This afternoon, MLive’s Ansar Khan issues a list of 10 players to watch during the tournament. Among them:
Kaden Fulcher, goaltender (6-3, 182): He went 15-7-6, with a 3.00 goals-against average and .899 save percentage in his first pro season with the ECHL Toledo Walleye. He played 27 minutes in relief for the Red Wings in their season finale. He’s a former free agent invitee who earned a contract with Detroit prior to the 2017-18 season after a strong showing at development camp and training camp.
Kaden Fulcher was pretty close to being called the Red Wings’ “goalie of the future” while Filip Larsson was still playing overseas, but Fulcher’s OK ECHL season and Larsson’s ascent seem to leave Fulcher in limbo behind Calvin Pickard in GR and Pat Nagle in Toledo. Fulcher needs to have an excellent year, and there’s no time like the present to start…
Gustav Lindstrom, defenseman (6-2, 187): A poised puck-mover who plays a physical game, Lindstrom might be the organization’s most NHL-ready defense prospect. He was part of Frolunda’s Swedish Hockey League championship team last season and will begin his North American pro career, likely in Grand Rapids. He might see some games in Detroit this season and will challenge for a roster spot in 2020-21.
Lindstrom is highly-regarded as an offensive defenseman in the making, but he didn’t put up big numbers in his first full pro season, and he looked under-powered during the summer development camp. He’s got a lot of promise, and he’s got to show that it’s real.
Chase Pearson, center (6-2, 200): The former two-year captain at Maine, a fifth-round pick in 2015 (140th overall), got a feel for pro hockey late last season with the Griffins, appearing in 10 games and scoring a pair of goals.
Pearson intrigues me because he’s got the strength, speed and professionalism to stand apart from the Wings’ litany of smart checking forwards. The better he looks among his peers, the more he stands out from the pack.
Givani Smith, right wing (6-2, 206): The big, abrasive forward, Detroit’s second pick in 2016 (46th overall), struggled in his pro debut with Grand Rapids (six goals, seven assists, 86 penalty minutes in 64 games). Projected as a physical player who can forecheck hard and provide a net presence, he’ll probably need a couple of more AHL seasons to develop.
What does Givani Smith bring to the table? Is he an agitator, an enforcer, a 4th-line glue guy, or something more? Smith remains something of an unknown quantity after his first AHL season, and he’s going to have to step things up if he is to become the next Tyler Bertuzzi.