The Detroit Red Wings’ prospects captured their second Matthew Wuest Memorial Trophy on Tuesday, rallying from a 4-2 deficit to defeat the Dallas Stars in a wild 6-5 finish.
Joe Veleno finished with 2 goals and an assist, Givani Smith had 2 goals, Ryan Kuffner had a goal and 2 assists for 3 points, Griffins signing Gregor MacLeod had a goal and an assist and Sean Romeo stopped 23 shots to win the wild and woolly game.
Detroit finishes 3-0-and-1 at the prospect tournament 2019, with Joe Veleno leading the team in scoring with 7 goals and an assist in 4 games played; Kuffner had 3 goals and 5 assists for 8 points; Chase Pearson (4 G+2 A) and Givani Smith (3 G+3 A) tied for third in points, and Sean Romeo’s 4.00 GAA and .840 save percentage were still good enough to win a championship.
The Red Wings archived the game on their YouTube channel…
MLive’s Ansar Khan penned a game recap…
Joe Veleno sparked a third-period rally with a pair of goals as the Detroit Red Wings defeated the Dallas Stars 6-5 Tuesday win the NHL Prospects Tournament at Centre I.C.E. in Traverse City.
The Red Wings (3-0-1) won their final three games to capture this event for just the second time in 21 seasons and the first since 2013.
Veleno, who also picked up an assist, led all players in seven goals and finished with eight points.
Ryan Kuffner’s unassisted goal at 8:40 of the third period was the first of four unanswered goals by Detroit that turned a two-goal deficit into a 6-4 lead. Veleno scored on the power at 11:02 to tie it and notched an unassisted goal at 12:52 to give his team the lead for good.
Givani Smith scored his second goal of the game at 17:28, which proved to be the game-winner.
Michigan Hockey’s Stefan Kubus did a recap/play-by-play…
For just the second time ever, the Detroit Red Wings captured the Matthew Wuest Memorial Cup as NHL Prospect Tournament champions.
The Red Wings had won the Traverse City-based tournament just once in 2013, despite appearing in the championship game five times in the last seven years.
Joe Veleno (30th overall, 2018) had entered Tuesday’s championship game with a tournament-leading five goals, and his two late third-period tallies helped lift the Wings to a 6-5 victory over the Dallas Stars. Givani Smith (46th overall, 2016) also potted a pair of goals for the Wings, the second of which proved to be the game-winning marker. Meanwhile, Ohio State product and free-agent invite Sean Romeo picked up the win in goal.
“It’s what the main goal was coming into this tournament, to leave a mark for the organization and I think all the fans come here and support us, so it was nice we won it for them, for the organization, so it felt really good,” Veleno told the Red Wings’ Carley Johnston following the win.
Of note from DetroitRedWings.com’s Dana Wakiji and Arthur J. Regner’s recap:
Joe Veleno: There’s no question that Veleno proved to have the Midas Touch throughout this prospect tournament. He started with two power-play goals in each of the first two games and added an empty-net goal in the third game. With the Wings down 4-3 in the third, it was Veleno who scored two goals within 1:50, one on the power play and one unassisted on a bad angle, to give the Wings a 5-4 lead. Veleno’s seven goals were first overall in the tournament. The next closest players had four each. Veleno sprung Smith for a breakaway at 17:28 of the third, which proved to be vital as the Stars scored a late goal with the extra attacker. Veleno, who had a dominant season for the QMJHL’s Drummondville Voltigeurs last year, finished tied with teammate Kuffner for the tournament points lead with eight. Veleno had seven points (2-5-7) in last year’s prospect tournament. Veleno finished second to Dallas’ Joel Kiviranta in shots, 19-17.
Quotable: “I think it means a lot, not just for us but for the organization. I know they haven’t won in a couple of years. It was nice to finally have the championship under our belt and lead it into next tournament for whoever’s here. I know points are nice and all but I think playing the right way and winning hockey games is what matters most at the next level. I found a way to contribute and obviously it’s good but I think it’s a better feeling to win.” — Veleno
Update: Also, from the Traverse City Record-Eagle’s James Cook’s recap:
Left wing Taro Hirose was the first to lift the Matthew Wuest Memorial Cup that Detroit won for just the second time in the Prospect Tournament’s 21-year history.
“We were talking about that earlier how we can never seal the deal,” Red Wings and Grand Rapids Griffins coach Ben Simon said. “(Mike Knuble) is here too, and he was saying that he’s been in plenty of championship games, but never won one. I said, ‘Oh that’s great, Mike.'”
Gregor MacLeod scored with eight seconds left on Detroit’s second power play of the game, assisted by Jarid Lukosevicius and Ryan Kuffner for the first period’s only score.
Dallas led 3-2 after two periods, as Joel Kiviranta, Ty Dellandrea and Emil Djuse scored even-strength goals. Smith had his first goal in between Kiviranta and Dellandrea, smacking in the rebound of a MacLeod shot that rung off the top inside corner of the pipe.
Detroit’s only other win in the tournament came in 2013, despite the Red Wings earning a championship-game berth in five of the last seven years.
“All week this group’s been pretty tight, pretty resilient and come back from a deficit like that,” Simon said. “To win a game going to camp is gonna be huge for a lot of these guys confidence.”
After the game, I posted audio clips of Joe Veleno, Givani Smith, Sean Romeo and coach Ben Simon speaking with the media:
The Red Wings also posted a Twitter video clip of post-game remarks:
WXYZ’s Brad Galli posted a combination highlight-and-post-game clip as well:
The Red Wings won the prospects tournament in Traverse City. Joe Veleno scored twice in the third period, beating the Stard 6-5.
Hear from @jveleno91 and @givanismith24: pic.twitter.com/Ntav1gzwQY— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) September 11, 2019
The Red Wings’ prospects misbehaved slightly, by nutritional standards, anyway, after the game:
Update: The Detroit News’s Tom Gromak posted a 31-image photo gallery as well.
This was definitely a strange game. The Red Wings took 1-0 and 2-1 leads, surrendered 3 straight goals, and rallied despite truly struggling against a big, tough and fast Stars offense at times–and, and perhaps moreover, continuing to over-complicate things in the offensive zone, with Filip Zadina nearly bending himself into a pretzel trying to score the prettiest possible goal. Veleno took the team on his back (and got a little lucky on the 5-4 goal), Givani Smith got the game-winner while being checked from behind into Jake Oetinger, who made some baffling gaffes on the Wings’ 3rd period goals, and while he wasn’t fantastic, Sean Romeo was “good enough” to back-stop the Wings’ haphazard defense to a clutch victory.
Keeping in mind that the Red Wings’ prospects are playing in a short tournament in which 18-to-24-year-olds are competing against one another, in an environment likened most regularly to the World Junior Championship, not a regular-season NHL game, nor a summertime scrimmage, here are my observations regarding the players who participated in tonight’s game.
It should be noted that Jarid Lukosevicius spent the first 2 periods of the game on the 1st line, only to be replaced by Givani Smith in the 3rd period–a 3rd period in which the lines and defensive pairings were more suggestions than stuck to on a consistent basis–and Moritz Seider continued to wander from defensive pair to defensive pair as necessary, playing most solidly alongside Gustav Lindstrom.
#67 Taro Hirose: Hirose had a very, very good tournament, but I’m left with the feeling that he left some effort on the table. The 5’10,” 160-pound left wing has worked very hard to increase his strength as he vies for an NHL spot, and as a player who truly has a 40-to-50 point ceiling at the NHL level–and as a 23-year-old playing among 18-to-24-year-olds–I expected more than a goal and 3 assists for 4 points in 4 games. Hirose was a little too indulgent in the plays that he’s able to make because of his excellent talent level in terms of dangling, dekeing and making plays with the puck in traffic and both around and through traffic–he got fancy, he was a little “too fine” in attempting to author artistically and aesthetically pleasing goals, and he just did too much.
A simpler, more straightforward game would have yielded a better use of his immense puck-on-stick talents, passing and shooting abilities, and I know that it’s not going to bother Hirose that he played at 80% of his potential ahead of training camp, because there’s still all the potential in the world that Hirose may wrest a spot away from the Wings’ litany of checking forwards, but he had more to give. We shall see what training camp brings, and whether Hirose puts the pedal to the metal.
#90 Joe Veleno: Joe Veleno, on the other hand, worked his butt off, and Veleno led the Wings in scoring (with 7 goals and an assist for 8 points in 4 games played, as well as a team-leading 17 shots), Veleno led the Wings in work ethic, and Veleno was the player who accomplished the most in terms of serving notice to the Wings’ coaches and management (Blashill and his staff watched the prospect tournament, as did the Wings’ front office and scouts) that #90 should be seriously considered for one of those elusive spots in the Wings’ crowded forward lineup.
Is Veleno going to start the season in Detroit? I don’t believe so, but stranger things have happened, and stranger things tend to happen when you have the combination of elite, explosive skating and excellent all-round talent that Veleno does, backed up with that impeccable and understated work ethic. Veleno’s skating sets him apart because he’s got breakaway speed in traffic–he’s not Athanasiou fast, but he’s an A-level skater–he’s maneuverable in tight, and Veleno’s stick skills, vision and anticipation allow him to both distribute the puck to teammates with pinpoint accuracy (a la Hirose) and unleash a hard, accurate shot that found the back of the net with regularity. As a 19-year-old playing generally among his peers, the 6’1,” 191-pound forward did not give up inch nor pound when he had to battle for the puck in tight, win draws, or when he came back to help bail out what was an up-and-down defense via some tremendous defensive instincts.
All in all, Veleno dominated, and he’s going to have to paddle uphill and uphill hard to make the Wings’ roster, but whatever happens, he’s served notice that the Red Wings have a star in the making on their roster. Could he still end up playing as a shut-down 2-way center, as I’ve suggested in the past? Sure, but when you’ve got a Mustang, why slow it down?
#76 Jarid Lukosevicius*: Kudos to the AHL-contracted Lukosevicius for having an excellent outing in front of his potential coaching staff in the Grand Rapids Griffins’ bench bosses. With 2 goals and 3 assists for 5 points in 4 games played, Lukosevicius tied for third in team scoring, and the 5’10,” 185-pound graduate of the University of Denver looked much more like a 24-year-old forward whose work ethic and overall skill level were suited for Ben Simon’s Griffins over Dan Watson’s Toledo Walleye. The Griffins face a logjam of personnel on both forward and defense, and in a tournament where Lukosevicius was among the older players, he played above the vast majority of his peer group. If he continues with his bright play during training camp, he’ll have kicked a door down to landing an AHL job come October.
#48 Givani Smith “A”: Coach Simon essentially stated that Givani Smith did what the Red Wings and Griffins had expected that he would do as a 21-year-old with a year of AHL experience under his belt–he shined. The 6’2,” 206-pound forward believes that he should be, at the very least, playing as an instigating, forechecking 2nd or 3rd line forward in Grand Rapids, if not a 4th line forward in Detroit, and with 3 goals, 3 assists, a +4, 15 shots and 7 penalty minutes registered over the course of 4 games played, Smith played like a forward who is going to earn the right to increase his role (at least at the AHL level). Smith is a superb skater, he’s tenacious and downright nasty to his opponents, he possesses the toughness and mitts to back up any invitations to fisticuffs, but he also possesses a very good shot, the ability to pass and play at a high pace, and there’s some strong hockey IQ on top of the package (as well as oodles of self-confidence).
Smith’s defining moment came after he scored the game-winning goal by dragging the puck and himself into Stars goalie Jake Oetinger while being checked from behind–he blew by the Stars’ bench at players-can-smell-my-breath closeness, chirping the team the whole time. If he can replicate that kind of result at the AHL level, he’ll easily break out of his fourth-line-enforcer’s role.
#46 Chase Pearson “A”: Pearson finished tied for second in team scoring with 4 goals, 2 assists, 6 points and 15 shots over the course of 4 games played. To some extent, that’s what you’d expect out of a mature 22-year-old who’s coming out of a 3-year career at Maine, where he posted nearly a point per game; at the same time, the 6’2,” 200-pound checking center who insists that he is a checking line center flexed his muscles among his peer group, and his results came while being utilized as 3rd-line, shut-down center. Pearson is a dutiful defensive forward at that, possessing the size, skating and positioning to win draws, beat opponents in stick and body battles for the puck, and use his athletic trunk to skate through opponents when necessary, but he can score goals via a hard, accurate shot or set up teammates with good vision and playmaking abilities when he feels the need to break out. Pearson is likely to find himself playing in the AHL this season, trying to out-muscle the litany of checking and/or defensive forwards in Detroit and Grand Rapids’ arsenal, and Pearson made an excellent first step toward earning an AHL job by serving notice to his future coaches that he is able to dominate among his peer group.
#11 Filip Zadina: The prospect tournament was not lost for Mr. Pretzel, at least on the scoresheet. The goal-less Zadina still had 5 assists and tied for second-best on the team with 15 shots. The problem is that Filip Zadina is not going to make millions in the NHL for being a slick assist man, and given that the 20-year-old has a year of AHL experience and 10 NHL games to his credit, the 6,’ 196-pound wing should not have spent his prospect tournament dekeing and dangling the puck on a string as he turned toward the net, and then away from it, trying to find more and more aesthetically pleasing goal-scoring scenarios instead of just shooting the damn puck. Zadina really only shot on his own when he was “in his spot” at the right wing faceoff dot, or when he was forced to play left wing on a line other than the Hirose-Veleno-Zadina All-Star unit.
Most of Zadina’s excellent skating skills and remarkable, NHL-level puckhandling abilities were utilized as Zadina would regroup once, twice, and sometimes a third time trying to find the right situation in which to score the prettiest goal possible. As a result, Zadina and his linemates squandered dozens of goal-scoring chances and gave up dozens of scoring chances against because he and Hirose in particular were quite content dancing through the offensive zone with the puck on a yo-yo string, sometimes for half a minute or more, looking for a better goal-scoring opportunity than what was plainly in front of them (and they generated a significant number of grade-A scoring opportunities that they simply turned away from). Zadina’s got the bodily strength to fight through battles for the puck and be heavy on his stick, too, so it’s not like he got bumped around or suffered from opponent targeting.
He simply spent the vast majority of the tournament either turning himself into a human pretzel or turning pretzel tracks in the ice, harnessing QMJHL-level aesthetics over the NHL-level directness which should lead to 20+ goals for Zadina when he matures as a person as much as a player.
#75 Troy Loggins*: Loggins is another Grand Rapids Griffins signing, and he earns high marks as a 5’9,” 161-pound graduate of Northern Michigan University who often played above his weight class. He posted 2 goals on 4 shots, Loggins skated with authority, and the mini-mite NCAA scorer looked like what a 24-year-old should among 18-to-24-year-olds–mature and seasoned. He’s going to have a hard time making the Griffins’ roster, but he did a very good job of serving notice that he is an asset.
#78 Gregor MacLeod*: Of all the Griffins-contracted players not named Lukosevicius, Gregor MacLeod did the most to make coach Simon take notice. MacLeod’s 1 goal and 2 assists for 3 points in 4 games was a sound accomplishment in itself, but the 6,’ 183-pound Drummondville Voltigeurs graduate (and he scored regularly in the QMJHL) proved himself to be a durable and dependable second-line center who could be employed in all situations and utilized to bolster his teammates’ confidence. Mostly playing alongside Ryan Kuffner, MacLeod held his own skill-wise and skating-wise; he won a significant number of faceoffs, he was not bumped off the puck, and the 21-year-old looked like someone who should find himself in the AHL in short order.
#56 Ryan Kuffner: Kuffner, like Hirose, probably needs to put on another 5 or 10 pounds of bulk and muscle to truly excel at the NHL level, and Kuffner is not as smooth a skater as Hirose, so it’s unlikely that the 6’1,” 195-pound winger will earn an NHL spot out of training camp and the exhibition season. That being said, as a 23-year-old graduate of Princeton, Kuffner was dominant among his peers without being domineering, registering 3 goals and 5 assists for 8 points over the course of 4 games (and he only took 4 shots!). Kuffner is an excellent puck-lugging forward of the “smaller-to-average” class, and his vision and playmaking abilities are superb, especially when there is not very much time or space to make a play. Kuffner exceeds and excels in tight and in close to the net, and what he gives up in size and strength, he makes up for in both skill and wily ability to hunt down scoring chances. His shot is hard and heavy, despite being slightly under-powered, and if Hirose is one of the Wings’ brightest prospects, Kuffner is only slightly behind “Taco” in terms of top-of-the-ceiling potential.
#79 Thomas Casey**: Thomas Casey is a free agent invite who will be going back to the Charlottetown Islanders with his head held high. The 5’8,” 185-pound QMJHL forward busted his butt to grind and grind some more upon opponents, and then turn tail and race back into the defensive zone to help his teammates stifle scoring chances against. There were times that he got knocked around, and there were times that he did not win battles for the puck, but the mighty mite’s effort and determination were never in doubt for a millisecond.
#85 Elmer Soderblom: Soderblom is at the other end of the size spectrum at 6’7″ and 220 pounds (and still growing!), and the massive 2019 draft pick is all of 18, so the rawness in his game and the resulting inconsistencies thereof were still not unexpected. Instead, Soderblom registered an assist and 8 shots in 4 games played, and he earned a consistent fourth-line spot in Ben Simon’s lineup because the big giraffe won faceoffs, on occasion, he ragged the puck up and down the ice like a goal-scorer, and Soderblom’s skating and coordination were not issues at all because the 18-year-old has “always been big.” Heading back to the SHL’s Frolunda Indians (a powerhouse organization), Soderblom will try to crack the J20 league while continuing to round out his game and add offense to what is an intriguing combination of immense size and very good skill.
#89 Owen Robinson, RW**: Another free agent invite, Robinson got into two games for the Wings, and the 6,’ 170-pound Sudbury Wolves forward looked a little above his weight class at times. Robinson was not a detriment to the team, but he was jostled physically and inconsistent in all three zones, so the two-way potential that he displayed at the summer development camp was muted somewhat.
#97 Gustav Berglund: I felt that coach Ben Simon was positively nuts to pair the raw, 18-year-old Frolunda Indians defenseman that is Gustav Berglund with the wild and untamed stallion that is Moritz Seider, and there were times that I was right. There were also times that the 6’2,” 194-pound Berglund more than held his own playing nearly 20 minutes against bigger, stronger and more experienced players, mostly thanks to Berglund’s excellent skating, communication and stick skills. Berglund is a good three-axis skater who can transition from forward to backward or lateral skating in a hurry, his head is up all the time, he possesses a good stick, and again, he communicates excellently with his teammates, so Berglund is able to bail himself out of some situations where he’s in over his head by simply relaying his position to his defensive partner or defensive forward. Sometimes the sea pitched and rolled on Berglund, sometimes he gave up some scoring opportunities against, and sometimes he was a little lost playing next to Moritz Fricking Seider, but Berglund swam out past his head in the water and he emerged on his own two feet.
#53 Moritz Seider: This may have been Seider’s worst game of the tournament, and he still finished with 4 assists, a +4 and 4 shots taken over the course of four games, serving notice that he’s not going back to Germany unless the Red Wings drive him to the airport. Massive at 6’4″ and a very lanky 207 pounds, and still all of 18 (with a year of pro hockey under his belt), Seider is a wild horse of a roving, free-skating defenseman who doesn’t really have a “side” that he stays on, and Seider possesses the elite skating level (on all three axes) to roar up ice, sometimes ahead of his forward teammates, if he sees an offensive play developing, and chooses not to unleash a superb seeing-eye outlet pass, and instead rag the puck up ice himself. Seider’s got great vision, he “gaps up” well, he’s got a hard, slightly unconventional toe-curve-bladed shot and he displays high offensive acumen, as well as the ability to bail himself out of trouble on a regular basis. He’s going to need to settle down and pick his spots in terms of knowing when to go and knowing when to stay and defend, and Seider is still only 18 and very, very lanky, so there are times that he can be both targeted and bumped off the puck, but his alert stick, heads-up play and generally excellent level of anticipation allow him to get out of trouble most of the time. Immensely self-confident and free-spirited, while German-ly blunt, Seider has been a breath of fresh air both on and off the ice, and he is probably the Red Wings’ best prospect right now. He’s going places.
#98 Owen Lalonde, D**: The Red Wings’ coaching staff gave the 6’1,” 185-pound Guelph Storm free agent invite one more opportunity to display his talents, and Lalonde had some great moments, and had some shaky ones. A 40-point-scorer at the OHL level, the 19-year-old Lalonde played with Gustav Lindstrom until Lindstrom and Seider were double-shifted, especially on special teams, and for the most part, Lalonde acquitted himself adequately (and occasionally made some headsy offensive breakouts).
#28 Gustav Lindstrom: Lindstrom, like Seider, found himself challenged by playing with a less-experienced partner, but the 21-year-old Frolunda Indians graduate did a very good job of keeping his head above water when he was in the headlights of the Stars’ forechecking forwards. The 6’2,” 187-pound defenseman was not without mistakes from time to time, but Lindstrom is acclimating to the North American-sized rink (85 feet wide by 200 feet long instead of 100-by-200) and North American pace of play, and he generally held up well against bigger, stronger and older players as he flexed his defensive muscles and used good positioning, an active stick, strong gap control and superb three-axis skating to defend…
And Lindstrom is much more than a defensive defenseman. Lindstrom’s superb skating, fine vision, great passing, playmaking and puck-lugging skills afford him the ability to jump up into the play or simply head-man the rush from afar; he’s got a good shot, and he was the most comfortable offensive defenseman in terms of playing give-and-go and skate-and-cover-up with Mortiz Seider, often earning more shifts because of his offensive abilities.
Lindstrom is sort of like Ryan Kuffner–not quite a top-of-the-tippy-top-of-the-mountain superstar in the making, but still damn excellent.
#86 Charle-Edouard D’Astous*: D’Astous had the tournament you would expect of a Griffins-contracted defenseman who posted 66 points in 55 QMJHL games with Rimouski this past season: he posted 4 assists in 4 games, finished at +3 with 7 shots, but experienced inconsistencies in play. The 6’2,” 205-pound 21-year-old displayed impeccable offensive abilities, but was sometimes an adventure in his own end–and sometimes, he made astute stick plays that saved goals against. D’Astous possesses superb passing, playmaking and shooting abilities, he’s a smooth skater, and he sees the ice well; for a QMJHL grad, he’s heavy on his stick and manages to do well in physical situations. Like Seider and Lindstrom, there are times that he makes ill-advised pinches or simply commits to offensive plays that aren’t there at the prospect tournament level, and in those cases, his defensive teammates and goalie bailed him out. But D’Astous looks like someone who’s going to challenge for a spot on the Griffins’ crowded blueline, and if he doesn’t make the AHL, he’s going to excel at the ECHL level.
#63 Alec McCrea, D*: McCrea is another Griffins contract who may be headed for Toledo this fall, but he did nothing during the prospect tournament to do anything other than entrench his reputation as a steady stay-at-home defenseman. The 6’3,” 212-pound graduate of Cornell doesn’t generate a lot of offense, but the 24-year-old is going to earn his money because he’s a massive physical specimen who skates well and knows how to gap up, button down the defensive zone and win lots of battles along the boards, in tight and with his stick. He’s got a good outlet pass as well.
#68 Sean Romeo**: It’s hard to call a goaltender dominant when he finishes with a 4.00 goals-against average and .860 save percentage, and Sean Romeo was not dramatically better than some of the more-heralded netminders out there, nor was the 6’1,” 172-pound graduate of Ohio State, a free agent invite and Cincinnati Cyclones-contracted player, so impeccably-skilled that he didn’t let the occasional soft goal by him.
What Romeo did was battle and battle like there was no tomorrow; as a result, the 24-year-old will head back to the ECHL with a prospect tournament championship under his belt, and the four-year graduate of Ohio State will be able to say that he came out of almost nowhere to impress the socks off of many people who’d never heard of him before. Romeo plays a steady, simple butterfly game that involves simply utilizing his good glove hand, smart blocker, nice stickhandling, slightly strange but agile butterfly and toes and square chest to boot out most pucks and eat up others; I was particularly impressed with his ability to sense the net when he went swimming, and he was able to skitter back into position and stifle wraparound chances as a result.
#36 Kaden Fulcher: Kaden Fulcher has a long to-do list for his sophomore pro season, and the biggest thing the 6’3,” 182-pound goaltender has to do is earn regular playing time. Serving as Pat Nagle’s back-up, Fulcher was only able to play in 28 games during his rookie season, and his stats were so-so in every category as a result of inconsistent workload times inconsistent goaltender. Fulcher is very lanky for his size, and his reach is superb, so his glove and blocker are great, his flexible frame yields a bevy of toe saves from his athletic butterfly, and he moves the puck solidly…But squeakers get through. So he has to work on that if he is to work his way up the Wings’ goaltending pipeline…
#38 Filip Larsson, G: Because Filip Larsson was a sore groin away from starting three or more games at the prospect tournament. The Red Wings’ anointed Top Prospect in the goaltending department is a 6’2,” 181-pound goaltender whose 21 years of age belie a winding developmental journey through Sweden, Nebraska, Colorado and now, most likely, Grand Rapids. The 21-year-old possesses impeccable fundamentals, a high hockey IQ and, when he’s not reaching for the puck, a steady and stable, athletic butterfly style, but he’s also had some groin issues, so the Wings have shut Larsson’s drop-to-his-knees status down until training camp at the earliest. You don’t rush your likely Griffins back-up back into action unless you’re desperate for depth, and the Wings are not desperate for depth at any position.
#42 Mathieu Bizier, C**: Bizier’s most memorable moment as a Wings prospect remains scoring a hat trick at the summer development camp’s Red vs. White game. The 6’2,” 187-pound Gatineau Olympiques center, passed over in his draft year, will head back to the Q hoping to post a point per game at the QMJHL level.
#62 Cody Morgan, LW**: A fantastic skater with a big mop of hair, the 5’11,” 183-pound Morgan posted a point per game after a mid-season OHL trade from Windsor to Flint, and he’ll try to catch fire when he returns to the OHL.
#80 Anthony Popovich, G**: Popovich was brought in from the OHL champion Guelph Storm to strictly serve as a practice goalie, and the 6’1,” 183-pound Guelph Storm netminder did just that. He leads with his chest, which is a little odd for a goalie, but it works for him.
#87 Marc-Olivier Duquette, D**: Duquette, a free agent invite from Drummondville, did fine in his single game as a no-frills 6’4,” 205-pound defenseman. He’ll head back to the Q looking to come back next year at this time with an AHL deal.
#88 Chad Yetman, RW**: Yetman had an up-and-down pair of games playing for the Wings as a 5’11,” 176-pound winger who posted at point-per-game levels with the OHL’s Erie Otters. His speed was evident, and his hands were there, but they weren’t utilized among bigger, faster and older players.
#94 Alec Regula: Regula sat due to what is probably a concussion, and the 6’4,” 203-pound defenseman is likely headed back to the OHL’s London Knights, determined to prove that he is more than a complementary defender. He played with Evan Bouchard in London and steered Moritz Seider on the right path here at the prospect tournament, but Regula knows that he’s only going to earn his way into an NHL contract by displaying his own offensive chops–which he possesses in spades, thanks to a heavy shot, strong passing skills and an understanding as to when to skate up ice and lug the puck and when to distribute it to a forward instead. Regula is also physical with an edge, and he can skate next to a Seider and keep up just fine, so there’s no question as to Regula’s skill set. It’s just a question as to whether he can succeed in a starring role.
Note: * = Grand Rapids Griffins signing, ** = Free agent invite.
I hope you have enjoyed my prospect assessments and the rest of my blog coverage.
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Thank you for your time, your readership and your support.
I’m going to slow down a little on Wednesday and ramp coverage back up in anticipation of Friday-through-Monday’s training camp. I hope that’s okay with you.