 21, Topping was sort of a “bonus prospect” signing out of the WHL, with his status as Michael Rasmussen’s teammate probably not hurting him, and Topping appears to be ready to stand on his own as a bottom-six checking forward, regardless of whether he plays in Grand Rapids or Toledo.
81 Trevor Yates: Yates, like Pope, is a 24-year-old and a 4-year graduate of Cornell, and the 6’2,” 203-pound center played like a professional athlete. Yates projects to be an AHL lifer at this point, but he displayed a mature, well-rounded game with good speed, good pace and heavy physicality–and he played with a pained expression on his face, as if he knew he was battling for his life on every shift.
Yates and Topping will be battling for spots on the Griffins’ roster, I wouldn’t bet against Yates.
89 Pavel Gogolev: Gogolev stood at 6’0″ and 168 pounds on the Wings’ stat sheet, taller and heavier on Elite Prospects (by the tune of 6’1″ and 172 pounds), and the Peterborough Petes forward, who scored 30 goals in his draft year, displayed a solid acumen in terms of his ability to keep up with the pace of play, but there were only flashes and fleeting glimpses of the high-octane offense that he may possess on a more consistent basis.
He’s headed back to Major Junior to try to get drafted in 2019 and possibly latch on with another team.
21 Dennis Cholowski: Cholowski was by far the stalwart of the Red Wings’ defensive corps, posting 2 goals and 4 assists for 6 points in 4 games, and he played excellent hockey throughout the tournament. Cholowski is never going to be overly big, but at 6’1″ and 195-to-200 pounds, he’s more than able to battle his way through physical challenges and physical challengers, coming out of scrums in the corner boards, along the glass and behind the net with the puck.
Cholowski is a superb skater, with fine forward, backward and lateral mobility, his edge-work is very good and could actually be improved upon, he sees the ice very well and is equally adept at lugging the puck up ice himself or sending seeing-eye outlet passes to teammates. His shot is hard and accurate, and he knows how to use his shot to create scoring chances for teammates, how to helm a power play, and how to work as a penalty-killer, too.
He was also quite comfortable with an “A” on his jersey, speaking to the media calmly after wins and losses, and Cholowski’s maturity includes some self-criticism of the positive variety.
He knows he’s got to get better to earn a spot on the Wings’ roster, and he’s probably going to start the season in Grand Rapids–on a crowded blueline–understanding that he is one of the Red Wings’ brightest prospects only if he keeps working to get better and better.
76 Trevor Hamilton: Hamilton is a 24-year-old defenseman did an excellent job of stepping into a top-pairing role and playing as Cholowski’s stay-at-home partner. Hamilton also displayed the ability to keep up with Cholowski’s pace and creativity, and the 6,’ 198-pound graduate of Penn State did a great job of playing in-a-pinch as a 20-minute defender.
I don’t know if he’s going to make the Griffins’ blueline or the Walleye’s blueline out of camp, but he put in a fine performance among younger players and peers.
94 Alec Regula: Regula possesses excellent potential as a massive, 6’4,” 203-pound complementary defenseman, but Regula took a couple of really dumb penalties when he played, ones that stuck in my head, and that’s because he’s young. At all of 18 years of age, Regula played alongside Evan Bouchard on the London Knights, and I think that the level of play he encountered at the prospect tournament was something of a shock…
And all of that being said, the lanky defenseman played very well alongside Vili Saarijarvi after earning a spot in the lineup late, he skates quite well for someone who’s all arms and legs at 18, he’s accustomed to bump-and-grind hockey and there is definitely top-four potential in terms of his skill set, be it skating, passing, shooting, playmaking or checking.
Regula will go back to one of the OHL’s best teams and work very hard on taking the next step in his development.
29 Vili Saarijarvi: Saarijarvi was the first player to step in when Filip Zadina got smoked on Tuesday, tussling with Justin Wade and earning significant praise from his teammates for stepping up and wearing that “A” on his jersey with pride.
Saarijarvi, not big at 5’10” and 182 pounds, but he’s worked very hard to develop into a physically well-rounded player, and while Saarijarvi looks like he’s going to turn over the puck because he’s on the run so very regularly, with an opponent in close pursuit, but Saarijarvi is generally in complete and utter control of the puck, skating away from trouble and preparing to make an excellent pass to a teammate in full flight or to helm the rush himself.
Saarijarvi is the Wings’ best skater, forward, backward, laterally, on his edges, you name it, he skates fluidly. Saarijarvi has great vision, Saarijarvi has a sneaky hard shot, and while he posted a single point, he also generated excellent scoring chances on a regular basis while keeping the scoring chances against to a minimum.
Vili is still going to have a hard time making the jump to the NHL because his size will always be a detriment, but he’s going to grab a spot on the Griffins’ blueline this season, and he’s going to dig in.
73 Marcus Crawford: Crawford, a probably-Walleye-bound Griffins-contracted defenseman, had his best game by far playing alongside an OHL teammate in Reilly Webb. Crawford isn’t big at 5’11” and 190 pounds, and he’s only 21 years of age, but the Red Wings saw enough in the plucky defender to hand him an AHL contract.
There were times that Crawford got knocked around because he’s not yet fully physically developed, and there were times that he struggled with the pace of play, but more often than not, he worked his tail off to be solid, and solid, he was.
50 Reilly Webb: Webb had an up-and-down prospect tournament, and going into his contract year of Major Junior, it’s hard to peg down where exactly the 6’3,” 201-pound defenseman fits. With a massive frame and strong skating abilities, Webb could be an Alec Regula-level complementary mid-pair defenseman, but thus far, Webb hasn’t been able to find his form playing with the Saginaw Spirit, and going forward, he needs to carve out a spot for himself.
#36 Kaden Fulcher: Kaden Fulcher had a bad game, giving up 6 goals on only 17 shots against. It was a tremendously disappointing end to a promising tournament for Fulcher, who helped the Wings rebound against the Stars on Saturday.
Fulcher is turning pro at 20 years of age, and the 6’3,” 182-pound goaltender is an athletic but fundamentally sound goaltender whose little holes over his catch glove and shoulders when he drops down into the butterfly cost him against the Blue Jackets.
Fulcher’s already earned his pro contract as a free agent try-out, Fulcher is going to play for the Toledo Walleye this upcoming season, and Fulcher generally plays a patient game, using a paddle-and-pads-down technique to anticipate shots and either send the rebounds out of trouble with his fast feet and blocker or swallow them up with a solid catch glove. He’s a capable stickhandler as well, and he was able to bail out his teammates on occasion by coming out and playing the puck.
Fulcher will rebound from this performance and be better for it.
Back-up goalie and scratches:
#34 Patrik Rybar (goaltender): Rybar did an excellent job of displaying professionally-ready form over the course of a win and a loss for the Wings’ prospects.
Rybar’s an older goaltender at 26 years of age, and after two big seasons for HC Hradec Kralove in the Czech Republic, the 6’3,” 190-pound Slovakian-born netminder is all polish and poise, playing a calm and collected butterfly style, booting pucks out of trouble with his pads and blocker, snagging sniper’s shots with his glove or using his massive frame to stifle shots with a chest protector that might not meet the new NHL standards. The one thing Rybar doesn’t do well is stickhandle, and he’s working on at least turning a weakness into something that’s not a detriment.
Rybar’s going to battle Harri Sateri for a spot on the Griffins’ roster, and it will be interesting to see whether he continues to look like he’s pro-ready over the course of training camp–some players continue on an upward trajectory, and some disappear into the flow, and that’s the case for every prospect.
46 Lane Zablocki (forward): Zablocki worked out in Detroit over the summer, but an unspecified injury cost the 6,’ 190-pound winger his prospect tournament, and going into his contract year of Major Junior hockey, it’s going to take a tremendous performance for Zablocki to skate his hard-checking, hard-charging body toward a contract.
63 Jared McIsaac (defense): McIsaac is another story entirely. The Red Wings’ prospects desperately missed McIsaac’s calming presence in the championship game, and the 6’1,” 193-pound defenseman may still be growing into his body and still growing into his game, but he skates superbly and plays subtle, simple hockey while hinting at a skilled game that may be greater than the sum of his current parts. McIsaac is only 18, but he played with the poise and resolve of a veteran player.
Going forward, McIsaac will head back to Halifax and attempt to add more overt displays of skill to an utterly simple game in all the best senses of the term.
68 Justin Fazio** (goaltender): Fazio will move forward hoping to have impressed another pro team with his impeccable practice habits. The 6’1,” 188-pound graduate of the Sarnia Sting was the Red Wings’ third goaltender, consigned to stopping shots and working with the Wings’ goaltending coaches during morning skates, and he did an admirable job. If he doesn’t land a pro contract, I believe he’s headed to Queen’s University.
74 Cole Fraser (defenseman): Fraser earned the short end of the personnel stick over the course of the prospect tournament, and that’s a damn hard thing to deal with when you’re a 19-year-old going into your final year of hockey with the Peterborough Petes. Fraser possesses a nasty game and a mean streak a 6’2,” 191-pound frame that does a very good job of keeping up with the play despite his status as a 5-6 defenseman, but he’s going to have to put the disappointment of the prospect tournament behind him, get ready for main camp, and have a tremendous season in Peterborough.
76 Nicholas Guay** (forward): Guay may have earned an invite because he’s teammates with Joe Veleno, and he was unable to clamp down and clinch a spot on the prospect tournament team. At 6’1″ and 183 pounds, Guay provided speed and discipline, and he kept up with the pace of play, but he did not impress.
92 Maxim Golod** (forward): Golod, a 5’10,” 160-pound forward from the Erie Otters, looked 13 or 14 at most. To his credit, the physically-under-developed Golod played in two games and kept up, but his speed and scoring abilities didn’t translate into strong results.
* = Griffins contract, ** = Try-out.
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