The Detroit Red Wings’ prospects, thinned by injuries and decisions to keep players out for precautionary reasons, dropped a 7-3 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday, wrapping up the prospect tournament with a 1-and-2 record.
It was a hard loss to take in many ways, but the loss of Jared McIsaac to an accidental bodycheck by Blue Jackets forward James Malatesta knocked the wind out of the Red Wings’ sails, and while it sounds like McIsaac, who hit his head on the glass and then the ice, will be okay, a Wings team that started with 10 forwards and 7 defensemen just lost its way.
By the time the game was over, Detroit was down to 9 forwards as T-Bone Codd took a heavy hit and left the game early, and 5 defensemen for periods of time as Wyatt Newpower sat for 7 minutes early in the 2nd due to tripping and fighting penalties.
Between the thin lineup, giving up the game’s first 3 goals, rallying to 3-2, and then surrendering a power play goal to eventual Hat Trick-scorer Yegor Chinakov, the game spiraled out of control, the ECHL refs did anything but rein in the Blue Jackets when they began to take liberties with the young Wings, and the 7-3 score may very well have been a bit flattering, all things considered.
As is understandably so, McIsaac’s injury took the spotlight in terms of coverage from the media, as provided in coverage from the Free Press’s Helene St. James…
McIsaac was chasing the puck in a corner when he was checked by Columbus’ James Malatesta and fell awkwardly along the boards, landing on his back. Medical personnel secured McIsaac’s head and neck before stretchering him off.
“It’s rough seeing a teammate go down like that,” 2021 sixth-rounder Pasquale Zito said. “Talking to some of the guys on the coaching staff, I’m hearing he’s doing OK.”
Cross Hanas, a 2020 second-round pick, roomed with McIsaac during the tourney.
“We’ve had a pretty fun week together, have gotten really close,” Hanas said. “It was really tough to see that. Even if it wasn’t one of our teammates, it’s tough to see a kid go down like that.”
The Wings already were playing with a short bench, as they had just 10 forwards available. Neither of the Wings’ top prospects in the tournament, Lucas Raymond and Jonatan Berggren, in the lineup.
“We had a couple injuries, a couple guys held out as precautionary measures,” Simon said. “We lose a player, so there were times we were playing with eight forwards and five defensemen. It was frustrating at times from a coach’s point of view, but the players can’t complain about the ice time they got, that’s for sure.”
As well as MLive’s Ansar Khan…
“We’ve had a pretty fun week together and have gotten pretty close,” [McIsaac’s roommate, Cross] Hanas said. “It was tough to see that. Even if it wasn’t one of our teammates, it’s tough to see a kid go down like that and not really know where he is and get stretchered off like that. It was pretty scary at the moment.”
McIsaac has had a string of bad back with injuries, including surgery on both shoulders, after being drafted 36th overall in 2018.
“A lot of people have put in a lot of time with Jared, and Jared to his credit has worked his tail off to rehab from two significant shoulder injuries,” Simon said. “You feel terrible when things like this happen to him, but knowing Jared, knowing the people around him that he’s had the ability to work with, I think he’s mentally strong and better for it. He’s got a sense about him that he’s not going to let anything stop him.”
The Red Wings were already playing with a depleted lineup, missing two of their best players, forwards Lucas Raymond and Jonatan Berggren, for precautionary reasons.
“There were times tonight we were playing with eight forwards and five defensemen,” Simon said. “It was frustrating at times from a coach’s point of view, but the players can’t complain about the ice time they got, that’s for sure.”
Asked if Raymond and Berggren will be ready for the start of the main camp on Thursday, Simon said, “I can’t speak to that. Our hope is that they are. We erred on the safe side. Was it more important for them to play in a rookie game or have them ready to go for main camp?”
The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan took note of coach Simon’s remarks regarding the prospects’ performance in Sunday night’s game, and in the tournament as a whole:
With a depleted lineup and minimal practice time, it was difficult at times to gauge the development of the Wings in this tournament.
“We had one practice and played three games in four nights, with a pregame skate mixed in between, so there’s only so much you can try and throw at them structural and system-wise for them to digest,” Simon said. “Over the course of the three games we played, there was improvement in the things we did show them after games. In terms of the group itself, extremely hard working, a young group this year, but it’s a competitive group.”
Overall, however, Detroit Hockey Now’s Bob Duff noted that the biggest concern for the team for the present moment involves their fallen teammate:
“Jared took a pretty significant hit in the first period and hit his head on the glass, hit his head on the ice, lost consciousness for a little bit but went to the hospital, was evaluated,” Grand Rapids Griffins coach Ben Simon explained. “He’s thankfully doing well. He’s moving his arms, he’s moving his legs, he’s coherent. And he’s talking. It’s not as bad as it initially looked.
The prognosis, though, was promising. While McIsaac did briefly lose consciousness on the ice, he regained his faculties quickly and was alert and able to move all his extremities. The hospital trip was merely a precautionary measure.
“He’s expected to be back at the hotel tonight, which is encouraging. So it’s not something where he’s going to spend time in the hospital, which is great.”
In the multimedia department, I don’t want to show the hit repeatedly, so I’m going with the, “You can find it at the 16:03 mark of the 1st period in the Wings’ replay of the game” strategy…
Ah, f*** it, WXYZ went and put it on YouTube. So here’s their 51-second report.
After the game, Pasquale Zito spoke with the media via Zoom…
As did Cross Hanas…
And coach Simon spoke with the media via Zoom…
As well as DetroitRedWings.com’s Carley Johnston, in person:
Coach Simon wraps up the 2021 NHL Prospect Tournament. pic.twitter.com/qbYLanY6Vd— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) September 20, 2021
In terms of my impressions of the players and the team, it’s worth noting that the Red Wings’ lines were essentially in a blender after puck drop, so the “top two lines” received oodles of ice time, and after McIsaac got hurt, the defensive pairs were in flux as well, again, especially when Newpower took seven minutes in penalties.
Regarding those penalties, Detroit gave Columbus six power plays, and surrendered 2 goals on said power plays; the Wings gave up a shorthanded goal as well, so it goes without saying that they did not win the special teams battle.
To some extent, the game was particularly disjointed because the first period ended 4 minutes early due to the facility not having an ambulance or Emergency Medical Technicians at the ready to aid any more injured players after one of the two East Bay ambulances headed to Munson with Jared McIsaac; to some extent, the game was disjointed because, for the second night in a row, Columbus really tried to physically intimidate a young and shorthanded Wings team, and there was little buy-in from the refs in terms of really stemming the tide of shenanigans.
The result was earned, no doubt, and the result was fitting, but I asked Cross Hanas if he would have preferred to play another game, assuming the Wings weren’t so very decimated by injuries, and he agreed that the team really needed another game to truly get their feet under them and gel as a cohesive unit.
Would the Wings’ overall record have finished at 2-and-1 or 3-and-0 instead of 1-and-2, had they brought Moritz Seider to Traverse City? I doubt it.
Would the Wings’ overall record have finished at 2-and-1 or 3-and-0 instead of 1-and-2, had they chosen to hold a truncated summer development camp, like about half of the league’s teams did early in August of this year? Again, I doubt it.
And, would the Wings’ overall record have finished at 2-and-1 or 3-and-0 instead of 1-and-2, had they chosen to bring a more experienced roster to Traverse City?
I’m not sure, because the Wings aren’t depleted in terms of prospects–they just have drafted a fair number of NCAA-eligible players, who can’t take part in this tournament, and they chose to bring in young, inexperienced players instead of big, heavy players destined for the ECHL and AHL…
And that’s the risk that you take when you look for “bonus draft picks” over a more experienced roster–and you run into the injury bug as it applies to two of your top players.
To be sure, the Wings didn’t really receive any secondary scoring until Sunday’s game, and, to be sure, the Wings’ special teams play was terribly inconsistent, but that’s not necessarily a function of the competency of the Grand Rapids Griffins’ coaching staff. It’s on the players, and I’ll do my best to explain some of that in my player analyses.
#79 Kirill Tyutyayev**–#90 Joe Veleno “A”–#74 Cross Hanas
#79 Kirill Tyutyayev: The Wings saw the best of the 21-year-old Russian forward in the sense that he posted 2 beautiful goals and an assist over the course of 3 games, taking 8 shots, and the Wings saw the worst of Tyutyayev when the 5’10,” now-176-pound-listed forward would endlessly attempt to “button hook” and loop the puck back to the point for an it-works-on-European-sized-ice play instead of carrying the puck toward the net himself when he owned possession and control along the side boards, behind the net, or even in front of the opposition net.
Tyutyayev was used to deferring to his elders instead of taking the initiative himself, and that was maddening, because the little water bug of a prospect was brought over to the AHL on an AHL deal because he simply isn’t NHL-ready, but has done enough in the middle-of-the-road Belarusian league to earn a chance to compete for an NHL deal with his endless array of dekes and dangles and skittery-slick skating style.
Tyutyayev is on an AHL deal, but he’s clearly got one of the best repertoires of talent of any of the Red Wings’ prospects, and if he can battle his way through a 70-something-game AHL season, he can deal with living on his own, he can deal with riding the bus to Iowa or Rockford and back on the weekends, and he can deal with bigger and stronger men who put their food on the table by checking little forwards like Tyutyayev into oblivion…
The kid from Pavel Datsyuk’s hometown is a long shot to make it, but the talent is there.
#90 Joe Veleno A”: Joe Veleno is 21 years old, just like Tyutyayev, but Veleno’s been playing Major Junior hockey since he was 15, and NHL or AHL hockey for over a year now. The 6’1,” 206-pound forward may not necessarily project to be an offensive dynamo at the NHL level, but Veleno has built himself from a skinny kid into what the kids call “an absolute unit” of a strong fellow who is built to win one-on-one battles for the puck against bigger and equally tenacious players.
Veleno posted a goal and two assists over the course of three games, finishing at -1, and I really thought that he could have done more to tilt the needle toward his favor in terms of making the Red Wings’ roster as a third or fourth-line player. As it stands on a Sunday night in mid-September, Veleno is probably ticketed for the Grand Rapids Griffins (barring an utterly fantastic training camp and preseason), but he’ll head to GR as the team’s #1 center, and he’ll head to the AHL looking to establish himself as a two-way force, more of an offensive player than he’ll likely be at the NHL level, and, most importantly, as a leader of men.
He’s ready, he’s willing, and he’s able as one of the Wings’ brightest prospects.
#74 Cross Hanas: Hanas never quite got all his shit together in terms of displaying the best of his highly-skilled game during the prospect tournament. An assist, a +3 and 5 shots in 3 games were the fruits of his labors, as were flashes and flourishes of the talent that has made the 19-year-old a point-per-game-or-nearly-so player at the WHL and USHL levels. The 6’1,” 171-pound forward could do well to add a bit more strength to his game, but his skating, his two-way instincts, his underrated shot and playmaking skills are all there, as is a sense of hustle that’s reminiscent of an NHL’ers work ethic.
I think that the trajectory for Hanas is an upward one. Whether he ends up signing an NHL deal after another season or two in the WHL, I do not know, but I feel that he’s a brighter prospect than his prospect tournament performance alone would indicate.
#56 Pasquale Zito–#46 Chase Pearson “A”–#58 Cameron Butler*
#56 Pasquale Zito: Zito was one of the Red Wings’ four OHL-affiliated prospects skating at the tournament, and that meant he was one of four players who the Red Wings chose to bring to Traverse City despite not having played in a meaningful game during the 2020-2021 season due to the pandemic cancelling the Ontario Hockey League season.
Unlike his three similarly rusty peers, Zito is a 2021 draft pick of the Red Wings, and the 18-year-old forward slowly but surely displayed more and more of his pluck and courage as a net-front-seeking, instigating forward who scored a goal in his third and final prospect tournament game.
Zito was another player whose “upside” showed itself in flashes and flourishes that were only glimpses of what may lie within, and he’s no net-front specialist as of yet, but if you like a player who talks up the Tkachuk brothers as inspiration, and you like the idea of the Wings drafting an 18-year-old who could have a little bit of Tomas Holmstrom in him, the next three years should be interesting for Pasquale and anybody who can go across the boarder to watch his Windsor Spitfires play.
#46 Chase Pearson “A”: Pearson, at 24 years of age, is at the end of his developmental curve, and he may need one more year in Grand Rapids to carve out a spot on the Wings’ roster, but his time is coming. The 6’3,” 202-pound defensive centerman has put in the work over the course of four NCAA seasons at the University of Maine and another with Grand Rapids, and now he’s right on the cusp of earning an NHL job.
A big, stocky and strong young man, Pearson is a strong skater, he wins faceoffs, dominates in one-on-one battles for the puck along the boards, and in front of and behind both nets, his defensive instincts are strong, and he drives his opponents nuts at times, but knows when to not engage, drawing penalties on his opposition.
Pearson projects to be a stalwart fourth-line center at the NHL level, and if you know how many third-and-fourth-line guys the Wings have gone through over the last five years, at both the NHL and AHL levels, you should know that it’s no small endorsement when I say that Pearson is the guy who’s gonna stick.
#58 Cameron Butler*: Of all of the Red Wings’ free agent try-outs, the 2nd of our 4 OHL’ers-who-didn’t-play was the most impressive.
Does that mean that I think the Wings are going to sign the 6’4,” 210-pound 19-year-old out of Niagara? No, not really. I think that the Wings are going to tell the big, strong winger to go back to the IceDogs, have a great season, and force the Wings or some other team to draft Butler as a 19-year-old.
Butler finished at -2 with 3 shots over the course of 3 games, and he displayed some power forward’s instincts, crashing and banging his way up the boards, behind and then toward the front of the opposition net, and, more and more regularly, he displayed a hard and accurate shot to go with his ability to earn wins in one-on-one battles for the puck, but the flashes and flourishes of skill and grit were not quite consistent enough to make me believe that he’s going to force his way onto the Red Wings’ 50-man roster.
I liked what I saw from Butler at times. I really think that there are the blueprints for a strong power forward in his game. But I didn’t see enough of it consistently enough to suggest that he’s NHL contract material. Yet, at least.
#64 Luke Toporowski*–#51 Hayden Verbeek**–#61 T-Bone Codd*
#64 Luke Toporowski*: Toporowski, a point-per-game player at the WHL level, falls under the case of “too small, too underpowered,” at least for the present moment, so the 20-year-old is going to get in a couple days with the Big Boys at training camp, and then the 5’11,” 181-pound forward, who earned his -5, will head back to Spokane, where he’s a dominant player among his peers.
There are always players who are supremely talented at the Major Junior level who come to the prospect tournament and struggle, and while I was disappointed for Toporowski, I understand why the 20-year-old who’s posted a point per game at the WHL and USHL levels found the going a bit too tough.
Toporowski definitely has strong shooting and passing skills, and he’s fleet of foot, but he got bumped around fairly heavily, and that’s going to be an education for him.
#51 Hayden Verbeek**: Verbeek, an AHL-contracted player, is an intriguing player for me, even though the 23-year-old forward projects to be more of a future Grand Rapids Griffin than a future Detroit Red Wing. The 5’10,” 187-pound forward is a speedy checking center with a bit of that Verbeek pluck to him, and he’s a hard-working center who wins draws against bigger, heavier players and wins battles against bigger, heavier players because he’s strong enough and smart enough to use his leverage to his advantage.
He’s not going to be the next Darren Helm, but at the AHL level, he may be an integral, undersized two-way center on the Griffins’ 3rd line. And as you know by now, the Griffins matter to me very much.
#61 T-Bone Codd*: Poor T-Bone. An instant fan favorite because of his name and his bounce-off-the-opposition style, when the Red Wings were down to 10 forwards tonight, T-Bone didn’t bounce off an opponent, and they were down to 3 lines just under 2 periods into Sunday night’s loss.
Our third of four OHL alumni, the 18-year-old Codd is definitely a fun player to watch among his peers, because the 5’10,” 175-pound Saginaw Spirit winger crashes and bangs with reckless abandon, he likes to charge his way into and then out of traffic and try to win puck battles…
But there’s an element of rawness to the free agent invite’s game that was very apparent at the prospect tournament level. As such, he finished at -4 with 1 shot in 3 games played for the Wings’ prospects, and he had a bumpy ride.
He’ll head back to the OHL attempting to cement his status as more than a guy with a memorable name, and the Wings, and other NHL teams, will be watching.
#62 Cooper Walker*
#62 Cooper Walker*: Walker got a lot of ice time as the Wings went down to 10 forwards and then 9, and the fourth and final of our OHL alumni was simply–like Toporowski–a little too underdeveloped physically, at 6′ and 170 pounds–to keep up with the particularly physical nature of this year’s prospect tournament.
Again, EliteProspects lists Walker at 5’9″ and 157 pounds, so the youngster went through a growth spurt, and he turned 19 two months ago, so there’s time for him to develop into a late-drafted center, but the talented-enough forward had a rough go in heavy going.
#44 Donovan Sebrango–#84 Alex Cotton
#44 Donovan Sebrango: Sebrango is still rough and raw around the edges, but that’s part of the charm of the 6’1,” 194-pound defenseman, who’s barrelled his way onto the Red Wings’ radar to the point that they had to sign him to an NHL contract so that he could play in the AHL instead of sitting out in the OHL (and then heading to Slovakia, for a wee bit of game action, last season).
At all of 19, the 2020 3rd round pick just plays an utterly fearless game, blocking shots and poke-checking pucks away from opponents, gobbling up pucks on battles along the boards and along the wall down low, he has a hard, accurate shot, his passing and playmaking skills are good, and he only finished with 1 assist and a -2 in 3 games because a couple of his shots that ended up getting banged into the back of the net were not credited to him as assists.
He needs time in the AHL to mature and round out those “rough edges” with some professional polish. There are still times that Wango Tango tries to do too much on his own, there are still times that he makes the mistakes of a 19-year-old, and there are times that this potential Brad Stuart 2.0 ends up looking like Joe Hicketts 2.0.
But he’s got time to develop, and I believe he will develop into a strong stay-at-home and/or Swiss Army Knife NHL defenseman.
#84 Alex Cotton: Watching Cotton was infuriating at times, because he’s so damn good at the WHL level–to the tune of multiple point-per-game seasons with the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes–but the 6’2,” 190-pound defenseman, drafted as a 19-year-old last year, will go into his “overage season” (though the Wings still own his rights for another two springs) as a 20-year-old looking to cement his status as a top prospect…
After a really inconsistent prospect tournament performance.
Does he have elite passing, playmaking and puck-lugging skills? Does he have a smart shot and fluid skating abilities? Sure, and ducks quack every Tuesday, but he didn’t display an elite level of skill while battling through the physical throes of the prospect tournament.
He’ll get a chance to re-set for training camp, and head back to the WHL, where he’ll hopefully continue to post a point per game and continue to evolve into the kind of elite offensive defenseman the Wings need to stockpile in a developmental system full of second and third-pair guys.
#3 Jared McIsaac–#47 Wyatt Newpower “A”
#3 Jared McIsaac: McIsaac is going to be okay, which is the most important thing about his prospect tournament performance right now. After taking that nasty (albeit accidental) hit from James Malatesta and bouncing his head off the boards and then the ice, everybody just wants MacIsaac to escape a concussion and be back on the ice come Thursday at main camp.
I don’t know if he’ll be there, but, in the Sebrango-meets-Pearson vein, I believe that McIsaac will be an NHL defenseman at some point. At 21 years of age, and coming off two reconstructive shoulder surgeries, the 6’1,” 192-pound defenseman plays an efficient, no-frills game that is physical without being mean and effective without being spectacular.
He’s got the maturity of an older player in his game, breaking up offensive rushes against with an almost casual demeanor, taking the puck off opponents’ sticks down low, in front of the net and along the side wall, poke-checking, blocking shots, sealing off routes to the net and generally playing as a superb defensive defenseman who can be utilized in all situations (at the prospect level, at least, even on the power play).
He’s got a hard shot and sees the ice well, but McIsaac, like Pearson, is going to earn NHL money by making elite forwards have bad days in the offensive production department…
And, if memory serves, when fully healthy, he’s got an edge to him. He just needs at least one more AHL season to regain his game.
#47 Wyatt Newpower “A”: Newpower, on the other hand, isn’t as sure a bet for me.
I had to laugh at the fact that he’s played with a good chunk of the Blue Jackets’ roster via time with the Cleveland Monsters of the AHL last season, so, even with an assist, a +1 and a fight over the course of 2 games played, he really tried to get into two or three more bouts tonight, to no avail when battling players who knew him from the Columbus system.
Columbus saw enough of the 6’3,” 207-pound defenseman to place him in Cleveland last season, and the Red Wings saw enough of the 23-year-old to give him an NHL contract…
And he sure is effing physical, he sure is a good skater for his big-and-heavy-man’s size, he blocks passes and shots and wins battles and can even move the puck up the ice well…
But I’ve seen him for three games, and I don’t know him well enough to tell you whether he is NHL-bound. He’s going to play in Grand Rapids on a deep Griffins defense this year, and we’ll see where that takes him.
#86 Adam Brubacher*–#77 Oscar Plandowski
#86 Adam Brubacher*: Brubacher is also going to play professional hockey this season, but where, I do not know. The 6’3,” 202-pound defenseman who played for Manitoba of the AHL last season is heavy-footed, sometimes his stick is too slow, and sometimes his decision-making can be frustratingly vanilla in terms of making a safe play that might be too predictable…
But he’s a gigantic man who skates well for his size, and his assist and -2 belie the fact that he shuts the hell down anybody who wants to get past him the vast majority of the time. At 25, his only option is to play pro hockey, and a fairly good showing at the Wings’ prospect tournament, combined with a better showing in training camp, might earn him a North American pro deal.
#77 Oscar Plandowski: Plandowski was one of only three 18-year-olds brought to camp–along with Pasquale Zito and Sebastian Cossa–and all three Red Wings 2021 draft picks played the way I thought they would.
Inconsistently, like any 18-year-old experiencing their first pro camp (without the benefit of a summer development camp).
Plandowski has, in theory, a professional pedigree in the whole mom’s-a-skating-coach-and-dad’s-a-director-of-amateur-scouting-for-Arizona thing, but I think that it’s important to also realize that the 6,’ 182-pound QMJHL defenseman is a near-elite skater on his own, that he possesses at least middle-pairing offensive potential, and that he’s a solid all-round defender at 18.
He was just inconsistent over the course of 3 games and a -2, as you might expect, and there were flashes and flourishes of a higher-end skill set in terms of his skating in all three directions (forward, backward and laterally), his gap control (he can gap up like Sebrango at times), his shot, his playmaking and passing and his vision of the ice as a whole.
Whether all of those tools come together in an elite skill set that has a toolbox to put all the tools is a story to be told over the course of training camp and a QMJHL season or three to come.
#83 Mason Ward*
#83 Mason Ward: Ward, a 6’5,” 214-pound free agent invite from Red Deer of the WHL, got credit for the Wings’ last goal of the tournament, a weird bounce-off-the-goalie shot that Ward happened to crash the net and bang in, and he took an offsetting minor for roughing in the 3rd period as well.
Son of defenseman Lance Ward (just as Luke Toporowski is the son of enforcer Kerry Toporowski), Ward started to display more and more of the skill set that he possesses over the course of the 2 games that he played, but, in somewhat limited viewing, even at 212 pounds, he got bounced around and bumped and ground somewhat.
What I saw from Ward was a solid enough skill set coming in flashes and glimpses of more to come, and I’m gathering that he’ll head back to the WHL for his 19-year-old season after training camp.
#60 Jan Bednar: Bednar was exactly what he’s been advertised to be, even after four days’ worth of work with the Red Wings’ goaltending coaches: a master of the spectacular save, only to find himself surrendering spectacularly ordinary goals at other times. Bednar stopped 80% of the 28 shots he faced, which is not great by modern-age goaltending standards, but he played in front of an incredibly depleted and sometimes diminished Red Wings roster…
And, at 19, the 6’4,” 200-pound netminder from Acadie-Bathurst of the QMJHL needs a lot more work on his fundamentals and a lot more time playing with one team instead of bouncing from the Czech men’s league to the “Q” over the course of last season. I actually liked a lot of what I witnessed from Bednar in terms of his blocker hand, his catch glove, his overall butterfly and his ability to puckhandle, but he wasn’t always square to the shooter, and he over-reached when flailing across the net instead of moving in controlled slides or “pushes.”
There’s a lot of Petr Mrazek in this Czech compatriot, and that’s both a good thing and a bad thing, if you know what I mean. Whether Bednar pans out is going to be up to him, and he’s got at least two more seasons to stitch together the disparate parts of what should be a professional goaltender’s game. He just needs to find the time to become consistent.
#33 Sebastian Cossa: Again, I’m not all that disappointed with Cossa’s very mediocre performance, given that the step up from dominating the WHL as a 18-year-old to playing a game at an elite-level prospect tournament against a stacked Blues team is not an easy step to take.
Standing at at least 6’6″ and 210 pounds, the cocky Cossa got his humble pie handed to him on Saturday night, and, at 18, he’s got a lot of time to learn from what he experienced–and what he will experience in the main camp.
Cossa truly possesses an elite skill set as a massive puck-blocking goaltender with a great glove, excellent butterfly and strong stance, but there are “big man’s problems” in terms of his five-hole coverage, his wandering blocker hand and the fact that his tendency to find himself more comfortable in his butterfly than standing up yields a vulnerability to top-shelf shots.
In my few viewings of Cossa, mostly spent working with the Red Wings’ goaltending coaches and stopping rushes in situational drills during practice, I’ve seen enough to understand why the Red Wings drafted him 15th overall, and I’ve seen enough to understand that there are puzzle pieces that need to come together for him to fulfill his massive potential.
That’s kind of the plan. It’s up to Cossa to become a little more humble and a little more hard-working along the way, so that he’s able to mature into the goaltender that the Red Wings want him to become.
#23 Lucas Raymond, LW/RW: It really, really, really hurt the Red Wings to not employ their 5’11,” 182-pound scoring winger, but if your leading scorer (with 3 goals in 2 games) is banged up now, and the Blue Jackets are coming looking to both win the game and take their pound of flesh, well, you sit the guy out. That’s the danger of going with a 13-man forward roster, and the Wings played and lost that game of injury poker.
All of that being said, yes, at 19, Lucas Raymond will be best-served by playing a top-six role in Grand Rapids instead of playing on Detroit’s third line (presuming that he does not steal a job during training camp and the exhibition season), and yes, there are still moments when Raymond quite literally skates himself into no space on 85-foot-wide ice, or instinctively passes to a Frolunda HC defenseman when there is no defenseman there on the North American rink…
But his shot is utterly elite, his passing skills are underrated, his sees the ice like an all-star, he skates really well, and there are moments when you know that you’re watching a future NHL star, and that sense was there with Dylan Larkin, and that sense is there with Lucas Raymond.
What I’d like to see from Raymond is a little more toughness when he’s physically targeted, because a punch back never hurt a young man from time to time, but that’s not his style.
#52 Jonatan Berggren, C: Again, it hurt like hell to keep Berggren out, but after he absorbed that nasty, heavy hit in the Blues game, that was it for the 5’11,” 195-pound (listed) center who passes 99% of the time (when he should pass 80% of the time), and the Red Wings have to protect their second prized asset of the quartet of scratches for Sunday’s game.
What Berggren sees on the ice is play after passing play developing before him, and, like Tyutyayev, he has that uncanny knack of skating to where the puck will be, too, and that’s exciting to see on a team that’s full of mid-range prospects but not packed with enough high-end skill. Berggren “isn’t big” for his size, and using that short stick and cuff-less gloves yield a hunched-over skating stride, but all of it seems to work for him.
He’s an excellent skater, too (perhaps that’s a part of his game that doesn’t earn enough due praise), smooth and maneuverable, so Berggren can dart in and out of high-danger zones and emerge with the puck on his stick most of the time.
There are some jewels in the Wings’ prospect crown. Raymond and Berggren are two of them.
#78 Patrick Curry, C**: In a very different way, it hurt to not have Patrick Curry in the lineup. Curry, a 25-year-old graduate of Boston College, is a Griffins-contracted player who, like Verbeek, is more likely to end up as a heroic grinder in Grand Rapids than he is to skate with the Red Wings, but that’s okay.
The Griffins need heart-and-soul leaders who work their asses off, and that’s what Curry represents. At 5’11” and 187 pounds, he’s stocky for his size, and strong enough to knock pucks off opponents, and he checks, works, checks and works some more.
#34 Victor Brattstrom, G: I can’t promise that the massive 6’5,” 198-pound netminder will have a seamless transition from the Swedish and Finnish elite leagues to North American hockey, but boy howdy, has the 24-year-old Brattstrom put in the work.
After helping back-stop the Wings to their only win of the tournament, Brattstrom spent the next three practice days busting his hump, working with the Red Wings’ goaltending coaches, spending hours working on the small details of his game. He’s not a great puck-handler, and there are times that he over-commits to shots, but, overall, Brattstrom’s taken a rather raw Jonas Gustavsson-style “I block the puck but I can’t control it for shit” style and refined it into a polished modern butterfly game, with quick hands and feet, a massive torso to gobble up pucks and fair amounts of style and flair to his game.
He’s going to end up playing in Grand Rapids, dealing with the AHL grind as he attempts to unseat Calvin Pickard, who is currently both the Griffins’ starter and the Red Wings’ first call-up. Things may change after this season, should Brattstrom work his way into the equation. I’m not about to bet against him.
*=Free agent invite, **=Grand Rapids Griffins contract
That’s it for my prospect tournament coverage, for the most part, at least. The Red Wings’ prospects neither practice nor play games on Monday, and there is no playoff tournament this time around, so the three games and day’s worth of practice were what I was given to work with.
There will be more than enough time to make up for starting on Thursday, when the Red Wings begin a six-day training camp, and in the interim, I’m sure that the Wings will do things like reveal their training camp roster and provide injury updates on McIsaac (while continuing to leave the statuses of players like Raymond and Berggren a little fuzzy, because, hey, it’s a Jeff Blashill, Upper-or-Lower-Body-Injury-in-September team).
I hope that you’ve enjoyed my takes on the Wings’ prospects, and know that they will continue throughout the season to come.
And, I hate to do this, but as a blog without commercials, I kind of have to:
In the fundraising department, I’m approximately $400 short of my hotel bill, and my cell phone is dying an ugly death, so if you’re willing to lend a hand in exchange for this prospect tournament and main training camp coverage, you can use Paypal at https://paypal.me/TheMalikReport, Venmo at https://venmo.com/george-malik-2, Giftly by using my email, email@example.com, at https://www.giftly.com, and yes, you can contact me via email if you want to send me a paper check.
I hated having a brick in my pocket when McIsaac got hurt, but there was nothing I could do–either I watched the game and got my prospect data, or I went upstairs to the press area to utilize hard-wired internet. I chose to watch the prospects, because that’s what you sent me up here to do, but having a viable phone would have allowed me to multitask a bit. I guess it is what it is for this camp, but I hope to raise the funds to get a cell phone that isn’t from the previous administration soon.