Dennis Cholowski practiced with the Grand Rapids Griffins this morning, and after he skated with the team, Cholowski and Griffins coach Todd Nelson spoke with the Grand Rapids Press’s Peter J. Wallner regarding the possibility that he might join the Griffins’ lineup:
Cholowski, whose junior team was eliminated last week from the WHL playoffs, has to vault over several blueliners to make the top six or seven. That includes prime Red Wings prospects in Joe Hicketts and Filip Hronek, along with veteran anchors such as Brian Lashoff and third-year pro Robbie Russo. Coach Todd Nelson said as much after Wednesday’s practice, though he didn’t rule out the possibility of ice time.
“We have a pretty deep defensive corps but … if we feel he’s good enough to knock someone out of the box then he’s going to play,” he said.
The Griffins open the best-of-five Central Division Semifinals at Manitoba on Saturday.
“The positive thing,” Nelson added, “is we have good depth on the bench so if some guys get banged up over the course of a series, we can go to guys like Dennis …”
Cholowski is familiar with the situation. He signed out of St. Cloud State last season in time to play in the Griffins’ regular-season finale. Then he practiced, along with a group of other prospects, but didn’t play again as the Griffins won the Calder Cup Trophy.
“Last year was great being on the team and it will definitely help in the years to come,” Cholowski said. Asked if not playing was frustrating, he added: “Yeah, obviously; everyone wants to play and last year I wanted to play and this year, obviously, I want to play. I’ll do what they tell me and keep working hard.”
Wallner continues, and he posted a video of Cholowski speaking with the media:
— Pete Wallner (@petewallner) April 18, 2018
Update: The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan spoke with Cholowski and Nelson as well:
Cholowski was able to get into one regular season game with the Griffins last season after he left college (St. Cloud State) but didn’t dress for any playoff games.
It could be a struggle this spring, as well, with the Griffins deep on defense, and prospects such as Cholowski, Libor Sulak and to a lesser extent Vili Saarijarvi, who split the season between Grand Rapids and Toledo (ECHL), all battling to enter the lineup.
As much as it would help a young player like Cholowski to get some playoff games, the Griffins are going after a second consecutive Calder Cup and have a lineup that has jelled and played extremely well the last two months.
The Griffins are there to win, and Nelson will put together lineups that will do so.
“I don’t know yet,” said Nelson, as to when, or if, Cholowski will play. “We have a pretty deep defensive corps. But if he’s good enough to knock someone out of the box, he’ll play.
“The positive thing is we have good depth on defense right now. So if some guys get banged up over the course of a series, we can go to and use Dennis, or Sulak, Saarijarvi. But as of right now, our defensive corps is pretty solid and it’s been good for the last couple months.
“I haven’t seen Dennis since training camp, essentially. I’ll see where he’s at. We’ve had one practice out there today. As we go along, if I like what I see and he can help our team and he can knock someone out of the box, he’ll play.”
Update #2: The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan also posted short videos of Griffins coach Todd Nelson speaking about Cholowski…
And two videos of Cholowski speaking to the press: