The Red Wings’ annual “Red vs. White Game” on Sunday afternoon was actually the end of what was a busy day for the Red Wings’ training camp participants, and the 2-period, 50-minute-long game was entertaining, if not uneventful:
The White Team beat the Red Team 2-1 in a shootout, with Frans Nielsen and Anthony Mantha’s shootout goals accompanying a regulation goal from Oliwer Kaski; Andreas Athanasiou scored for the Red Team, but left with an unspecified minor injury halfway through the game.
The day actually started with an hour-long practice for the non-Red/White players, who engaged in complicated situational drills under coach Jeff Blashill; even the Red and White players skated for 40 minutes under the guidance of the Red Wings’ coaching staff before preparing for the Red vs. White Game itself, and as that was taking place, the Red Wings’ front office interviewed 9 players who were sent back to their major junior and professional teams.
I came to the rink early as usual (I am no morning person, but I try to soak in as much hockey as I can), so I finally got to watch what was formerly Team Lindsay skate–with 4 defensemen, 10 forwards and 3 goalies and 9 coaches present–as I’d not been able to see much of them at all while waiting for media scrums.
By the time Steve Yzerman, Pat Verbeek, Ryan Martin and Kris Draper walked by me, Team Red and Team White were engaged in their pre-scrimmage routines, but I knew what was coming: director of player development Shawn Horcoff slowly but surely escorted the 9 players one-by-one into locker room 10, where the four Wings executives gave the players what are essentially prescriptions for their upcoming seasons, both in terms of what they’d like to see from the players on the ice if they are to return, and what they’d like to see the players focus upon off the ice.
I think that it’s cool that the Red Wings don’t simply say, “Well, you were all right, thanks for your time,” but that’s just me.
The Red Wings iced the following lineups for the Red vs. White Game:
Mike Green, Darren Helm and Dylan Larkin didn’t skate today, though the trio watched the game from the “scouts’ lounge” on the second floor of the rink; again, Andreas Athanasiou scored in the first period but sat out the second period. The media was told that all were experiencing “minor tweaks,” and that their statuses for Monday were To Be Determined. Brian Lashoff and Vili Saarijarvi didn’t practice with the Red or White groups, either.
For what it’s worth, Jarid Lukosevicius, Charle-Edouard D’Astous and Alec Regula didn’t practice from the non-Red/White group, and Jared McIsaac remains sidelined as he recovers from shoulder surgery, but these tidbits but may be of lesser significance than the news about Green, Helm, Larkin and Athanasiou.
Also “for what it’s worth,” the “owners’ suite” was indeed full of front office types, and the Griffins and Walleye’s coaches worked the game as coach Jeff Blashill wanted to watch the game from above in the broadcast perch.
In the audio-visual department, the Red Wings posted the game’s goals on Twitter…
The Detroit News’s David Guralnick posted a photo gallery from the game…
Photo gallery from today’s Red vs. White game at training camp. Goalie Calvin Pickard took the brunt of the action but came out making several good stops: https://t.co/8Gp1GbxXSr @cpickard1 @tkulfan pic.twitter.com/kfag6hLRuK— David Guralnick (@DavidGuralnick) September 15, 2019
And I posted post-game interviews with Adam Erne, Filip Zadina and coach Jeff Blashill:
The Red Wings went the video route:
In terms of my player impressions of the players who did and did not play in the Red vs. White Game, here’s what I observed:
#72 Andreas Athanasiou–#51 Valtteri Filppula–#67 Taro Hirose
#72 Andreas Athanasiou: Athanasiou had a hell of a period’s worth of play before having to stop playing due to a “tweak.” Ideally, the 25-year-old stays healthy and displays 30-goal form again, because the Red Wings need the 6’2,” 188-pound center to live up to his billing as he goes into a restricted free agent contract year. Athanasiou’s speed and hands are elite, and his panache as a goal-scorer is evident. He, like Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi, needs to get a wee bit more consistent in terms of his game-to-game effort and a wee less frustrated when things don’t go his way.
#51 Valtteri Filppula: Seeing Filppula come back to the Wings at 35 is kind of weird. He looks no older than Filppula did when he left the Wings back in 2013, and some six years later, he’s neither lost a step nor lost any of his playmaking abilities. The 6,’ 196-pound center also wins draws, he’s superb defensively, and thus far, he’s shown a little more maturity in terms of waiting things out before making offensive plays. We shall see whether Filppula is assigned the 3rd line center’s role or the 2nd line center’s role (i.e. whether he checks the snot out of people, or whether he checks the snot out of people and adds some offense).
#67 Taro Hirose: It took a game situation for the 23-year-old to really kick into gear, but Taro Hirose did finally get his ass moving and his legs skating when taking part in a game situation. The 5’10,” 160-pound NHL rookie is a good skater whose vision and anticipation afford him the ability to make elegant passes and occasionally take deceptively dangerous shots. He just needs to show what he can do on a consistent basis to stick in the NHL.
#78 Gregor MacLeod*–#41 Luke Glendening–#8 Justin Abdelkader
#78 Gregor MacLeod*: More Kudos to MacLeod, an AHL signing out of the QMJHL’s Drummondville Voltigeurs. Sometimes playing on Glendening’s wing and sometimes helming his own set of forwards, the 6,’ 183-pound center did a fine job of keeping up with the big boys in a defensive role. MacLeod was excellent as the Wings’ second-line center during the prospect tournament, and he’s been playing with the “non-Red-White” players for training camp, but he got a tap on the shoulder to play in this game, probably because Helm was iffy. He acquitted himself well as a 2-way player, but the Wings’ log-jam of defensive forwards means that he may begin his pro career with the Toledo Walleye.
#41 Luke Glendening: At this point, there’s nothing about the 30-year-old forward that isn’t known. He’s going to skate well, he’s going to work his ass off on every shift, and he’s going to compete hard to win faceoffs, check opposing players and win battles against people a lot bigger than the 5’11,” 192-pound Grand Rapids native. He wins more of his battles than not, and if he wasn’t a $1.8 million 4th line center, people would probably like him more.
#8 Justin Abdelkader: Abdelkader appears to understand that, had he not re-committed to getting in the best physical and mental shape of his career, his job was in jeopardy. The 6’2,” 214-pound Abdelkader looks a bit rejuvenated and most definitely determined to keep playing for the Red Wings as long as possible as a 32-year-old checking forward who’s simply never going to be a $4.2 million player. If you accept him for who he is, as an overpriced but useful winger, he offers more pluses than minuses; if you’re expecting a Selke Trophy candidate, that’s not who Abdelkader has evolved into. In a good year, he posts about 12 goals and he is involved in the power play to the positive, but he mostly earns his living being a sound defensive forward.
#70 Christoffer Ehn–#27 Michael Rasmusen–#37 Evgeny Svechnikov
#70 Christoffer Ehn: Ehn may or may not understand that his job on the Wings is in jeopardy as well; all I know is that he’s been skating damn hard and working his butt off to ensure that he remains a Red Wing on a crowded roster of grinding forwards. At 23, the 6’2,” 193-pound Ehn is a lanky, strong-skating (if not a little fast) checking center/wing who does an excellent job of shutting down his opponents by hook or by crook, and he plays one of the better store-bought vanilla ice cream-flavored games I’ve seen. Bland is good when you’re Christoffer Ehn.
#27 Michael Rasmussen: I’m not going to put words in the coach’s mouth, but coach Blashill made it very plain that the Red Wings view 20-year-old Michael Rasmussen as a center, and as a two-way center who can both win faceoffs in his own end and as a two-way center who can tip in goals, the 6’6,” 221-pound Rasmussen is going to have a damn hard time earning a spot on the Wings’ roster. After a year spent in the NHL to some extent simply because he couldn’t be placed in the AHL, the acquisition of Adam Erne pushes Rasmussen down the depth chart, and while the big man’s changed his stick and gloves to try and get an edge, that edge may be earned in the AHL.
#37 Evgeny Svechnikov: Svechnikov is almost undoubtedly Grand Rapids bound, and that’s OK. Last year’s ACL injury hit the reset button on the 23-year-old’s career, and at 6’3″ and 212 pounds, Svechnikov was both “mean on wheels” on Sunday, and he was able to move the puck up ice and to the net with aplomb. Whether he develops into more than a grinding forward with size and snarl is beyond me, but I hope he can rediscover his offensive touch this season.
#58 David Pope–#46 Chase Pearson–#15 Chris Terry
#58 David Pope: David Pope is in a bit of a pickle. The fact that players like Rasmussen and Svechnikov may start the year in the AHL may mean that the 24-year-old Pope has to ply his trade in the ECHL to ignite his scoring abilities. There’s no doubt that the 6’3,” 198-pound forward can score and can win battles for the puck in traffic; there’s a question of whether he can do so on a repeated basis at the pro level after a very solid college career, and playing time–at any level–is what he’s going to need to blossom into a late-blooming prospect.
#46 Chase Pearson: Wherever Pearson ends up, he will be an asset to his team. Supremely professional, in no small part thanks to the fact that his dad was an NHL’er, the 6’2,” 200-pound center does a fine job of playing a sound two-way game, and the 22-year-old plays bigger, heavier and steadier than you’d hope a turning-pro center could play at his pro experience level (which is a prospect tournament plus three days of training camp). Especially because he skates well, I believe that Pearson will succeed as a checking center.
#15 Chris Terry: Terry is NHL-contracted, but it’s the AHL where the 5’10,” 197-pound winger does his damage. Terry posted 61 points for the Griffins last season, and at the AHL level, he is an integral part of the Griffins’ scoring machine. At the NHL level, he’s a 30-year-old AHL scorer who can be utilized when necessary to fill a bottom-six role. Such is life when you’re on the bubble for a living.
#22 Patrik Nemeth–#28 Gustav Lindstrom
#22 Patrik Nemeth: Nemeth has gotten better as training camp has gone along, and that’s to be expected as the 6’3,” 219-pound defenseman learns the Red Wings’ systems. The 27-year-old is a hulking defenseman who is happiest playing a safe, somewhat edgy stay-at-home game, and he can move the puck well enough to be a second-pair defender, which is what the Wings will probably need him to be. He worked with Gustav Lindstrom and the pair worked smoothly together.
#28 Gustav Lindstrom: Lindstrom is my “dark horse” prospect. The 21-year-old defenseman isn’t overly big at 6’2″ and 187 pounds, and the one-year SHL veteran doesn’t have oodles of pro experience as a scoring threat, but the talents he possesses as an offensive defenseman are impressive-to-near-elite. He skates superbly well forward, laterally and backward, and he can make plays in traffic and in tight. At this point, Lindstrom needs to continue to adjust to the North American game’s pace, geometry, and strength levels, but down the line, he could become a particularly important part of the Wings’ prospect pipeline.
#21 Dennis Cholowski–#74 Madison Bowey
#21 Dennis Cholowski: Cholowski will probably start the season in the AHL because the 21-year-old defenseman’s partner is not waiver-exempt, and that’s okay. Dennis is average-sized by today’s standards at 6’1″ and 195 pounds, and he displayed NHL-level talent but sometimes AHL-level decision-making last season. Cholowski is an excellent skater and an astute passer as both an outlet-producer and a puck-lugger; his shot is solid and he can actually handle the bump and grind fairly well due to his low center of gravity; he just needs experience, and he’s probably going to get that experience playing in Grand Rapids.
#74 Madison Bowey: Bowey stands at 6’2″ and 198 pounds, and what separates the 24-year-old, non-waiver-exempt defender from a probable September on the waiver wire is that he’s an superb-to-excellent skating defenseman. There are inconsistencies and moments in his game when he gets into trouble, but the former Washington Capital does possess excellent hands in terms of puck-lugging and solid puck-distributing abilities. At 24, he’s mature physically and is physical without having an edge. He’s just a bit of a project in terms of gaining confidence at the pro level, and being a seventh defenseman is not ideal for him.
#83 Trevor Daley–#53 Moritz Seider
#83 Trevor Daley: I am hoping that seeing Daley on the third pair is indicative of where the Red Wings see the 35-year-old going forward. Daley is a fine puck-lugger and puck-distributor, but at 5’11” and 195 pounds, he’s not big and when he’s not using his excellent skating skills, he can get bumped off the puck. Daley’s earlier-career offense simply never translated to offensive abilities playing for the Wings, and I think that having him as the mentor for a younger defenseman is probably the best place for him to be at this point in his career.
#43 Moritz Seider: It’s been exciting to watch Seider’s roller-coaster ride during training camp. There are moments when the Seider of the prospect tournament is there in full stride, skating up the ice all by himself to generate offense on the rush, bouncing off a big hit with the puck on his blade, or setting up an offensive foray with his great vision, but there are moments when you can see that the 6’4,” 207-pound defenseman is still very much so an 18-year-old playing North American pro hockey for the very first time. That’s to be expected, and Seider is going to have bumps and bruises along the North American professional hockey learning curve, but his elite talent is always lurking just below the surface, and his skating and hockey intelligence set him apart from his peers as the Wings’ best blueline prospect.
#45 Jonathan Bernier: Bernier had a very good game because the 6,’ 194-pound goaltender was simple, steady and efficient in his principled butterfly game. Bernier is at his best when he plays within himself, and as a Quebec-born adherent of the drop-to-your-knees-and-flare-out-your-toes technique, he can maximize his size and reach, possessing superb glove and blocker skills as well. When the 31-year-old tries to be too fancy or too deliberate, he can over-reach for the puck, and that’s when bad things happen.
#38 Filip Larsson: For 25 minutes, Larsson was impeccable in his first real pro action. The 6’2,” 187-pound netminder played as a flashy, showy goaltender on Sunday, making pin-point accurate saves and remaining within his frame instead of reaching for the puck outside the limits of his 6’2″ frame. He was square, quick and agile, and he read plays as and sometimes before they happened. He wasn’t great in the shootout, but that’s OK–he had 25 minutes’ worth of a pro debut after no prospect tournament, and he played superbly for the most part.
#36 Kaden Fulcher: Fulcher was listed as the back-up, but he only took warm-ups. The 6’3,” 187-pound goaltender is 20 going on 21 this month, and the superbly-talented but tremendously inconsistent goaltender needs to push Pat Nagle for the starter’s spot in Toledo to iron out the kinks in his game.
#59 Tyler Bertuzzi-–#90 Joe Veleno–#39 Anthony Mantha
#59 Tyler Bertuzzi: Bertuzzi and Mantha weren’t as effective as usual because they did what they sometimes do with Dylan Larkin there to bail them out: they played a lateral game and tried to set up Joe Veleno for goals instead of skating to the net as hard as they usually do themselves. Bertuzzi was still nasty, ornery and useful as a 6’1,” 190-pound winger with speed and smashing ability to burn, but he was passing up opportunities to shoot, and that’s not like Bertuzzi the vast majority of the time. As a result, the work ethic was there, but the results weren’t there.
#90 Joe Veleno: Perhaps for the first time in his life, Joe Veleno looked a little intimidated. Veleno was playing center on the Red Wings’ top line, and that gave the smooth-skating center enough pause to slow him down. A healthy 6’1″ and 191 pounds, the 19-year-old graduate of the Drummondville Voltigeurs is used to wearing the “C” on his chest in the Q, but he’s not used to the kind of expectations thrust upon literally being Dylan Larkin’s replacement, so the elite-skating, fine-passing, great-shooting center was not quite himself on Sunday afternoon. He’ll rebound just fine as he starts his career with Grand Rapids next month.
#39 Anthony Mantha: Mantha was better during the final 5 minutes of each period, when the teams played 3-on-3, and during the shootout than he was at 5-on-5. The one thing that separates the 25-year-old from being an elite goal-scorer is that there are times when he tries to get cute and pass the puck into the net (it is a malady that every Red Wings player suffers from from time to time), and the 6’5,” 225-pound Mantha was dangling and dancing his way around opponents into pretty passing plays instead of authoritative shots. Just shoot the puck, Anthony! When he did that in the shootout, he scored an easy goal.
#73 Adam Erne–#81 Frans Nielsen–#11 Filip Zadina
#73 Adam Erne: Erne may very well earn a spot on the Wings because the 6’1,” 214-pound winger with the massive melon (sorry, his head is big and it’s a little weird) skates damn well. Ehn and Erne are pretty equivalent in terms of both skating and checking abilities, as well as their penchant for moving the puck at high speed. Erne is particularly good at passing the puck while in flight, and he’s one of those rare skaters that doesn’t slow down when he’s got the puck on his stick. At 24, we’ll see what the former Tampa Bay Lightning forward can bring to the table in a checking role.
#81 Frans Nielsen: Nielsen was solid during the game and clutch during the shootout, as per usual. The 35-year-old center puts in an honest effort every time he laces up the skates, so you know that the 6’1,” 188-pound forward is going to win draws, check hard and skate well. He’s in a bit of a competition with Filppula for the second line center’s spot.
#11 Filip Zadina: Zadina was…frustrating, again. Zadina got pucks on net more than he had at any time during the prospect tournament, and the 6,’ 196-pound winger still possesses the elite finishing skills of someone who is the Red Wings’ best prospect for good reason. The problem is that Zadina still wants to score pretty goals, wants to score aesthetically pleasing goals, wants to score elegant, whimsical goals, and none of those qualities score goals at the NHL level. Again, Zadina is still 19, and he seems to have put the prospect tournament and even his rookie season behind him, but it’s hard to tell whether he has put his frustrations behind him, and that’s really what’s going to tell the tale for Zadina. It’s not about skill–he’s got great skating ability, he’s an elegant puck-handler, his shot is fantastic and he can pass well, too, because his vision is damn good, but Zadina can take himself out of the game, and thus far, he’s been his worst enemy.
#48 Givani Smith–#61 Jacob de la Rose–#56 Ryan Kuffner
#48 Givani Smith: Smith didn’t stand out in the scrimmage, though the 6’2,” 206-pound winger did lay out some mean and nasty hits. Competitive and edgy, the 21-year-old busts his butt to grind out every shift, and as someone who wants to become more than a 4th line grinder, he’s got good role models to emulate throughout the Wings’ lineup. He’s not going to be the next Tyler Bertuzzi, but I could see him as a forechecking shift-disturber if everything goes right for him.
#61 Jacob de la Rose: de la Rose may round out the Wings’ fourth line alongside Erne and Ehn because he is also supremely reliable as a defensive forward. The 6’3,” 216-pound center is just a big old hunk of human being who plays physically but without an edge, and defensively efficiently without dramatic flair. He’s a “safe” player, and the Wings may stick with “safe.”
#56 Ryan Kuffner: Kuffner will probably begin his pro career in Grand Rapids, but that’s no fault of nor slight toward the 23-year-old graduate of Princeton. The 6’1,” 195-pound winger has impressed me with his choppy little skating stride, his excellent puck-distributing abilities and his underrated shot. Kuffner needs to get a little stronger and a little more comfortable with the pace of the pro game, and Grand Rapids should afford him that opportunity.
#57 Turner Elson–#23 Dominic Turgeon–#54 Matt Puempel
#57 Turner Elson: At the AHL level, Turner Elson is a useful player, good for about 20 goals and 20 assists. The 27-year-old center has established himself as an efficient performer with Grand Rapids, and the 6,’ 195-pound Elson is a superb skater who hustles up and down the ice.
#23 Dominic Turgeon: Dominic Turgeon is going to find himself in the fight of his life this season. The Red Wings have many forwards likely to head to Grand Rapids, and there’s only so much room for another grinding forward, so the 23-year-old Turgeon will have to work his tail off–something that he is not opposed to doing–in order to retain his spot on the top of the Wings’ grinding forward food chain. The 6’2,” 200-pound center may have the skating legs to stand out, and he definitely has the work ethic and professionalism to grind it out. Whether he can stick, however…Is up to him.
#54 Matt Puempel: Puempel is another Wings-contracted Griffins player who is a bit higher than Elson on the scoring charts. Puempel can score 25-to-30 goals and 50+ points on a regular basis, and the 27-year-old has an excellent release for an AHL player. He hasn’t been able to stick at the NHL level, but he, Elson and Chris Terry form the nucleus of the Griffins’ scoring line.
#65 Danny DeKeyser–#17 Filip Hronek
#65 Danny DeKeyser: Less is often more for DeKeyser. Now 29, the 6’3,” 192-pound defenseman is attempting to stick on the Wings’ top pair by playing simple, efficient two-way hockey at a high pace. DeKeyser’s always had underrated skating abilities, but his body strength never really caught up to his lanky, high-metabolic-rate frame until last season, and he’s still got some inconsistencies to iron out of his game. Locked into a long-term deal, it behooves DeKeyser and the Red Wings for big #65 to play to the extent of his abilities.
#17 Filip Hronek: Hronek is at a different point in his career than DeKeyser, but the 6,’ 170-pound defenseman may end up playing with DeKeyser as an NHL sophomore. Full of confidence inside and out, The 22-year-old defenseman plays a dashing, daring game at times, making offensive plays at sometimes significant risk to life, limb and the home team, but most of the time, Hronek’s passing, shooting, playmaking and pinching skills are so strong that he gets away with up to and including manslaughter. In a weird way, that’s a good thing, and his skating is so strong that it bails him out of jams. He’s got an edge to him, too, so after a strong World Championship with the Czech Republic, Hronek is in line to not experience a sophomore slump.
#52 Jonathan Ericsson–#77 Oliwer Kaski
#52 Jonathan Ericsson: Ericsson “is what he is” at 35–he’s an over-priced but useful second-or-third-pair, stay-at-home defenseman who occasionally shows flashes of offensive abilities. Massive at 6’4″ and 220 pounds, Ericsson doesn’t throw around his body as much as fans might like, but he is efficient physically, and when he applies himself, he can be a mean player to play against. Most of the time, it’s generally steady hockey for Ericsson, but there are occasional hiccups.
#77 Oliwer Kaski: It’s early yet, but the 24-year-old Kaski has impressed just about everyone who’s watched him with his superb offensive abilities. The 6’3,” 187-pound righty rips heavy shots at the net, his passing skills are excellent on the point and alongside forwards in the rush, he skates very well and his pace of play is North American. Madison Bowey’s presence probably relegates Kaski to AHL duty to start, but he has displayed significant potential over a very short period of time.
#2 Joe Hicketts–#20 Dylan McIlrath
#2 Joe Hicketts: Hicketts appears to have worked on his skating to the point that it’s not a detriment toward getting back into play after unleashing one of his thunderous hits. At 5’8″ and 180 pounds, Hicketts is the classic undersized but physical defenseman, keeping opponents on their toes because one never knows when Hicketts will strike. He’s also a good passer and has a fairly good shot, so the 23-year-old still has an outside shot at earning an NHL job one day.
#20 Dylan McIlrath: Dylan McIlrath is at a similar place in his career, though he’s at a different time. 28 years of age, the massive 6’5,” 236-pound behemoth is a vicious physical presence and an occasional glove-dropping heavyweight at the AHL level, but he’s never been able to keep up with the play at the NHL level skating-wise, and it is evident that McIlrath, like Hicketts, has endeavored to continue to improve his skating skills. He’s almost at the level where he can keep up now, and he’s sure as hell not going to leave the door to an NHL career ajar. We’ll see what the future holds.
#35 Jimmy Howard: Howard’s hit 35 years of age plying his trade for a team that sometimes lets him down, and the 6’1,” 218-pound goaltender has done an admirable job of trying to keep his Red Wings in games over the past couple of seasons. There are a few squeakers that still get by him, but for the most part, Howard is a sound positional goaltender who uses technique as much as body position to make astute stops. He’s worked hard to improve his rebound control and stick-handling–which are sometimes still works in progress–and Howard hopes to play more consistently this season.
#31 Calvin Pickard: The Grand Rapids Griffins’ presumptive starter, the 6’1,” 207-pound goaltender is 28 and has bounced around the league. When he is at his best, Pickard plays a spare, simple game that is predicated on making strong butterfly saves and maximizing his average-by-today’s-standards size with sound stops and minimal rebounds. Pickard looked very good under sometimes heavy pressure during his half of the Red vs. White Game, and he’s a useful interim backup to have on the payroll.
#3 Jared McIsaac: McIsaac, a 2018 draft pick, is rehabbing his left shoulder after reconstructive surgery. He’s been attending camp to take part in whatever off-ice work he can, and the 6’1,” 193-pound defenseman is going to try to return to action in time for the World Junior Championships, where the Halifax Mooseheads defenseman would be playing for Canada. He’s a Swiss Army Knife defenseman who can be utilized in any situation, but is best-suited for a second-pair position, shutting down the opponent opposite an offensively-minded partner.
#23 Brian Lashoff: Lashoff eagerly and intently watched the Red vs. White Game from the concourse at ice level, and while the 29-year-old defenseman is simply a utility player at the NHL level, at the AHL level, the 6’3,” 219-pound defenseman is the Grand Rapids Griffins’ rock-solid #3 defender, the conduit between the top defensive pair and the bottom pair, and he is also one of the team’s leaders. Lashoff’s character affords him respect, and he goes out and earns that respect with every shift.
#25 Mike Green: Green gives and Green takes, and that’s what you get from him. At 33 going on 34 (on October 12th), the Red Wings and Green alike are hoping that he’s put his liver ailment behind him, and if he has, the 6’1,” 207-pound defenseman will be an integral part of the Red Wings’ breakout. You deal with the occasional hiccup because there isn’t anybody on the team that can carry the puck out of the zone like Green can, and his excellent skating, elite vision and passing abilities can yield significant offense. I’m hoping that he is healthy, and long-term, whether he’s on the team at the end of the season or not will depend on how the team does with Green on the ice (historically speaking, they win more than they lose when he’s around).
#29 Vili Saarijarvi: I am making a bit of an assumption in placing both Lashoff and Saarijarvi on the injured list, because it is entirely possible that both players simply missed the cut for the Red vs. White Game due to depth and/or the Wings’ coaching staff wanting to see other players.
That being said, Saarijarvi faces a crossroads in his North American career this season. If he does not earn regular playing time, be it with the Grand Rapids Griffins or Toledo Walleye, it may be time for the 5’10,” 182-pound defenseman to pack it up and head back to Finland to make more money than he can make at the AHL level. Saarijarvi is very talented and still only 22 years of age, so his injury-shortened campaigns have yielded as much learning and patience with “the process” as they have yielded frustration for the Finnish defenseman, but he’s too talented as a puck-distributor, skater and all-round defender to be sitting on the practice squad (and, with no roster restrictions, the Griffins can ice “Black Aces” during the regular season). I hope, for Vili’s sake, that he grabs a job and keeps it.
#43 Darren Helm: I’m pretty darn sure that Darren Helm’s switch to Bauer gear includes using a slightly shorter stick this season, and the fact that the 32-year-old grinding winger chose to make that kind of change is a little refreshing. Helm gives you what he gives you–a lot of speed and grit in a 6,’ 196-pound frame–and if the training camp lines shake out and he’s playing with Luke Glendening and Justin Abdelkader…I know that the line would be ridiculously over-priced, but I’ve also seen it play, and it’s effective. The Wings are never going to get dollar-for-dollar what Ken Holland put in to keep Darren Helm around, so you just want him to be effective, and perhaps building a “BMW Grind Line” is where he should be.
#71 Dylan Larkin: Larkin and Green both watched parts of the Red vs. White Game from the scouts’ lounge on the second floor of the rink. Larkin had his hooded sweatshirt over his head and looked like he was itching to play, judging by his jitters, and that’s good. He’s ready to dominate on a nightly basis–no easy task–and at 23 years of age, now is the time for the 61,” 198-pound Larkin to establish himself as a consistent star player in the NHL. We already know that he is the engine that drives the Red Wings forward, and my hope is that he can kick the subtle inconsistencies and frustrations out of his game in order to simplify things ever so slightly.
#76 Jarid Lukosevicius*: A Grand Rapids Griffins-contracted player, Lukosevicius was very useful during the prospect tournament as a 2-way forward, and the 5’10,” 185-pound signing out of the University of Denver hasn’t dropped off going from a 24-year-old playing among his peers to a first-time-pro playing against his betters. He’ll begin his pro career in Toledo.
#86 Charle-Edouard D’Astous*: Another AHL signing, D’Astous is a bit of a puzzle to me because his 86-point season with the QMJHL’s Rimouski Oceanic was impressive, and the 6’2,” 205-pound defenseman acquitted himself well as a good skater and a heavy-on-his-stick defender during the prospect tournament. The problem for D’Astous is that the Grand Rapids Griffins are going to be loaded up with Red Wings prospects, and Moritz Seider’s desire to stay in North America may be the reason why D’Astous starts the year in the ECHL.
#94 Alec Regula: Regula, a 2018 draft pick, is recovering from a concussion, and when the 6’4,” 203-pound defenseman gets better, he’s going to head to the OHL’s London Knights, where the 19-year-old will attempt to establish himself as more than the complementary defensemen who bails out superstars like Evan Bouchard and Moritz Seider. Regula believes that he has the offensive chops to stand on his own, and if he can do it with the stacked Knights, he can probably post offensive numbers as a really useful #3/4 defenseman.
Non Red/White Players:
#26 Matthew Ford*: The Grand Rapids Griffins’ captain isn’t as fast as he used to be at 35 years of age, but for the Griffins, he’s a vocal leader and someone who can still score 10-20 goals while playing in all situations, including the power play and penalty-kill. He’s skated through camp like he has nothing left to prove, which he doesn’t.
#42 Mathieu Bizier**: Bizier heads back to the QMJHL’s Gatineau Olympiques hoping to reclaim his near-point-per-game form. The 6’1,” 187-pound center played to mixed reviews in the prospect tournament, and in training camp, his speed showed, but he more or less kept his head above water.
#50 Dominik Shine*: At the AHL level, the 5’11,” 175-pound speedster is a useful penalty-killer and puck-mover whose offensive numbers in college have not replicated themselves at the pro level yet. At 26, among a litany of checking forwards, Shine will have to find a way to make himself invaluable to Grand Rapids this season.
#62 Cody Morgan**: Morgan heads back to the OHL’s Flint Firebirds needing to put more muscle on his 5’11,” 183-pound frame and needing to attempt to replicate the 33 points he registered in 33 games after a mid-season trade from Windsor. He was another free agent try-out who saw limited action during the prospect tournament, so the free-flowing winger never hit his stride.
#64 Josh Kestner*: I could finally see some of the reasons why the Griffins signed Kestner with the intent of placing him on the Toledo Walleye’s roster. The 25-year-old is blazingly fast at any level, and he keeps his head up while transporting the puck in flight. The 6’1,” 181-pound Newfoundland Growlers center will join the Walleye hoping to post nearly a point per game at the ECHL level.
#75 Troy Loggins: Loggins wasn’t particularly visible on Saturday, but that’s OK. The 5’9,” 161-pound Griffins signing from Northern Michigan has displayed hustle and resolve during the prospect tournament and parts of training camp, and the 24-year-old forward will begin his career in the ECHL, hoping to translate some of his point-per-game NCAA form into the Toledo Walleye’s favor.
#79 Thomas Casey**: Casey may go back to the QMJHL’s Charlottetown Islanders with one of the highest “grade point averages” among the prospect tournament participants. The 5’8,” 185-pound winger was a bundle of energy when he played, and Casey did a fine job of racing up and down the wing while displaying physical prowess not often seen among players of his size. He worked his ass off from shift to shift, and his enthusiasm and fearlessness were catching.
#82 Tyler Spezia*: Spezia will head to the Toledo Walleye in a similar situation to Kestner, hoping to produce points. An integral part of the Walleye’s Kelly Cup Final run, thet 5’10,” 180-pound winger is 26 and was signed out of Bowling Green, so there’s an Ohio connection there.
#88 Chad Yetman**: Yetman heads back to the OHL’s Erie Otters needing to find some greater consistency to his game. A scorer at the OHL level, the 5’11,” 176-pound forward was in over his head at the prospect tournament and training camp, though he seemed to find some comfort level as training camp progressed.
#89 Owen Robinson**: Robinson never really got sorted out. The Sudbury Wolves free agent invite will head back to the OHL searching for similar consistency to Yetman. Also 5’11” and 176 pounds, Robinson looked a little intimidated at times.
#47 Marcus Crawford*: Crawford is, at the ECHL level, a point-producing defenseman, and the 5’11,” 198-pound defender gives up strength to no one given his bulky-but-fit status. He’s an ECHL sophomore looking to really rocket up the scoring charts.
#53 Alec McCrea*: I enjoyed watching McCrea throughout training camp, and he may earn a few exhibition games yet. The Griffins-contracted defenseman will head to the Toledo Walleye to begin his pro career, and the 6’3,” 212-pound defenseman plays a simple, steady and spare stay-at-home game.
#87 Marc-Olivier Duquette**: Duquette will return to the QMJHL’s Drummondville Voltigeurs, Joe Veleno’s old team, having earned some confidence and displayed some panache as a massive 6’4,” 205-pound stay-at-home defenseman whose reach and wingspan afford him the ability to reach out and whack someone.
#98 Owen Lalonde**: Lalonde had a more difficult time during the prospect tournament, only playing in a couple of bumpy games, but he posted 41 points in the OHL last season, so the Guelph Storm defenseman should return to the OHL Champs with increased confidence.
#60 Pat Nagle*: Nagle is AHL-contracted, but he is the Toledo Walleye’s undisputed starter, and the 32-year-old goaltender makes the most of his 6’2,” 195-pound frame, playing a supremely simple game that is suited well for the ECHL. Nagle doesn’t make pretty saves most of the time, but he’s accustomed to chaotic hockey, and that’s key at his level of play.
#68 Sean Romeo**: Romeo heads back to the ECHL to play for one of the Walleye’s main rivals, the Cincinnati Cyclones, as the admirable netminder begins his pro career at 25. The 6’1,” 172-pound goaltender is a battler with fine fundamentals, and at the ECHL level, he should succeed.
#80 Anthony Popovich**: Popovich plied his time playing as a practice goaltender, and it was difficult to discern whether the Guelph Storm goaltender got much out of limited practice time. The 6’1,” 182-pound goaltender is 20 and is aiming for a more consistent season with Guelph as he tries to raise his save percentage from .900.
*=Grand Rapids Griffins contract **=Free agent try-out.
Whew! This was the longest write-up of training camp in terms of time and effort spent. I hope it was worth your time.
I’m not kidding about the, “I’ve raised enough money to be up here, but not quite enough to go home” part, so if you are willing to lend a hand, I would greatly appreciate you going to https://paypal.me/TheMalikReport, or emailing me at email@example.com regarding alternate means of assisting TMR.
As always, thanks for your readership, your patronage and your time.