Impressions from Monday’s practice (9/27) at Red Wings training camp 2021

The Detroit Red Wings engaged in their second-to-last practice at Centre ICE Arena for their 2021 training camp on Monday. The Wings are headed home after tomorrow’s practice to begin a nasty slate of 8 games to be played over the course of 12 nights, and I do have some good news on that front:

All the home games, save Thursday’s game vs. Buffalo (which will be streamed on the Red Wings’ YouTube channel) will be aired on Bally Sports Detroit: so that’s Saturday, October 2nd vs. Columbus, Monday, October 4th vs. Chicago and Thursday, October 7th vs. Pittsburgh.

As for the road games, I know that Wednesday’s game vs. Chicago will air on NBC Sports Chicago, and sometimes the NHL Network picks that up; otherwise, we’ll find out whether we can sneak in some bootleg streams on our own.

Anyway, the Red Wings held much shorter practices today (after Jonatan Berggren, T-Bone Codd and Kaden Fulcher skated with Niklas Kronwall, Daniel Cleary and skill development coach Dwayne Blais), with the Red and White teams focusing on simpler “teaching” drills which emphasized 5-on-5 positioning, breakouts and regroups through center ice, and there were heavy emphases on pace and battling today, despite the relative simplicity of the 5-man-vs-5-man drills.

After approximately an hour of on-ice instruction (under the watchful eye of Steve Yzerman, Pat Verbeek, Shawn Horcoff, Cleary, Kronwall and Jiri Fischer), the skaters engaged in the dreaded “skating test,” a grueling ordeal in which they were forced to skate (in groups) in sets of 3 laps up and down the ice, with 3 minutes, 2 minutes, and then 1 minute’s worth of rest between sets of laps. The test is particularly grueling, even for NHL veterans.

Coach Blashill called it something of a bonding experience as much as it is a reminder that the Wings need to be a team that out-skates and out-works its opponent, both on the ice and in the gym. He also suggested that the Red Wings are always learning and being taught, but he’s trying to balance their mental and physical workloads, and, as such, the Wings will keep learning systems as they approach and engage in the exhibition campaign.

I had to chuckle when the coach said that he didn’t have an opinion regarding the Wings’ looming 8-games-in-12-nights slate, but he winced enough to indicate that it might be a little too heavy for his liking. He’s trying to accentuate the positive in terms of the fact that there’s a lot of on-the-job learning for the younger players, who may earn as many as 6 exhibition games.

Long story long, today’s drills were specific in terms of their scope, punctuated by a skills test, and Centre ICE Arena Tweeted out something which indicates that the Red Wings are going to get up early tomorrow and pack up for home as soon as they can:

UPDATE: There is a slight adjustment to the @DetroitRedWings Training Camp schedule on Tuesday, September, 28. A skills skate has been added at 8:30 am and practices will begin at 9:00 am. Doors will still open at 8:30 am as previously scheduled. Thank you for attending! pic.twitter.com/DDzW2ATajR— Centre Ice Arena (@CentreICEArena) September 27, 2021

There’s a sense around the rink that the season is nearing, but I at least appreciate the fact that the team brass have stayed up here to scrutinize their charges–and it was pretty cool that Chris and Mrs. Ilitch flew up for the Red vs. White Game yesterday, too. The Red Wings may not make the playoffs this year, but they no longer feel like a forgotten team.

In terms of player impressions, building upon days one, two, three and four of training camp, here we go:

TEAM RED:

Forwards:

#11 Filip Zadina: Over the course of training camp, Filip Zadina has looked like a player who’s ready to establish himself as an NHL scorer at 21 years of age, but the 6,’ 197-pound winger has also displayed some perhaps familiar tendencies to get down on himself when things don’t go his way…

And that’s just not necessary for Zadina any more. He needs to get past the passes that don’t connect and the shots that don’t fill the back of the net, because he’s more than talented enough to earn copious amounts of scoring opportunities. He’s a strong skater, he sees the ice well, he works hard and he’s got an elite, elite shot, whether he’s ripping pucks at the net via that one-timer in the right faceoff circle near the hash marks, via a slap, snap or wrist shot, and his scoring instincts are there without question. He just has a low frustration level, so right now, a player who needs to establish himself as a reliable scorer is his own bugaboo.

#14 Robby Fabbri: Fabbri has blended into the woodwork at times during training camp, and that’s okay. Like his linemate, Pius Suter, the 5’11,” 183-pound Fabbri is not the biggest, strongest or fastest player. What he does is generate scoring chances via hard work, good skating ability and an array of shooting and passing skills which afford Fabbri the ability to skate into scoring areas and not only generate plays on his own, but also capitalize on those made by his teammates. At 25, Fabbri, like Zadina, needs a full NHL season of relatively consistent scoring to truly establish himself as a scoring winger, but the tools are there in spades, and he just gets the job done when the game is on the line.

#22 Mitchell Stephens: Stephens looks more and more like a lock for the 4th line center’s job. Not particularly big at 5’11” and 190 pounds, and a little older at 24, Stephens has split time between the AHL and NHL over the past three years, and the speedy center looks poised to finally earn an NHL spot. He’s got a hunched-over skating style that makes him look smaller than he already is, but he plays the game with pace, his stride is smooth and silky, and while he’s not offensively inclined, h skates with the puck on his stick just as fast as he skates without the puck on his stick. Stephens also uses his stocky frame to win battles along the boards and in the corners, he wins draws, and he gaps up on opposing players like a defenseman.

#23 Lucas Raymond: Raymond probably isn’t going to make the Red Wings’ roster out of training camp, but he’s not far off from earning an NHL job, should the Wings require an injury replacement. Liberally listed at 5’11” and 182 pounds, the 19-year-old probably requires some AHL finishing, given that he has yet to endure the rigors of a 70+-game schedule, the toll that life on the road can take upon a player, or players as big and strong as AHL’ers leaning on him in order to put food on their tables…But Raymond is close, really close, to being NHL ready. His shooting skills are tremendous in terms of his snap shot, wrist shot and one-timer, he can play on the periphery and pass the puck at high speed, and he can charge toward the net to jam home rebounds or rip passes toward and past goaltenders. Raymond’s skating skills are underrated, and his smooth play and enthusiasm for the game don’t necessarily come through when he plays so silkily that he almost looks like he’s being casual. Raymond is not, in fact, casual at all in terms of his talent level and his ability to execute at an extremely high rate. He just needs a little finishing school, as it were.

#24 Pius Suter: The 5’11,” 174-pound Suter isn’t the biggest player on the ice, he isn’t the fastest player on the ice, and the stocky little center only has one NHL season to his credit at 25 years of age, but everywhere the plucky little forward goes, he manages to get the scoring job done, and he’s a pretty damn good playmaker, too. Suter earned his money last season in no small part because he played excellently against the Red Wings, and Steve Yzerman appears to have made the right choice in co-opting a Wing Killer, because Suter finds a way to create scoring chances (or charge toward the net himself) working with Robby Fabbri and the aforementioned Raymond (for training camp, at least). Suter does everything at a high tempo, too, which makes up for his lack of out-and-out breakaway speed.

#25 Taro Hirose: Hirose is also 25, but the slight passer is at a different stage in his development. 5’10” and 162 skinny pounds, the one-time top prospect needs to reestablish himself as a relevant passing dynamo, and the water bug forward’s best opportunity to do so will come from posting assists at point-per-every-other-game-or-better pace in the AHL this upcoming season. In other words, Hirose has to prove that he can replicate his 23-assists-in-29-games performance with the Griffins last (abbreviated) season, and then the chippy-skating Hirose needs some injury luck to fall on his side to earn a call-up that might afford him the opportunity to grab a spot and hold onto it. All in all, he faces a difficult task, but Hirose can make it happen.

#42 Kyle Criscuolo: Criscuolo serves a valuable role as a 2nd-and-or-3rd-line forward at the AHL level. The 5’9,” 175-pound center is 29 now, and, at the AHL level, the speed merchant has approached the point-per-every-other-game mark a couple of times. He’s going to serve as the Griffins’ checking line center, and he should excel in that role.

#54 Bobby Ryan*: Ryan, a 34-year-old pro try-out, seems to understand that he’s going to have to make the Wings by any means necessary, but I don’t envision a checking future* for Ryan, even if he plays on a checking line, specifically because he’s so valuable on special teams. He may be slow as a skater, but he is maneuverable, and the 6’2,” 208-pound winger still possesses a hard, accurate array of shots (slap, snap and wrist), he still sees the ice well enough to make astute plays, and, if Jakub Vrana is hurt, there is every possibility that the well-liked Ryan might earn a spot on the team. I think that he’ll end up latching on somewhere else, but that’s just my gut feeling.

#63 Jon Martin**: Martin is a big, heavy dude at 6’2″ and 215 pounds, and he’s been working on the Mitchell Stephens line. A Grand Rapids Griffins signing, the 26-year-old plays an efficient grinding game, but he was brought in from the German Second League because Maritn also displayed some scoring abilities there. Over the course of training camp, he’s proven to be big, strong and speedy, but he’s also tended to blend in to the rest of the gang.

#67 Dennis Yan**: Yan is another Grand Rapids Griffins signing, and the Griffins are taking a flyer on the 6’2,” 192-pound Yan because his hands are near-elite in terms of the speed with which they move, his feet keep the pace up, and the one-time QMJHL scorer will at least serve a useful purpose as a two-way forward with speed to burn at the AHL level; ideally, he builds upon his ICE HL season and establishes himself as some sort of scorer in GR (or Toledo, if necessary).

#71 Dylan Larkin: Larkin was one of the team leaders during the skating test, displaying a high level of conditioning, and that was good to see. Ready to take on the role of leading the team on and off the ice for the second season in a row, the 6’1,” 198-pound Larkin has looked like his speedy, electrifying self out there, firing off seeing-eye passes to teammates on the move, sending shots in on goal and hustling his butt off to win battles for loose pucks, tangles for the puck down low and behind the net, and he’s headed to the net for rebounds as well. Larkin is just putting 100% effort in 100% of the time, and he needs to keep that up over the course of this season to reestablish himself as a bright NHL star.

#76 Tyler Spezia**: Spezia kept up with Larkin during the skating test, which was not that surprising given that Spezia is 5’10” and 167 pounds. The Griffins-contracted speed merchant is a point-per-game scorer at the ECHL level, and he’s also serviceable at the AHL level, but he fills a necessary role as a depth scorer for the organization.

Defensemen:

#2 Nick Leddy: He’s just been really good. Leddy isn’t necessarily the fastest skater out there, but he’s smooth and seamless as he charges up ice to help head-man the rush, he transitions to lateral or backward skating with ease, and his superior mobility affords him the time and space to not only generate scoring chances via a hard, accurate shot and headsy set of seeing-eye passes, but also bail out teammates who are engaged in high risk plays. Leddy seems to know when a teammate is about to falter, so he serves as a bit of a human eraser at times, and that’s a quality the Red Wings haven’t had on their defense in a long time. At 6′ and 205 pounds, he’s no slouch physically, either, so the 30-year-old is likely to excel in all areas with Detroit this upcoming season.

#28 Gustav Lindstrom: My one concern about Lindstrom was that he really struggled in the skating test, and it’s game shape, or the lack thereof, that I think can really hold the 6’2,” 183-pound defenseman back. He wins more battles for the puck with an astute stick, gap control and leverage over brute strength, and if Lindstrom could add another 5-10 pounds of muscle, he wouldn’t occasionally get over-powered in one-on-one battles for the puck. After a season spent bouncing between the Swedish Allsvenskan, the NHL and the AHL, he needs some continuity to really establish himself as a no-frills, two-way defenseman, and the 22-year-old will hopefully find that continuity and consistency this upcoming season.

#32 Brian Lashoff: At the other end of the developmental spectrum at 31, Lashoff serves as a mentor to younger players and an example in terms of his work ethic on and off the ice. The 6’2,” 183-pound Lashoff is the Grand Rapids Griffins’ captain, and while he’s a depth, stay-at-home defenseman at the NHL level, at the AHL level, he is versatile and utilized in all situations for Grand Rapids. Professional to the core and playing with work ethic and resolve, Lashoff serves as a fine leader of men.

#47 Wyatt Newpower: Newpower doesn’t possess the same kind of resume that Gustav Lindstrom does, but, at age 23, there’s also some urgency for the 6’3,” 207-pound defenseman to “find himself.” As a two-way defender with size and strength, the University of Connecticut graduate looked great during the prospect tournament, but the big, heavy stay-at-home partner to Jared McIsaac has looked a little lost at times during training camp. He needs to go to Grand Rapids and establish himself as a heavy-hitting, no-frills defenseman.

#53 Moritz Seider: In Seider’s case, I’d say, “ALL THE FRILLS!” because the 6’4,” 197-pound defensemen has them in spades. Despite requiring another 5 or 10 pounds of strength to really excel at the NHL level, the plucky, poised Seider is all of 20 years old, but the SHL’s Defenseman of the Year could very well be the Red Wings’ #2 defenseman right out of training camp because he skates so very, very well in all three directions, he gaps up on his opponents with shark-like precision, sometimes using his smart stick to poke pucks away, and sometimes using his butt to knock players on their own asses. He’s getting used to NHL pace, and with his excellent passing and playmaking abilities, his hard shot and his moxie and confidence, he’s got all the tools and the toolbox necessary with which to succeed at the NHL level. It’s just a matter of executing confidently in Seider’s case.

#82 Jordan Oesterle: Fewer frills, but smooth and sometimes invisibly seamless, the 29-year-old Oesterle plays an underrated game, utilizing his strong skating skills and good puckhandling (he was a 20-point-scorer two years ago) to get pucks out of trouble and occasionally add to the Red Wings’ offensive attack. Not gigantic at 6′ and 188 pounds, Oesterle currently slots in as the Wings’ #6/7 defenseman, and there’s room to grow into a bigger role after that.

#86 Adam Brubacher*: The Wings have kept the free agent try-out in the mix throughout training camp, and that’s a good sign for the 6’3,” 202-pound Brubacher. Big and heavy (and sometimes heavy-footed), the 25-year-old defenseman with a limited resume is searching for a place to ply his simple, efficient and very physical game, utilizing his strong stick to break up plays, to occasionally fire a smart pass up ice, but generally to make up for his lack of out-and-out speed with positioning and raw physicality. Brubacher is going to earn a pro contract to play somewhere; the question remains to be whether he will do so with the Red Wings’ organization.

Goaltenders:

#29 Thomas Greiss: At 35, Greiss is no spring chicken, but the 6’2,” 219-pound goaltender is particularly consistent and particularly adept at using his smart glove, blocker, quick toes and savvy stick–as well as a big, stocky frame–to stifle scoring chances, and to make doing so look fairly easy and routine for the most part. If he can find just a bit more consistency behind the sometimes-porous Red Wings defense, Greiss certainly possesses the fundamentals to get the job done.

#31 Calvin Pickard: Pickard is searching for a different kind of consistency at 29 years of age. The 6’1,” 210-pound netminder is, for the most part, solid and stout in goal, utilizing an understated butterfly style to seamlessly jab pucks away and stifle rebounds. The problem is that, every once in a while, Pickard will give up the occasional 5-hole or blocker side goal, and his every-once-in-a-while faltering in concentration partially explains why he possesses a 1990’s goalie’s save percentage. With Victor Brattstrom on his tail for the starter’s job in Grand Rapids, Pickard will have to find more consistency in his game to truly excel.

#36 Kaden Fulcher: Kaden Fulcher plain old needs to earn playing time to find his own brand of consistency. Big at 6’3″ and 210 pounds and rangy, the 23-year-old is slated to battle Billy Christopoulos for the starter’s spot in Toledo this upcoming season, and if his work with the Red Wings’ goaltending coaches is any indication, he’ll give the Walleye’s starter a run for his money. Fulcher is massive but has some issues with finding consistent form, and the Wings’ goalie coaches have hammered home fundamental play with a goaltender whose game is still a work in progress.

TEAM WHITE:

Forwards:

#26 Riley Barber: The 6,’ 199-pound Barber has come as advertised as a 27-year-old who led the Grand Rapids Griffins in scoring last season. He’s big and stocky, he’s fast enough to keep up with the Wings’ skaters, he shoots well, he passes well and he possesses enough skill that it’s entirely possible that Barber will be the first call-up, should the Red Wings run into injuries this upcoming campaign. He’s a low-maintenance player whose dreams of making the NHL are not yet extinguished.

#27 Michael Rasmussen: Rasmussen is a different kind of low maintenance at 6’6″ and 210 pounds. The big 22-year-old has looked speedy at times during the Red Wings’ training camp, but mostly he’s looked like a hulking power center who can both shut down opponents and work hard to generate scoring chances through strong skating and his willingness to win puck battles and engage in physical tangles for the puck. Rasmussen shoots fairly well and goes to the net to tip home rebounds, he passes well, wins faceoffs, and is looking to establish himself as a consistent force at the NHL level. He looks to be well on his way toward securing his goals.

#37 Carter Rowney: At 32, I wasn’t sure that the 6’2,” 208-pound Rowney was going to try to muscle his way into the Wings’ lineup after establishing himself as an NHL grinder in Pittsburgh and Anaheim, but I might now suggest that it’s possible that Rowney makes the lineup over Givani Smith, should Smith falter, because the big Rowney is a fast and heavy skater, he’s physical and hard to play against, and he gets the job done defensively, with hustle and grit. Rowney is something of a dark horse contender for a roster spot, and we’ll see how he performs in the exhibition season, because that will determine his fate.

#46 Chase Peterson: The emergence of Rowney makes it more and more likely that Pearson starts the year in Grand Rapids, and that’s unfortunate but necessary for the 6’3,” 202-pound Pearson. At 24, he’s almost ready to become the Red Wings’ 3rd or 4th line center (presumably the latter), but Stephens and Rowney are earning spots, and Pearson is waiver-exempt for another season, and you know how those battles usually go.

Pearson is big and strong as can be, he’s an admirable pro in terms of his work ethic and determination on a shift-by-shift basis, he out-muscles and out-competes opponents in faceoffs, one-on-one battles for the puck and out-manned situations, and, at the AHL level, at least, he can score and produce points. He’ll likely work as the Griffins’ second or third-line center this upcoming season, but there is no doubt in my mind that Pearson skates well enough and skates with enough poise and determination to become an NHL center in the near future.

#48 Givani Smith: Smith’s middling training camp performance has dropped him from a sure thing to make the roster to something of a wild card. The 6’2,” 215-pound Smith is out of waiver options this year, but the 23-year-old instigator and plucky fourth-line forward hasn’t stood out with any consistency in his game, nor has he been physical or gritty. Now, it’s training camp and not the preseason, so the mobile-enough and very strong Smith still has up to six chances out of eight games with which to reclaim his spot in the lineup, but it’s going to be very difficult for him to do so, especially with Bobby Ryan now in the running for a spot as well. The preseason will tell the tale, because you can’t fight during training camp.

#50 Dominik Shine**: A plucky little forward, the 5’11,” 180-pound Shine is a Grand Rapids Griffins-contracted player who is going to fulfill the role of foot soldier in Grand Rapids this upcoming season. He’s fast, but undersized, and he’s useful in the AHL as a 3rd or 4th line forward, so Shine will embark upon his sixth campaign with the Griffins shortly.

#51 Hayden Verbeek**: What has stood out more and more about Verbeek as the prospect tournament and main camp have gone on is his speed. The 5’10,” 187-pound center is small by NHL standards, but man, is he fast, and he carries the puck up ice with speed. The 23-year-old was one of the White Team’s leaders during the skating test as well, indicating that he’s well-conditioned. Verbeek is essentially the Griffins’ version of Darren Helm, albeit in Mini-Me form, and he’ll do just fine in that role.

#57 Turner Elson**: Elson is also a foot soldier of sorts for Grand Rapids, albeit a 29-year-old foot soldier who’s occasionally posted point-per-every-other-game AHL campaigns. The 29-year-old stands at 6′ and 191 pounds, and he’s not overly big, but he skates with pace and carries the puck up ice to distribute it to his teammates. Elson is a useful middle-of-the-lineup AHL player looking to reestablish himself as a regular contributor.

#73 Adam Erne: Erne has just looked very, very confident over the course of the Red Wings’ training camp, and that’s an encouraging thing to see out of the 6’1,” 211-pound power forward. At 26 years of age, Erne had a breakout campaign last season, and he’ll be looking to better it over the course of a full season. He’s skating hard, battling for the puck down low, charging toward the net to chase after his shots and passing the puck well. All appears to be coming together for the slightly late-blooming Erne.

#79 Kirill Tyutyayev**: Coach Blashill and Vladislav Namestnikov revealed that Tyutyayev is going to be learning English and living on his own as he settles in with the Grand Rapids Griffins, and they confirmed that the 21-year-old coming out of the Belarusian League has indeed impressed with his ability to deke, dangle, stickhandle and juke-and-fake his way through opposing defenses thanks to his highly talented hands and feet. The 5’10,” 176-pound Tyutyayev also skated pretty well during the skating test, which was good to see given that he’s not particularly big, nor strong. An unfinished gem, the Red Wings hope that the little dangler will find his form while adapting to North American hockey and the grind of North American schedule and travel.

#89 Sam Gagner: The 32-year-old Gagner has looked very good on a line with Namestnikov and Barber in training camp, and the 5’11,” 197-pound forward has done a good job of reestablishing himself as an integral part of the Wings’ grinding machine. Gagner isn’t going to dangle and dazzle like a Tyutyayev, but he gets up the ice with purpose and he does a very good job of winning puck battles, taking care of the defensive side of the game, and providing just enough offense to remain relevant as someone who has a greater-than-usually-displayed skill set. He’s going to serve as a mentor to his peers and the Wings’ many youngsters, on and off the ice.

#90 Joe Veleno: Veleno, like Pearson, might lose the waiver battle, but it won’t be for a lack of trying. The 6’1,” 206-pound center is almost ready for NHL duty, but he’s not quite there yet in terms of his confidence with the puck. I don’t really see a point in Veleno playing on the fourth line, and if he is to tap into those staggering QMJHL offensive numbers, he may be best-served by playing half a year to a full campaign in the AHL, playing alongside Raymond or Berggren. At 21, Veleno has time to develop still, and the Wings may as well utilize that time to get the biggest return for their investment as is possible.

#92 Vladislav Namestnikov: I was impressed with Namestnikov’s interview today, because the 6,’ 180-pound center admitted that he needs to play better, and the 28-year-old is right on the money, especially with Pearson and Veleno breathing down his neck. Namestnikov is a speedy if not fast center, he’s good on faceoffs, he possesses underrated offensive skills in terms of both shooting, passing and playmaking, and he lugs the puck up ice well, but he’s inconsistent in terms of his effort at times, and that detracts from a really well-rounded package. It’s up to Vladislav to regain some of the form he’s displayed with the Bolts and Rangers, where he was a stalwart 3rd line center.

Defensemen:

#17 Filip Hronek: Hronek, like Zadina, is prone to moments of frustration and self-doubt, and those are his real bugaboos. The 6,’ 188-pound Hronek is stronger than his stats indicate, he’s an excellent three-direction skater who tracks and gaps up well upon his opponents, he works hard, he wins battles for the puck due to an excellent stick and some physical bite to his game, and, on offense, he’s got a seeing-eye pass, a heavy shot and he moves well laterally. He just needs to find the confidence to keep his shit together when things don’t go his way.

#18 Marc Staal: At the other end of the spectrum, the 34-year-old Staal just does his thing, and that “thing” is providing stable, steady defensive defenseman’s hockey. A massive 6’4″ and 208 pounds, Staal isn’t the fastest skater, but he gets to where he needs to be on the ice in ample time, he can lug the puck up ice himself, or dish it off to usual defensive partner Troy Stecher, and he covers up when Stecher tends to riff. Staal is rock-solid, and the Wings need that player.

#20 Luke Witkowski: Witkowski is also a meat-and-potatoes sort, but a different kind of meat and potatoes, because he provides fisticuffs as well. Utilized as both a forward and defenseman, the 6’2,” 210-pound Witkowski can capably play as a #6 defenseman or a 4th line forward at the NHL level, but his particular brand of toughness is in both short supply at the NHL level and at the AHL level, and the Grand Rapids Griffins need the 31-year-old to come in and serve as their “heavy” on the roster after the departure of one Dylan McIlrath. We’ll see how much NHL time he accrues this year, depending upon both the Wings’ collective health and Givani Smith’s status.

#21 Dan Renouf: I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Renouf. At 6’3″ and 200 pounds, the 27-year-old defenseman is trying to reestablish himself as a potential NHL’er, and at the AHL level, at least, Renouf offers the Grand Rapids Griffins reliable two-way defense with some physical bite. At the NHL level, he could (emphasis on could) become a puck-carrying defender, and he skates very well, but right now he needs to have a really good AHL campaign to cement himself in the organization’s future plans.

#44 Donovan Sebrango: Sebrango has also really impressed, but in a different vein. The 19-year-old is not overly big at 6’1″ and 194 pounds, but he plays with his heart on his sleeve, and Sebrango does a great job of providing some panache to his game as well. He’s a defensive defenseman who blocks shots, uses his stick to break up plays and lays on the body physically, but he can skate up into the rush and unleash a heavy, hard shot on the net, or send good passes to teammates. Ideally, Sebrango projects as a Swiss Army Knife defenseman who can be utilized in all situations, and he’ll be a fun-to-watch player as well.

#65 Danny DeKeyser: DeKeyser is looking to reclaim his status as the Wings’ best stay-at-home partner for an offensive defender after two years recovering from major back surgery. The 6’3,” 183-pound DeKeyser wins his battles for the puck using an excellent stick and leverage instead of out-and-out strength, and his skating stride is also an asset when strength fails the lanky defender. DeKeyser is 31 now, and a healthy DeKeyser gives Filip Hronek a steady partner to spell any mistakes or miscues made by the Wings’ resident point producer on defense.

#70 Troy Stecher: Stecher, like Namestnikov, suggested that a longer season and a little continuity with the Red Wings might help him become a better defender, and that kind of attitude is welcome. Stecher is a free-wheeling player for a stay-at-home, third-pair defenseman, and there are times that his superior skating affords Stecher scoring chances and pretty passing plays, but there are times that the 5’10,” 184-pound defenseman can make high-risk moves that Marc Staal needs to tidy up. He’s a hard-working sort who plays an affable, easy-to-like game, with excellent skating skills, a good stick, underrated abilities to keep up against bigger and stronger players and, again, a head for offense from time to time.

#84 Alex Cotton: Cotton, 20, is probably headed back to the WHL in short order, and that will be necessary as the Lethbridge Hurricanes point producer does his best work at the WHL level, posting a point per game. The Red Wings have clearly seen enough in terms of Cotton’s skating, shooting, passing and general offensive and two-way game to keep him around for the bulk of training camp, which is good, and the late-blooming defender will have a fine overage season in the WHL before attempting to earn a contract with said Red Wings amongst a crowded crop of defensemen. How do I know that Cotton is ready to go back to Lethbridge? He was the most gassed of any Wing after the skating test, lying on the ice, kaput.

Goaltenders:

#34 Victor Brattstrom: Brattstrom has looked a little wilder and woollier than I would have thought over the course of training camp, but that’s okay; the 24-year-old is still trying to get his fundamentals in order after bouncing around Europe for a couple of seasons, and he’s worked very hard with the Wings’ goaltending coaches to refine his combination of reflexive saves and a polished butterfly game. He’ll challenge Calvin Pickard for the starting spot in Grand Rapids because the massive 6’4,” 200-pound Brattstrom’s work ethic and skill set will come together with time and North American professional experience.

#39 Alex Nedeljkovic: Nedeljkovic has just looked darn solid throughout training camp, and, as an undersized-by-modern-standards 6′ and 203 pounds, I was a little worried that his lack of modern goalie size would be an issue, but it’s clearly not a problem for the 25-year-old. Nedeljkovic plays an aggressive game at the top of his crease, occasionally making dashing, daring saves that get your adrenaline pumping, but most of the time, he’s using his stellar glove and blocker, smart stick, quick toes and thighs and steadily-upright chest protector to stop pucks in an efficient butterfly.

It’s going to be very interesting to see how Nedeljkovic adapts to a heavier workload in terms of shots and shot quality with the Red Wings, but I think he’ll hold up okay.

*= Free agent try-out, **= Grand Rapids Griffins contract

Tomorrow’s practice marks the end of training camp activities, and I’m heading home on Wednesday, so my coverage will be spotty then. I’ll do what I can to cover Thursday’s game as best as I possibly can, and then I’m definitely taking Friday off, and we’ll take it day-by-day from there as I am admittedly exhausted from this trip, but happy to prove that I can do the job again.

In the interim, I am still raising funds. I’m still in need of gas and grocery money, the cell phone replacement is going to hurt because my credit score is a single digit (yay college loans!), and the brakes on the Pacifica are starting to sound rusty.

If you’re willing to lend a hand in exchange for my training camp coverage–or to keep TMR operational–you can use Paypal at https://paypal.me/TheMalikReport, Venmo at https://venmo.com/george-malik-2, Giftly by using my email, rtxg@yahoo.com, at https://www.giftly.com, and yes, you can contact me via email if you want to send me a paper check.

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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.

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