The Detroit Red Wings’ players were generally healthy when they began Saturday’s practice sessions, but ice packs and wraps abounded after the players engaged in coach Jeff Blashill’s on-ice sessions and strength and conditioning coordinator Mike Barwis’s off-ice workouts.
The three teams’ worth of players will be whittled down to “Team Red,” “Team White” and the non-red-white players for Sunday’s Red vs. White game, and they will continue to practice as those three teams come Monday (which is a full day at Centre ICE Arena).
On Saturday, some of the drills resembled Friday’s puck retrieval-and-breakout drills, but there was a much greater emphasis on skating hard through the neutral zone today, and regrouping once possession of the puck was achieved.
The “Haul Ass” mentality was still there, but the players worked harder on emphasizing retrieval and control of the puck through the middle of the ice, and when they entered the offensive zone, pucks were kicked back to defenders a little more regularly to generate secondary and tertiary scoring opportunities.
The drills were split again between approximately an hour’s worth of structured situational drills, and then a significant amount of 3-on-3, 4-on-4 and 5-on-5 play. During the latter halves of each practice, there were not-so-occasional heavy hits levied, and the pace and intensity of play ratcheted up another level as some players hit their comfort zones.
I ended up hearing that the day’s on-ice activities were nothing compared to what “director of sports science and human performance” Mike Barwis put them through on the field outside the rink. It appears that the Wings are being put through their paces and then some by “Barwis’ Methods.” As in tossing medicine balls over a bar, then riding a stationary bike, then carrying kettle-bells so heavy that three teammates had to help each other out, then pushing or lifting an 80-pound weighted sled, etc. etc.
I’m pressed for time due to tonight’s “Celebrity and Alumni Game” having taken place at 6 PM, so I’m going to keep my player assessments short and try to get to bed by midnight. I hope that’s OK for one night.
#11 Filip Zadina: I said it yesterday, and it bears repeating: the simpler Filip Zadina plays, the better the 6,’ 196-pound forward will be. At only 19, he is a little too taken with making artistic, artful plays to score artistic, artful goals, and he needs to understand that the NHL does not afford elite scorers like him elite amounts of time in which to score.
#39 Anthony Mantha: The 25-year-old looks like he’s ready to serve notice that he is a star player on a nightly basis. At 6’5″ and 225 pounds, you already know that when he skates and when he is engaged, he can play like an elite power forward.
#48 Givani Smith: The 6’2,” 206-pound Smith is working his tail off to expand his AHL role, and so far, he’s looked like someone who wants to establish himself as a forechecking shift-disturbing 3rd liner.
#54 Matt Puempel: At the AHL level, at least, Puempel is good for 20+ goals most seasons, and the 26-year-old left wing seems relatively content in his role, though I’m sure that the 6’1″ 205-pound forward still has designs on an NHL job, if only eventually.
#56 Ryan Kuffner: I think that Kuffner is going to start the year in the AHL, and that’s not going to be a bad thing for the 23-year-old. Stout in a good way at 6’1″ and 195 pounds, Kuffner still needs to work on his board battles, but his playmaking is superb and his shot is underrated.
#57 Turner Elson: Elson will attempt to replicate his 39-point season with the Griffins while playing as a two-way performer. He’s not big by today’s standards at 6′ and 195 pounds, but he works very hard to skate hard on every shift.
#59 Tyler Bertuzzi: Bertuzzi was buzzing out there today. Bertuzzi put the hammer down after a so-so Friday, and the 6’1,” 190-pound winger looks primed to at least attempt to replicate last season’s success as a first-line forechecking and opponent-aggravating forward.
#61 Jacob de la Rose: de la Rose makes moderately large look delicate at times because the 6’3,” 216-pound winger has superb footwork. He’s not overly fast, but he’s maneuverable, and the 24-year-old can bump and grind as well.
#71 Dylan Larkin: There are times that I’m not sure whether Larkin is best-served by his desire to take the game over because there are moments that he definitely hot-dogs it out there. Is that just youthful exuberance, or is there a bit of an edge to Larkin that still needs to be tamed. It’s hard to say, and it sure is fun to watch the 6’1,” 198-pound forward blossom into a superstar.
#73 Adam Erne: Adam Erne has a giant head. Adam Erne is wearing red. Adam Erne is a better player than I thought he would be coming into training camp, and as a checking forward, the 24-year-old winger, hefty at 6’1″ and 214 pounds, has displayed excellent speed.
#81 Frans Nielsen: Nielsen has looked fine putting ‘er on cruise control a bit, and the 35-year-old center puts in an earnest effort when checking as well as attempting to set up offensive plays. He is what he is–an aging but reliable worker bee.
#90 Joe Veleno: Veleno had a bit of a dip on Saturday. The 19-year-old is big enough and strong enough to earn an NHL spot at 6’1″ and 191 pounds, but he’s likely destined for the AHL simply because it will be better for the all-round “star in the making” to earn regular playing time. Again, his skating is what separates him from his teammates, because it is elite.
#2 Joe Hicketts: Hicketts tried to buzz-bomb a couple of teammates on Saturday, and the 5’8,” 180-pound defenseman has indeed improved his skating somewhat. Exhibition games will tell the tale for Hicketts, who’s probably AHL-bound again.
#17 Filip Hronek: Cocky and confident, the 6,’ 170-pound Hronek does a fine job of setting up outlet passes or lugging the puck up ice himself. He’s been very visible in positive aspects of the term as he tries to carve out a top-four role for himself.
#20 Dylan McIlrath: At another end of the spectrum, big Dylan McIlrath, all 6’5″ and 236 pounds of him, is trying to become an NHL depth defenseman at 28, and he has certainly physically set the tone for his team with some nasty hits. Whether his skating has improved will tell the tale.
#29 Vili Saarijarvi: At another end of the spectrum still, the 5’10,” 182-pound Saarijarvi needs to prove that he is big enough in terms of his play to establish himself as a regular and as a scoring defenseman at the AHL level this season. He has all the talent necessary to become a dark horse NHL prospect.
#32 Brian Lashoff: Simple, steady, a leader and a humble player, Lashoff does a good job of maximizing his modicum of talent to serve as an AHL second-pair defender and a utility NHL player at 29 years of age.
#52 Jonathan Ericsson: I know this may scare you to read me say it, but Ericsson looks quick out there. The 35-year-old is a big and heavy 6’4,” 220-pound stay-at-home defender when he is at his best, and a risk-taker when he is at his worst.
#65 Danny DeKeyser: DeKeyser has earned his way onto the Wings’ top pair as a 29-year-old who still endeavors to fulfill the potential that the Wings and their fans saw in his signing. At 6’3″ and 192 pounds, he’s probably as big as he’s going to get.
#77 Oliwer Kaski: Second day, working with Ericsson, and Kaski continued to look good out there. The 6’3,” 187-pound defenseman makes simple, smart plays with the puck in order to facilitate offensive happenings, and he does not look like someone who is readjusting to North American-sized ice rinks, but he is doing just that.
#31 Calvin Pickard: Pickard got lit up a bit during some of the practice drills, showing some of the inconsistency that is why he was available as a free agent. Ideally, the 6’1,” 207-pound goaltender utilizes his rock-solid technique to stifle shots and make hard saves look easy.
#35 Jimmy Howard: Howard did a good job working hard, as ever, to clean up his rebounds and utilize his 6’1,” 218-pound frame effectively. He is what he is as a 35-year-old with some small inconsistencies.
#8 Justin Abdelkader: He looks driven. I’m not sure what that means for the 32-year-old Abdelkader, but there is at least some understanding that the 6’2,” 214-pound Abdelkader’s job might be in jeopardy if he does not take this training camp and exhibition season very, very seriously.
#15 Chris Terry: Terry is coming off a 61-point season with the Grand Rapids Griffins, and the superb-skating 30-year-old is going to reprise his role as a key veteran scorer on a young Griffins team.
#23 Dominic Turgeon: Turgeon has been a little understated as the 23-year-old attempts to cement his spot as a checking center with more to give offensively in Grand Rapids this season. The 6’2,” 200-pound center needs to take the initiative and try to generate offense without generating risk.
#27 Michael Rasmussen: Rasmussen does not look like a player content to head down to the AHL for some perhaps-needed seasoning. The 6’6,” 221-pound forward is tipping shots and bumping bodies and doing all the things you’d expect from someone who has a job in the NHL and is damn sure he’s keeping it. That may not be the case for the 20-year-old forward, but he’s not going quietly.
#37 Evgeny Svechnikov: Svechnikov looks like someone who has time to develop, and at this point, the 23-year-old winger kind of has to push the re-set button on his career. A good skater for a 6’3,” 212-pound power forward and/or power checker, Svechnikov has goal-scoring abilities, and he’ll have to rediscover them this year in Grand Rapids to reestablish himself as a top prospect.
#41 Luke Glendening: Glendening, like Abdelkader, seems to understand that his job is in some jeopardy, and the 5’11,” 192-pound forward hits 30 years of age trying damn hard to earn the “A” that’s going to be affixed to his jersey. A leader in the locker room and on the ice, the ever-speedy and ever-hard-working Glendening needs to give just *that much* extra effort to play to the extent of his abilities.
#43 Darren Helm: Helm has new gear and a shorter Bauer stick this season, and if you were to watch him in training camp, you might think that he was a scoring threat. The 6,’ 196-pound forward has never been that consistent offensively, but the 32-year-old has displayed extra urgency thus far.
#46 Chase Pearson: Pearson was quieter on Saturday, but the 22-year-old can afford to catch his breath from time to time. The 6’2,” 200-pound checking center will head to Grand Rapids to begin his pro career, most likely on the Griffins’ fourth line, and he’ll have to work his tail off to increase his role as the Wings have a litany of checking forwards at the NHL, AHL and ECHL levels.
#51 Valtteri Filppula: Filppula looks like his old self as his self gets old. The 35-year-old has been fine out there, skating as fast as ever and utilizing his speed and positioning to maximize what his 6,’ 196-pound frame can do in terms of checking opponents at one end of the ice and facilitating offense at the other end of the ice.
#58 David Pope: Pope hasn’t differentiated himself from the pack, and that’s not great for the 24-year-old prospect with the great goal-scoring hands. He’s a big boy at 6’3″ and 198 pounds, and Pope does a fine job of scoring goals, but he’s got to do more to stick at the AHL level, never mind latch on as a late-blooming NHL prospect.
#67 Taro Hirose: It’s just training camp, and it’s the exhibition season that will tell the tale, but the 5’10,” 160-pound Hirose looks to be on cruise control for camp, and after some dominant performances at the prospect tournament, it’s not the greatest look for the 23-year-old. Now he’s never participated in an NHL training camp, and the pace may be something he’s never experienced, but if he wants an NHL spot, he’s got to step it up when the time is right.
#70 Christoffer Ehn: Ehn, again, “on the other hand,” appears to simply drive forward at full speed and full effort no matter what the situation. The 23-year-old center has been steady but unspectacular while showing more speed than I anticipated. The sophomore forward finds himself among a cavalcade of checking forwards, so the 6’2,” 193-pound Ehn needs to bust tail to keep his spot on the roster.
#72 Andreas Athanasiou: Cocky and flashy, Athanasiou has hot-dogged it more than once while dekeing and dangling around his teammates, and that’s okay. The 6’2,” 188-pound Athanasiou should be hitting his prime at 25, and he’s energetic and emotional out there, with every missed shot mattering and every goal celebrated. It’s fun to watch, and AA has the chops to back it up.
#3 Jared McIsaac: McIsaac is in camp but unable to participate due to a surgically-repaired left shoulder, and the 19-year-old will be heading back to Halifax at the close of the exhibition season (or when he is healthy, per the Wings’ option). McIsaac isn’t going to wow you with his rushes up ice, but the 6’1,” 193-pound defenseman plays a balanced all-round game that provides stability as either a shut-down defenseman on the top pair or a middle-pair defender who serves as the bridge between top-flight talent and bottom-pair grind. He’s an important part of the Wings’ future who will likely return to play in time for the World Junior Championship in December, where McIsaac will play for Canada.
#21 Dennis Cholowski: I’m assuming that the 21-year-old Cholowski will start the season in Grand Rapids, where the 6’1,” 195-pound defenseman would likely earn top-pair minutes and experience at the AHL level. Cholowski wants none of that, of course, hoping to earn a Wings roster spot thanks to his heads-up play and excellent outlet passes, but his confidence may yet need work. The exhibition season will tell his tale.
#22 Patrik Nemeth: I like a player with self-belief, and big stay-at-home defenseman Patrik Nemeth insisted to the Wings’ press corps that he’s joined this team not only to be a safe, steady defender, but also because he believes that the Red Wings are closer to pulling off a turnaround than anyone believes in this league of parity. The 6’3,” 219-pound Nemeth is efficient and heavy playing a shut-down game, and he’s learning the Wings’ up-tempo style as he goes, so there may be a hiccup here or there, but generally speaking, he’s been a big old rock on the blueline.
#25 Mike Green: I like Mike Green, but there are times that the 34-year-old defenseman drives me nuts, and I suppose that the occasional soft backhand passes in the defensive zone are never going to change. Green remains an elite puck-mover and power play quarterback whose vision and playmaking are as effective as his shot, but there are just times that he doesn’t commit 100% to defense, and that’s part of the package with Green.
#28 Gustav Lindstrom: Lindstrom had a bit of a bumpy day at times during his second day of training camp, but the 21-year-old defenseman had to use his skating to overcome some adjustments to the pace of North American play, and he adapted pretty well. Undersized-to-average-sized at 6’1″ and 187 pounds, Lindstrom showed no fear in terms of making offensive plays and showed high hockey IQ when he made smart passes and outlets. His creativity has not waned from the prospect tournament.
#53 Moritz Seider: Seider is also doing a very good job of adapting to a different-sized ice surface and different-paced game among NHL competition. Big and lanky at 6’4″ and 207 pounds, the 18-year-old defenseman possesses elite levels of skating, passing, playmaking, shooting, stick-checking, gap control and more, and he’s got the right attitude, attempting to soak up experience and wisdom like a sponge. His future is bright and it’s probably North American as well.
#74 Madison Bowey: The Red Wings complicated their defensive position by picking up the no-longer-waiver-exempt Madison Bowey because he skates superbly well. The 24-year-old defenseman was something of a salary cap casualty in the Nick Jensen trade, and the Red Wings have a hard decision to make regarding a superb all-round defenseman in determining whether it’s best for the 6’2,” 198-pound defender to start in Detroit as the #7 guy or play regularly in Grand Rapids–if he gets through waivers. Bowey has a say in that, of course.
#83 Trevor Daley: Daley earned a shout-out from Seider for his poise and competitiveness at 36 years of age. It’s hard to say whether the 5’11,” 195-pound defenseman will end the year in Detroit, but as a second or third-pair defender, the smooth-skating all-around defender at least offers some puck-moving to the table. Regrettably, his offensive acumen has never found a fit in Detroit.
#36 Kaden Fulcher: Fulcher is playing like someone who knows that he’s got to fight for his spot. The 6’3,” 187-pound goaltender with the flashy glove, blocker and toes still needs to tighten up his game, and that will only come through playing experience. Walleye starter Pat Nagle won’t want to give up his 50+-game workload, and Filip Larsson wants to start the year in GR, so it’s battle away for the 21-year-old Fulcher.
#38 Filip Larsson: Larsson looked better on Saturday than he did on Friday, and he looked quite good on Friday. The 6’2,” 187-pound goaltender possesses excellent butterfly fundamentals, and he’s a principled netminder who utilizes his positioning and size to his advantage, making hard saves appear routine. He’s still young at 21 and still needs pro acclimation at the AHL or ECHL level, but he is the Wings’ most talented goaltending prospect at present.
#45 Jonathan Bernier: Bernier is at his best when he isn’t flashy and isn’t fancy, simply playing within his 6,’ 184-pound frame and his steady butterfly game. Bernier can get caught chasing pucks on occasion, and when he tries to play bigger or flashier than his skill set affords, he can give up the occasional soft goal, and while he is 31, he’s still learning the patience necessary to be a starting goaltender. That’s probably why he’s not one, yet, anyway.
#26 Matthew Ford*: Ford still moves fairly well for a 35-year-old, but it’s positioning, will and determination that win out for the Grand Rapids Griffins’ captain, because he can still post 10-20 goals at the AHL level because he is versatile and gives 100% effort 100% of the time.
#42 Mathieu Bizier**: Bizier has buzzed around the Wings’ training camp with the “third group,” learning as much as he can as an 18-year-old free agent invite from the QMJHL’s Gatineau Olympiques. At 6’1″ and 187 pounds, he’s aiming to produce a point per game at his level.
#50 Dominik Shine*: Shine’s pro trajectory is something of a puzzle for me. A Grand Rapids Griffins-contracted 5’11,” 175-pound forward, the 26-year-old has yet to establish himself as the kind of scorer he was in college, but the Griffins adore his work ethic and he checks adequately due to superb skating abilities.
#62 Cody Morgan**: Morgan has not stood out during camp, but the 5’11,” 183-pound Flint Firebirds forward will be heading back to the OHL aiming for point-per-game status at that level.
#64 Josh Kestner*: Kestner was signed to a Griffins contract, but the 25-year-old is destined to play for the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye. At the ECHL level, Kestner posted 49 points in 61 games for Newfoundland, and he was a pain in the Walleye’s side in the Kelly Cup Final.
#75 Troy Loggins*: Loggins was signed by the Grand Rapids Griffins as a scorer out of Northern Michigan University, and the 5’9,” 161-pound forward looked strong among his peers at the prospect tournament, but he’s probably ECHL-bound.
#76 Jarid Lukosevicius*: Ditto for the steady Lukosevicius, a 5’10,” 185-pound AHL signing out of Denver. He looked quite useful during the prospect tournament, but at 24 years of age, he needs to play regularly to accrue as much pro experience as he can get, so the ECHL is his likely starting-off spot.
#78 Gregor MacLeod*: MacLeod rounds out the trio of Griffins signings who will begin their pro campaigns in the ECHL; the 21-year-old Drummondville Voltigeurs graduate played superbly at the prospect tournament, but the 6,’ 183-pound center faces a long list of checking forwards ahead of him on the depth chart.
#79 Thomas Casey**: Casey, a free agent invite, will return to the QMJHL’s Charlottetown Islanders having done well to impress the Wings and whoever else might employ the 18-year-old down the line. He’s only 5’8″ and 185 pounds, but Casey took no guff and skated with excellent speed up and down the wing during the prospect tournament.
#82 Tyler Spezia*: AHL-contracted, ECHL-bound, the 5’10,” 180-pound Spezia nearly cracked the 40-point mark in just short of 60 ECHL games played, so he will return to Toledo, where he was an integral part of the Kelly Cup Final run.
#88 Chad Yetman**: I have some mixed feelings about Yetman. He’s worked very hard to impress, but the 19-year-old forward fell a little short in the prospect tournament, and the 5’11,” 176-pound winger is likely heading back to the Erie Otters to resume a scoring role.
#89 Owen Robinson**: Another free agent invite, Robinson was solid in limited duty in the prospect tournament, and the 6,’ 183-pound forward will return to Sudbury to attempt to increase his scoring.
#47 Marcus Crawford*: Griffins-contracted, the 5’11,” 198-pound Crawford posted 26 points in 48 games with the Walleye, so he’s likely going to return to the ECHL hoping to register points on a regular basis.
#63 Alec McCrea*: McCrea is turning pro with an AHL contract and an ECHL destination, and the 6’3,” 212-pound defenseman is going to provide steady stay-at-home defense.
#86 Charle-Edouard D’Astous*: As I said on Friday, it will be interesting to see where D’Astous ends up. The QMJHL scorer and 6’2,” 205-pound defenseman looked very good at times and shaky at others during the prospect tournament, and he possesses excellent offensive abilities, but with the Griffins’ defense jam-packed, D’Astous will be hard-pressed to wrest an AHL spot free.
#87 Marc-Olivier Duquette**: Invited to camp from the QMJHL’s Drummondville Voltigeurs, even among pros the 6’4,” 205-pound Duquette acquits himself well as a simple, steady defender.
#98 Owen Lalonde**: Lalonde is another free agent invite who comes from the Guelph Storm, where he posted 41 points in 61 games. The 6’1,” 185-pound defenseman will return to Guelph attempting to increase his offensive output, and in the interim, he’s been OK in camp.
#60 Pat Nagle*: Nagle is the Toledo Walleye’s main back-stop and he will likely reprise his role as a 32-year-old goaltender who doesn’t over-complicate his game. The 6’2,” 195-pound Pickard is at his best when he makes difficult saves simply and frustrates opponents as a result.
#68 Sean Romeo**: Romeo has held up reasonably well among the pros. The free agent invite who won a prospect tournament championship with the Wings, the 6’1,” 172-pound goaltender is headed to Cincinnati to begin his professional journey.
#80 Anthony Popovich**: The last of the free agent try-outs, Popovich has had a steady diet of pucks but no game action as the Guelph Storm goaltender works with his fellow goaltenders and the Wings’ goalie coaches to refine his game. He’ll return to the OHL champs a better netminder for his time and effort.
*= Griffins signing **= Free agent try-out.
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