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Red Wings summer development camp, day 4, afternoon session: short strokes

The Red Wings’ prospects who took part in the afternoon version of today’s skill development and team drills at the Wings’ summer development camp were a wee bit more chipper than those who had to try to sleep off adrenaline after a rousing Tuesday night scrimmage, but the turnaround from heading back to their hotel at 10 PM and trying to get some shut-eye in before their 6:50 AM wake-up call was tough for them…

And it was tough for me, at least in the sleep deprivation category. Running on about two to two-and-a-half hours of sleep, I managed to get through the day via a two-liter of Diet Mountain Dew and remembering that I needed to snag that afternoon interviews necessary to make this trip worth your while…

But my brain is mush this evening, folks, and instead of talking about the drills again—they were exactly the same as the morning’s activities—and instead of pretending that there’s anything particularly rousing about watching kids play street hockey on ice…Well, okay, that was pretty damn cool.

What I can tell you is that by this afternoon, even the Wings’ campers were willing to admit what I am willing to admit to you: this becomes something of a grind, and as wonderful as it is to be here in Traverse City, as amazing as the Wings’ development camp is for the prospects to go through from on-ice and off-ice skill development standpoints, in terms of learning how to train, eat and really behave like would-be professional athletes, and as much time, energy, effort, attention to detail and care the Wings’ coaches, management and support staff pour into each and every prospect’s experience, regardless of whether they’re blue-chip prospects or try-outs who won’t wear another NHL uniform after this Friday’s final scrimmage…

This is a grind, man, it’s a grind. And with one more grueling two-a-day session tomorrow and Friday’s scrimmage on tap, even the players were willing to admit that as awesome as the experience has been for them, they’ll be glad when it’s over.

To some extent, that’s the whole point of a camp like this—it’s about separating the wheat from the chaff by inducing so much mental and physical fatigue that those who stick it out and those who continue to push their on and off-ice performances beyond their conventional envelopes are usually the ones who last in the long run.

But they’re human beings, too, and being pushed and pushed takes its toll. Andrej Nestrasil didn’t skate today because his ankle was sprained during the scrimmage, Travis Novak didn’t work out and even Louis-Marc Aubry, who’s been able to take part in the off-ice activities but hasn’t skated, looked a little more peaked than normal.

That’s not complaining, it’s just the way these things go, and as such, I’m going to give you what I can give you at a time that I’m pretty wonked myself.

Here’s what I thought of the performances of Team Zetterberg‘s players:.

Tomas Jurco #28: Jurco can be maddening to watch very specifically because fans like you and me have been taught to expect that he is somehow both amazingly talented and NHL-ready. Well he is amazingly talented, he works his butt off and he’s a sniper’s sniper, but Tomas needs to grow into his still somewhat wiry frame and he needs to learn how to play against men in the AHL. He just dazzled while jumping over and stickhandling through those sticks attached to tires, flies up ice on breakaways and 2-on-1’s, he can make plays and skate sharply and smartly and snipe snipe snipe, but he’s going to take a few years to figure out how to deke and dazzle against players ten or fifteen years older than he is.

Teemu Pulkkinen #62: As Jim Nill told me, if Pulkkinen could make the big club, he could stay here, but as he probably wouldn’t do much more than play on the fourth line and spend a good amount of time in the press box or weight room as he’s just not physically developed, he’s going back to Jokerit, but it’s almost a crying shame. Everything that has been said about Pulkkinen and all that stuff you’ve seen on YouTube is true and more—to the point that he makes Jurco’s YouTube sensation status look tame by comparison. He stickhandles so very easily, using the entire blade of his stick to deke and dangle without really moving his hands all that much because he’s simply a player aware of his stick like a Datsyuk, he fires these hard shots that gain loft on their own and he is just remarkably diligent in his own end, but he’s not quite there physically and he is not going to be useful at the NHL level unless he can play on an every-night basis.

The good news is that Nill said Jokerit’s released Pulkkinen for the prospect tournament and main camp, just as Brynas IF has released Calle Jarnkrok, and that makes this fall’s activities must-see viewing.

Mitchell Callahan #42: On a day like today, when the drills get very difficult, you can tell which players have been there before, and while Mitchell does not have the same high-end skill that Jurco or Pulkkinen do, he is a bright, bright player and he will get things done to the best of his ability. In his own way he is leading the troops in the same manner that Lashoff and Smith and Raedeke are, and he does so with a smile on his face. He was a little drained after the scrimmage but he stuck it up and played through a sore shoulder as well. Wonderful work ethic.

Alan Quine #59: His playmaking and fleet feet will most certainly earn him a contract, and he dazzled through the stickhandling drills, but there are points where his skating techniques must improve, points where he struggles in battle drills and points where he just looks lean and young, which is what he is. Quine’s a true speedster and a playmaker of the first order, he has great vision and is a superb passer, but he needs time, too.

Marek Tvrdon #60: Tvrdon seemed to come to life during the scrimmage, and he was more active and involved in the drills. I believe he’s going to play his overage season in Vancouver, and there’s still a sense that his all-but-missed draft year is hurting him in the developmental department because his game is just not as complete or as polished as his peers, but he does indeed look like a Tomas Kopecky clone with a much thicker build.

Martin Frk #48: Frk has his ups and Frk has his downs. Frk had some tumbles and Frk made some gorgeous moves as the degree of difficulty increased. Frk also gets frustrated and that is the most frustrating thing about him.

Luke Glendening #72**: Meat and potatoes kind of faded into the scenery, just getting the job done and working hard in the drills. He is sometimes at his best when he is invisible.

Rasmus Bodin #75: I think both Bodin and Tvrdon struggle to some extent because their grasp of English isn’t very good, and Bodin is sometimes off in his own little Swedish world, two weeks from being plucked from a backwoods league where he was running ramp-shod over his opponents. Massive and raw, but very much so a power grinder in the making.

Michael Babcock #70*: I just love his work ethic and I love his hockey IQ. Michael isn’t going to be a high-end skill player, and he really is all of 5’9” and maybe 155 pounds, but he works his tail off and he has not looked out of place despite coming from Catholic Central Novi to a place where Major Junior, NCAA and AHL-level players are competing. His “drivetrain” is familial but his cordial nature and easygoing, sometimes self-depreciating manner are all his own, and they will serve him well as he works very hard to be known by his first name.

Phillipe Hudon #61: Again, a big man in an average-sized man’s body, a power forward by determination, skating speed and strength of will. Another level-headed young man who sometimes does wonderful in drills and sometimes has trouble, but just wants to get “better and better.” He’s fun to watch and fun to cheer for.

Robert Rooba #64*: Big Rooba was very invisible today. He managed to get through the drills but he was thoroughly unimpressive. He’s going to need to go back to Finland and maybe hope that he’s that much better next year.

Brian Lashoff #23: Someone asked me whether I thought he could play for the Wings this year, and my answer was yes, but on a “cup of coffee” basis. Lashoff had a good year in the AHL last season, but he needs to wear a letter on his chest and be thrust into more of a leadership and a higher-ice-time role to truly blossom into the Brad Stuart clone that he’s becoming. That being said, he aced the skating and stickhandling drills and he excelled in the impromptu competition drills, and his offensive aplomb is superb.

Nick Jensen #71: Another player who must have had a long night, Jensen was blazingly fast but occasionally sloppy in the footwork department, working perhaps a little too hard for someone of his talent level at moving the puck through those tires.

Xavier Ouellet #54: Ouellet came alive in the scrimmage as well, and he brought a more determined and more deliberate game to the rink today. He really can move the puck elegantly and he skates smartly and directly toward his destination, displaying a sort of no-fuss-no-muss offensive game that can blend in in the worst ways when he’s invisible and blend in in the best when he just gets stuff done and makes the hard plays look easy. Big brain on those shoulders, great hockey sense.

Ryan Sproul #22: Sproul faded a bit, too, but again, he’s huge, he’s mobile, he’s got a cannon of a shot and he’s physical as can be, and he’s getting much better in terms of his skating and his efficiency at being a big man that doesn’t have to expend the energy of someone even bigger than he already is.

Ben Marshall #50: Marshall dazzled dangling and dekeing and jumping over tires and his presence has been understated. He knows what he’s doing offensively and he can handle himself pretty well physically, but he’s got to grow horizontally as he’s not going to grow vertically.

Richard Nedomlel #3: Again, like Sproul, a very big man who is no longer playing like a gangly goof. He had some trouble in the skating and stickhandling drills but he managed to get through them and he is very serous at working his way into a contract as a big, bruising stay-at-home defenseman.

Gleb Koryagin #77*: Gleb didn’t skate today. He was injured.

Petr Mrazek #34: Mrazek looked pretty good but as a more athletic and emotional goaltender coming off an emotional high and enthusiastic performance, he dimmed a bit. He’s not too thrilled with working on these positional drills all the time, but he needs to squeeze tight a few more of his holes and he needs to look a little less like someone whose vision and flexibility are based upon how well-broken in his gear is, and that is honestly my only complaint about him as a goaltender, other than the fact that he’s a terrible interview because he’s so very even-keeled and easygoing.

Jake Paterson #68: Looking better every day, looking more like a goalie who understands where he’s going to have to grow. This has been a big learning weak for Jake and he is starting to figure out the pace of play and he’s starting to internalize some of the new things he has been taught, and his patience is remarkable at times, but he’s still two-and-a-half weeks from being drafted.

That and he hilariously won the “keep the puck” drill by sticking it between his legs and waiting until his opponents cut each other down, venturing forth to jab pucks away with a poke check before sealing the puck between his skates again. That was hilarious and it showed some brilliance lying within.


Team Lidstrom:

Willie Coetzee #45: Willie has done some hard back-to-backs, and a player trying out a new stick just breezed through the stickhandling and skating drills and did quite a bit of what he did perfectly and with a grin on his face. He’s roaring along and he’s still got to get bigger but to see those legs and hands and brain moving in the same direction can be a sight to see for the ever-so-slightly smallish sniper.

Brent Raedeke #47: Another veteran, familiar with the drills, having a good time and lapping up the Reebok equipment rep’s presence as well as having a good time on the ice. He worked his tail off again and he looked excellent. Strong defensive forward, and maybe his “hockey sense” as a rock-solid defensive forward is reflected in the fact that he picks sticks up off of racks, bangs the heel of their blades on the ground, and knows whether the sticks are “tuned” right for him.

Trevor Parkes #37: Parkes was wonderful and Parkes was terrible. He stumbled through some drills and roared up and down the ice through others. The potential there is vast but the rawness in this power checking winger’s game shows. That being said he huffed and puffed and made sure his skates were pointed in the proper direction.

Andrej Nestrasil #49: He didn’t get to skate but didn’t seem too bummed about it.

Riley Sheahan #15: Again, some ups and downs for someone whose skills, when they’re on, are those of a “power center.” Sometimes Sheahan looks like the man he reminded me he is, someone with both AHL and NHL experience, and sometimes he still looks like a strapping young lad who is a few percentage points away from truly learning how to point that big body at the net and bowl his way to the front of it every time he tries.

Landon Ferraro #41: Landon was also trying out a new stick, but it didn’t hurt him a bit. He skated hard and he skated smartly and he worked hard and his attitude has made a 180 and that’s awesome. He’s still got a lot of growing and bulking up to do, but on a day that many players showed mental and physical fatigue, he was fine.

Andreas Athanasiou #78: When players were supposed to hop one leg over the other to skip over the sticks attached to Tomas Storm’s tires, he jumped with both feet and landed with speed on those sneakily fast feet, still stickhandling and still controlling the puck. He does not have Darren Helm’s speed but he is a natural skater, a natural finisher and a naturally competitive person with a high ceiling if he can find some consistency.

Kellan Lain #57*: Very big, very fast, had some very much so trouble in Storm’s drills because he’s grown into his body but can’t quite control it. Great foot soldier, but i don’t see him inking a contract.

Dean Chelios #24*: Dean shines in stickhandling and skating drills, but he was a bit tired and faded slightly. That being said, he worked hard and he kept up and he focused on making sure he was doing everything right.

Ted Pletsch #67*: He moves along and his skill is good and his skating is all right and he’s a big fellow, but I still don’t quite have a bead on him and that’s terribly frustrating. Is he someone who will quietly earn a contract? I don’t know. I think if he’s got a year of eligibility left, the Wings will let him use it.

Travis Novak #56*: He was injured and down about it for a reason—he’s a senior and he’s graduated. I don’t think he’ll be back, but his attitude and work ethic are going to get him places in life.

Julien Cayer #65*: Cayer faded a bit and had some stumbles and tumbles. He is at his best when his physicality is let loose, and having it bottled back up was hard for Julien to adjust to.

Adam Almqvist #53: Another player who was slightly winded, he still dazzled and moved perfectly through the skating drills, and he really shone in the street hockey-style stuff, where even though he’d lose out because he needs to physically develop, he was relentless and fearless.

Brendan Smith #2: Brendan is bringing it up and after being allowed to show his exuberance in the scrimmage, he backed it up with working his tail off and not half-assing a single drill today. Again, he is here of his own free will and he is the morale officer as much as anything else, but the fact that he bore down upon the details on a day when he could have just breezed through and saved himself a lot of mental as well as physical effort spoke volumes of his maturity. It took a while for him to buy in but he’s no longer on vacation, and that’s excellent.

Gleason Fournier #46: Does wonderfully in skill drills but he was a bit tired and a bit slow. Still all hands and feet and still a work in progress in terms of becoming a classic QMJHL graduate defenseman with offensive flourish and flair. I think he may be headed for another season in Toledo.

Max Nicastro #58: Not having played competitively for half a season showed. He was tired and he gutted it up and worked through it, but he had some rough bits. I cannot fault his work ethic and I do not think anything less of his ability to establish himself as a fiercely physical defenseman. He was sore, too, but he just dealt with it.

Mike McKee #73: Peaks and valleys. Sometimes he gliding around those tires and sometimes he was nearly stumbling over them. He is the boy in a giant’s body and the smile is never absent, nor is his work ethic, but he’s very young and needs to be given some time to grow before we deem him the Uber Meany to Come.

James De Haas #74: On a day that he should have faded he improved. His comfort level has gone up every day and while he is not fully physically developed there are flashes of puck-moving defenseman 101 in him, and he’s a pretty physical fellow, too.

Thomas McCollum #38: Thomas’s biggest flaw is that as his boot channel is so shallow, he is a big goalie with two layers, flat leg pads and body and his glove and blocker hand. That being said, all the holes that popped up during the scrimmage were gone and his glove gobbled up pucks like nobody’s business. On a day when leaders needed to lead, he did just that by playing wonderfully sound fundamental hockey and by working very hard to continue improving his form. He really is starting to internalize all the things he’s learned and he seemed to have a very good day.

He rolled over on his back and made a Hasekian save after having the water bottle popped off behind him, too, so the competitor in McCollum shone through.

Parker Milner #29*: What McCollum does not have, Milner does. His toes stick out sharply from his pads, his pads bend sharply at the knees to give his thighs a blocking surface, his body is bent over and haunched so there’s a gobbling-up surface there, and his hands are held out high and way out in front of him and those arched shoulders, so he is all sorts of pointy blocking surfaces pointed at the puck and moving wonderfully laterally. There are big holes over his shoulders and sometimes through him, but he presents an intimidating front, and I’m starting to believe Jim Bedard’s comment to Sarah Lindenau that it’s a shame that there’s no space left for him.

Sorry that’s not much, folks, but that’s all I’ve got. I need to crawl into bed.

Multimedia, re-posted:

• Here’s my interview with Jim Nill. We talked about the development camp, its various aspects and structure, whether any prospects had stood out, what he’s expecting of the players going forward and yes, we got into discussing the Wings’ free agent signings and talking about Detroit’s desire to wait out the free agent marketplace given that it is incredibly highly likely that free agent defensemen’s agents are asking the same kinds of astronomical compensation that any team which possesses an extra defenseman is surely demanding:

Download file

• Here’s my interview with the surprisingly big James De Haas:

Download file

• I talked to the Wings campers’ morale officer in one Brendan Smith about trying to lead while trying to keep the team loose:

Download file

• I had a good chat with Riley Sheahan:

Download file

• And if his name was Jones, Michael Babcock III would be just as sincere, thoughtful and bright young man as he is while also being the Wings coach’s son:

Download file

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Comments

NickLidstrom's avatar

George,
Huge fan of your write-ups. Love the player assessments. Some very exciting assessments on players such as Jurco, Smith and Pulkkinen in a summer that has been far from it for Wings fans.

Posted by NickLidstrom from a Higher Ground on 07/12/12 at 12:40 AM ET

Avatar

George - Thanks for your continued coverage and comprehensive reports.  I was wondering what you think of Robert Rooba’s chances of getting an entry level contract from the Wings.  I am particularly interested in him (my family is from Estonia).  Two of your assessments on him were pretty complimentary, but your most recent write up (day 4) was not as glowing.  Also, were your “makes signing noises” notes on Rooba (days 2 and 3) your way of saying he might get an offer from the Wings?  I’m a die-hard Detroit fan, and I really was hoping Rooba would do enough to get shine a bit.  If you get a second (though you’re short on sleep), I’d appreciate your thoughts.  Thanks, and keep up the awesome work!

Posted by Ishua on 07/12/12 at 01:36 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

I’m going to watch Rooba as closely as I possibly can today. I’ve tried very hard to get a bead on him and he’s incredibly hard to figure out.

“Makes sighing noises” means that he’s a big, mobile skater, but at least in terms of applying himself on a consistent basis, I haven’t seen him dazzle or shine in any particular aspect, and the language problem is clearly an issue for him.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 07/12/12 at 08:12 AM ET

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Rooba speaks very good English, so the language should not be a problem for him. Actually he can speak 4 different languages - estonian, finnish, english and russian.

Posted by Estonian from Estonia on 07/12/12 at 09:52 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

Well then Rooba pulled a Datsyuk—on the first day, he had Pulkkinen serve as his interpreter to suggest to the media that his English skills were nil.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 07/12/12 at 10:22 AM ET

MoreShoot's avatar

So, George, if Pulkkinen is ready for the NHL in all but strength and endurance, why isn’t he coming to the AHL yet?  Is he not eligible?

Posted by MoreShoot on 07/12/12 at 10:40 AM ET

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Thanks George.  Much appreciated.  Hopefully Rooba will impress a bit more in the final days of camp.  I don’t know how many languages he speaks, just as long as he starts to speak Red Wings.  Thanks again for your awesome coverage!

Posted by Ishua on 07/12/12 at 02:03 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

I got a Rooba interview and he did indeed speak wonderful English:

http://www.kuklaskorner.com/index.php/tmr/comments/more_red_wings_morning_news_and_early_development_camp_day_5_audio/

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 07/12/12 at 02:26 PM ET

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Awesome!  Thanks George.  I just listened to the interview.  He sounds like a level-headed dude.  Hopefully he’ll have a good year in Finland, come back to camp next year, and land a contract with the Wings.  Go Rooba!

Posted by Ishua on 07/12/12 at 05:05 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Watching him is like watching a Lidstrom type player because he can do EVERYTHING well except score, and when you just blend in so seamlessly because your skill level is good, your skating is good, your work ethic is good, your strength is up to par but you can’t score very well, it’s like, “Where the f was this guy all week?”

He’s been there all along, just doing his thing. No frills, no fuss, no muss. He can’t score but he’s keeping up with everyone and his attention to detail is impeccable. He’s just part of the background because his whole game thus far is to be as expertly invisible as he can be.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 07/12/12 at 05:21 PM ET

Hippy Dave's avatar

What a tantalizing view of the future these last few days have been. 

Thanks for the sleep deprivation, man.

Love the multimedia.  It’ll take me days to digest all of it.

Did you try the tostadas at Taco House?

Posted by Hippy Dave from Portland by way of Detroit on 07/13/12 at 03:17 AM ET

Hippy Dave's avatar

Sorry that’s not much, folks, but that’s all I’ve got. I need to crawl into bed.

Are you kidding me?  I can’t believe you were able to keep track of ALL the prospects so closely.  My brainmeats hurt just thinking about how hard that would be.  I wish we had this kind of coverage when the current headliners were paying their dues.

Hope you booked an extra day to get your lake stare on.

Posted by Hippy Dave from Portland by way of Detroit on 07/13/12 at 03:29 AM ET

Avatar

Another informative blog about health … Thank you for sharing it… Best of luck for further endeavor too.

Posted by driveway sealcoating professional on 07/13/12 at 07:37 PM ET

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About The Malik Report

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.