The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/10/11 at 12:28 AM ET
Updated 3x with some morning tidbits at 8:25 AM on Sunday: The Red Wings’ prospects earned themselves an afternoon, intra-squad scrimmage on Sunday, but they may have done so by necessity as much as anything else. Today marked the second of a marathon six-day stretch of split sessions in which one of the “teams” engaged in a spirited set of on-ice drills, and the other spends the same two-and-a-half to three-hour stretch working out with Wings trainer Piet Van Zant, Grand Rapids Griffins strength and conditioning coach Aaron Downey (Chris Chelios was here today, too, tanned and trim as ever).
What do they do while I’m at the rink, watching the on-ice workouts? Well I know that they start by engaging in the kinds of plyometrics exercises that look like bunny-hops and skipping from the rink side of the hallway which separates David’s and Huntington Rinks at Centre Ice Arena, and then they disappear into the workout facility for a while before, so I’m told by the players, anyway, doing dry-land training in “a track” that happens to belong to Traverse City’s Cherry Knoll Elementary School…
And school is what we’re talking about here. Despite the fact that the players get some down time to gobble down trays of pasta and probably sneak in naps somewhere during the 10:30-to-2:30 break between the split on and off-ice sessions, and that they’re pretty much free from 5:30 till what I’m assuming is 10 or 11, they’re woken up at six thirty or seven in the morning and get back to work.
This is, as Brendan Smith put it, a business trip, a trip in which the new Red Wings prospects seem somewhat floored by the complexity and subtleties of the organization’s attention to on and off-ice details in terms of systems of play, skill development, fitness and nutrition, and after the third day of “split sessions” on Sunday…
They and I are only halfway through the development camp. There are going to be three very hard days of work on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before the team holds one final scrimmage on Thursday and heads back to Detroit for a second round of baseline fitness testing and “prescriptions” from the coaching and training staff.
Today was simply the one third mark of a six-day stretch of physically and mentally grueling work for the players, and if it just went on and on through Wednesday without any sort of change-up or shake-up…These youngsters are just that, and while their attention spans are long based upon the fact that they’re learning to get better at what they either do for a living or want to do for a living, the grind tends to wear one down.
Here are the details regarding Sunday’s scrimmage…
RED WINGS PROSPECTS TO SCRIMMAGE IN TRAVERSE CITY
… Team Lidstrom and Team Zetterberg Square Off on Sunday Afternoon at 3:00 p.m. …
Detroit, MI… The Detroit Red Wings today announced that the itinerary for Day 4 (Sunday, July 10) of the team’s Development Camp in Traverse City, Mich. will now include a scrimmage pitting Team Lidstrom against Team Zetterberg. Sunday’s intrasquad battle featuring several veteran Red Wings prospects as well as recent draft picks and free agent camp invitees will begin at 3:00 p.m. at Centre Ice Arena. Fans wishing to attend the match are able to purchase tickets for $5 apiece at the rink’s main entrance. Tomorrow’s morning practices (8:30 – 11:30 a.m.) are also open to the public. The rosters for the two teams of Red Wings Development Camp attendees set to hit the ice on Sunday can be found below:
Goalies: Thomas McCollum, Tyson Teichmann
Defensemen: Brendan Smith, Adam Almqvist, Danny Dekeyser, Max Nicastro, Richard Nedomlel, Ryan Sproul, Brad Walch
Forwards: Brent Raedeke, Gustav Nyquist, Trevor Parkes, Willie Coetzee, Landon Ferraro, Nick Oslund, Adam Estoclet, Dean Chelios, Julian Cayer, Casey Fraser
Goalies: Petr Mrazek, Evan Mosher
Defensemen: Brian Lashoff, Sebastien Piche, Travis Ehrhardt, Nick Jensen, Brian Rufenbach, Xavier Ouellet, Artem Sergeev, Jake Chelios
Forwards: Tomas Jurco, Louis-Marc Aubry, Mitch Callahan, Travis Novak, Brooks Macek, Alan Quine, Marek Tvrdon, Philippe Hudon, Zach Franko, Jesse Fraser
The Red Wings’ 2011 Prospect Development Camp will continue next week with on/off-ice sessions taking place in Traverse City Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (8:30 – 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 – 4:30 p.m.). This year’s camp wraps up on Thursday, July 14 with another intrasquad scrimmage as well as a skills competition (8:30 – 10:00 a.m.). More information on Traverse City ’s Centre Ice Arena can be obtained by visiting www.centreice.org.
As well as the rosters of the “teams,” again, for reference purposes…
38 Thomas McCollum
66 Tyson Teichmann*
2 Brendan Smith
32 Adam Almquist
64 Danny Dekeyser*
42 Max Nicastro
15 Richard Nedomlel
62 Ryan Sproul
3 Brad Walch*
47 Brent Raedeke
14 Gustav Nyquist
60 Trevor Parkes
70 Willie Coetzee
58 Landon Ferraro
58 Nick Oslund
68 Adam Estoclet*
24 Dean Chelios*
63 Julien Cayer
45 Casey Fraser*
Injured: Gleason Fournier
34 Petr Mrazek
31 Evan Mosher*
25 Brian Lashoff
54 Sebastien Piche
27 Travis Ehrhardt
56 Bryan Rufenach
61 Xavier Ouellet
75 Artem Sergeev*
77 Jake Chelios*
28 Tomas Jurco
53 Louis-Marc Aubry
65 Mitchell Callahan
71 Travis Novak*
50 Brooks Macek
74 Alan Quine
29 Marek Tvrdon
73 Phillipe Hudon
72 Zachery Franko*
49 Jesse Fraser*
Note: Players with an * next to their names are try-outs.
And while I’d love to go into the little intricacies of how this afternoon’s drills varied from my mid-day reports’ worth of schoolteacher-like descriptions of said drills, with Jim Bedard engaging the forwards a little more—it occurred to me that just as he’s teaching goaltenders how to stop pucks, Bedard may or may not be giving shooters tips on how to spot holes in goalies’ techniques and catch ‘em cheating, and it does show in the players’ ability to “finish” on their goalies as time goes by—and forcing goalies to look through a forest of what we used to describe as legs and Sher-Woods to find shooters lurking, or that there were tweaks to Tomas Storm and Andy Weidenbach’s stickhandling and skating drills…
It’s come to my attention that you might want a little bit of a change-up, too, and that “Team Zetterberg” hasn’t got the talking-up that “Team Lidstrom” has.
This is true in no small part due to the fact that Team Zetterberg is a little younger, so I’m simply not as familiar with some of the new guys and/or tryouts, and it’s also due to the fact that these teams have started to take on personalities.
Team Lidstrom’s leadership group includes Thomas McCollum, Brendan Smith, Landon Ferraro, Gustav Nyquist and Brent Raedeke, a rather outgoing bunch who, thanks to Smith’s presence, play a pretty darn physical game at times, and they have more than a few cohorts in banter in the outgoing Willie Coetzee, Trevor Parkes, Nick Oslund, first-timer Ryan Sproul and a real character of a guy in Danny Dekeyser. They’re the locker room where there’s yelling and goofing around after on-ice sessions as guys play soccer and talk shiznit with each other and goof around.
Team Zetterberg’s ran by a classically Red Wings-like quiet leader in Brian Lashoff, an equal member of the no-frills club in the subtly funny Travis Ehrhardt, and aside from Mitchell “Mr. Personality” Callahan, who was bent over from either a sore back or exhaustion (probably both) after grinding it out in today’s particularly taxing drills, the team’s simply quieter and a little more businesslike. When the shift-disturber that is Sebastien Piche in the locker room (yap yap yap, life of the party, which is a good thing in his case) and the ever-affable Callahan have no equals, and the number of try-outs and first-timers goes 8-to-5, they’re just…They’re quieter, on the ice and off.
So for the sake of shaking things up on a Saturday night, let’s see what I can do to tell you about what I’ve seen from the younger, quieter guys on “Team Zetterberg,” and in terms of the try-outs, I’ll be blunt: RedWingsCentral’s Sarah Lindenau did such a fantastic job of profiling the players on her Left Wing Lock blog that the Wings’ hand-out to the public doesn’t stack up.
Petr Mrazek, goalie: I finally got to talk to Petr today, and the Ottawa 67’s goaltender is both light years away from the rake-thin youngster who could barely speak English last summer at this time, light years closer to being the Wings’ “other” goalie of the future not named McCollum or Pearce, and mostly, he’s the same in all the right senses of the term.
Mrazek remains an effective, if a bit compact, hybrid goaltender who simply naturally knows how to cover more net than his 6-foot tall, probably now reliably 170-lb frame should. He gets across the net well (albeit with a little more motion in the upper half of his pads than you might want), his glove hand is superb, his blocker is no longer lazy, he remains square to the shooter and he’s no longer the kind of goalie who’s full of holes when you spin him around and expose the non-puck-blocking aspects of his game. He’s still got some chinks in his armor in terms of concentration and fit and finish, but he’s miles ahead of where he was last year physically, you can see his maturity evidenced in the way that he’s calmed down a bit in the net and he’s just a hard-worker who is fundamentally sound and had a dominant season in Ottawa for a reason. He is on his way up, both in the OHL and within the Wings’ depth chart, and he’s earning his opportunity.
Evan Mosher, goalie, try-out: A 20-going-on-21-year-old Newfoundlander who played for Andrej Nestrasil’s PEI (Prince Edward Island) Rocket, Mosher’s stats and about .500 winning percentage don’t do him justice, but the six-footer who does indeed weigh his listed 186 pounds can best be described by the league he plays in—Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He’s the consummate Quebec Butterfly Goaltender of the J-S Giguere/Francois Allaire/Marc-Andre Fleury school and/or cookie-cutter machine.
That’s why it’s so damn hard for me to figure him out, other than to tell you that his glove hand is too high and tucked too tightly into his body, and that his blocker hand tends to ride high as well, and that his lateral mobility is fantastic when compared to the still-growing-into-his-body Tyson Teichmann’s, but at the same time, Teichmann’s more effective swimming in his gear and growing into his body at times than Mosher is despite his flawless technical game.
He’s a very solid goaltender, but on a team that doesn’t have much personality, this goaltender’s game is so stock that it’s going to take me all week to try and get a good read on him, and while I’m no Jim Bedard, I did play goal once upon a time. Mosher’s junior eligibility is over with so he’s got to find a place to play.
Brian Lashoff, defense: There is nothing to not like about Brian Lashoff, on or off the ice. The soft-spoken 6’3” behemoth of a man is a no-frills, rock-solid, physical defenseman of the Brad Stuart/Bob Rouse/Swiss Army Knife variety. He doesn’t have Stuart’s offensive pedigree from his junior days, but Lashoff’s a good skater for a big man, his positioning is impeccable, he’s got a great poke check, good outlet pass, hard and accurate shot, he competes like a bear and he is one of the few 20-going-on-21-year-olds (he turns 21 on the 16th) I’ve met who play defense and understand that the simple play is the best play 100% of the time. Steady, solid, level-headed and, when necessary, rough and tumble. The kid’s without a doubt Team Zetterberg’s leader and he is without a doubt going to at least wear an “A” in Grand Rapids in short order.
Unlike Mosher, perhaps, Lashoff is the kind of unremarkable player whose substance makes you want to take out the “un.” If his offensive touch can get just a wee bit better, we might really be talking about another Bob Rouse or Brad Stuart lurking in the AHL.
Sebastien Piche, defense: Piche frustrates me. Yappy, energetic, outgoing, enthusiastic and sometimes dramatic, at 23 years of age Piche remains an undersized defenseman who has the skating, shooting, passing and playmaking abilities to be a way better player than he is, and I don’t really know why he’s someone who’s probably ticketed for the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye once again. He’s got all the tools but doesn’t seem to know how to put them together, and while he’s not as high-end talented as the equally frustrating Willie Coetzee, he’s pretty close when he’s on and interested. He works hard, he talks to the coaches and he’s well-liked by his teammmates but he’s somewhere between the Brett Lebda who the Wings had as a rookie and the Brett Lebda who’s going to sit on the bench in Nashville, except that Piche’s 5’10” instead of 5’8.”
Travis Ehrhardt, defense: Your utterly classic stay-at-home, depth defenseman who’s not going to give you any offense, not going to raise any eyebrows and won’t wow you with anything other than the occasional thundering hit, with none of Lashoff’s size (Ehrhardt’s about six feet and a 200 pounds, but he’s all ripply underneath his jersey) but quite a bit of substance in his own right. Ehrhardt is a blue-collar defenseman and while more than a few Griffins rookies and sophomores rode the Toledo shuttle last season, Ehrhardt stayed in the Griffins’ lineup for a reason—whether you’ve got him on the ice for five minutes or twenty, he’s gonna go out there and be Larry the Cable Guy, gettin ‘er done. His passing and shooting are good enough to keep up with the Wings, as is his skating, but he’s a brick and mortar kinda guy. You have him as your #6/7 defenseman and he goes out there and just refuses to make a mistake.
Bryan Rufenach, defense: Hoo boy. The Wings gave Rufenach a try-out as the still-slightly-small defenseman with the perpetual scowl headed to Toledo and posted a pair of assists in six games for the Walleye, but someone who was once regarded as a “Brett Lebda the Wings had as a rookie with room to grow” has until August 15th to land a contract with the big club, and while he’s finally filled out and is no longer getting beat in battles along the boards, and while his skating’s excellent and he’s some playmaking savvy, he hasn’t stuck out and I hope that the Wings see something in him that I don’t, because after four years of college he’s still an unfinished product.
Xavier Ouellet, defense: One of three members of the Montreal Juniors on the development camp roster (along with Louis-Marc Aubry and Trevor Parkes), sometimes you can see why the Wings snagged Ouellet in the latter half of the second round and sometimes you can see why the Wings were able to snag Ouellet in the latter half of the second round. Is he a puck-possession defenseman whose passing, shooting and ability to make plays are Red Wings-style good? Yup. Is he a good skater whose head is up most of the time and is ready to make that first pass? Yep. Is he still a little young and a little bit underpowered? Oh yeah. Two weeks after the Wings drafted him, the young man who posted 33 assists and doesn’t turn 18 until the end of this month fits somewhere between Lashoff and Smith in the “upside” department, but he’s only two weeks in.
Artem Sergeev, defense, try-out: Sarah Lindenau couldn’t find much on him, I can’t find much about the Val-d’Or Foreurs defenseman who’s six feet tall and definitely a solid 205 pounds and posted 22 assists over 64 games, his first in North America, but he’s a puzzling player. He’s got that Russian “slickness” in terms of his polished skating, his hard shot, superb passing skills and strong positioning, and he is strong, but sometimes you think, “Ah, there’s a classically skilled Russian defenseman” and sometimes he disappears. His English wasn’t fantastic, either, so I’m hoping his French was.
There’s skill and strength and a riddle wrapped in an enigma there.
Jake Chelios, defense, try-out: Jake is the bigger and stronger Chelios brother and he’s the grittier one, too, but at the same time, the Chelios who is a little happier to smear out his opponents is a little more comfortable in his own skin. Chelios is slick, slick slick slick, in his skating, stickhandling, passing, shooting, you name it, he does it smoothly. His positioning is excellent and you can see why Michigan State relies on him as something of a swing man, a la Mathieu Dandenault. That being said, for a 20-year-old who works out with you know who, Jake’s still growing into his body and he still doesn’t have the kind of strength that he needs to get past the NCAA level, nor has he quite gotten together all the elements of his game on a consistent enough basis that you know that he’s more than the “smooth-skating kid” who blends into the scenery.
That’s the thing with both Jake and Dean, who’s more of a slick forward—just as Landon Ferraro can’t be judged upon what his dad did as an NHL’er, even as Chelioses, Jake and Dean are just Jake and Dean, and Jake’s got two more years to get more consistent, get a little stronger and find his way. He might not reach the NHL but he’ll succeed in what he does. Neither of the pair are that media-friendly (kind of like their dad) but it’s very evident that they’re hard-workers who are doing their best to succeed at hockey as nothing more and nothing less than themselves.
Tomas Jurco, forward: I know, he’s “Tomas Jurco, the Magician.” Tomas Jurco of YouTube fame. Tomas Jurco who comes from the same big factory in Slovakia where they make
, Marian Hossa, Tomas Kopecky and Marian Gaborik—and he does skate with that same damn wide-legged stride, he’s a deker and dangler who likes to toe drag (Slovakia may be home of the “toe curve”) and yes, even at this point, I’d suggest that the Wings have, at the very least, a less physical but nonetheless rich man’s Tomas Kopecky at this point…
He’s 18, he’s gangly and he’s inconsistent, just like the scouting reports said. Sometimes he’s Jurco the Magician and sometimes he’s just Jurco the 18-year-old kid whose elite skills and typically Slovakian 6’2” frame disappear because he’s young and learning. He’s a really studious fellow, he doesn’t act like he’s a big deal (for someone with such slick skills, I think it’s very important to note that yes, he has a healthy ego, but it’s more like the kind of ego that his hero has than anything else, very understated and, “Aw shucks, I work very hard, thank you”), he listens to his coaches and is trying to take as much to heart both on and off the ice as he possibly can, but he’s learning.
Are his passing, playmaking, especially goal-scoring, vision and skating in the, “He could be elite if he fills out and manages to find some consistency” vein? Hell yes. He’s only missing the bag of potato chips in the “all that” department.
But just like that big moose of a power forward in the making the Wings drafted last summer in Riley Sheahan, he’s kinda stunned by his status as a media darling for being the Wings’ first round draft pick, and like Tomas Tatar was two years ago, he’s floored that he’s a Red Wing.
Give him time and hope that the notoriety that hasn’t changed him as of yet doesn’t change him in the future, because with time and patience and the understanding that he’s going to be inconsistent as he keeps learning, I think he’s going to turn out pretty darn well. Not the next Pavel Datsyuk, but at least a better-scoring version of Tomas Kopecky, and that’s a pretty bold and/or stupid proclamation on my part all of three days into watching him play.
And yes, he’s called “Jerk” or “Jerks,” but with the “J” sounding like a “Y,” it’s more like “Yurk.”
Marek Tvrdon, forward: Tvrdon is also a Slovak forward who’s 6’2” and has a rather large wingspan to fill out (he’s not as physically developed as Jurco, and Jurco’s got a ways to go to begin with), but between the fact that he can barely speak English (Jurco is his translator) and the fact that he was injured for so much of the year after major reconstructive shoulder surgery, I can see why he slipped to the fourth round and I can see why the Wings had to show some chutzpah to draft him.
He does come out of the same factory that built Jurco and he does show similar flashes of that wide-legged skating stride, superb shot, simpler but no less efficient stickhandling and passing and a well-rounded game with perhaps a little more defensive flair than Jurco, but he’s still getting his sea legs. I’m trying to keep my eye on him but I don’t think that anybody will know what the Wings have until the prospect tournament and/or the main camp in the fall at the earliest. His shoulder is fine, definitely, but the rest of him missed almost a full year of hockey and needs to catch up, mentally and physically.
Brooks Macek, forward: Grr. The Wings drafted Macek a year ago, hoping that the speedy, undersized right-shooting center would have some stability and further develop his superb speed and playmaking ability, but Macek ended up getting traded halfway through the season and he never really hit his stride. Thusly, the Wings have an undersized forward who’s speedy, is a great playmaker, can at least pick the goalposts with a ridiculous regularity, who’s got oodles of potential and doesn’t seem to be able to display Ferraro-like tendencies in anything other than fits and spurts.
Frustrating to watch. He is 19 and has a very, very important season ahead of him going into a “contract year.”
Travis Novak, forward, try-out: Initially, the Wings brought the small and slight forward who can skate like the wind and occasionally finish pretty darn well in from Saint Cloud State University because they’d seen him while watching Nick Oslund (who, like Rufenach, has until August 15th to make his case for a contract) play, and they’ve brought him back because while his statistics aren’t super and, as Lindenau noted, he got hurt and might be lucky to be playing, period, the SCSU senior and 22-going-on-23-year-old is, to some extent, all hands and feet and nothing else…He works really hard, skates really fast, keeps up in the muck-and-grind drills and fits in with the team’s style of play. He can keep up. Whether that means that he can take a year of college eligibility and turn it into 20 pounds and a great offensive campaign and a contract with an NHL team or not remains to be seen, but the fact that he can keep up is pretty darn cool.
Jesse Fraser, forward, try-out: I don’t know how Curt Fraser kept his cool today, because halfway through the team drills, his son took a high stick to the face and left the ice quickly, needing a towel to stop some bleeding. But as Curt Fraser’s a hockey coach, he barely glanced his son’s way and went on diagramming a drill.
Both Jesse and Casey don’t really have any chance of landing with the Wings, but the liberally-listed 5’11,” 185-lb winger (see: with his gear on) does what his brother does. The kids work their asses off, they’re treated the same as the Jurcos and Chelioses (i.e. they receive no quarter), they keep up with the prospects for the most part and when they’re at their best, they don’t display the identity which their dad insists they’re called—“really bad draft picks.”
Regardless of whether they’re late-bloomers who will have pro careers or whether they can say that they’ve skated in summer camps with some of the Wings’ top prospects, it’s all icing on the cake, and given their easygoing and playful on-ice demeanors and the character of the person who’s coaching them this week, I think they’re going to be just fine regardless of where hockey takes them.
Zachery Franko, forward, try-out: I’m struggling to get a handle on Franko, but the fact that he’s one of Mitchell Callahan’s teammates from the Kelowna Rockets says one thing, and the fact that he posted 22 goals, 31 assists and 53 points in 72 games as a 18-year-old Major Junior Hockey rookie, all while standing about 5’11” and maybe 170 pounds, says something. He’s definitely got some serious skills with and without the puck, he’s a solidly speedy skater and he’s got a sniper’s touch, but I’ve seen him for three days all I can tell you is that he’s another classically talented, undersized forward who might get a shot because the Wings’ scouts gave him a try-out while watching one of his teammmates (see: Gleason Fournier, Trevor Parkes) play.
Phillipe Hudon, forward: Gigantic and raw like steak that’s been on the grill for thirty seconds. He’s listed at six feet and 190 pounds but he is just all frickin’ v-shaped torso and big hips and all that stuff that makes the ladies swoon in terms of his physical build with lots of room to grow, he’s got evident flashes of a power forward’s strength, tenacity, willingness to muck and grind along the boards, go to the net and play a hard game while scoring goals or just check the hell out of his opponents, but as Wings pro scout Mark Leach told RedWingsCentral’s Matthew Wuest, Hudon played high-school hockey last season and is going to Cornell, and he’s gonna need all four years to build a toolbox for the screwdrivers, hammers and chisels that he’s carrying around. That and he kicks his damn leg out when he shoots so everybody knows when he’s winding up.
Alan Quine, forward: Okay, so let’s get this out of the way: he is not the second coming of Darren Helm. He might be 5’11” and he might be as filled out as he’s going to get at 183 pounds, but he’s not Darren Helm fast without the puck, nor with it. He’s more like Kris Draper, circa today fast—pretty fast, but not exactly a supercar on skates. What Quine can do is skate just as fast with the puck as he can without it—if not faster. He’s still stringbean-y, inconsistent, and as up and down as his season was between his stint with Kingston and his trade to Mickey Redmond’s Peterborough Petes, but he’s slick in terms of his stickhandling, passing and shooting, he likes to try to skate through people instead of around them, squeezing by instead of going the long way around, and when he had loads of trouble with the stickhandling-while-pushing-off-on-one-knee drills during Tomas Storm’s session with the players, Jiri Fischer started to talk to him and Quine didn’t bat an eyelash, talking to Fischer, getting a little help from Jim Paek, asking and making sure that he was doing things right. That’s an excellent sign for an 18-year-old who’s been with the team for two weeks. There was no fear factor there, just, “I can’t quite get this and I need to know how to do it properly.” That’s the kind of thing you want to see, and he and Jurco have been very proactive in that department.
Ryan Sproul is a big, raw defenseman with oodles of potential and he’s also one of the fastest undressers I’ve ever crossed paths with in a locker room, so I had to bug him while he was taping sticks. He was very accommodating and is a really nice young man who thinks that being a Red Wing is awesome:
Artem Sergeev did his best to talk to me despite a limited grasp of English:
Alan Quine left a really good impression:
And Petr Mrazek was nuts. The good nuts. He asked me to let him take his knee pads of, and then he walked me to the far (quiet) end of the locker room, shook hands, genuinely seemed happy to talk to me and gave a great interview. Not only is this a good example of the fact that the Wings draft some really nice young men, but also an example of how very far someone can grow up and find their comfort zone in a year:
Also of prospect camp-related note: While I was watching drills wrap up in the afternoon, Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji and the Free Press’s George Sipple spoke to Gustav Nyquist by one of the prospects’ locker rooms. As Nyquist told Wakiji, he’s hoping to join the NHL’s “Swedish team” one day despite the fact that there aren’t many Swedish prospects left in the pipeline—just Nyquist, Adam Almqvist, Daniel Larsson, Dick Axelsson and Mattias Backman, and only Almqvist made it up to Traverse City with Gustav:
“It feels a little weird actually,” Nyquist said with a laugh after Saturday’s morning session. “We’re used to having a lot of Swedes in this organization. At least it’s fun to have one Swede with me. That’s good.”
Nyquist is the better known of the two, having played college hockey for the University of Maine. Nyquist, the Wings’ fourth-round pick in the NHL Entry Draft in 2008 (121st overall), accomplished pretty much everything you could as a college hockey player. He was a Hobey Baker finalist as a sophomore and junior and led the team in points in each of his three seasons at Maine. So Nyquist decided to forgo his final season and turn professional, signing a two-year, entry-level contract in March.
“It’s a new challenge,” Nyquist said. “I’m excited for it, it’s going to be fun. College was a great experience for me, best three years of my life so far. But this is a new chapter and I thought it was good to get some experience in last year when I played the last eight games there with Grand Rapids and kind of get a feel for what’s coming. It’s going to be a fun year.”
Nyquist readily admits that turning pro and taking part in a full 80-game season in the American Hockey League will be a challenge and a half:
“It’s going to be a little different,” Nyquist said. “They’re a lot bigger than college guys. We’re playing against men now and obviously in the corners and in front of the net it’s a lot tougher and rougher. A little bit more organized, too. I feel like college is a little bit more back and forth, chances all the time. This is a little bit more organized. You don’t want to turn the puck over at certain places. It’s going to be new but I’m excited for it.”
Down the line, of course, Nyquist does want to work his way up to the “Swedish team”...
“That’s obviously my goal,” he said. “I’m going to work as hard as possible to get there as soon as possible. It just requires hard work from me. I’m going to have to hit the weights a lot and get bigger and kind of adjust to the pro game, just work hard to reach my goal to play for Detroit.”
But Griffins coach Curt Fraser suggested to Sipple that in the long run, Nyquist will do just fine, and it only took an eight-game pro try-out to prove it:
“He was arguably our best player,” Griffins coach Curt Fraser said. “Great skills, good skater. He’s improved a lot in his skating. He’s just one of those kids that makes things happen. You notice him out on the ice every time he’s there.”
Opposing college teams certainly took notice of Nyquist after he led the nation in scoring as a sophomore in 2009-10 with 19 goals and 42 assists in 39 games. He lost out to Wisconsin’s Blake Geoffrion for the Hobey Baker Award, which goes to the best player in college hockey.
“I think Gus was the best player in the nation two years ago, really,” said Jiri Fischer, the Wings’ director of player development. “He made the decision not to make the step to the pros, which I thought was very smart. He still had a few things to learn - leadership, managing his emotion on the ice. He worked on his skating, got stronger. He’s ready now.”
Nyquist grew as a player last season but his team failed to reach the NCAA tournament after being swept by Merrimack in the Hockey East quarterfinals. He finished fifth nationally in scoring with 51 points (18 goals, 33 assists ).
“He went back, and now everybody knew who Gustav Nyquist was,” Fischer said. “In his sophomore year it was different: a kid from Sweden who just happened to be good and caught everybody off guard.”
As Sipple points out, the Black Bears didn’t make the Frozen Four this time around, but Nyquist chose to return to get very close to completing his degree and stay loyal to his teammates as he’d planned on sticking around for at least three seasons:
“I love the guys up at Maine,” Nyquist said. “It was a tough decision to leave, but they have been my best friends for three years. It’s been a great experience at Maine. I can’t thank them enough. We did have a little bit of a disappointing year. We were picked higher than we finished and we wanted to do more with the team we had. Unfortunately we didn’t make the NCAA tournament, which was one of our goals.”
Shifting gears in a big way but sticking with collegiate hockey, the Kalamazoo Gazette’s David Drew reports that new Wings assistant coach Jeff Blashill may have gotten out of college hockey at the right time. The Central Collegiate Hockey Association’s going to more or less disappear as many of its schools will join a Big Ten conference, and the majority of the colleges which made up the Western Collegiate Hockey Association revealed that they’re going to form a new league, leaving Blashill’s Western Michigan Broncos (who play in the CCHA) and the University of Notre Dame without homes as of the 2013-2014 season.
This is a big reason why the CCHA’s former commissioner, Tom Anastos, is now Michigan State University’s coach—he knew which way the wind was blowing;
Speaking of the Wings’ coaching decisions, the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson says that before Mike Babcock settled upon Blashill and Bill Peters, he interviewed the man Paul MacLean replaced in Ottawa:
Former Ottawa Senators coach and Viking native Cory Clouston applied for the Detroit Red Wings assistant coaching job. Clouston was also in the running for junior jobs in Everett and Seattle in the WHL. No real surprise Bill Peters (Chicago Blackhawks AHL farm coach in Rockford, Ill.) was hired by Mike Babcock in Detroit. “They worked in Spokane (junior) together,” said [Tri-City Americans GM Bob] Tory
“Not really in a rush to make a decision one way or another about what’s going to happen,” he said, “but I’ll probably make an announcement in two or three weeks if I want to play or if that’s it.”
The 41-year-old spoke with media members prior to a batting cage session at the Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Frisco, Texas. Modano was taking part in a training camp for Saturday’s Reebok Heroes Celebrity Baseball Game at the same venue.
The former Dallas Stars center said he has been “taking it easy” since finishing the 2010-2011 season with the Detroit Red Wings. The Dallas resident and 21-year NHL veteran said his offseason has been occupied with playing golf and taking vacations.
“As soon as the season was over I had about four or five days to unwind in Detroit and then came back down here,” he said. “I’ve been down here ever since Memorial Day weekend or a little after. But this will be home.”
I would prefer to not talk about the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan’s assessment of the possible free agents available in 2012, when the Wings have oodles of salary coming off their capped books, in too much detail.
Yes, the Wings have prepared themselves to potentially overhaul the roster if Lidstrom finally does that thing we’re not going to talk about, but so many of the UFA’s-to-be are either restricted free agents who filed for arbitration or could be signed that it’s damn hard to forecast what’s going to happen next summer—and there might be a lockout, so some of that cap space might disappear if Chairman Mao has his way.
And finally, the Wings have a morning skate for one of Zetterberg or Lidstrom scheduled to take place from 8:30-10:30 AM tomorrow and then a scrimmage at 3, and afterward and/or sometime early this week, my boss has asked me to ask you whether it would be OK for me to either post a very light report or simply take an evening off. He’s worried about me burning out or tiring myself out and as we’re going to learn about Chris Osgood’s future this week—and I’ve got four more days of “at the rink from 8 till 5” and five more days in total to go—I see his point. Let me know what you think.
Update #2: As this morning’s crop of Wings-related news is slim, here are a few tidbits…
• The Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons has this to say about Mike Babcock’s coaching choices...
Mike Babcock remains one of the really interesting people in hockey. While there were all kinds of obvious and available choices for him to add to his coaching staff in Detroit, he went off the board and added Jeff Blashill from Western Michigan and Bill Peters from Chicago’s AHL franchise ...
And he offers this on “Commodore 64”:
So, Mike Commodore has kicked around the NHL for parts of eight seasons and five different teams. How come he’s just figured out now he wants to wear 64 on his back for the Detroit Red Wings? As in Commodore 64.
I know that the Chief doesn’t like the idea, but I have no problem with it. In Detroit, a high number isn’t a big deal—ask Valtteri “51” Filppula, Jonathan “52” Ericsson, Johan “93” Franzen, Tomas “96” Holmstrom or any of the players who’ve asked for and received high numbers in the past (Danny Markov’s #95, Marian Hossa’s #81 and Tomas Kopecky’s #82, etc) so it’s just not a game-breaker in my opinion. All that matters in Detroit is how you play for the team whose logo’s on your chest, not what number you wear on your back, so if you want to have a little fun, by all means, go ahead.
• The Free Press’s Steve Schrader states the obvious as to why Jeff Blashill displayed good timing in leaving Western Michigan University to join the Wings…
The “CCHA Defection Continues” award
To Jeff Blashill, the Western Michigan hockey head coach who left the fading Central Collegiate Hockey Association for an assistant job with the Red Wings. No reason to stick around after the departure of three Big Ten schools and the commissioner.
• For the record, former Wing Ole-Kristian Tollefsen attempted to sign a one-way contract worth $4 million with the Nashville Predators, but Allehanda.se’s Per Hagglund reports that Modo Ornskoldsvik GM Markus Naslund’s refusing to let Tollefsen go so late in the summer;
• And if we are to believe what the IIHF tells us (and I don’t), Martin Merk says that the Swedish Eliteserien is more balanced and competitive than the NHL.
Update #3: Per Aftonbladet’s Daniel Grefve, make that four million Swedish Kronor, or $650,000, for Tollefsen.
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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.