The Detroit Red Wings wrapped up training camp in Traverse City the way they usually do–with one foot out the door, mostly due to the fact that they’ll be playing a preseason game in Detroit tomorrow night.
Hockey players are strange in the way that they can make just about anywhere home, settle in, and as soon as they know it’s time to pull up stakes, the gear’s in the bag and they’re out the door.
As a result, and in no small part because the Red Wings have been ground into hamburger over the course of three grueling days of on and off-ice training, coach Jeff Blashill said that he toned down Monday’s drills, eliminating what the schedule said would be conditioning drills at the end of practice.
The Wings also cut down their roster to two teams, and, as stated in the audio post, Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, Oliwer Kaski, Andreas Athanasiou and Jarid Lukosevicius did not practice with either team.
I also thought it was interesting that Larkin, Justin Abdelkader, Luke Glendening and Frans Nielsen appeared to have a sit-down talk with Steve Yzerman and Pat Verbeek in one of the coaches’ locker rooms at the rink. The players were in the room with the Wings’ GM and assistant GM for about 20 minutes, and we can only guess what was said.
In terms of player and goaltending drills, coach Jeff Blashill kept things simple–sort of. After a video session for the skaters and a little bit of warm-up drills for the goaltenders, the coaching staff emphasized motion through the neutral zone and looping back over the course of approximately nine drills spread out over the course of an hour.
Some drills were repeats of Saturday’s strategic loop-back-and-skate-through-center ice drills; there were full-ice 3-on-2’s, full-ice 5-on-5 drills, 2-on-1’s in which defensemen had to square up at the far zone faceoff circle and skate all the way back and turn at some point to take the pass away; full-ice looping breakouts were emphasized as the team focused on neutral zone play and regrouping with the puck at center ice–and then attacking, hard; the teams ultimately engaged in a little lateral street hockey, where 5-on-5 groups exchanged pucks in order to score for their color team (red, white or black), and at the end of practice, coach Doug Houda spoke to the defensemen of each group for approximately ten minutes.
If the gas pedal that was the pace and intensity of coach Blashill’s drills was lifted off the floor of the Red Wings’ vehicle, it was only lifted slightly; there were a good number of incredibly well-conditioned athletes breathing hard at the end of drills, breath visible in the meat locker-chilly David’s Rink at Centre ICE Arena; the situational drills the players engaged in during the latter portions of practice were less intense skating-wise, but very hard-hitting and intense.
After practice, there was only one member of the team made available to the media as the team packed up for Detroit–coach Jeff Blashill:
By the time I headed out to the parking lot to get in my vehicle and head back to the hotel, several Red Wings were “hanging out”: Niklas Kronwall was making a call outside, because cell phone reception is terrible inside the rink; Moritz Seider and Dennis Cholowski were fiddling with their phones sitting in the tailgate of Cholowski’s car; Adam Erne was moving his luggage from one of the demo Chryslers provided for the team to a shuttle van; as more players drive themselves to Traverse City instead of taking the bus these days, the parking lot was still half-full of players and coaches’ cars, but inside Centre ICE Arena, security was sweeping the facility and the rink attendants were taking folding tables down and preparing to get back to normal life.
In terms of player assessments, the player assignments were all screwed up today due to the combination of “trades” made for the Red vs. White Game and the cuts made yesterday. It is safest, given my stage of burn-out, to continue to refer to the players as parts of three rosters’ worth of teams, even though “Team Lindsay” is only a partial team at the moment.
So, without further adieu:
#8 Justin Abdelkader: I really don’t know what’s going to happen with Justin Abdelkader this season, but to his credit, the 32-year-old forward looks stronger, faster and more consistently engaged than he has in years. The 6’2,” 214-pound Abdelkader seems to have understood that his job might be in jeopardy given the pressure that the Wings’ younger forwards–and particularly the large quantity of available grinding forwards in Grand Rapids and Toledo–have placed upon him, and the alternate captain has responded from one of his worst seasons with one of his best summers. Here’s hoping that Abdelkader finds more consistently engaged form in the regular season.
#15 Chris Terry: Terry’s NHL potential is somewhat limited, but the 30-year-old forward is a 30-goal-scorer at the AHL level, and the 5’10,” 197-pound winger will serve as the Grand Rapids Griffins’ most consistent scorer this upcoming season. Terry may get a stretch of time playing for the Red Wings as he is competent as a utility forward as well.
#23 Dominic Turgeon: Dominic Turgeon is one of the many checking forwards that the Wings possess in their prospect stable, and the 23-year-old needs to work his tail off to ensure that he does not slide down the depth chart. The 6’2,” 200-pound center possesses impeccable defensive skills–he wins faceoffs, he excels in one-on-one battles for the puck along the boards and down low, his defensive positioning is excellent, and his skating has gotten a lot better over the years–but there are many players eying his job in Grand Rapids, so he’s got to at least add some offense to his game to stand out.
#27 Michael Rasmussen: Rasmussen is likely ticketed for Grand Rapids because the Red Wings’ coaching and management see the 6’6,” 221-pound center as just that–a power center who can play responsible two-way hockey while tipping pucks into the net on the power play. At all of 20, the super-serious Rasmussen may very well benefit from some time playing in a more offensive role at the AHL level, because his confidence dwindled down the stretch last year in Detroit.
#37 Evgeny Svechnikov: Also headed down to Grand Rapids, most likely in a scoring role, big Svechnikov hopes to hit the re-set button on his career at 23. The 6’3,” 212-pound Svechnikov has displayed both goal-scoring acumen and snarl over the course of training camp, and regardless of whether he ends up rediscovering his goal-scorer’s touch or developing into a 3rd line winger, Svechnikov is at his best when he plays the kind of physical game that his frame permits.
#41 Luke Glendening: Glendening, like Abdelkader, seems aware of the fact that his spot as the Red Wings’ resident checking center is in some danger, so the 30-year-old worked very hard this summer to get in the best physical shape he could be in coming into training camp. The 5’11,” 192-pound center has looked efficient and sometimes he’s played with a little bit of a necessary edge to his game. Glendening is a faceoff-winning, down-low-battle-winning checking center who must raise his game ever so slightly to play to the extent of his abilities.
#43 Darren Helm: Again, Helm is 32, so it’s surprising to see the 6,’ 196-pound center come into camp with entirely new equipment and a shorter stick. You don’t expect someone like Helm to tweak his gear so significantly, but there is a sense that Helm, like Abdelkader and Glendening, knows that his bloated salary does not entitle him to a spot on the team. To his credit, he’s worked hard, and while the Wings are never going to get the value out of the Abdelkader-Glendening-Helm line that you or I would like, they form a very solid checking line together.
#46 Chase Pearson: Chase Pearson is one of the players who’s gunning for Dominic Turgeon’s job. Turning pro at 22, the 6’2,” 200-pound center is a superb skater who shined at the prospect tournament in an offensive role, but Pearson understands that he’ll be making AHL and possibly NHL bucks down the line by employing his size, strength and speed as a dutiful checking center. He’s got an extra gear on Turgeon and he was a scorer in college, so it will be interesting to see how his first professional season unfolds.
#51 Valtteri Filppula: Filppula returns to the Red Wings virtually unchanged from the 28-year-old who signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning as the Red Wings began the Stephen Weiss experiment. Now 35, the 6′, 196-pound center plays a superb two-way game, and if anything, his offensive abilities have improved based upon what I’ve witnessed over the course of training camp. Filppula’s passes are smoother, and while he’s never going to be a goal-scorer, his shot is more urgent. The Wings hope that Filppula and Frans Nielsen give them the depth at center that they were missing last season.
#58 David Pope: Pope is a bit of a puzzling prospect because the 24-year-old simply didn’t play much last season, and the 6’3,” 198-pound goal-scorer needs to play in order to develop. Pope may very well need to head to the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye to earn some offensive confidence instead of playing with the Griffins’ regular season “Black Aces.” Pope is on a short developmental curve, so the Wings must be aggressive in developing him to the potential 15-goal-scorer he might become.
#67 Taro Hirose: I don’t know whether Hirose is going to start the season with the Red Wings, but the 5’10,” 160-pound mini mite has finally engaged after a prospect tournament and part of training camp mostly spent on cruise control. Hirose could get away with playing at 80% during the prospect tournament because he was older than most of the participants at 23; his good skating skills and impeccable passing abilities afford him the ability to evade checks and avoid physical confrontations with bigger, stronger players, but the Wings’ forward situation may be too crowded to accommodate him.
#70 Christoffer Ehn: Thus far I’ve seen nothing from the 23-year-old Ehn that would indicate any kind of drop-off in performance during the 6’2,” 193-pound forward’s sophomore season. Ehn skates efficiently, he wins faceoffs, his defensive positioning and internal compass are excellent, he may be lanky, but he wins physical battles, and he’s simply a no-frills reliable defensive forward. He, Jacob de la Rose and Adam Erne may constitute the Wings’ fourth line.
#72 Andreas Athanasiou: Athanasiou didn’t practice on Monday after suffering a “tweak” during the Red vs. White Game; as long as he stays healthy over the course of the regular season, he has the potential to lead the Wings in goals scored, and the 6’2,” 188-pound winger could very well take a step forward and establish himself as a consistent offensive presence in every game at 25. Athanasiou’s skating is remarkable, his acceleration is breathtaking, and his hands are tremendous, but he can get too cute and too deliberate at times, and he needs to rid those subtle weaknesses from his game-to-game efforts.
#3 Jared McIsaac: McIsaac is recovering from reconstructive shoulder surgery, and the 6’1,” 193-pound defenseman will head back to the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads hoping to return to action for Canada’s World Junior Championship push in December. An underrated prospect, McIsaac is a superb all-round defenseman who serves as a second-line shut-down defender and/or a Swiss Army Knife defenseman who can be utilized in all situations.
#21 Dennis Cholowski: Cholowski may begin his 2019-2020 season in the AHL, and that’s okay. The 6’1,” 195-pound defenseman is still just 21 years of age, and while he possesses superb all-round offensive abilities (he passes and sees the ice well, he can lug the puck up ice himself, his shot is hard and accurate, he uses his stick to defend and his gap control is predicated on strong skating), Cholowski may need more experience to gain the confidence in decision-making that he lost over the course of the Red Wings’ regular season. His potential is still very bright.
#22 Patrik Nemeth: Nemeth is just a big lug of a 6’3,” 219-pound defenseman who is in his prime at 28, and he really enjoys playing the shut-down defenseman’s role. Nemeth skates well on all three axes (forward, backward and laterally), he has a bite to his physical game and he uses his stick to defend and steer opponents into him. He blocks shots, he wins battles along the boards and he simply plays a steady, hard game.
#25 Mike Green: Green is simply so integral to the Red Wings’ breakout that the Wings have to put up with the defensive gaffes that the 6’1,” 207-pound defenseman occasionally makes. A risk-taker and occasional rule-breaker, Green skates up the ice with the puck like no one else on the Wings’ blueline, and the 34-year-old helps the Red Wings win more games than they lose, so the few lapses in concentration that he displays from game to game are just part of the package. Green at his best is an elite offensive defenseman whose passing, puck-carrying, playmaking and shot are excellent, and he skates superbly. Green at not his best is an adventure in his own end.
#28 Gustav Lindstrom: Gustav Lindstrom remains my “dark horse” prospect. Likely headed to Grand Rapids to begin his North American pro campaign at 21, the 6’2,” 187-pound righty has a Swedish pro season under his belt already, and the mature offensive game he possesses is due to that season spent with the Frolunda Indians–and a significant amount of innate talent. The smooth-skating defenseman has a ways to go in his own end, and he needs to get stronger, but his potential is high-end and his work ethic is very good, as is his hockey IQ.
#53 Moritz Seider: At 18, the 6’4,” 207-pound defenseman may be the Red Wings’ best prospect, never mind its best defensive prospect. Seider skates at an elite level, and while he has been a bit up and down during training camp, when he’s on his game and confident on North American ice, he is ridiculously creative with the puck and demonstrative in jumping into the rush himself to generate offense. It’s been fun to watch Seider’s pinpoint passes and heavy shots create havoc in the offensive zone, and he’s smart enough and fast enough to gap up and get back into defensive position most of the time. Seider remains raw at all of 18 years of age, but his potential is immense.
#74 Madison Bowey: Madison Bowey finds himself in a different position altogether, perhaps sticking with Detroit by default because the 24-year-old prospect can no longer clear waivers. The 6’2,” 198-pound defenseman is a truly excellent skater, but sometimes his hands don’t catch up with his feet, and that can yield a higher-risk offensive game than Bowey can keep up with at this point in his development. He’s got a big boomer of a shot and passes well, and there is physicality without an edge to it in his game. He still has some developing to do in terms of consistency of effort, however.
#83 Trevor Daley: The 35-going-on-36-year-old Daley’s offensive abilities elsewhere have never replicated themselves on the Red Wings, so it is perhaps fitting that the 5’11,” 195-pound player lauded for his professionalism will likely be playing a third-pair mentor’s role. That’s probably the best spot for the elegant-skating Daley, who still wins battles for the puck simply because he is such a good skater, but occasionally gets bumped off the puck when he is chased down.
#36 Kaden Fulcher: Fulcher, like so many of his fellow prospects, needs to play to leave behind the occasional holes in his game and/or squeaky goals that get past him due to inconsistencies in effort. He’s still only 21, and the 6’3,” 187-pound goaltender needs to maximize his playing time behind Toledo Walleye starter Pat Nagle to truly tap his potential to be an NHL starter. Possessing an excellent glove hand, a flourishing blocker, speedy toes and strong stickhandling, all the tools are there, as is the potential. He just needs to play.
#38 Filip Larsson: Filip Larsson has rebounded from a groin issue to display fine form in the Red Wings’ training camp. Swashbuckling at times, simply steady and sound other times, the 6’2,” 187-pound goaltender is turning pro at 21, and his athletic butterfly game is fun to watch because he’s so quick and flexible. Larsson anticipates plays well and he’s got great glove and blocker hands, so his energetic style is backed up by good fundamentals. He’s probably going to start the year in Grand Rapids, assuming his health holds up.
#45 Jonathan Bernier: I thought it was interesting to note that Bernier is now wearing what are called flat-faced pads (there are no “knee rolls” on Bernier’s pads); at 31, he’s not exactly been the type to make a big change to his gear, but the 6,’ 184-pound goalie seems to want an edge in his principled butterfly game, and he does seem to be a little more agile. When he’s at his best, Bernier employs his style in a simple, stay-within-one’s-strengths manner; when he struggles to reach for the puck, or tries to make flourishing saves, that’s when he gets in trouble.
#11 Filip Zadina: Zadina is probably the Wings’ best prospect overall, but the potential 30-goal-scorer has a ways to go to find the confidence necessary to simplify his game. Still young at 19 and filled out at 6′ and 196 pounds, Zadina is a tremendous skater who lugs the puck up ice with dangles and dekes, and he can fire off laser snap, slap and wrist shots, as well as make elegant passing plays, but the problem for Zadina is that he’s trying to author fanciful, artistic and aesthetically-pleasing goals, and those kind of goal-scorers don’t end up panning out in the NHL. He’s got to channel a little Alex Ovechkin into his game and score some pretty ugly goals and score away from his “spot” at the right wing faceoff dot.
#39 Anthony Mantha: It was a little worrisome to see Mantha “hot dog” it during Sunday’s Red vs. White Game, but Mantha was back to his goal-scoring ways on Monday morning. The massive 6’5,” 225-pound power forward simply has to apply himself on a consistent basis in a consistent direction–north-south–in order to truly establish himself as a 25-to-30-goal-scorer. Big but deft-skating, able to shoot tremendously well and possessing stronger vision and passing abilities than one would think, Mantha can become that multi-tool star if he skates to the extent of his abilities every game.
#48 Givani Smith: Smith is at a very different point in his career, trying to expand his AHL role at 21 years of age. The 6’2,” 206-pound winger possesses a fine combination of skating, snarl and work ethic, but he was little more than a fourth-line enforcer last season, and Smith fancies himself to have some third or even second-line forechecking forward within his skill set. I believe that Smith can at least become the third-line version of what he hopes to become through hard work, determination and application of skill at the AHL level.
#54 Matt Puempel: Puempel is an NHL-contracted AHL’er, basically speaking. The 6’1,” 205-pound wing is 26 and seeks to continue scoring approximately 25 goals at the AHL level, and post a total of about 50 points per season. Puempel and Chris Terry are the veterans who will carry the Griffins’ scoring weight upon their shoulders this season.
#56 Ryan Kuffner: Kuffner may end up joining Puempel and Terry in Grand Rapids due to the Red Wings’ surplus of forwards. The 23-year-old graduate of Princeton possesses adequate size at 6’1″ and 195 pounds, and his sometimes-chippy skating stride, good passing and underrated shooting skills accentuate a well-rounded game. Kuffner simply needs to find confidence at the pro level, and playing time will achieve that goal.
#57 Turner Elson: Another NHL-contracted AHL player, Elson is 27 and is likely to post around 20 goals and 20 assists over the course of an AHL season. A hard-working two-way player, Elson is not out of reach of a utility forward’s role in the NHL at some point, but things would have to line up properly for that to happen.
#59 Tyler Bertuzzi: Bertuzzi did not practice on Monday, but the 6’1,” 190-pound winger made good impressions over the course of training camp. A first-line forechecking forward, Bertuzzi’s job is to retrieve pucks while instigating and agitating for Mantha and Dylan Larkin; when he’s at his best, the 24-year-old does a fine job of scoring goals or making plays himself. Bertuzzi needs to stay healthy and continue to work his tail off every time he steps on the ice.
#61 Jacob de la Rose: A likely member of the Red Wings’ fourth line, de la Rose is a big, hulking 6’3″ and 216 pounds of physical-without-meanness Swedish checking center who is still rounding out his game at 24. I would like to believe that the smooth-skating center can still improve his physicality, faceoff abilities and all-round defensive play after an injury-marred developmental process. We shall see whether de la Rose remains merely useful or takes another step.
#71 Dylan Larkin: The “Red Wings’ motor” missed a second day of training camp with an unspecified injury, and Larkin was kind of mope-y about it, watching practice with his hooded sweatshirt up and wandering around the perimeter of David’s Rink for that mysterious meeting with Steve Yzerman. he 6’1,’ 198-pound center is just hitting his prime at 23, and Larkin possesses an elite skill set which combines itself with an impeccable work ethic. When Larkin is dialed in, he’s hard to stop due to his skating, passing and shooting abilities, as well as his grit, jam and determination. He should lead the Wings this season as the de-facto captain, and he does need to take fewer penalties to fully develop into an every-game clutch player.
#73 Adam Erne: Erne will likely crack the Wings’ roster along with Ehn and de la Rose because Erne carries the puck at a high rate of speed, and the 6’1,” 214-pound wing skates at a high rate of speed regardless of whether the puck is on his stick. Another late-bloomer who is still developing at 24, Erne checks well and may yet have a physical edge to him.
#81 Frans Nielsen: Frans Nielsen is what he is at 35 years of age–a reliable second or third-line center who generally is an asset to his team at both even strength, on the penalty-kill and of course during the shootout. The 6’1,” 188-pound Nielsen has busted ass during training camp, and it’s good to see that even though he’s got a job, he’s not treating training camp like anything is guaranteed. He is a good skater and a superb faceoff man who can also make plays when necessary.
#90 Joe Veleno: Veleno separates himself from the pack as the Wings’ #1B prospect at forward (with Zadina standing as the #1A guy) because Veleno combines elite skating skills with an impeccable two-way game. He passes and sees the ice superbly, he has a sneaky good shot, he wins draws, he likes to battle for the puck and his defensive positioning is excellent, as is his work ethic. Veleno leaves it all out on the ice, and at all of 19, the future is bright for the 6’1,” 191-pound Quebec native.
#2 Joe Hicketts: Hicketts is literally the Grand Rapids Griffins’ poster boy this season, and he’s earned the distinction. The 5’8,” 180-pound defenseman may or may not make the NHL as a sneaky heavy hitter who is also capable in terms of his passing, shooting and defensive abilities. He’s worked hard to improve his skating, and he’s gotten to the point where it is no longer a liability. If he can continue developing at 23, he may yet have an NHL future.
#17 Filip Hronek: Hronek has a very bright future with the Wings. Undersized at 6′ and 170 pounds, the cocky defender simply doesn’t care that opposing players are bigger and stronger than he is, and he wins battles for the puck in all three zones as a result. Possessing a wicked shot, strong passing abilities and the kind of dashing, daring skating that Moritz Seider employs to his advantage, Hronek will sometimes lead the rush himself, and he makes it work. He’s still raw in some aspects of his game, but he’s going to be a top-four defenseman for a long time.
#20 Dylan McIlrath: It has become quite evident that Dylan McIlrath is trying to earn an NHL spot by any means necessary. During training camp, the 6’5,” 235-pound behemoth was hitting opponents and teammates alike with reckless abandon and vicious physical intent, and, like Hicketts, McIlrath has worked on his skating to the point that it is no longer a detriment. A stay-at-home defender, sometimes enforcer and general badass dude, McIlrath still believes that there is a spot for him in the NHL at 27.
#29 Vili Saarijarvi: Again, Saarijarvi is at a career crossroads. A frequent regular season “Black Ace” in Grand Rapids, it would behoove Saarijarvi to simply play somewhere instead of not play, because he’s 22 and needs to find a way to develop the confidence necessary to let his offensive talents blossom. Be it in the AHL or ECHL, more playing time means more time for Saarijarvi to also prove that his 5’10,” 182-pound frame can keep up with the bump and grind of professional hockey. It’s simply time for Saarijarvi to take some steps forward, even if that means taking a step backward to play in Toledo.
#32 Brian Lashoff: Lashoff and McIlrath form the Grand Rapids Griffins’ immovable object that is its second pair. The 29-year-old defenseman is generally a stay-at-home type at 6’3″ and 219 pounds, and the Red Wings occasionally employ Lashoff as a steady 6/7 defender. His leadership and work ethic out-strip his abilities, so at the AHL level, he is an integral part of the Griffins’ leadership corps.
#52 Jonathan Ericsson: Ericsson, like certain overpaid forwards, looks like he spent this summer training with an understanding that his job may be at stake. The 35-year-old is a massive 6’4″ and 220 pounds, but there are still times that the big defenseman tries to play a subtle game, and when he does that, he can get burned. So Ericsson is best playing within his capabilities, and when he does so, he can be a very reliable physical second-pair defender.
#65 Danny DeKeyser: DeKeyser seems to be on the cusp of unlocking his potential at 29 years of age. The 6’3,” 192-pound defender has put enough meat on his bones that he no longer loses many physical battles, and DeKeyser performed well on the Wings’ top pair this past season. If he can continue to play strongly, he provides a good complementary presence opposite a more offensively-minded player because DeKeyser has always skated very well and possesses good vision with and without the puck.
#77 Oliwer Kaski: Kaski didn’t practice on Monday, but he’s made a big impression over the course of training camp. The 24-year-old Finnish defenseman has displayed superb offensive abilities, passing the puck and head-manning the rush with authority, slap-shooting the puck into the goal on a regular basis, and presenting a strong-skating two-way game. A lanky 6’3″ and 187 pounds, he’s probably going to start the year in Grand Rapids, but he may not remain there for long.
#31 Calvin Pickard: Calvin Pickard is the Grand Rapids Griffins’ presumptive starter and possibly a back-up if the Wings make a mid-season trade. Standing at 6’1″ and 207 pounds, there’s nothing gigantic about Pickard, but he uses his stout frame and steady game to make hard saves look easy and make the easy saves look routine. When he reaches for the puck, he can get burned from time to time, but when he plays within his solid modern butterfly game, he is tremendously solid and steady. At 27, Pickard has bounced around from organization to organization, but he may have found a home with the Griffins.
#35 Jimmy Howard: The puck will always be a little bouncy around Jimmy Howard, and the 35-year-old probably doesn’t mind it that way. Bulked up for training camp at 6’1″ and 218 pounds, Howard has established himself as a goaltender who can bail a mediocre team out with strong saves thanks to an athletic and sometimes battling style. Howard works hard to keep the puck out of the net, and while his rebound control remains ever a work in progress, he’s providing the Wings with solid goaltending more often than not.
#26 Matthew Ford*: The Grand Rapids Griffins’ 35-year-old captain is usually all business on the ice, ultra-serious and competitive, but I had a funny moment with Ford today. He skated to the boards after a drill, and looked down at my notebook, pretending to read my notes about him. We both laughed, and he got back to doing his thing. I thought that was a refreshing thing to see from Ford, who is very serious about his role as an all-round forward that maximizes his 6’1,” 210-pound frame’s effectiveness by working his ass off regardless of whether he’s on the power play, penalty-kill or fourth line. Ford can still post 10-15 goals while playing in any role, and he’s a useful conduit between the coaching staff and players.
#50 Dominik Shine*: Shine’s stats just don’t match his skill set. The 5’11,” 175-pound Griffins forward has elite skating abilities and moves the puck very well for an AHL player, but his career high in points is 16, which is downright strange for someone who lit it up in college. The 26-year-old is a checking forward with speed in the role that Colin Campbell used to play.
#64 Josh Kestner*: A Griffins-contracted forward, Kestner is going to start the season with the AHL’s Toledo Walleye, hoping to replicate a 60-point season as a 26-year-old. Very speedy for his 6’1,” 181-pound frame, Kestner has done everything at camp at a high rate of speed and at a high pace, sometimes showing the kind of finishing skills of more talented players. He’s going to make Walleye fans very happy.
#75 Troy Loggins*: Troy Loggins is also likely to start in Toledo due to the Griffins’ logjam of forwards, and the 5’9,” 161-pound signing out of Northern Michigan was at least a scorer at the NCAA level, so there may be some ECHL-level scoring talent there. At the prospect tournament, Loggins was a reliable two-way forward.
#76 Jarid Lukosevicius*: Lukosevicius is in a similar position to Loggins. He’s not big at 5’10” and 185 pounds, and the University of Denver graduate is likely to start his pro carer with the Walleye. At the prospect tournament, the 24-year-old scored clutch goals and bumped his way onto the top line when Filip Zadina struggled.
#78 Gregor MacLeod*: Make that one more…MacLeod, a 21-year-old signing from the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL, is one of those “bonus signings” where the Wings signed a scoring forward to an AHL contract, hoping that he would show promise at the AHL or ECHL level and earn a higher contract from a really good season. The 6′ 183-pound MacLeod is a dependable two-way forward who was utilized as the second-line center at the prospect tournament, playing very well on a line with Ryan Kuffner.
#82 Tyler Spezia*: Spezia posted 39 points in only 58 ECHL games this past season, and the Bowling Green graduate is likely to reprise his role as one of the Walleye’s key offensive players. The 5’10,” 180-pound forward is 26 and may not have a future in a league higher than the ECHL, but you can make fairly good money being a scorer playing on a good team like Toledo.
#47 Marcus Crawford*: Crawford is AHL-contracted but blossomed with the Walleye, posting 26 points in only 43 games played. Stout at 5’11” and 198 pounds, the 22-year-old defenseman is a good skater and he moves the puck up ice with authority.
#63 Alec McCrea*: McCrea will begin his pro career in Toledo, and the AHL-contracted defenseman is more than ready to play a safe, steady stay-at-home game. The 6’3,” 212-pound defenseman was excellent at the prospect tournament, shutting down opponents and bailing out smaller defensive partners, and the 24-year-old graduate of Cornell is just about perfect for ECHL-level hockey.
#86 Charle-Edouard D’Astous*: D’Astous is AHL-ready or nearly so. A Griffins signing, he posted 66 points in 55 games for the QMJHL’s Rimouski Oceanic this past season, and the 6’2,” 205-pound defender is still a youngster at 21. He’s a great skater, he’s heavy on his stick and he carries the puck up the ice very well. He was crucial to the Wings’ win in the prospect tournament as a second-pair defender, and the Griffins initially signed him not anticipating as many Wings prospects to fall their way.
#94 Alec Regula: Regula is a regular prospect, a 2018 draft pick who is currently battling a concussion. The 6’4,” 205-pound Regula has been a complementary defenseman for offensive defenders in the past, but the 19-year-old heads into what may be his final year of Major Junior hockey with the OHL’s London Knights, knowing that he has to post offensive numbers on his own if he is to join the crowded Red Wings’ blueline. I’m expecting Regula to fulfill his promise.
#60 Pat Nagle*: Nagle is the Toledo Walleye’s probable starting goaltender, and he’s going to be Kaden Fulcher’s mentor for the second year in a row. At the ECHL level, the 32-year-old Nagle is an effective goaltender, poised, principled in the butterfly and he plays a simple, spartan and steady game. In a league where chaos sometimes reigns and shots come from everywhere, Nagle makes hard saves look easy and doesn’t over-complicate things. As a result, the 6’2,” 195-pound Nagle is a 30+-game winner on a consistent basis, and for the Walleye, he’s the backbone of their team.
*=Grand Rapids Griffins contract
That’s it for my prospect tournament and training camp coverage. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read, head on over to https://paypal.me/TheMalikReport and add a little to the tip jar. I have just enough money to go home broke, and that’s not the most fun way to be.
Thanks for your time, your readership and your patronage. It’s been fun, and I have ideas for future content with and without the ability to cover the Wings on an in-person basis. We shall see what the fall brings in that regard, but the original content is going to go up significantly here.