The second day of the Red Wings’ summer development camp 2018 built upon the first day’s work.
Teams Lindsay and Howe worked with Grand Rapids Griffins coach Ben Simon, Wings player development director Shawn Horcoff, player development assistant and slightly banged-up instructor Daniel Cleary (Cleary took a puck to the head at the end of the Power Edge Pro skill drills) and the rest of the Wings, Griffins and Toledo Walleye’s coaching staff to layer in extra degrees of difficulty in both the team and skill development drills, and there was a dirty word uttered on the ice, at least if you were raised during the Scotty Bowman era of the Red Wings’ dynasty:
Call it a “chip pass,” call it a “flip play,” give a nun a smooch on the cheek and say a Hail Mary, by dammit, the Wings were “dumping and chasing” the puck off the side boards to isolate defensemen and let puck and player speed do the work for them on Tuesday.
Mind you, the players and coaches were unabashedly utilizing chip/flip/dump passes to accentuate skill and speed, but there was still a small part of me that cringed every time I witnessed a puck exit a player’s possession for the sake of facilitating position.
It works, don’t get me wrong, and in the case of Wednesday’s drills, the chip pass off the boards was one of many skilled plays made as defensemen lugged the puck up ice, forwards looped back to attack in waves of one, two and three, 2-on-1’s and 3-on-1’s gave way to fierce 1-on-1 battles (and much of coach Simon’s “final drill” plays have involved cut-throat competition for possession of the puck, if that makes you [or me] feel any better).
The Wings’ management seemed to be relatively pleased as they watched from the above-the-ice-surface suite. I counted almost 10 bodies from above, including new assistant coach Dan Bylsma, GM Ken Holland, Wings director of player recruitment Jiri Fischer and director of European scouting Hakan Andersson, among others, taking in the spectacle.
Despite the chipping and chasing, Simon’s puck pursuit system has, if it’s possible, displayed tendencies to exhibit even more speed than the no-holds-barred rushes ushered into the Wings’ lexicon by coach Todd Nelson, and the good news is that the vast majority of the Wings’ prospects have the “wheels” necessary to turn and burn.
Personnel-wise, the Wings have had a few hiccups: while goaltenders Jesper Eliasson, Joren van Pottelberghe and Kaden Fulcher have been able to back-stop Team Lindsay, Team Howe’s Patrik Rybar and Keith Petruzzelli haven’t been able to participate in the team drills, so:
Victor Brattstrom received reinforcements in the form of Sarnia Sting goaltender Justin Fazio, who was previously signed by the Grand Rapids Griffins as an injury substitute. Among the giants in the Wings’ crease, the 6’1,” 192-pound turning-pro goalie out of Sarnia looks like an elf.
During the afternoon skills session, Fazio was joined by an anonymous goaltender from either Little Caesars or Belle Tire’s U-16 team on the ice for the afternoon skill drills, affording Team Howe a little more netminding insulation, but I wasn’t able to catch his name. For a moment, given his red-and-white Vaughn pads, Warrior stick and white mask, I wondered if Petr Mrazek had made a return engagement, but I was incorrect in my assumption.
Anyway, the long story short is that Team Lindsay (headlined by David Pope and Dennis Cholowski) had a “long day,” with a combination of practice in the late morning and Power Edge Pro skill sessions for the defensemen and forwards in the afternoon (in which Daniel Cleary got beaned in the sports facility that has a near-ER-quality medical bay); Team Howe (Zadina/Rasmussen) had a shorter day, but they worked out off the ice as well…
And after taking in tonight’s Tigers game, both teams are going to have some seriously early practices on both Thursday and Friday, to be followed by an hour of what is listed on the schedule as “on-ice testing.” That could mean Jiri Fischer will be unleashed on the prospects, and that’s always…painful.
In terms of player impressions, on a team-by-team and player-by-player basis:
#15 Jonatan Berggren:Berggren granted an interview after the day was done, but his English was so-so and his shyness level was about 10-out-of-10. Berggren has excellent give-and-go abilities, and while he needs to add both significant muscle to his 5’10,” 181-pound frame and a step to his choppy stride, it’s evident that the Wings picked a late-first-rounder 33rd overall. He’s just raw, and young (he won’t turn 18 until the 16th of July).
#20 Nicolas Guay**: A free agent invite out of Drummondville, Guay showed solid hands and a decent shot, but I remain firmly in the “meh” camp regarding the 6’1,” 183-pound center from Sherbrooke.
#45 David Pope: The more I see, the happier I am. I don’t know if Pope is ever going to be an all-round threat, but he looks as mature as he should be at 24, with a much more well-rounded game than I anticipated for the University of Nebraska-Omaha graduate. I can’t say enough about the muscle and speed he’s put on his 6’3,” 198-pound frame, and he could score 15+ goals if everything lines up for him.
#64 Zach Gallant: Gallant is a grinder who plays for the Peterborough Petes, but he’s got speed, he’s got a stout 6’2,” 198-pound build and he’s a very good puck-lugger (you will read me say this again). I am intrigued by his upside, in no small part because the Wings have oodles of checking forwards, and need one of them to step up and develop into a more-skilled forward.
#70 Jack Adams: Oh, the reach! Still under-developed at 21, the 6’5,” 204-pound lanky goal-scorer has a massive, massive wingspan as an all-arms-and-legs winger, and if he’s able to put himself together, he’s an intriguing prospect. For the present moment, he’s going to need to have a big season at Union College, because he was in and out of the lineup down the stretch.
#78 Taro Hirose**: Hirose continues to display a superb amount of speed but mostly bobs along with the try-outs. The 21-year-old MSU winger is a point-per-game player at the NCAA level, but speed is what he’s got thus far.
#82 Colt Conrad**: Hirose is 5’10” and 160 and Conrad is 5’10” and 187 pounds, and both look like midgets at times working through the ranks of the Red Wings’ now-oversized-is-the-norm prospect line. These guys have uphill battles to fight…
#84 Otto Kivenmaki: Ditto, though the 5’8,” generously-listed-on-my-program-as-154-pound winger has some superb, superb, superb hands. Kivenmaki is also a strong skater, but man, the Wings swung for the fences with the 18-year-old Assat Pori winger, and he needs to bulk up.
#88 Ryan Savage**: So far, Savage has held his own with Hirose and Conrad, and that’s fairly good for the 5’11,” 181-pound Fargo Force forward, but nothing has stood out as outstanding thus far.
#89 Pavel Gogolev**: Gogolev is a bit of a puzzle. The Peterborough Petes forward reminds me of last year’s lanky-but-lithe free agent center invite, Windsor’s Kevin Kutkevicius. Gogolev can really break the sound barrier through the middle of the ice, and you can tell that he’s put up 30 goals in his past OHL season, but there’s no core strength at 6′ and 168 lbs.
#90 Joe Veleno: I’ll say it again: I don’t know if Veleno is going to be a top-six player or a bottom-six player, but I know that he’s very close to being NHL-ready because his skill set is so well-rounded. Veleno stands at 6’1″ and 191 pounds, and the left-shooting center is simply smooth in his transitions from backward or “edge-work” skating to forward flight, he’s a smooth puckhandler and puck-lugger, he’s got a smart shot, and at 18, he’s in a man’s body in terms of his conditioning and strength. Very impressive thus far.
#21 Dennis Cholowski: I’m sticking by my belief that Dennis needs to start the season with the Grand Rapids Griffins, if only because Cholowski himself will acknowledge that he needs to be more assertive. Another well-rounded player, Cholowski’s slightly choppy skating stride is the only hitch in an excellent mobility get-up, his vision is superb, and his strength is getting there. The little gap between the heel of his stick and his skates has closed up as well, and he could be reliably beaten there, so he’s eliminated a positional weakness.
#53 Kasper Kotkansalo: As Kasper said on Wednesday afternoon, he needs to work on his edge-work, lateral and backwards skating if this Kyle Quincey clone is to graduate to the second pairing of an NHL team to bump and grind opponents off the puck. The 6’2,” 196-pound defenseman and Boston University sophomore will have a new coach to impress this fall, and Kasper will probably need the next three years to fully develop.
#62 Trevor Hamilton*: Hamilton is 23 years of age, and the either-Griffins-or-Walleye-bound defenseman has looked solid and steady after spending a pair of seasons with Penn State. Nothing spectacular for the 6,’ 198-pound defender, but there’s pro polish to his all-round game.
#74 Cole Fraser: Fraser drifts in and out of his lane, and that can be a problem for the 6’2,” 191-pound right-shooting defender…But there’s only so much that he can do during development camps. Fraser is more of a third-pair, check-your-teeth-out-and-fight-you-for-your-partials defender, and that kind of skill set isn’t immediately needed during a summer development camp.
#86 Alfons Malmstrom: Again, for someone who had such a mediocre J20 campaign with HV71, the 6’2,” 190-pound defenseman looks relatively smooth all-around and can display a Kotkansalo-like level of both mobility and fairly good hands. I’m really puzzled as to what his “ceiling” is.
#94 Alec Regula: Two days in, I can see why the Red Wings opted for Evan Bouchard’s defensive partner in the 3rd round. Regula is very, very balanced as a defenseman, with excellent speed for a 6’4,” 203-pound defender and superb in terms of the ease with which he passes, shoots and makes plays. He’s got patience about him as well, and patience and poise are things that I really covet in defenders.
#95 Seth Barton: If Malmstrom is a mystery, Barton is a conundrum. The Red Wings drafted the 6’3,” 174-pound BCHL grad and incoming UMass-Lowell defenseman 14 picks behind Regula, and he’s incredibly raw. He skates well, but I’d place him in the pack with the UFA forwards on Team Lindsay, and that’s puzzling.
#31 Jesper Eliasson: Two days in, Eliasson is…bland. There are some stereotypes when it comes to goaltending, and as a former goalie, I’d like to believe that I can see past them. What I see in the 6’3,” 209-pound Vaxjo Lakers J20 goalie is the “Swedish Butterfly,” a more stand-up, shot-blocking version of the Tuukka Rask style of netminding. Eliasson is very big at 6’3″ and 209 pounds, but he’s not standing out…though not many pucks are getting past him.
#38 Joren van Pottelberghe: JvP has overhauled his style going into his final year of prospect eligibility, and the 6’2,” 201-pound HC Davos prospect has a tremendous glove and blocker, but is still getting beaten just over the pads and under his gloves. He’s like a lot of pure butterfly goalies in that the 12-to-18-inches-above-the-ice spots over his pads are his “holes,” and he’s got to squeeze those saves if he is to battle his way through a surprisingly crowded field of Wings goalie prospects (all things considered).
#60 Kaden Fulcher: Fulcher had to pull double duty on Tuesday and saw sparer work on Wednesday, and there are some “Reverse VH” holes and some chest-level shots that he should be stopping, but overall, the 19-year-old free agent signing and 6’3,” 182-pound graduate of the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs does a great job of maximizing fine fundamental goaltending. He plays a thoroughly modern NHL style, and he has the work ethic to continue improving it. Whether he does so with the Walleye or Griffins is yet to be determined.
* = Grand Rapids Griffins signing, ** = free agent invite.
#11 Filip Zadina: Zadina was more comfortable in his own skin and more comfortable in his borrowed gear on Wednesday, and at times, that was unfair for the competition. There is genuine 20-goal potential in the Czech winger, and he really reminds me of Marian Hossa during his Blackhawks years–a very smart, speedy sniper of a forward whose shooting skills are truly elite, with strong skating, a really well-developed core and moves to make your momma cry. At the same time, he’s only 18 and needs to fill in some holes in his overall shift-to-shift effort, but I have the feeling that he will be able to learn like Larkin–at the NHL level.
#17 Ryan O’Reilly: A slightly smaller version of Jack Adams at 6’2″ and 201 pounds of arms and legs, the USHL-bound right-shooting right winger is a pure goal scorer who needs to fill out the rest of his game. He skates with urgency and transports the puck up ice well, but he’s on a longer developmental curve.
#27 Michael Rasmussen: Rasmussen cracked a smile during one of his interviews on Wednesday, and that was a shock. With the media, Rasmussen is fast-spoken and super-serious, and the 6’6,” 221-pound behemoth of a man is ready for the NHL after having worked on his skating and his strength over the past season with the WHL’s Tri-City Americans. He goes to the net and stays there, which is exciting and intriguing given his goal-scoring acumen on the power play, he wins faceoffs, he’s an excellent skater for his stride and there is an edge to him. He’s Joe Veleno, but bigger, and he’s more likely to be a top-six guy.
#37 Mattias Elfstrom: Woof. The Vasterviks IK forward has the body of an NHL’er at 6’3″ and 200 sound pounds, and he has all the confidence of a player who posted 9 points in 49 games this past season. The skill set is there, fairly good at that, but he needs to catch a break.
#46 Lane Zablocki: Zablocki joins the litany of grinding Red Wings forwards, and my hope is that the 6,’ 190-pound winger who bounced around the WHL last season will show some physical pluck during the prospect tournament, because being meaner and harder than his counterparts is what will separate the good-skating Albertan from his teammates.
#48 Givani Smith: Givani was nothing less than elegant and eloquent in speaking with the media today, and Smith still projects as more of a bottom-six energy guy who is going to drive his opponents absolutely batty with his energy, enthusiasm, skating and physical pluck, but when he’s on Zadina and Rasmussen’s wing, the 6’2,” 206-pound graduate of the OHL’s Guelph Storm and Kitchener Rangers can make these sneaky little skilled plays that make your eyebrows rise. I don’t know if there’s more to him than a good, Grade-A Grinder, but even if there isn’t, he’s a character guy and a leader.
#67 Brady Gilmour: Hustle. Not so much flow. At 5’10” and 170 pounds, Gilmour is another grinding forward whose work ethic and attention to detail are admirable, but whose stature and strength are works in progress.
#75 Sebastian Vidmar**: Vidmar has yet to stand out from the pack. Like the “little guys” on Team Lindsay, the 6’3,” 189-pound Union College winger posted 30 points in 36 senior year games, and he needs to impress a whole lot more if the solid-skating forward is to land a professional job.
Jack Adams’ teammate at Union College, the 6’3,” 189-pound native of Malmo posted 30 points in 36 senior year games for the Union Dutchmen, and he’s now looking for a spot to land. He might be a Walleye recruit if he impresses over the duration of development camp.
#76 Chase Pearson: Going into his
senior junior year at the University of Maine, the 6’2,” 200-pound set-up man just needs to find some consistency of form. He’s got tremendous passing skills and good vision, but he fades in and out of view. His leadership and character levels are supposed to be off the charts, but he’s got to stand out to earn a spot among the Wings’ forward corps, so a big year awaits.
#81 Trevor Yates*: A Griffins-or-Walleye signee, the 6’2,” 203-pound center from Cornell looks sound, solid and strong-skating, and he hustles, but that’s about all I’ve seen of him after two days.
#85 Luke Morgan**: Again, the 5’11,” 190-pound Morgan looks like he had to sit out a year of NCAA hockey to transfer from Lake State to U of M. There’s some rust on him, but the 22-year-old has some polish and poise to his game as well.
#92 Maxim Golod**: Golod and Gogolev could be relatives for all I know. Another superb-skating forward from the Ontario Hockey League, the 5’10,” 160-pound forward races up and down the ice and has a good shot, but you worry about the lack of strength.
I know that somebody said that I had a “size fetish” yesterday, and trust me, at 6′ and 250 pounds since I was 12, I have never obsessed about being big enough, but there are some legitimate concerns for undersized and under-strong players in today’s pro environment. It’s not something I’m trying to knock players for being–it’s something they have to overcome. If you look at Joe Veleno, the kid’s 6’1″ and 191 pounds, doesn’t have much physical bite, but it’s evident that he took an undersized frame and maximized it.
It’s what these kids have to do. I’m a big fat bald guy who has to critique men’s physiques as part of my job. Nobody said it wouldn’t be weird.
#50 Reilly Webb: Still raw. I love Webb’s poise as another big-wingspan defenseman, and at 6’3″ and 201 pounds, Webb is all arms and legs and ability to lug the puck up ice with pep…But the 6 points in 40 games stand out, especially given that the Wings now have an abundance of very large right-shooting defensemen prospects who project as 4-5-6 guys.
#54 Gustav Lindstrom: Lindstrom has an NHL skill set and just needs more time to develop into the defenseman he’s capable of being. Liberally listed at 6’2″ and 187 pounds, Lindstrom will head to the SHL’s Frolunda Indians and studiously continue to improve his strength and footwork as he continues to emphasize his excellent vision, passing and shooting abilities. He’s a dark-horse top-pair guy.
#63 Jared McIsaac: Two days in, I am fairly certain that, unlike Lindstrom, McIsaac may have an “NHL body” already at 18 and with muscle to put on a 6’1,” 193-pound frame, but where does he fit? Is he somebody who’s going to mash and bang bodies in the prospect tournament, or is he somebody that the Wings drafted 36th overall because he’s safe and steady at the 2-3-4 level? Nicklas Lidstrom went through a lot of stay-at-home partners. Is McIsaac that good, or am I seeing glimmers?
#73 Marcus Crawford*: The Griffins-or-Walleye-bound Crawford graduates from the Saginaw Spirit with 53 points in 68 OHL games–which is very good by any standard–but as a smaller right-shooting defender, he’s probably bound for the Walleye to start.
#79 Malte Setkov: So damn big. Setkov and Jack Adams could join hands and possibly replace any number of large correctional facility fences. Setkov is 6’6″ but all of 192 pounds (maybe), and he skates superbly and smoothly, but man, the wind could blow him over. Setkov will have a couple more years to try to earn a spot on the Malmo Redhawks’ roster, and right now he reminds me of Maxim Kuznetsov, both good and bad.
#87 Patrick Holway: Holway hasn’t stood out like Regula has, and that surprises me. The 6’4,” 204-pound right-shooting defenseman had a fantastic
junior sophomore season at the University of Maine, and he’s done an excellent job of reining in his body movement as he skates up the ice, but he’s been quiet, and for these college kids (I guess you should know this by now), the summer is all they have to really impress on an in-person basis.
#34 Patrik Rybar: I don’t have “nothin'” on Rybar, but I have very little to go upon given that the 24-year-old UFA signee has warmed up with the goalie coaches but not done much else. The Griffins or Walleye will benefit from the services of a pro goalie who had a ridiculous statistical season in the Czech Extraliga (see: 1.73 GAA, .931 save percentage), but I’ll have to go over YouTube videos of the guy to give you a scouting report.
#68 Victor Brattstrom:Brattstrom simply reminds me of Jonas Gustavsson, and I mean that in the good and bad senses thereof. If Eliasson is a prototypical Swedish Butterfly Goalie, Brattstrom is the Swedish Blocking Goalie, and at 6’5″ and 198 pounds, Brattstrom has enough blocking surface to excel at his job. He’s generally looked like the Wings made the right choice in drafting a 21-year-old who played for Timra IK’s J20 team because he’s very consistent in the execution of his technique.
#80 Keith Petruzzelli: Keith could have the highest ceiling of the Red Wings’ goaltending prospects, at least this side of Filip Larsson, but he’s got to play, and as an NCAA player, I can only see him during the summer…where he’s been somewhat absent. The Wings are being very cautious with their goaltenders to not incur more severe injuries in July, which is damn smart, but from a talent perspective…
I want to see them and talk to them, and when guys don’t practice much, they’re usually gone by the time interviews come around. Petruzzelli is faithfully-listed at 6’6″ and 185 pounds, and he needs to out-goal-tend his coworker at Quinnipiac to really step forward.
#70 Justin Fazio**: The Wings were a little lucky in that 21-year-old turning-pro goalie Justin Fazio was available to substitute for Petruzzelli and Rybar during the morning session, and Fulcher during the afternoon. Fazio is all of 6’1″ and 192 listed pounds, which is a bit liberally-listed, but he’s an excellent, excellent fundamental goaltender whose impeccable technique could come right out of a goaltending video or tutorial. He’s got a superb blocker, an excellent glove and strong stick hand, his pads are nimble and his toes are quick, his positioning is superb and his shoulders stand tall (no pun intended, the dude is taller than I am) when he’s down in the butterfly. I don’t think he’s going to earn a spot with the Wings, but some pro team will take a flyer on him and be pleased with their selection.
* = Grand Rapids Griffins signing, ** = free agent invite.
Okay, that’s day 2 of 5. Again, please let me know if you need more drill stuff, if you want me to focus on specific players, etc. I’m on your dime this week, literally and figuratively.