The Detroit Red Wings opened training camp at Centre ICE Arena in Traverse City today, splitting their 67-man roster into three “teams” which practiced for the better part of six hours today.
For most of the media, the biggest moment of the day was the 18 minutes we spent with Steve Yzerman, but even the subsequent interviews with Tyler Bertuzzi, Dylan Larkin, Valtteri Filppula and coach Jeff Blashill weren’t as exciting as the simple fact that hockey fans and hockey scribes alike could finally watch the Red Wings’ players skate and the Red Wings’ coaches coach.
Today’s practices were particularly up-tempo by training camp standards, and when coach Blashill didn’t like the pace thereof, he made each of the first two teams do some laps from one side of the rink to the other to ensure that his message was sent.
That message? Haul ass and execute while hauling said asses.
The drills the Wings’ players engaged in during what amounted to be 90-minute practices were predicated on skating first and foremost, and I felt that the drills were a little complicated for first-day stuff (to the coaches’ credit).
With the entirety of the Red Wings’ on-ice coaching staff (coach Blashill, assistant coaches Dan Bylsma, Doug Houda and Jared Nightengale), the Grand Rapids Griffins’ coaches (Ben Simon, Matt McDonald and Todd Krygier), at times, director of player development Shawn Horcoff, and of course goaltending coaches Jeff Salajko and Brian Mahoney-Wilson monitoring their charges, the Red Wings engaged in a spirited and complex set of drills mostly focusing on puck retrieval, breakouts, and full-ice skating.
As Steve Yzerman, Pat Verbeek, Ryan Martin and Niklas Kronwall looked on from the “owners’ suites” (hey, I’ve gotta do roll call sometime), the players first took coaches’ dump-in passes, retrieved them, and raced their way up the ice in conventional 2-on-1’s, but with a twist: the forwards had to skate laterally along the bluelines, regroup at center ice, and skate back in on the goaltenders from whence they came.
In more situational drills, the forwards and defensemen would engage in a set of drills which focused on either “wheeling” the puck around the boards for a full-ice breakout, or the puck was reversed and chipped up ice;
In another drill, the players skated 6-on-4 sans nets, with the 6 players consisting of forwards and 4 consisting of defensemen, with the goal being simply to move the puck around the ice laterally in a power play or penalty-killing situation. That one was watching hockey calculus…
Most of the time, however, situational 2-on-1’s folding into 3-on-2 opportunities were emphasized, regardless of whether the players were using the full ice surface or whether they were engaged in situational forechecking drills.
In one particular drill, where 4 defenders boxed out 3 forwards, Dylan McIlrath got on his high horse and really railed Ryan Kuffner a couple of times. Kuffner emerged uninjured, but McIlrath was on the prowl, and he wasn’t the only defenseman who was willing to get his hands dirty.
Instead of scrimmaging, Blashill had the team engage in 3-on-3 play for the last half-hour or so of practice, and the players seemed to enjoy engaging in a little unstructured play. There were moments when defensemen visibly held up on plays where forwards put themselves in dangerous positions because it was the first day of practice (I remember Dylan Larkin could have been smoked had the defender assigned him not stopped in his tracks), and there were moments that a few hacks and whacks were exchanged, but things will get more serious during the Red vs. White game on Sunday.
Friday, it was the players’ first day, and while there was some rust on some of the players, Friday’s the day to shake it off.
In terms of player assessments on the first day of practice, here’s what I observed on a team-by-team basis:
#11 Filip Zadina: Zadina was definitely frustrated by his prospect tournament production, but he looked like a player who had turned the page on Friday morning. The 6,’ 196-pound wing turns 20 later this year, and he was racing up and down the ice, taking more direct shots (when he took them), and playing a slightly simpler game among higher competition. There’s nothing to suggest that he’s going to set the world on fire this season, but seeing Zadina simplify his game for the “big boys” on the ice was encouraging.
#39 Anthony Mantha: Wearing Warrior gear from head to pants, Mantha skated well and sent home some snipe shots as the 6’5,” 225-pound wing looked both “heavier” on his stick and more fleet of foot, again, at least for a first day’s impression. Mantha clearly gained confidence playing for Team Canada at the World Championship, and there is hope that he will establish himself as a more consistent contributor.
#48 Givani Smith: Sometimes prospects tend to fall off the radar a bit when they start skating with the NHL’ers. That was not the case for Smith, a big 6’2,” 206-pound wing who’s trying his butt off to establish himself as more than a fourth-line enforcer. At 21, and with a pro season under his belt, Smith is attempting to carve out a spot for himself as a more Bertuzzi-like forechecking winger, and that transformation must continue over the course of training camp and the exhibition season.
#54 Matt Puempel: Puempel is more AHL scorer than prospect at this point, and the 26-year-old left wing can indeed score some pretty goals from time to time. The 6’1,” 205-pound native of Windsor played mostly alongside Turner Elson, and he looked capable in his role.
#56 Ryan Kuffner: If Kuffner hadn’t woken up in time for practice, Dylan McIlrath gave him a wake-up-and-a-half in the form of two vicious checks along the side boards, and Kuffner sprang back up after both o them, but there was a bit of message-sending on both sides there. McIlrath is still trying to prove he’s got some NHL potential in him, and Kuffner, at 6’1″ and 195 pounds, is still trying to prove that he can battle through those kinds of hits to play at the NHL level. He’s a fine passer and playmaker with a deceptive shot, and Kuffner skates quite well, but as someone with 10 NHL games under his belt, the graduate of Princeton will have some learning to do regarding the physical part of the game, most likely in the AHL.
#57 Turner Elson: A Grand Rapids Griffins scorer, the 6,’ 195-pound center posted 39 points in 72 games with Grand Rapids this past season, and the 27-year-old is slated to reprise his role as a two-way center in Grand Rapids. He looked spry and speedy out there this morning.
#59 Tyler Bertuzzi: Bertuzzi seemed to be in cruise control at times, and that’s okay, because Tyler Bertuzzi at 85% has more grit, jam and grind in his game than most everyone else playing at 100% efficiency. Bertuzzi is a better skater than we give him credit for, and the 6’1,” 190-pound wing is no longer nearly as wiry as he used to be, so he’s hard to push off the puck and he’s harder still to prevent from jabbing the puck away from opponents when he gets in on the forecheck. He’s going to have to rebound from a rough spring at the World Championship (where he was a 13th forward), but Larkin said that his teammates were aware of the fact that Bertuzzi will need a bit of confidence-boosting.
#61 Jacob de la Rose: de la Rose is a frickin’ moose of a man at 6’3″ and 216 pounds, so it can be strange to watch him step so deftly on the ice. de la Rose isn’t going to knock somebody into next week, but his size and reach afford the 24-year-old the ability to check and check with aplomb against even the biggest of his opponents. de la Rose looks more comfortable in his skin and more comfortable as a Red Wing, already.
#71 Dylan Larkin: To Larkin’s credit, his motor is always running, he is always skating hard, he’s always engaged in the most minor battles for the puck and he just…keeps…coming. Listed at 6’1″ and 198 pounds, the Red Wings’ resident superstar is still just 23 years of age, but Larkin believes that the time is now for him and his young teammates to step up and establish themselves as every-game contributors and every-game leaders. It’s up to him to be a difference-maker now.
#73 Adam Erne: My first-time-ever impressions of the 6’1,” 214-pound winger: he’s not as chunky as he looks in golf clothes, he is very fast for a checking winger, and he plays with pace. The 24-year-old Erne is neither spring chicken nor offensive dynamo, but I could at least see why the Wings brought him in to complicate their bottom-six picture–because he’s got really excellent pace to his game, and size to boot.
#81 Frans Nielsen: Nielsen was a little less “old reliable” this past season, but by and large, the 6’1,” 188-pound center keeps going and keeps checking hard at 35 years of age. Nielsen has slowed ever-so-slightly as the years have accumulated, but he remains a go-to player on the Wings’ second or third line, and he looked fine on Friday.
#90 Joe Veleno: Veleno was still buzzing a bit from his 7-goal performance during the prospect tournament, so he was racing up and down the ice with confidence in his excellent stride (which is good to see). The 6’1,” 191-pound center is still facing an uphill battle to try and make the Red Wings as a 19-year-old, but Veleno’s superb passing, excellent shot and defensive awareness make him a multi-tool player who should have little problems adjusting to pro hockey at the AHL level–if he ends up there.
#2 Joe Hicketts: Hicketts also has an uphill battle to try and make the Wings’ roster among a stacked defense, but the 5’8,” 180-pound defenseman is 23 now, and there is no time like the present for the small-but-superbly-physical defenseman to show that he’s worked on his skating and is ready to take a page out of Niklas Kronwall’s book while providing energy, enthusiasm, physicality and an underrated outlet pass.
#17 Filip Hronek: Complicating the issue for every defenseman who wants to make the Red Wings is the superbly talented and supremely self-confident Filip Hronek. The 6,’ 170-pound defenseman looked excellent during Friday’s sessions, sending seeing-eye outlet passes up ice, lugging the puck up the ice, firing hard shots and displaying an edge to his excellent-skating game. Hronek’s not going to take a step back in his sophomore season.
#20 Dylan McIlrath: McIlrath may be 28, but he still has eyes on making an NHL team one day, and the massive 6’5,” 236-pound defenseman was ornery and mean on the first day of camp, leveling Ryan Kuffner twice and setting the boom low on his teammates. If McIlrath’s skating has improved (it looked very good on Friday) and he is able to keep up in the play, he may still have an outside chance.
#29 Vili Saarijarvi: This is a huge year for the 5’10,” 182-pound 22-year-old defenseman. Saarijarvi needs to either make significant progress in terms of establishing himself as an AHL regular who produces points, or it might be time to rethink his North American pro strategy. The Red Wings have a significant number of good defensive prospects, and Saarijarvi tends to get lost in the shuffle because he hasn’t had a full AHL campaign yet, mostly due to injuries. The spry defenseman is still very mobile, he passes and shoots well and he is a “headsy,” intelligent player, but it’s simply time for him to take a big step forward if he is to succeed in the State of Michigan.
#32 Brian Lashoff: Lashoff is 29 and really sits as an AHL veteran who the Red Wings can rely upon to recall and receive rock-solid play from when the 6’3,” 219-pound Lashoff is needed. At the AHL level, he’s that Brad Stuart-style Swiss Army Knife defenseman that can do anything, but is best-suited to playing a #3/4 role; at the NHL level, he’s a depth guy.
#52 Jonathan Ericsson: It’s the last season of Jonathan Ericsson’s contract, and the now-35-year-old has always said that he’d retire at the end of this deal, but Ericsson didn’t look like someone who was going to go quietly on Friday. Ericsson played crisp, sharp hockey, and he looked fit and fast (by Ericsson standards). I’m very curious to see how his season unfolds.
#65 Danny DeKeyser: DeKeyser may very well play on the Wings’ top pair to start the season, and the 29-year-old defenseman may or may not stay in that spot. DeKeyser, standing 6’3″ but a skinny 192 pounds (he has a super-fast metabolism), had a good season this past year, and he could very well play with Mike Green as a top-pairing unit as DeKeyser continues to attempt to establish himself as the defenseman the Wings believed they’d signed out of college some six years ago.
#77 Oliwer Kaski: “Oliver” was impressive on his first day. Big guy at 6’3″ and 187 pounds, right shooter, skates superbly well (the big ice helps there), keeps his stick blade just on or just above the ice, and he’s got a mean edge to him. There was too much clutching and grabbing in his Friday game for North American hockey, but big Kaski looked like someone for whom the readjustment to North American ice (after a couple of years spent at Western Michigan earlier this decade) will be brief. Where he goes from there, I’m still not certain.
#31 Calvin Pickard: Pickard has NHL potential as a back-up because the 6’1,” 207-pound netminder has impeccable technique and knows how to make the easy save look easy and the hard save look easy. Pickard’s game is not elegant and it’s not particularly pretty at times, but it’s efficient and clean and simple, and that’s what you want a back-up goaltender to be.
#35 Jimmy Howard: Howard is now 35 and still bafflingly bulks up before every season, but at 6’1″ and 218 pounds, Big Jim looked agile in the net and seemed to give up less frequent rebounds of the bouncy or squeaky variety. He looked sharp and smart for the most part, and those subtle inconsistencies are probably never going to go away.
#8 Justin Abdelkader: Abdelkader, now 32, stands at 6’2″ and 214 pounds, and the big checking forward at least appears to have refined his game somewhat over the summer. There’s a sense that Abdelkader knows that his tenure with the Wings could be in some jeopardy, because Abdelkader worked harder than I’ve seen him work in a long time.
#15 Chris Terry: Terry, a 5’10,” 197-pound winger who plays for the Grand Rapids Griffins, will attempt to replicate his 61-point season for the Griffins this past year. Terry is agile, he has good hands and a goal-scorer’s knack, but the 30-year-old doesn’t quite translate into an NHL scorer. He’s a big part of the Griffins, though, and that relationship should continue.
#23 Dominic Turgeon: Turgeon is another player who has to take a big step forward this year. With a crowded lineup of checking forwards who want to be the Red Wings’ fourth-line center, the 23-year-old Turgeon needs to do something that he tried to do in Grand Rapids with limited success: prove that he is a two-way player who can in fact score some points. The 6’2,” 200-pound Turgeon is a dogged worker who has worked doggedly to improve on his skating speed and efficiency, and he’s already an excellent defensive player, so adding more layers to his game, at least at the AHL level, should afford him the opportunity to stand out.
#27 Michael Rasmussen: Rasmussen is using a Bauer stick this year and a Dylan Larkin-spec set of Warrior gloves, and the 6’6,” 221-pound winger is most likely going to have to ditch those Warriors for a pair of CCM’s come October–unless Rasmussen has something to say about maintaining his spot in the NHL over heading down to the CCM-sponsored AHL. At all of 20, big Rasmussen could use some exposure to playing in a top-six and/or scorer’s role, but the big net-front-shot-tipping forward would prefer to remain where he is presently. I’m not sure whether he’ll be able to convince the Wings to keep him.
#37 Evgeny Svechnikov: A puzzle wrapped up in an enigma, what do the Red Wings have in the 23-year-old winger who stands at 6’3″ and 212 pounds? Svechnikov was drafted as a point-per-game-potential player, but the big Russian blew out his ACL last year, negating a full year’s worth of development, and at this point it appears that he’s more likely to find himself among the Wings’ litany of grinding, checking forwards. Does Svechnikov have more to bring to the table? Skill-wise, his shot and passing abilities are there, but can he apply them consistently?
#41 Luke Glendening: Glendening is one of the players being pushed by the numerous checking forwards in the system. For now, with an “A” on his chest, Glendening should be “safe,” but he can’t play like that. The 5’11,” 192-pound grinder will have to rebound from what was an up-and-down 2018-2019 campaign as he turns 30, and it’s going to be up to Glendening to find that extra gear as consistently as possible. He’s better-utilized as a 4th line center than a shut-down center, but there are times that he’s called upon to shut down the opponent’s best line, and he needs to step up when those moments come.
#43 Darren Helm: Darren Helm changed all his gear. He’s got a Bauer stick, Bauer gloves (with shot blocking foam inserts) and a Bauer helmet, and perhaps the 32-year-old is looking to change up his consistency as well. The 6,’ 196-pound winger faces a Glendening-like situation, needing to step up as the pool of competitive forwards gunning for his job increases. Helm’s blazing speed and ability to “gap up” on opponents like a defenseman does should help him, but consistency must be key as well.
#46 Chase Pearson: The 22-year-old Pearson is one of the players who is gunning for the jobs of people like Abdelkader, Glendening and Helm. Pearson had a strong prospect tournament, and the 6’2,” 200-pound checking forward scored an awful lot as well, displaying among his peers the point-per-game potential that tells the tale of his college career. Pearson will have to bear down to ensure that he earns a spot with the Griffins this season, but wherever he starts, work ethic is no issue.
#51 Valtteri Filppula: Back where it began, The 35-year-old Filppula looks no worse for wear in terms of wrinkles on his face, never mind his fleet-footed skating ability and two-way instincts. 6′ and 196 pounds, Filppula’s big enough and now strong enough to handle the bump and grind, and he can put up a fair bit of points when necessary. Filppula will accentuate Frans Nielsen as the team’s resident shut-down and/or second line centers, as necessary.
#58 David Pope: Pope is a bit of a puzzle to me. He didn’t have a great AHL start, but scored regularly with Toledo. The ECHL may be the best place for the 24-going-on-25-year-old prospect to start specifically because he is older and because he’s on a shorter developmental curve. At 6’3″ and 198 pounds, the sniper stands tall and has a heavy shot combined with solid skating. He just needs to find his confidence in short order after struggling in his first pro campaign.
#67 Taro Hirose: The 5’10,” 160-pound Hirose has experienced many things in his short pro career, but the start of training camp is not one of them, and Hirose demurred ever-so-slightly on his first day of camp. The 23-year-old MSU grad was at times his smooth-skating-elegant-passing self, but at others, he looked a little overwhelmed by the level of competition.
#70 Christoffer Ehn: Ehn, on the other hand, looked impervious to fear or intimidation. The 23-year-old graduate of the Frolunda Indians’ system plays a no-frills game, and he may be at the top of the heap as far as the Wings’ cast of checking forwards goes because Ehn is able to maximize his 6’2,” 193-pound frame playing a varying number of utility roles.
#72 Andreas Athanasiou: Athanasiou was on cruise control for the first day of camp, and the 25-year-old forward’s version of cruise control is pretty damn fast. Standing at 6’2″ and 188 pounds, the blazing-fast forward deked and dangled using his deft touch with the puck and raced up and down the ice against defensemen who were quite willing to lay out hits. AA looked good out there, but a more consistent set of game efforts will have to be drawn out over time.
#3 Jared McIsaac: McIsaac actually skated before practice, and the 6’1,” 193-pound defenseman is more important to the Red Wings’ future than you might think. He possesses a game that reminds me of a Brad Stuart/Bob Rouse, that of a sort of Swiss Army Knife defender who is best-suited to second-pair work, but McIsaac can play as a shut-down partner to an elite offensive defenseman as well. He’s working to rehabilitate a surgically-repaired left shoulder, and McIsaac hopes to return in time to play for Canada at the World Junior Championships.
#21 Dennis Cholowski: Better off in Grand Rapids, for now? It’s hard to say for the 6’1,” 195-pound Cholowski, who’s still all of 21 years of age, may be best-served playing big minutes at the AHL level now as opposed to moderate minutes in the NHL. He’s a smooth-skating, heads-up defender who can puck-lug and distribute outlet passes equally well, his gap control is good, and he doesn’t get bumped around very much, but his confidence went below the water table mid-season, and he made a lot of mistakes that ended up in the back of his net. Cholowski needs experience succeeding to erase some bad memories, so perhaps he will be best-suited to headlining the Griffins’ defense.
#22 Patrik Nemeth: He sticks his jersey in his pants as badly as Pavel Datsyuk does, and, at first glance, the 6’3,” 219-pound Nemeth is no more or no less than advertised–a big, hulking shut-down defenseman who has the puck skills and skating abilities to keep up but chooses to employ his 28-year-old frame to keep his opponents’ scoring chances down as close to zero as possible. He got burned a couple of times playing unfamiliar teammates, but there’s going to be a learning curve in the systems-and-teammates department.
#25 Mike Green: Back from a liver ailment, Green looks healthy, fast and comfortable in his own skin as a 34-year-old defenseman who’s more of a rover than he is a true defenseman at times. You already know that Green possesses excellent skating skills, that his vision is superb and that he tends to carry the puck up ice himself, usually at a modicum of risk…but there are moments that Green does think offense at the expense of defense.
#28 Gustav Lindstrom: Lindstrom looked solid in his first day of NHL training camp. The 21-year-old defenseman is still a wee bit undersized at 6’1″ and 187 pounds, but he makes up for his slightly light-ness with superb skating and good stick positioning. Lindstrom looked best along the boards and in possession of the puck on Friday, and he did not look to drop off at all in terms of his quality of play.
#53 Moritz Seider: The same is true for Moritz Seider, who was a little muted in terms of his up-ice rushes but no less creative on Friday. Seider did have a bit of a case of wide eyes at being among so many NHL’ers, but the 6’4,” 207-pound defender shook that off relatively quickly. The 18-year-old possesses immense talents from his skating on up to his creative, cocky brain, and we will see how North American-ready he is over the course of training camp and the exhibition season.
#74 Madison Bowey: Bowey is a bit of a puzzle to me. The 6’2,” 198-pound defenseman is no longer waiver-exempt, so the 24-year-old might get picked up on waivers if the Wings try to send him down. At the same time, I’m not sure playing as a seventh defender is the best spot for the Winnipeg native, and if he were to clear waivers, it would behoove the Griffins greatly to have a two-way defenseman of his caliber on their blueline. Whether he stays or goes is up to him and his play.
#83 Trevor Daley: Daley is about to turn 36 and is probably still in the NHL because his skating has not suffered with age. The 5’11,” 195-pound defenseman gets up and down the ice quite well and carries the puck with vigor and enthusiasm. The problem is that sometimes it looks like his hands are slowing down, frankly, and that concerns me.
#36 Kaden Fulcher: Fulcher needs more playing time in the ECHL to sort himself out. The 6’3,” 187-pound goaltender is only 21, so there’s lots of time to sort out the holes in his game and squeakers that he occasionally lets by–as long as he’s afforded the opportunity to play regularly behind Pat Nagle in Toledo.
#38 Filip Larsson: Larsson was back to normal on Friday, dropping into the butterfly rather effortlessly and making good saves with his 6’2,” 187-pound frame. It is assumed that the 21-year-old will head to Grand Rapids to begin his professional career, but I think Fulcher will at least give the excellent Larsson a push.
#45 Jonathan Bernier: Bernier looked solid and steady in his first day of training camp. The 6,’ 184-pound goaltender is not overly big, but the 31-year-old plays a smart game and anticipates more than his share of shots (sometimes over-anticipating, one might argue). Bernier is best when he’s at the top of his crease and active in his net.
#26 Matthew Ford*: The Grand Rapids Griffins’ captain is 35 and not the fastest thing on two skates, but at the AHL level, Matthew Ford is a durable third-line forward who makes regular appearances not only on the penalty-kill, but also the power play. He’s an integral leader for the Griffins and he will continue to set the example for the team’s younger players.
#42 Mathieu Bizier**: The Red Wings invited the 6’1,” 187-pound QMJHL forward because he posted nearly a point-per-game after a mid-season trade to Gatineau. Bizier had an OK showing in the prospect tournament, and he’s still only 18.
#50 Dominik Shine*: Shine was a scorer in college, but the 5’11,” 175-pound native of Pinckney hasn’t displayed a whole lot of scoring prowess with the Grand Rapids Griffins, registering points in the barely-double-digits in his first two AHL campaigns. With a litany of checking forwards in the mix, the speedy Shine needs to add a scoring touch to ensure his continued AHL employment.
#62 Cody Morgan**: The wild-haired Flint Firebirds forward fired off 33 points in 33 games after a mid-season OHL trade from Windsor, so the 5’11,” 183-pound Morgan earned invites to both the prospect tournament and main training camp. He was inconsistent during the prospect tournament, but didn’t play regularly.
#64 Josh Kestner*: If you can’t beat ’em, sign ’em. The Grand Rapids Griffins brought in the 25-year-old Kestner, a 6’1,” 181-pound winger, from the Newfoundland Growlers of the ECHL, where he posted 49 points in 61 games. He was a pain in the Toledo Walleye’s butts as they played Newfoundland in the ECHL final, so he’ll play for the Walleye this year instead.
#75 Troy Loggins*: A Grand Rapids Griffins contract, Loggins is only 5’9″ and 161 pounds, but the mini mite out of Northern Michigan acquitted himself well in the prospect tournament, and he’s likely headed to the Toledo Walleye to begin a pro career as a scoring forward.
#76 Jarid Lukosevicius*: Lukosevicius is another prospect tournament alum who looked good among his peers. The 5’10,” 185-pound 24-year-old is also likely Toledo-bound, and there he will attempt to establish himself as a two-way presence.
#78 Gregor MacLeod*: MacLeod is a Griffins signing as well, but he’s a lot younger than Loggins and McLeod at only 21. He may play on the same team as the two-way center is stuck behind a logjam of checking forwards; MacLeod scored a point per game for the Drummondville Voltigeurs, but the 6,’ 183-pound center may not be able to sustain his scoring pace at the pro level.
#79 Thomas Casey**: Casey will head back to the QMJHL’s Charlottetown Islanders after training camp, but the 5’8,” 185-pound winger has shown a significant amount of jam, a bit of vinegar in his game and a whole lot of heart for not backing down from much bigger and/or more experienced competition.
#82 Tyler Spezia*: A Griffins-contracted player, Spezia is likely to resume his rookie’s role as a scorer for the Toledo Walleye, where the 5’10,” 180-pound graduate of Bowling Green posted 39 points in 58 games.
#88 Chad Yetman**: Yetman had an up-and-down prospect tournament. A point-per-game player at the OHL level, the 19-year-old Erie Otters forward found himself occasionally over-matched physically among competition much larger than his 5’11,” 176-pound frame.
#89 Owen Robinson**: Robinson was, like Yetman, a free agent invite, this time out of the OHL’s Sudbury Storm, and the 5’11,” 176-pound Robinson was in and out of the lineup, playing better as the tournament progressed.
#47 Marcus Crawford*: Crawford stands a stout 5’11” and 198 pounds, and the Toledo Walleye defenseman posted 26 points in only 48 ECHL games played as a rookie. He’s a prospect tournament alumnus.
#63 Alec McCrea*: McCrea is another Griffins-contracted player, and he looked exactly like himself on Friday–a safe, steady 6’3,” 212-pound defenseman who takes no guff and plays a simple, effective stay-at-home game.
#86 Charle-Edouard D’Astous*: It will be interesting to see how D’Astous holds up during the balance of training camp and the exhibition season. On Friday, he was one of the pack as the QMJHL scorer with Rimouski skated in his first truly professional practice, and the 6’2,” 205-pound lefty is an excellent puck-handler and puck-distributor with an 86-point season to his credit, so he should acquit himself decently during the exhibition season.
#87 Marc-Olivier Duquette**: A free agent invite, the massive 6’4,” 205-pound Duquette is another steady, stay-at-home defenseman who plays hard, physical hockey, and he may get some exhibition games in.
#98 Owen Lalonde**: A free agent try-out, the 6’1,” 185-pound Guelph defenseman was spotty during the prospect tournament during limited play, but he has shown offensive aplomb at the OHL level.
#60 Pat Nagle*: Griffins-contracted, Nagle played most of his season in the ECHL, back-stopping the Toledo Walleye to the ECHL Final. At 32, the 6’2,” 195-pound Nagle is a lot like Calvin Pickard–he doesn’t try to be what he isn’t, and as such, he’s a principled, steady goaltender who plays a simple game and makes hard saves look easy.
#68 Sean Romeo**: Romeo was invited to camp to practice, and, to his credit, he back-stopped the Red Wings to a prospect tournament championship. He’ll be heading back to the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones to begin his pro career, and the 6’1,” 172-pound Romeo is an efficient and steady butterfly goaltender.
#80 Anthony Popovich**: A final free agent try-out, Popovich did spend his practice time stopping pucks and learning from Jeff Salajko and Brian Mahoney-Wilson, and the Guelph Storm goaltender will head back to the OHL hoping to increase his save percentage.
*= Griffins signing **= Free agent try-out.
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