The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/12/12 at 04:13 PM ET
As the Red Wings’ summer development campers slowly but surely find themselves headed toward the end of their time here in Traverse City, the coaches planned on winding things down ever-so-subtly today, but they didn’t account for a giant wrench being thrown into the proceedings: Brendan Smith told me that the bus that was supposed to take the prospects from their resort hotel to the rink was over 40 minutes late, and as the Wings’ brass stay at the Grand Traverse Resort, it took ten calls before Smith got a hold of Jiri Fischer and managed to inform the coaches and management that the players would be late.
Hockey players are inevitably creatures of habit, and when a slate of workouts or on-ice activities start an hour later—and the coaches inform the players that their break between an 8:30-10:30 session starting at 9 and ending at 11 will be truncated so that the 2:30-4:30 sessions remain on track—gents who are such creatures of habit that they’re very specifically bused back to their hotels so they can catch 30 or 45 minutes of sleep were very “off” early this morning, and I think this afternoon’s going to be that much tougher for them…
But if yesterday’s morning and afternoon sessions were about battling fatigue for them and me after their late evening scrimmage gave way to a 7 AM wake-up call, today it is very evident that the players are getting toward the end of the camp, that they know it, and that they’re plain old mentally and physically worn out.
They’ve had a grueling schedule over the past six days and are in the middle of their fourth day of what even they’ve had to admit are brutal two-a-day sessions over the last five days, and I can see the fatigue in their eyes, the fatigue in their hands and feet and the fatigue in their voices. Youngsters who’ve been learning the Red Wings way, on and off the ice, from one of the best organizations in sports and players who’ve been essentially living on the beach for the last six days are more than ready to admit that they’re excited about tomorrow’s scrimmage, but, otherwise, the week has been short but the days have been extremely long, and perhaps there is something to be said for the end being nigh.
The Wings’ skill development coaches seemed to have that in mind, and their drills focused upon applying the lessons learned in dynamic situations, reinforcing skills and wrapping up the two-a-days in an easy-to-digest method.
Team Lidstrom was on the ice this morning, and they consist of the following players:
Willie Coetzee #45
Brent Raedeke #47
Trevor Parkes #37
Andrej Nestrasil #49
Riley Sheahan #15
Landon Ferraro #41
Andreas Athanasiou #78
Kellan Lain #57*
Dean Chelios #24*
Ted Pletsch #67*
Travis Novak #56*
Julien Cayer #65*
Adam Almqvist #53
Brendan Smith #2
Gleason Fournier #46
Max Nicastro #58:
Mike McKee #73
James De Haas #74
Thomas McCollum #38
Parker Milner #29*
Tomas Storm’s drills plain old threw me for a loop. Sans any tires on the ice (the only tires Storm employed were the ones he affixed to the top corners of the north end net as targets), Storm asked pairs of players to trade off playing offense with their stick blade on the ice against defenders who had to use the butt ends of their stick to defend, and while he added in a little skip-and-hop over a stick placed between two traffic cones, while the puck-possessing attacker slid the puck under the cone, that’s about as technical as he got.
Otherwise, Storm had players work on one-on-one defense of dump-ins, and then attempts to walk laterally across the blueline before skating into the offensive zone with the defending player utilizing the butt end of their stick as their defensive weapon, and he repeated the hop-over-the-cones drill while emphasizing tight spacing between defending players and attacking players, because if you can’t use your stick to poke away the puck and you’re not allowed to hook or hack your player, your best stickhandling comes from body position.
Jim Bedard’s goalie drills were far more complicated. He started out by asking players to take outlet passes from the side boards and skate laterally across the blueline and then charge in toward the faceoff dot opposite the side of the ice where they received their outlet pass, firing pucks from at or around the faceoff dot, just past the edge of a stick Bedard had lain diagonally on the ice.
The second drill was particularly difficult for the goalies as a crescent-shaped line of players—think a parenthesis’s ( shape—lined up about twenty-five feet away from the goal, received passes from Bedard or McKittrick behind the goal line, and then chose to pass to whichever other player in line they wanted before that player fired a shot at the net. That drill was made more complicated by first bringing the players in a little tighter, and then grouping them into a C shape, which yielded many one-timer goals that found holes in the netminders…
But before that C-shaped drill got underway, Bedard made sure to engage in the skaters in several different ways. First, skaters worked two lateral passes from the half boards to a shooter in the slot, standing halfway between the hash marks and the tops of the crease (i.e. in tight), who had to fire those consecutive passes at the net, and then the shooter received a third pass from the opposite side of the net, which yielded either two quick forehand shots and a backhand one, or two quick backhand shots and a forehand one, forcing both the shooters and goalies to react to the different angles which they were receiving passes from and to recover quickly.
Then the C drill required players to spin and shoot as they received a pass from a coach below the goal line, not simply to shoot, which can throw both the shooter and goalie’s respective angles off…
And then the players worked the blocker and glove hand sides of the ice while the shooting player would receive one pass from Keith McKittrick, planted at the faceoff dot the shooter had started near when coming off the half boards, he’d have to skate laterally about halfway between the dots and blueline, give the puck back to a player standing on the other half wall, get it back and then shoot, with that player on the other half wall becoming the next shooter in the drill.
Things got even more complicated—for the goalies—when Bedard and McKittrick planted one player at each faceoff dot and one in the slot, and one of the three players could shoot a pass from below the goal line immediately, with the goalie starting out standing at the post nearest to Bedard or McKittrick, The players then had to make at least one lateral pass before shooting…
And the goalie drills ended with Ye Olde jam everyone in front of the crease and see whether you can jam the puck behind the goalie drill.
When Andy Weidenbach took over, I assumed that he’d emphasize more edge-work…
Instead, he started things out by planting one player at the blueline and another player at the half boards.The blueliner would fire the puck up to the player at the half boards, who would charge back toward the blueline, circle the blueliner—with the puck facing away from the blueliner, essentially facing the shooter to spin—and then skate in to the faceoff dot and shoot. Weidenbach added a wrinkle by placing another player halfway between the blueline and the slot, and that player would offer a give-and-go option for the shooter, who still had to drive the wide lane, and soon there was a third pass in play to force players to spin and pivot properly while skating at full speed.
Drill three? Um…
Both bluelines: player goes to left cone, circles back, gets pass, circles through right cone, shoots. Or through left cone. All with next player in line temporarily shadowing the figure 8 player as he turns away after receiving the pass and goes to the net. REALLY smart.
In other words, the “shooter” in this drill performed a figure 8 while being shadowed, all after taking a pass from the blueline, as he circled both faceoff dots by the player who would succeed him in the drill and receive another pass, being “shadowed” by the next “shooter.”
Player @ half boards has to spin a full revolution around 2 players near faceoff dot, including last player to perform drill and shoot.
So it’s spin clockwise around person 1, counterclockwise around person 2, shoot
Player down low at goal line passes twice to a player who takes pass near blueline, circles 180 and walks backward before laterally walking along the blueline and firing.
This is just a smart drill because guys might as well work on a little lateral mobility as well as looping back, and there really is a circle motion where you either pivot or hockey stop and have to spin back in a quick manner.
That was that. Using one’s edges and attempting to protect the puck in dynamic situations worked more than well enough, and when you toss in shadowing and having to take multiple passes while attempting to conserve one’s momentum and, as Weidenbach had stated and re-stated, keeping one’s shoulders level and one’s body weight placed over his center of mass with the upper body loose all adds up to being able to execute these kinds of drills without gassing yourself.
The players seemed to get it, too, and that was very encouraging.
When Jim Paek and Jiri Fischer took over almost twenty minutes later, he continued some “looping” drills, with two defensemen chasing down a dump-in executing a defense-to-defense pass and skating up the other way toward three forwards waiting at center ice. All five men charged up the other way, and the forwards were expected to make two passes before shooting.
Soon, goaltenders were handling the dump-ins as well.
After a session at the white board, players executed 3-on-2’s with a coach lurking in the offensive zone, ensuring that after the 3 forwards had gotten their shot off or the 2 defenders had cleared the puck, there was a second loose puck given to the forwards, requiring an immediate re-set.
Then 2 forwards and one defender would attempt to retrieve a dump-in at one end of the ice, roar up the other way, and when the two forwards got to the net? One was expected to transform into a defender and tie up his teammate and/or screen the goaltender…sometimes after executing a forward-to-forward pass!
In a very, very, very similar drill, instead of tying up his former teammate, that second forward-turned-defender was asked to “box out” his opponent using his body, positioning it between the attacking player and the net…
And the next two drills involved three forwards charging after a dump-in against three, skating up the other way once they’d snagged the puck, and then finding themselves facing two extra defenders…While the attacking team’s numbers would be bolstered by two defensemen who folded into the drill. The drill began with the three attacking players chasing and being allowed to successfully retrieve the dump-in, and the drill ended with a goal or save.
Paek switched things up by having 2 defenders and a forward execute a breakout against 3 opponents…With two forwards folding in…and the defensemen would then peel off and take part in a drill going the other way as “forwards.”
But things got back to basics as five men were placed in the offensive zone as follows…
1 F at net 1 F down low 1 F along half wall 1 D at side of blueline who walks to middle 1 D at other side of blueline who should pinch and eventually does
Or, in other words, the players had to work on taking a puck from the half boards back to the right defender, who would walk toward the middle of the blueline, ideally, anyway, with his teammates all rotating into proper position to support him and shift position to maximize passing opportunities. The defender who had the puck could do pretty much whatever he wanted once he went laterally, yielding a 5-on-0, but goals, saves or plain old whistles stopped the drill…
And as someone who’s watched the big club play, I didn’t like the fact that the “second defenseman,” the one without the puck, didn’t cheat in a little bit to give his partner another “out” while standing a little closer to the net and a little closer to a supporting forward either in the slot or cheating toward the far boards…
But hey, they’re prospects.
In terms of my observations on a prospect by prospect basis, very quickly given that the next group gets on the ice in about 25 minutes:
Willie Coetzee #45: Willie’s had a great camp. He’s still got some physical bulking up to do, but he’s a skilled, sneaky sniper who’s a wonderful skater and he can deke and dangle with the best of ‘em. He’s got to establish himself as a scorer at the AHL level this season.
Brent Raedeke #47: Raedeke is a meat-and-potatoes grinding center, but again, at the most surprising times, he asserts himself as someone who can more than keep up with his fellow skilled forwards.
Trevor Parkes #37: Up and down winger, up and down camp. He started incredibly strongly and he’s had his moments of brilliance, but the power checking winger had a rough day doing drills. He’s a great big body and he’s a great big skater for such a big body, but he’s got to get more consistent.
Andrej Nestrasil #49: Andrej didn’t skate due to his sprained ankle. I hope he can play in the scrimmage tomorrow.
Riley Sheahan #15: Great work ethic, excellent skating, up-the-middle center’s aplomb with a strong shot, but he’s still raw in spots and he definitely needs seasoning. He’s a big bruiser when he wants to be.
Landon Ferraro #41: Like Coetzee, he needs to establish himself as a scorer at the AHL level, and he needs to bulk up, but Ferraro’s skills are more high-end in the goal-scoring department and he’s got a wicked shot. Trying not to get frustrated with himself or any bumps in the road are his biggest issues aside from bulking up.
Andreas Athanasiou #78: My goodness, what a sneaky sniper! He’s improved all week long, and again, his foot speed can’t match Darren Helm’s, but his leg strength and quickness are Helm-like.
Kellan Lain #57*: Very big, very smart, but his hands ain’t great. He’s got more college eligibility and he will use it to work on those hands because he could become a useful checking forward.
Dean Chelios #24*: Dean’s comfort level has grown and he’s starting to look happier and more confident playing with some professional hockey players. He’s not pro ready by any stretch of the imagination, but his speed, work ethic and attention to detail could yield an intriguing little forward to add to the Wings’ lineup one day.
Ted Pletsch #67*: Poor man’s Riley Sheahan skill wise, very good grinder otherwise. I’m starting to think that he could be invited back next year and possibly be offered a contract because he’s a subtly nasty bruiser when he wants to be.
Travis Novak #56*: Didn’t skate, will graduate, probably won’t be back, regrettably.
Julien Cayer #65*: Big grinder hasn’t done enough in my opinion to warrant an invite to the fall prospect tournament, but he may get one anyway as skill drills aren’t the best way for him to showcase his size and strength.
Adam Almqvist #53: So very slick and seamless, an excellent skater, wonderful passer and smart shooter, this puck-moving blueliner may be a dark horse gem the way Gustav Nyquist was a couple seasons ago. But he’s got to mature physically.
Brendan Smith #2: NHL-ready skill wise and NHL-ready between the ears, he’s just got to remember to keep things simple and to not have too much fun out there when his job is on the line. Otherwise he’s gotten into line attitude-wise as the week has worn on and he’s really maturing into a more serious and responsible leader.
Gleason Fournier #46: He had a very good day but remains hands and feet, slick hands and feet with great lateral mobility and not much else as of yet because he’s still underpowered, undersized and inconsistent.
Max Nicastro #58: He’s faded physically due to his lack of playing hockey for half a season, but all the tools are there for him to develop into a big, mean, nasty #5/6 defenseman with a hard shot and solid playmaking skills, and it must be said that he has earned his opportunity to turn pro with the Griffins by displaying a superb work ethic and a wonderful attitude.
Mike McKee #73: He’s faded in an even bigger way, but he’s a giant boy in a Paul Bunyan body. He’s gotten up to speed and his potential is like Nicastro’s if he continues to grow and continues to refine his skills, except that he’s more openly nasty.
James De Haas #74: What a difference a week makes. He’s still undersized and still working on putting his tools in a toolbox, but he is a puck-mover and a speedy skater who’s going to take the long road via the BCHL and then Clarkson University, and there is all sorts of potential locked up in a very level-headed young man.
Thomas McCollum #38: McCollum’s closed up his holes for the most part, his glove has gotten much better, his rebound control is excellent and he knows that his career with the Wings is more or less on the line, but he’s gotten less and less concerned with the pucks that have gotten by as the week has gone on, and he’s built the foundation for a superb prospect tournament and main camp.
Parker Milner #29*: Again, like Jim Bedard told Sarah Lindenau, if the Wings had space…
He’s still got those holes over his glove and blocker hands and he still plays a somewhat outdated “pro-fly style” sometimes, but his lateral mobility is wonderful, his hands are impeccably positioned and he’s all spiky and pointy-edged when providing many blocking surfaces to every shooter who dares attempt to beat him, and yes, he’s got a little, “I can prove ‘em wrong” mentality, but it’s absent anger. He’s a nice kid.
Here are my morning interviews again:
1. Robert Rooba (nice guy):
2. Ted Pletsch:
3. Andreas Athanasiou:
4. Kellan Lain:
5. And here’s Brendan Smith, talking about the bus shenanigans and the tough turnaround time today for creatures of hockey habit:
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.