Impressions from Friday’s morning skate at the Red Wings’ prospect tournament ’18

The Detroit Red Wings’ prospects participated in a morning skate ahead of tonight’s game against the Minnesota Wild’s prospects at Centre ICE Arena (7:30 PM EDT on Fox Sports GO and the Red Wings’ website).

As noted in the audio post, the Wings’ prospects worked on breakouts, both in possession of the puck and via dump-in retrievals by goaltenders or defensemen, and they also engaged in some power play/PK drills.

Under the watchful eyes of Grand Rapids Griffins coach Ben Simon, assistant coaches Brad Tapper, Matt MacDonald and Mike Knuble, Wings goalie coaches Jeff Salajko and Brian Mahoney-Wilson, Wings director of player development Shawn Horcoff and assistant director of player development Dan Cleary (that’s a lot of coaching assistance available!), the prospects were put through their paces over the course of a 45-minute skate.

I’d love to dig into the seven drills the players took part in for an hour or two–watching players who are used to dumping the puck up the wing suddenly have to slide pucks into the slot and drive middle lanes fascinates me–but I know that those of you who are reading tend to prefer player analysis, so:

1. Again, the power play units appear consist of the following players:

PP1: Filip Zadina-Michael Rasmussen-Givani Smith w/ Joe Veleno and Dennis Cholowski on defense;

PP2: Axel Holmstrom-Christoffer Ehn-David Pope w/ Jared McIsaac and Vili Saarijarvi on the point.

It also appears that Patrik Rybar will start tonight as he was the first goalie off the ice.

The Minnesota Wild’s prospect team is very good, and it will provide a stiff test for the Wings; there’s also a “local angle” as former Toledo Walleye coach Derek Lalonde coaches the Wild’s AHL team, and will thus be behind the bench vs. the Wings this evening.

In terms of player evaluations, somewhat briefly:

2018 Detroit Red Wings NHL Prospect Tournament Roster

# Name Pos. 2017-18 Team Acquired

11 Filip Zadina RW Halifax (QMJHL) 2018 1st round (6th overall): On Thursday, I suggested that the 6,’ 196-pound Zadina needs to show that he can adjust to high-paced, heavy-checking hockey as a player coming out of juniors, and that’s all true today. Zadina suggested in his interview that he has to play “his game” to succeed, and as something of a wild stallion of a player, I’m going to be very interested to see whether he has the confidence to make those between-the-legs dekes and wily rushes toward the net when the boys come a hitting tonight.

21 Dennis Cholowski D Portland (WHL) 2016 1st round (20th overall): Cholowski has a lot riding on this prospect tournament, especially with Filip Hronek and Libor Sulak having more experience professionally as the trio vie for jobs on the Wings’ blueline (as the Free Press’s Helene St. James noted today). Dennis looked poised and prepared to make quick plays and demonstratively stopped rushes against using a strong stick-checking ability, and he’s very efficient and hard to knock off the puck at 6’1″ and 200 pounds.

27 Michael Rasmussen C Tri-City (WHL) 2017 1st round (9th overall): Rasmussen also has a lot riding on the tournament as a prohibitive favorite to make the team out of training camp. The massive 6’6″ power center/winger looked more than ready for the pace of play that he’s going to face this evening, and I’ll be interested to see whether he focuses on playmaking or goal-scoring working with Zadina and Smith. Rasmussen will be wearing an alternate captain’s “A” tonight, and he’s the de-facto leader of the team.

29 Vili Saarijarvi D Grand Rapids (AHL) 2015 3rd round (73rd overall): Vili is still on the rebound from a rough rookie campaign. Saarijarvi is slight at 5’10” and 170 pounds, but he’s way thicker than he used to be, and his strength is evident despite his small stature. Vili’s problem is that he tends to make the extra move 75% of the time, when a simpler, more direct play would require less skating, less stickhandling, fewer passes or shots made and much less time needed to make plays develop. Saarijarvi will get the ice time he needs to prove that he can hurry up and be patient.

34 Patrik Rybar G Hradec Kralove (Czech) Signed by Red Wings, 5/21/18: I got my first glimpse of the 6’2″ goaltender today, and Rybar has a massive wingspan for his listed size, using a steady butterfly technique honed in the Czech pro league to steer pucks into less-dangerous areas. He’s still adjusting to the North American-sized 85-foot-wide rink, however, and it will be interesting to see if he can put up a wall tonight.

36 Kaden Fulcher G Hamilton (OHL) Signed by Red Wings, 10/3/17: Fulcher is still working on his mechanics, which isn’t surprising for a turning-pro goaltender. He plays a more battling style, a la Jonathan Quick, and at 6’4,” he’s able to use those long arms and legs to attack pucks and play aggressively. He can still be beaten on the glove side and when he hunches over at chest level, but those issues will be addressed through play and coaching.

46 Lane Zablocki RW Victoria (WHL) 2017 3rd round (79th overall): Zablocki didn’t get to practice this morning, and it is imperative for the Wings to get a good look at Zablocki at some point during either the prospect tournament or main camp as he’s going to be playing as a 20-year-old this season in Victoria. He’s a speedy 6′ winger who checks hard.

48 Givani Smith RW Kitchener (OHL) 2016 2nd round (46th overall): Smith looks ready to go and ready to turn pro at 22. The 6’2,” 206-pound winger will really get a chance to grind upon his opponents and piss them off with his agitating style this evening, but his main role for this tournament is to play as a complementary winger to Zadina and Rasmussen, serving as a relief valve when a third member of the puck-carrying party is necessary.

49 Axel Holmstrom C Grand Rapids (AHL) 2014 7th round (196th overall): Holmstrom is looking to build upon the positives of his first pro season and leave concerns about his knees behind him. The 6’1,” 219-pound center will play on the second or third line, most likely with Christoffer Ehn, and he’s going to have to step up offensively to separate himself from the litany of checking forwards in the system.

50 Reilly Webb D Saginaw (OHL) 2017 6th round (164th overall): I want to see the 6’3,” 192-pound defenseman really bang bodies and play hard and physical this evening and over the course of the tournament, but I’m not sure whether the stay-at-home defenseman has a mean streak. Webb can really stand out if he’s hard on his opponents.

53 Jordan Topping LW Tri-City (WHL) Signed by Griffins, 7/20/18: The free agent signing from the Tri-City Americans stands at 6’1″ and 198 pounds, but Topping looks bigger than he is. He’s relatively fast and performs at a solid pace.

58 David Pope LW Omaha (NCHC) 2013 4th round (109th overall): Pope looked quite mature as a 23-year-old turning-pro player, and the Wings are going to count on the 6’3,” 198-pound winger for goals over the course of the prospect tournament. He’ll play with the Swedes, apparently.

62 Trevor Hamilton D Penn State (B10) Signed by Griffins, 3/28/18: Hamilton played alongside either Saarijarvi or Webb during the morning skate, and he looked all of 23 and steady on the blueline. At 6′ and 187 pounds, he’s going to find himself in a dogfight for a spot on the Griffins or Walleye’s blueline.

63 Jared McIsaac D Halifax (QMJHL) 2018 2nd round (36th overall): New day, good stuff from McIsaac, who is going to fill out that 6’1,” 193-pound frame with another 10-15 pounds of muscle. McIsaac needs to prove that he can play up to the skill level of the defenseman he’s paired with.

64 Zach Gallant C Peterborough (OHL) 2017 3rd round (83rd overall): Gallant looked strong up the middle and speedy at times as the 6’2,” 188-pound checking center needs to stand out as a shut-down performer during the tournament. Some physicality would help, too.

67 Brady Gilmour C Saginaw (OHL) 2017 7th round (193rd overall): Gilmour is in a similar situation to Gallant, looking to stand out among the grinding forwards, and while he’s 5’10” and 170 pounds, he gives no quarter to his opponents.

68 Justin Fazio G Sarnia (OHL) Free Agent Invitee: Fazio, using Bauer pads and blocker with a Brian’s Optik catch glove, did what he had to do today–he worked with the goalie coaches and capably split the back-up’s net with Fulcher, displaying a willingness to work extra hard as the extra goalie.

70 Christoffer Ehn C Frolunda (SHL) 2013 4th round (109th overall): Ehn didn’t take part in the summer development camp, so his speed–a whole bunch of it–was something of a surprise. The Wings list him at 6’2″ and 192 pounds, not the 180 he’s listed as on EliteProspects, and the 22-year-old forward looks to be blazing a trail up the middle of the ice during the tournament, playing solid two-way hockey as well.

73 Marcus Crawford D Saginaw (OHL) Signed by Griffins, 4/3/18: Crawford, like Hamilton, will have to stand out to earn a spot on the Griffins’ blueline, and the 5’11,” 190-pound defenseman will have to show polish and poise to earn a job in GR.

74 Cole Fraser D Peterborough (OHL) 2017 5th round (131st overall): Fraser didn’t necessarily look like a big defender freed up to be mean during the morning skate, but that’s what he is–6’2,” 195 pounds and tough as nails. He’s going to have to flex his muscles and crash and bang during the tournament.

76 Nicolas Guay C Drummondville (QMJHL) Free Agent Invitee: Guay remained somewhat mysterious to me. Joe Veleno’s 5’11,” 174-pound Voltigeurs teammate looked solid enough, and he’ll play on the 3rd or 4th line.

81 Trevor Yates C Cornell (ECAC) Signed by Griffins, 3/28/18: I liked what I saw from the 6’2,” 201-pound graduate of Cornell. Yates is going to play a checking role, but his 26 points in 33 senior year games hint at more offense. Can he produce in TC?

89 Pavel Gogolev RW Peterborough (OHL) Free Agent Invitee: At 6’1″ and 175 slight pounds, Gogolev doesn’t cut a tough stance, but he was speedy and played with enough pace to merit a spot in the lineup during the morning skate.

90 Joe Veleno C Drummondville (QMJHL) 2018 1st round (30th overall): Veleno looks to be playing on the second or third line, probably ahead of Ehn, and the 6’1,” 195-pound center seemed equally at home head-manning the rush at center or playing PP point. Veleno wants to prove that he’s more than just a “bonus first round pick.”

92 Maxim Golod LW Erie (OHL) Free Agent Invitee: Golod stands at 5’11” and 164 pounds, and he’s going to play on the periphery of the team. We’ll see how he does when the crashing and banging begins!

94 Alec Regula D London (OHL) 2018 3rd round (67th overall): Regula, listed at 6’4″ and 203 pounds by the Wings (an inch taller and 2 pounds heavier than EliteProspects), already looks more mature than he did during the summer development camp, and the Wings are going to need his poise on the second or third defensive unit. He may play with Cholowski, and if that’s the case, he’ll be thrown into the fire, big time.

While I was writing this, the Wings posted a clip of coach Simon’s post-morning skate comments…

And in case you forgot, I’m still trying to raise funds for the TC trip. I’m about $800 from my goal, and you can donate at or sign up for a subscription at Thank you for reading!

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George Malik

My name is George Malik, and I'm the Malik Report's editor/blogger/poster. I have been blogging about the Red Wings since 2006, when MLive hired me to work their SlapShots blog, and I joined Kukla's Korner in 2011 as The Malik Report. I'm starting The Malik Report as a stand-alone site, hoping that having my readers fund the website is indeed the way to go to build a better community and create better content.