The Detroit News’s Nolan Bianchi rather cleverly weaved comments made by Eemil Viro, William Wallinder and Theodor Niederbach, who are all participating in this week’s World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, into an article assessing the “how’s” and “why’s” of European prospect development by North American-based pro teams (like the Red Wings):
Because players are typically drafted for a range of different upsides, the pre-NHL goal for prospects is threefold: You want them to maximize their strengths, shore up their weaknesses, and help them reach a level of play that allows for creative luxury to work in tandem with necessary, less attractive plays.
Whereas an NHL player might retrieve the puck near the half-wall and try to chip it off glass to get it out of the zone, a European player is probably more likely to look for the open pass and try to hit a streaking winger.
An ideal NHL player will be able to read the situation and perform whichever option is best, which is why it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to pull Wallinder out of the Sweden, for example, and stick him in the more physical AHL while he’s still learning to make read breakouts from his own zone.
“It’s hard to play on a small rink,” Wallinder said. “Back home, we’ve got so much more time. It’s way easier.”
And lastly, a player’s comfort level is important, too. Most of the Wings’ top prospects in Europe aren’t even old enough to drink stateside, which is an important thing to remember when talking about career and personal development. Despite technically being adults, it’s common for prospects to offhandedly be referred to as “kids.”