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Red Wings Prospect Tourney- View From the Cheap Seats

Well folks, I'm back from another entertaining Prospect Tourney in beautiful Traverse City.  Gorgeous scenery, interesting people watching and ultra competitive hockey is the name of the game during the Red Wings yearly competition, and this time around was no different.

What was different this year, besides my wife, who is pregnant with our first, living in her own personal hell of being surrounded by wine and being able to drink exactly none of it, was some of the people we ran into around the rink.  Family and friends of the prospects and staff alike were everywhere over the weekend, and we were lucky enough to spend some time with many of them.  We were able to talk to Mrs. Blashill (Jeff's mother) while perusing the gift shop.  We had the pleasure of watching a game with Dylan Larkin's mother, who gave us her insight into some of the pressure her son is dealing with since the draft.  I came across Dan Hinote while waiting for the bathroom, and even though he was in enemy territory he was more than willing to talk hockey for a few.  We even had the opportunity to watch the championship game with Evgeny Svechnikov's brother, who tried to tell us many things in heavily accented English, but mainly wanted us to know exactly how to pronounce his brother's name.

Now that the excitements over and my wife is busy thinking up ways to make me pay for her forced sobriety, I figured Id give my thoughts on some of the Wings prospects.  These are just my personal rantings, so take them for what they're worth.  You're mileage may vary.

ANTHONY MANTHA

It looked like Mantha has figured some things out.  He seems to know exactly where his bread is buttered in the offensive zone, which is in front of the net.  He goes there without fear, and is very effective.  No more floating aroud the o-zone looking to load up the slapper while everyone else does the dirty work.  And with Larkin setting him up, he was even able to show off some of his sniper skills from time to time.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for his defense.  Coach Nelson had him killing penalties, and he looked lost for many of his PK shifts.  He also tended to float back into his own zone, and he was darn right dainty when laying on the body in the corners.  He reminds me a lot of Tree from Mystery, Alaska, a big guy who doesn't know he's a big guy.

DYLAN LARKIN

Larkin is a pro, no doubt about it.  He is an amazing skater with vision aplenty.  His ability to set up his linemates is top notch.  He also has a high defensive accuman, backchecking with tenacity and playing hard in the corners and along the boards.

His biggest problem is mental.  He seemed to get frustrated a little too easily, and would then try and do too much with the puck on his own.  There were long stretches where he seemed to forget that hes not alone on the ice, and would either skate the entire offensive zone with the puck, or try to deke through 3 defenders and lose the puck.  He would eventually snap out of the funk, but it was long enough to notice in 3 of the 4 games.

ANDREAS ATHANASIOU

AA is freaking fast.  No one on the ice, either teammate or opponent, could touch his speed.  Having said that, he opened the tourney in a bit of a rut.  His speed is amazing, but his hands continue to be too slow to keep up with him when he goes all out.  He also seemed very conscious of his defensive responsibilites, which was impressive, but held him back from really demonstrating his offensive skills.

A line change and a couple of hard earned assists later, AA seemed to come around.  He was no longer overskating pucks and blowing scoring chances.  He slowed down enough to make his hands effective and he started driving the play, many times at a pace that opponents couldn't deal with.  And all of this without giving up much on the defensive side of the puck.  If he plays with Larkin in the A this season, it could be a breakout year for him.

TYLER BERTUZZI

Lil Bert is Lil Bert.  Aggressive, hard working, defensively sound and pesky.  He seemed a little lost on his PP shifts, and didnt get much done on the offensive side of the puck this tourney, but he is a dangerous checking forward who has already proven that he has more than a little scoring touch.

TOMAS NOSEK

Nosek is easily the most ready for a shot at the big league.  No matter what line he was on, he carried the play with solid defensive efforts, and suprisingly strong offensive shifts as well.  He is dogged in his pursuit of the puck, and he never seems to try to do too much when on the attack.  There is very little flash to his game, but he seems to be a hard working north-south style player with a nose for the net.

He could easily be the MVP for the Wings prospect team this year.

EVGENY SVECHNIKOV

Evgeny spent the first game of the tourney trying to figure out what type of player he was going to have to be to compete.  He changed from shift to shift, one time trying to play a hard checking, grinding style, and the next doing his best impression of Datsyuk, trying to deke through 2 or 3 defenders with little success.  Slowly but surely he began to blend the two styles and really became a force on the ice.  He is deceptively strong, much like Jurco, and once he figured out how to use that to create space, his hands took over and he got on the score sheet.

He's another players who's biggest problems are going to be mental.  He has all the talents one would want in a top 6 forward, but he often thinks he can do it all by himself and it cost him scoring chances on several occasions.

And know matter how hard I tried, I don't think I ever pronounced his name to his brother's approval.

ADAM MARSH

I really didn't get to see much of him.  Whether he didn't get many minutes overall, or I was focused on other players, Marsh just didn't stand out.  What I did notice was that he seemed to be more of a playmaker than the goalscorer he is touted to be.  On several shifts he made fairly accurate passes to teammates in the o-zone, but I kept watching for him to go to the net or set up for a slapper, but it just didnt seem to be his game.

On the plus side, he didn't seem to get flustered at all, and was no slouch on the defensive side of the puck either.

DOMINIC TURGEON

Dominic is a solid defensive forward.  He is always positioned well to defend in the neutral zone, and backchecks with enthusiasm.  He isnt overly aggressive or strong, but he is solid on his skates and uses his stick effectively.

It when he tries to press for offense that the wheels seem to come off.  He seemed to really want to contribute in the o-zone, but he just doesn't seem to have the vision to get much done.  He has no problem entering the zone with the puck, but his passes from there in aren't particularly crisp, and he doesn't seem to have much of a nose for the net.

ZACH NATASIUK

You could almost cut and paste my review for Turgeon and place it here for Zach.  Defensively solid, but maybe a little less solid on his skates than Turgeon.  Many times he would try to lead an offensive drive, only to lose the puck off of his stick or fall over trying to get around a defender.

He is very tough to play against in his own end, and his compete level seems to skyrocket when digging in the corners or along the boards.

JOE HICKETTS

It took a game for Joe to figure out exactly what being a #1 defensmen means at this level.  He started out overthinking his plays, which often made him a step too slow to be effective.  But once he understood what was required, he dug in and played an absolutely great tourney.  He's positionally sound, just as willing to play the body on the PK or muck it up in the corners as he is to man the point on the PP.  He's a smooth passer and has a great point shot that often finds the net through traffic.

The only thing that is going to hold him back is his size.  As willing as he is to play the body, there were several times that he got completely run over by large forwards who barely recognized he was there.

ROBBIE RUSSO

Russo is a solid, no frills dman who looked liked he belonged at the tourney.  Not overly aggressive, but not afraid to bang around in the corners, he was effective in his own end, and his stick checking ability made him solid in the neutral zone as well.  He also has a deceptively hard shot, and uses it well on the PP.  He never seemed to get flustered, which was impressive for a college kid making the jump to this level.

VILLI SAARIJARVI

Ive dreaded writing this one, because I think I might be the only one with a sour opinion of Villi.  To start with a positive, Saarijarvi does well in the offensive zone.  He has an accurate pass and a smooth shot that he can get through to the net on a regular basis.

But man is he tiny, and not a very talented skater.  Forwards took advantage of this multiple times during the tourney, either chipping the puck behind him and breezing by as he tried not to fall over transitioning from backward to forward skating, or just plain running him over.  To be fair, he did figure things out a little bit more as the tourney wore on, but at best I would say that he is a very raw talent.

JAKE PATERSON

Jake played one hell of a tournament, right up until the final game.  As I believe George pointed out, he really seemed to play at the top of the crease and challenged shooters, a change that paid off for him.  He followed the puck well and was able to help out the defense with his adequate puck handling.  Up until the final game, I would have said that he was by far the MVP for the team, and probably the best goalie in the competition.

Unfortunately, he gave up a couple of softies when his team was dealing with and injury (Mantha) that saw the lines get shaken up, a time when they really needed him to help weather the storm.  The loss was absolutely not his fault, but he just wasn't as solid and steady as he was in the 3 prior games.

THE TRYOUTS

In my opinion, aside from Polei's dismantling of Jardine in the Chicago game, none of the tryouts stood out in any significant way.  The lack of experience from the defensive tryouts was a major reason for the teams struggles in the championship game.  Also, once Nosek was taken off of a line that saw him play with Polei and Betz, both of those players faded into the woodwork.   Etchegary and Verrier, while very willing to play the body, seemed to skate with reckless abandon on some shifts and didnt attempt to compete within the Wings system, leaving their shifts feeling very chaotic.

I would say that becuase of his solid, no frills play and his mean streak, Polei is the only one worth taking note of.

And as a side note, Mattias Janmark is going to be giving Wings fans fits for years to come.  Unless his play during the tournament was a fluke, Ken Holland has yet again traded away a highly talented forward for what amounts to nothing.  While he is going to have to work hard on his defensive game, Janmark was absolutely dominant in the offensive zone, completely dismantling defenses with his passing skills and ability to sneak his way into high percentage scoring chances.  The only upside for Wings fans on this one is that maybe, with the evidence pounded into his memory one goal horn at a time, Holland has finally learned his lesson.

Anywho, thats my 2 cents.  Overall, the Wings had by far the most talented forward group in the tourney, and I can't wait to see how things pan out during training camp.  At worst, it should be a very fun time to be a Griffins fan.

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Comments

TreKronor's avatar

Great write-up; I enjoyed the evaluations.

The Janmark rant is a bit pre-mature though, especially after watching him at a kids tournament.

Posted by TreKronor on 09/16/15 at 05:38 PM ET

Hootinani's avatar

The Janmark rant is a bit pre-mature though, especially after watching him at a kids tournament.

Posted by TreKronor on 09/16/15 at 06:38 PM ET

that may be true, but I would hardly call this a kids tourney.  These are top prospects and some of them are a year or less away from the NHL.  He literally dominated in a class with Kirby Rychel, Dylan Larkin, Robbie Fabbri, etc…

Having said all that, I could be completely wrong.  We shall see.

And by the way, thanks for reading, I appreciate it.

Posted by Hootinani on 09/16/15 at 06:01 PM ET

MOWingsfan19's avatar

Good stuff Hoot.

Posted by MOWingsfan19 from I really like our team on 09/16/15 at 08:22 PM ET

DocF's avatar

It is always good to get another viewpoint.  Tell your dear wife that she is very special in my eyes.  Not just anyone would accompany her husband to a prospect’s tournament while pregnant.  Take care; the season is almost here.

Doc

Posted by DocF from Now: Lynn Haven, FL; was Reidsville, NC on 09/16/15 at 09:12 PM ET

Hootinani's avatar

Tell your dear wife that she is very special in my eyes.

Ill let her know she has sympathizers smile

She definitely deserves some kind of reward for putting up with me, especially around hockey season.

Posted by Hootinani on 09/16/15 at 09:33 PM ET

AxeMaster9's avatar

Very excellent piece and very informative from the point of view we look for here at KK.  Great job and thanks to your wife, she deserves a case of wine when the kiddo comes along.

Posted by AxeMaster9 from Flint, MI on 09/16/15 at 10:23 PM ET

Avatar

Great write up. My wife has been itching to go to Traverse City and I’ve been itching to go to the tournament. Maybe next year we will put those two desires together.

Regarding your analysis, again, it is nice to see another evaluation. I think as fans, we get a little overzealous with some of these prospects. I also found your analysis of Bertuzzi interesting since during the time of your evaluation, Wings management was saying they believe him to be their version of Ondrej Palat. I have a hard time reconciling the evaluations of Bertuzzi that I’ve seen with Palat’s game - unless the comparison is more about the impact they expect him to have on the Wings lineup (and not necessarily scoring or their skillsets).

Regarding Janmark, this is a prospect I think the team undervalued and it has continued to drive me crazy that they leave these prospects across the Atlantic when they’ve shown promise/dominated to some degree in their Euro leagues. Like, Janmark was drafted in 2013 at age 20 (he turned 21 later that year). Yet they let him stew overseas in the SHL where it can be difficult to gauge whether they can bring that same game to North America. It drove me nuts that he wasn’t brought to Grand Rapids to be on the verge of the NHL, rather than tucked away in a league that makes it more difficult to read his game. I have the same beef with Holmstrom and Kadeikin (particularly Kadeikin, since he’s getting next to zero ice time and had previously put up strong points numbers).

I get that Hakan Andersson is a supposed genius but the team can piss away a guy like Janmark who, if they had brought him to GR before last season, may have found out the guy was better than they imagined. It will be very frustrating if Janmark and Jarnkrok are 50 point players in the NHL during the 2016-2017 season, while the Wings got like 35 (total) games out of Cole and Legwand.

Posted by VitoLambruski on 09/17/15 at 09:18 AM ET

Hootinani's avatar

Thanks all for taking the time to read this.  I really appreciate it.

As far as Bertuzzi goes, I would put him in more of a Brad Marchand mold, minus all of the douchebaggery.  I just dont think he has the hands or vision of a Palat, but he makes up for it in work ethic and scrappyness, if thats a word.

The funny thing is I remember watching Palat in the AHL and thinking his line mate Panik was the one that was going to find NHL success because he had a scoring touch and played with no fear, almost a Probert style player.  A couple seasons later and Panik has disappeared into the hell that is Toronto, and Palat is scoring like a madman and playing for a cup.

I guess it shows exactly what my analysis is worth smile

Posted by Hootinani on 09/17/15 at 11:19 AM ET

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