Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Impressions from Day 2 of the Red Wings’ development camp

Between the Red Wings' naming of Tyler Wright as the team's director of amateur scouting and Jeff Finley as head scout, Jim Nill's departure before he took Joe McDonnell with him, the both truncated and incredibly differently-ran drills which took place during the second day of the Wings' summer development camp and the interviews I've had with both the coaches, management and the players taking part in this summer camp, on days one and two...

This is gonna sound campy, but I have no doubt that the organization is at something of a crossroads.

Five years removed from its last Stanley Cup championship, the Wings made some aggressive personnel moves during free agency to bolster what was an almost team-surprisingly-reluctant but successful embracing of a "youth movement," at least by Red Wings standards, and that youth movement's success was bolstered by the Grand Rapids Griffins' playoff performance.

As I've been watching the vast majority of the Grand Rapids Griffins 2013-2014 season's blueline perform and a new crop of prospects and free agent invites get to know the organization and the tremendous on and off-ice expectations it places upon its personnel (and coaches, and management), well, there's definitely a sense that, to some extent, Nill's departure took the wind out of the sails, and that McDonnell leaving after the draft was a blow that was neither as fond a farewell nor nearly as expertly planned for as Nill's exit was (see: Ryan Martin running the Griffins now, Kris Draper rounding his way into executive form).

It has, however, been fascinating to see the team close ranks and regroup, despite the sense that the organization may or may not be pivoting on something as tenuous as the state of Darren Helm's back, which is a work in progress.

The vast majority of the team's amateur scouts were here today to welcome Wright (who ran the Blue Jackets' draft for 3 years and was its director of player development for most of his 8-year career with the team; he played in 613 NHL games and spent the last 13 years of his life in Columbus, too) and Andrew Dickson into the fold, and to congratulate Jeff Finley (who has 708 games of NHL experience on his resume, for the record) on his promotion.

On the ice, Grand Rapids Griffins coach Jeff Blashill, associate coach Jim Paek, assistant coach Spiros Anastas, director of player development Jiri Fischer, goaltending coach Jim Bedard, Red Wings video coordinator Keith McKittrick, Toledo Walleye assistant coach Dan Watson, player mentor Chris Chelios and now informal puck-tipping consultant Tomas Holmstrom were, at times, all available to help the players along. Ditto for Tomas Storm and Andy Weidenbach, who make a fine living giving skill development and power skating courses, respectively (Jim Bedard holds goalie clinics, too).

Babcock and Ken Holland looked on, as did de-facto assistant GM Martin, as did Draper, the players were working with strength and conditioning coach Peter Renzetti off the ice (and my goodness, do the players adore Renzetti despite his brutal fitness regimens), they had the Wings' trainers and both the Wings and Griffins' equipment staff at their disposal, and whether they've been learning how to eat properly from a nutritionist or fielding a video presntation from Holmstrom, watching Chelios and Fischer model drills or are taking instruction from any of the coaches available to them, the message is certainly there:

It's a team effort, and while, as Ken Holland told me, it's incredibly hard to become a Detroit Red Wing, the organization is filled with dedicated, passionate people who are always challenging themselves to improve, to learn, to grow, to get better at what they do, and there's a whole network of support designed to help those who are willing to put in the extra on and off-ice work required upon the long journey from draft pick to prospect, strong major junior athlete, eventually a Red Wings prospect serving time with the Griffins and Walleye....

To work their way up to the NHL and to, as so many players have suggested, have the opportunity to play for the Red Wings organization and to play alongside the Datsyuks and Zetterbergs.

Somewhat appropriately, Pavel Datsyuk just Tweeted this:

But there's a disclaimer that's going to follow--and it should have followed before I got the quip about "playing a scout on the internet" being a disturbingly appropriate self-assessment.

This is a summer development camp.

The players taking part are of vastly disparate size, strength, age and ability.

The viewing time for both the coaches, management and observers has been significantly cut down by lockout and, to some extent, by design and the byproduct of the Grand Rapids Griffins' successes (see: Luke Glendening's the only active Griffin taking part in the camp).

And the players haven't even engaged in a scrimmage yet, so what I'm basing my observations off of involves limited viewings in what have been, thus far, anyway, non-game situations.

I'm going on comparisons to previous viewings in the cases of the returnees, gut feelings about several players and educated guesses about others. I am giving you my best possible assessments, but they are assessments.

I've attended every post-lockout development camp save the first one, so it's not for a lack of experience on my part--it's more like we're all human, because there have been times that I haven't been able to see past Brendan Smith's hot-dogging, I saw Trevor Parkes go up and down the ice like a big fast grind machine and ended up finding out that that's exactly what the Wings had hoped from him, and I've seen players from Tom McCollum to Landon Ferraro, Tomas Jurco and Gustav Nyquist deal with ups, downs, frustrations and self-doubt to varying degrees of success.

Just as importantly, as Griffins coach Jeff Blashill readily admitted this morning, even he was stunned by the development of Danny DeKeyser from the promising player who skated for Blashill's Western Michigan University Broncos two summers ago and attended the summer camp looking like nothing more than a mobile Brad Stuart, and DeKeyser ended up out-working Brian Lashoff, Carlo Colaiacovo and Ian White into an every-day spot on the Wings' blueline until he suffered a broken thumb and the Wings' defense got wonky against Anaheim.

This isn't an exact science. People like Tyler Wright spend all year long working toward drafting seven players, and while the Wings offer a web of support for those players on and off the ice, much of their future development is up to them.

With all of that being said:

Team Yzerman took part in the morning drills, and here's what I thought of their performances as I've seen more of them than Team Lidstrom:

Forwards:

#43 Darren Helm: Helm is, again, not taking part in the battle drills and he's in and out of the skill drills. But he looked like he'd gotten more of his legs under him today, and while he's far from in shape, he was able to both push things a little harder today and to enjoy himself a little more. He hot-dogged his way through the drills he took part in, and he still got from point A to point B, usually with the puck, faster than anyone else. He's a frickin' NHL'er and I sure hope his back holds up, because he is a special player in his unique role.

Long story short: Progress. Two days' worth.

#67 Rasmus Bodin: Bodin can still be clumsy at times and he looks like he gets lost in that big 6'6" body at times, but he's coming in from the wilderness. He's got size, he's not particularly fast but he gets along on the ice well enough, he's got a good shot and he could be something of a Swedish power (checking) forward if he continues to develop. His stickhandling isn't wonderful but he managed to get through the Storm drills and his skating isn't elegant but he managed to execute the Weidenbach drills, and in traffic, he doesn't shy away from contact, nor does he lose too many battles for the puck.

Long story short: Big. Work in progress. Lots of potential, and he is at least starting to scratch the surface thereof. Under the new CBA the Wings have Europeans for four years, and they're gonna need all four.

#80 Dean Chelios: Dean's a small forward, even at 6'2," still wiry and trying to get past the fact that his genes have not blessed him with meat on his bones. He absolutely excelled in the skill drills and skating drills, and he put on something of a clinic during the "street-hockey" style half-rink 5-on-5 game that was played this morning, just firing puck after puck in the goal. But elite skill and elite execution seem to be a gap that he has yet to breach on a consistent basis.

Long story short: He's going to have a good senior year at MSU. After that, his future is uncertain.

#42 Martin Frk: Frk is admittedly a specialist. At times he looks incredibly clumsy during the skating drills, at times he looks disinterested during the skill drills, but get the man near a net and he's flicking pucks in at will, hunched over like he's in pain but still managing to whip hard shots past or through both unsuspecting and suspicious goaltenders. He said that he enjoyed the challenge of tipping pucks down and screening goalies as that was something he'd never worked on, and he does seem to be incredibly enthusiastic to continue to improve his skills, which is hugely encouraging given the level of goal-scoring prowess he possesses. Just as impressively, he said that he's staying in Montreal this summer to get into better shape as he prepares to turn pro, so the commitment is there, and Jeebus Monkey, can he put the puck in the net.

Long story short: Frk has a long way to go in terms of rounding out his game. But can he snipe pucks and can he bulldoze his way to the net. His skills are already at professional levels in those departments.


#63 Phillipe Hudon: Thanks to his year spent at college, he's the Wings' property for two more years, and because he's neither overly big at around 6 feet tall nor overly bulky despite being a ripped 185-or-so pounds, he's a tireless worker who understands that being a speedy grinder is where he's going to have to bank his pro hopes upon, and it's a role that he embraces. As I've said several times, it's incredibly difficult to not cheer for him given that he's battled through OCD to emerge as at least someone who's got my head turning in both the skill and battle drills, and there's a real sense that he's trying to take something of a leadership role. Whether that translates into a pro career, I'm not sure yet, but those two bonus years are huge for him.

Long story short: Incredibly promising as a grinder but the toolbox has yet to organize itself.

#64 David Pope: Pope's a hard read. He's a big kid at 6'2" and he's got enough speed, but after two viewings, all I can tell you is that he disappears into the field of view and then reemerges when he makes a slick shot or scores a sweet goal, seemingly coming out of nowhere to assert his talent. He's still playing in the BCHL, which is a Junior A but not a Major Junior league, and he looks like he's working very hard to get with the program.

Long story short: A little under two weeks from being drafted, Pope shows tons of promise as a sniper. I think.

#76 Ty Loney: Loney has his father's body (6'3") and his father's skill set (grinder). Loney's big and competitive, but he hasn't done much to impress thus far.

Long story short: Too early to get a bead upon. May say the same thing on Monday, regrettably.

#73 Brody Silk: Silk brings a gravel truck's worth of work ethic to the table, but he's liberally listed at six feet and 185 pounds and he seems to struggle to keep up at times. Like Loney, he's a hard read.

Long story short: See above.

#39 Anthony Mantha: Easy read because today, he was sleepy. Mantha liked the 8 AM practice time less than I did. What I will say about him negatively is that he does indeed suffer from "Big Man Syndrome" from time to time, taking that gigantic 6'4" frame and filling it with very little in the way of a strong competition level. But he is indeed a natural sniper of Frk-like proportions, at least in the making, and his big, lanky body has lots of growing to do. When he stumbles he gets back up and when he tries to grasp something he keeps at it until he does. And when he's in position to shoot the puck or jam home a rebound, he can make beautiful things happen.

Long story short: Worth picking 18th overall, because he's a gigantic man in a boy's body and a teenager's head. I don't like to stand on predictions like this, but he's gonna be special if he really applies himself to "rounding out his game" in terms of his level of engagement on a shift-by-shift basis.

#62 Zach Nastasiuk: I've been equally impressed by Nastasiuk. Today he showed me that he does indeed need to gain a step skating-wise, but he's ahead of Hudon in that he knew what he needed to be before he was drafted. He's a grinder, he's a third-line, Kirk Maltby-style player who is going to give you no-fuss, no-muss, rock-solid defensive play, some flourishes of offense, and smatterings of grit, and unlike Mantha, you're gonna see him leave it out on the ice every time he gets out there.

But he's got some skill development to do.

Long story short: Two sessions in, he's a natural grinder, and not many players embrace the role of a no-frills player like he has.

#86 Dominik Shine: Has not shone, regrettably. He's got good hands and he can be speedy, but at 5'10" and coming out of the USHL, he's blended in too much.

Long story short: Two viewings in, it's not that I'm not looking for him. It's that he's kind of at the level of the other free agent invitees, and that's at a level so many players are during the first half of their first time at a prospect camp: working very hard to keep up.

Defensemen:

#47 Alexei Marchenko: Winds up like Al MacInnis but doesn't have the oomph behind his release. Occasionally wanders out of place or doesn't quite keep up with the pace of play. But his hands are there, his skating is there and what is most certainly there, despite the language barrier, is his mind. It becomes immediately evident by his body language that he's played professionally, that he knows now to not get into trouble, and that he's going to be a solid all-round defenseman with a bit of an offensive as opposed to physical bite to his game. It's his playmaking that stands out though, not his shot. He has a wonderful first pass and his head is up when he lugs the puck up ice.

Long story short: This man is a professional-level defenseman who played in the KHL. He's also having some trouble adjusting to the 85-foot-wide rink and the non-soccer-like pace of play. But he has the physical and especially mental tools to get the job done.

#77 Richard Nedomlel: At his best, Richard will be nothing more than a stay-at-home defenseman with a gigantic wingspan as he is all arms and legs at 6'5" and an honest 230 pounds, but as I talked with Alexei Marchenko about finding it hard to keep up, I looked next to him and said, "You should have seen Richard the first time!" to which I got a, "Hey hey!" and I replied, "But now most improved player!"

He really has come a long way. If Bodin came in from the wilderness, Nedomlel decided to build a log cabin along the way. There are no frills to his game but someone who literally stumbled his way through so many skill and skating drills glides along at an easy, unhurried pace, and he can more than keep up with the skill game while keeping it simple. He's a wonderful example of what working hard and being focused at becoming the best professional you can be will get you, and his professional career is just beginning.

Sometimes focus can be a bit of an issue with Richard, but he's the quiet "great story" of Team Yzerman. You cannot have enough stay-at-home defensemen of his size who can keep up with play and happily cause a fuss, and it'll be fun to watch him bang bodies. That, and while he's no playmaker, he moves the puck in a hurry and is ready to go back to being a strong defensive defensman afterrward.

Long story short: Sometimes an incredibly promising #6 defenseman is still worth writing home about.

#48 Ryan Sproul: It's strange to watch Sproul because so much of his game has been involved in making bombastic hits, issuing hard seeing-eye passes and ripping hard slap shots, and while he can do all of those things, he's starting to get invisible in all of the best ways. Sproul has filled out his 6'3" frame and he's just a heady, heady puck-mover and playmaker whose skating is really good and whose hands are superb. He's kind of bursting at the seams to get into more battle drills because he competes so well there, but he's worked very hard to not work so damn hard to make things happen--or not happen.

Long story short: Top-three potential. Hard shot, hard skater, hard-charger. But after dominating junior hockey, you can kind of see that he knows the next steps are going to be much harder after having taken in the Griffins' Calder Cup run.

#79 Ildar Telyakov: If the Wings had 40 men on their roster they'd sign Ildar because he's 6'9." They do not, and Ildar doesn't speak English very well, and Ildar is still growing into his gargantuan frame. He isn't laying anyone out, he isn't falling over during skill drills, and he isn't doing anything wrong with the puck, but he is just above the level of the players who are invisible for the, "Well, um...You're here...You're not embarrasing yourself...Uh...Good?" reason. You can see flashes of serious potential, but they are flashes.

Long story short: The size of the horse is there. If the fight is there, it comes and goes. And because he's Zdeno Chara's size, he's got these, "Holy crap he's 6'9" he's gonna be amazing!" expectations to fulfill, and that may not be reasonable.

#28 Trevor Hamilton: I've tried real hard to see something more than a physical defenseman there. I've tried real hard to see someone with more potential than the scholarship he got from Miami of Ohio. Not so much.

Long story short: He's got four years of NCAA eligiblity. He's gonna need 'em.

Goaltenders:

#68 Jake Paterson: If this makes any sense, he is the poster boy for Reebok-CCM's attempts to revive the CCM brand (boy are all the kids who were wearing Reebok Kinetic Fit gloves last year wearing CCM 4-rolls this year) by developing a goal pad for butterfly goaltenders who are not Giguere-style puck-blockers or Roberto Luongo-style pupils of Francois Allaire.

There are some Chris Osgood similarities because he plays on the insides of his pads a bit and there's just a ton of fluidity to his game, be it from his blocker side to his glove to his easy manner of sticking the puck away from players--and he was the only goalie brave enough to go behind the net and clear the damn puck himself during the "street hockey" game--but when he engaged in the goalie drills with Bedard, his upper thighs were all over the place in a sea of extra motion, and it was jarring to see such a smooth, smooth goaltender become so herky-jerky.

Long story short: Deceptively good and deceptively raw. He's going to play his final year of Major Junior with Saginaw, hopefully go to the World Championships, and start a pro career. He is at the high end of "on track to go pro."

#34 Andrew D'Agostini: If the hockey gods exist, they have a sense of humor about goalies. He's 5'10" and maybe 160 pounds, he's combative as all hell get out, he stops pucks, he plays a strong "battlefly" style, his mobility is excellent because he's so small that he seems to almost glide on his skates...

And because he is not absolutely spectacular, a 5'10" goalie has a major junior and possibly a minor pro career ahead of him at best these days.

Long story short: Superb at what he does (cups pucks with his glove like Lundqvist does, too), but it looks like size is literally going to hold him back.

Team Lidstrom is something of a work in progress for me because the damn afternoon slot has involved so many opportunities for interviews that I simply could not afford to pass up. But when I did watch them today I did do my best to jot down assessments and make "gut" calls. My reads on the free agents are terrible here but I'm doing my best to watch the prospects.

Forwards:

#72 Andreas Athanasiou: If Chris Chelios's kids had his natural athleticism to go with his talent, Andreas would be one of Chris Chelios's kids. The young forward who wears the lining of his gloves inside out just absolutely flies up and down the ice, his leg strength is off-the-charts amazing and he's not exactly a Frk-or-Mantha-worthy sniper, but he has a hard shot for his size (still filling out his six-foot frame) and there are very honest and genuine "Darren Helm with better hands" comparisons here.

That's not bullshit. That's not, "It's a summer camp and there are skill drills going on" talk. It's, "If he puts his head down every shift and executes at the level necessary, and if he keeps working on shooting better and passing harder (as opposed to vice versa), he's got the potential to be one of those special grinders that crosses over to Darren Helm territory, as a sort of Swiss Army Knife."

Long story short: Smooth like Paterson. On track to garner a pro contract. What he does from there, however, is up in the air. But good Gord almighty is he blazingly fast and goodness gracious me, can he play like WD-40.

#81 Michael Babcock: Michael Babcock was traded today. From the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders to the Fargo Force of the USHL. After a year in North Dakota, he's going to Merrimack to get a college education, and if his little body (he's now about 5'10" and 160, up from 5'9" and 140) catches up with his grit and determination, the kid who could only smile as he flubbed drills last year was keeping up this year and showing some speed and the ability to protect the puck against vastly larger opponents. But he's gonna need those four years of college eligibility and the year in the USHL to hope that he grows up physically.

Long story short: Mentally, he's committed to overcoming long odds. Physically, I don't know, because you have to be ridiculously special to be a 5'9" grinder.

#59 Tyler Bertuzzi: Full of piss and vinegar. Check. Massively undersized in terms of being six feet tall and maybe 160 pounds. Check. Attitude in tow. Check. Able to keep up with skill drills. Check. Frustrated as *#$%@& frustrated can be that he can't check anyone or fight any more or otherwise annoy his quarry? Check check check check check.

Strange fellow. Too proud to admit that things are happening too fast on and off the ice for someone who seems utterly confused by the concept that he does not have to fight for a spot as an undrafted free agent.

He will be something to see in the scrimmage, I'm sure. Until then, he's a little under two weeks from being drafted and is a lot out of his element working on his skills.

Which is a good thing, because his shooting, passing, skating, checking and work ethic all need...Work. But mostly he needs to fill out, because people his size who are as mean as he is only go so far before their bodies give out on them.

Long story short: Says he wants to be Wendell Clark. Should focus on being Tyler Bertuzzi. And, like Landon Ferraro, should stop being so pissed off about his last name. Which is hard to do when you're an 18-year-old kid with a "good" bad attitude.

#85 Kurt Etchegary: For everything that I heard about him being a superb QMJHL player who was screwed over draft-wise because of botched paperwork regarding a heart condition...I see his speed. I see his shot. I don't see much else. He's keeping up and he's giving glimmers here and there. And that's it.

Long story short: Free agent try-out. Mostly invisible.

#21 Luke Glendening: Gendening is nearly as tanned as Chelios and Athanasiou and he is nearly as hot-dogging it at times as Helm is. It's very evident that, like Brendan Smith a year ago, he was asked to come up to show the youngsters that a walk-on and try-out can parlay his grit and determination into an AHL and then an NHL contract, but he doesn't necessarily have anything to prove, and he doesn't necessarily have much in the way of down time to his credit. The smiles beget some mental fatigue and the mental fatigue begets an understandable desire to play out the string after having played hockey from September until June.

But the grit is there and the heart is there and it is lion-sized when it shows itself, and he can grind and check and furiously calmly frustrate his opponents as a superb, superb checking forward.

Long story short: Great human being, good grinder, worth the 50th spot on the Wings' roster, but he doesn't have much to prove, he's been here before, and he's a little mentally tired. So in a way he's incredibly hard to read because he's in such a great spot.

#84 Barclay Goodrow: Not seeing much despite his 6'2" size and evident strength.

Long story short: Haven't gotten enough views to have a decent opinion. Sometimes tis better to admit observational defeat.

#82 Mattias Janmark-Nylen: A little pudgy, looks a little tired all the time and seems to swim in the high-collared Reebok practice jersey because he's a stocky fellow. But man, what a steal. Janmark-Nylen skates strongly, he's an excellent passer, really nice shooter and finisher, and he's 20, not 18, and starred in the Swedish Eliteserien (now the SHL) as a late-blooming rookie.

The Wings have a steal and a half here. He's not pretty but he's remarkably, sometimes astonishingly good, giving the hand-skill wows that Athanasiou draws with his feet and legs. He's excelled at the skill drills, he gives no quarter in battle drills, and despite some limited viewing, he displays a professional level of determination, engagement and especially all-round skill as a two-way center who has a ton of potential.

Long story short: He ain't pretty, but he's your Hakan Andersson steal, perhaps of the past three or four years. And he's just getting warmed up.

#60 Marek Tvrdon: Marek looks like he missed most of the year after having a rib removed due to a blood clot. Marek looks like he's spent too much time at home in Slovakia instead of training and working on his skills. Marek has shoulders that are eleven feet wide, or so it seems. Marek does not skate great at times, but the hands snipe. They snipe and snipe and snipe.

I can't figure out if he's the Tomas Kopecky to Tomas Jurco's poor man's Marian Hossa or whether he's just somebody who was too big and too exciting for the Wings to pass up on. He's played so very little over the past two years and he looks like a frickin' moose out there still, with the classic Slovkian toe-drag dekes, dangles and goals fluttering from his stick. What is Marek Tvrdon?

A gigantic work in progress, about to turn pro.

Long story short: Power forward with hands. If he can shake the rust off.

#70 Jamien Yakubowski: He doesn't look 5'10" and he doesn't look like he's 172 pounds. He's hitting people in the battle drills and he's grinding it out. But the viewing is limited and he is bobbing along the surface thus far.

Long story short: Free agent try-out keeping up.

#87 Dane Walters: Very evident that he's an older gentleman (almost 24) who played in 3 AHL games this past season. He grinds well, he's very strong, there are no frills to his game and he gets from point A to point B in a hurry. But his grit and his drive and his status as a scorer in college may not translate to more than a pro try-out somewhere, and with the Wings' roster at 50 men, it ain't gonna be Detroit.

Long story short: Somebody's grinder.

Defensemen:

#75 James De Haas: De Haas, like Pope, is just coming out of the BCHL, which is a step below Major Junior hockey, and De Haas is doing so at 19--heading to Clarkson University in the fall. He is indeed a big, rangy puck-moving defenseman who is all of his 6'2" and all of 200 pounds. He is an excellent skater for his size and he has a nice shot and a good outlet pass. He can lug the puck up ice, too. But his red cheeks do not beget exhaustion as much as they show exertion, and he is working hard to keep up.

He was sort of the Rasmus Bodin of defensemen when the Wings drafted him, and he's come in from the wilderness, too. More importantly, there is some really superb puck-moving potential in there. But he's got a ways to go, too.

Long story short: Big package, very exciting. Needs to keep accelerating along the course to becoming a pro defenseman, needs to work hard enough to let his skill do the talking.

#71 Alex Gudbranson: His jersey says "GUBRANSON" without the "D," and he displays a solid amount of size at 6'2" and nearly 200 pounds and a solid amount of grit, but his hands and feet haven't quite matched his overall strength yet, and that's what I've got so far.

Long story short: A cut above the other free agents at times. Emphasis on "at times."

#61 Xavier Ouellet: Xavier Ouellet the good: he plays heavy.

Xavier Ouellet the bad: He plays heavy.

Ouellet is not the biggest defenseman at a solid six feet and not the stockiest at a solid 185 pounds. He's not the fastest, either. But he is mobile enough and he is silky smooth at passing, at playmaking, in terms of his shot, shot selection, his ability to block passes and his low center of gravity's aiding in his ability to surprise people with hard hits that knock them off pucks.

But what Xavier does is subtly elegant--the Lidstrom comparisons are apt not in terms of skill, but in terms of the fact that you do not notice that he is there in all the right ways when he is doing well--and sometimes that's hard to see...

And sometimes he does look like someone who dominated major junior hockey, who doesn't seem to understand that he's going to have to play that casual, composed, simple game at a ridiculously higher pace and with much more focus going forward. He was absolutely one of the best defensemen in the Q, he was the captain of a winning team and he can be silly slick sometimes.

But the line between silly slick and a little slow for a defenseman who's never going to have that Danny DeKeyser extra step is slight at times.

Long story short: Top-three potential if he can play so casually and still be so successful looking almost lazy at the pro level. Which is going to take a whole other "level" of commitment and self-improvement.

#3 Nick Jensen: It's a bummer that he couldn't play because I wanted to see what the Jensen I saw on TV, leading the Saint Cloud State University Huskies to a berth in the Frozen Four, could do just as he was turning pro and just off a spring spent as a Black Ace, but Bertuzzi asked him to go, and when you go, you throw out your left shoulder and can't take part in the scrimmage.

Jensen is a born leader, Jensen is an excellent puck-ragger--like Sproul, he doesn't so much pass the puck as he pulls it up ice with him, and Jensen is an excellent, wide-strided skater--he's a superb playmaker, and as far as I'm concerned, having watched him go from awkward kid in a tiny body to awkward kid in a big body to six feet and 190 pounds of heart and determination and really nice skill as a #4 defenseman that you can count on in all situations...

It sucks that those of you up for Friday and the camp ticket sale won't see that.

He's ready to turn pro after a dominant final NCAA year, and he is, potentially, an x-factor, one of those players you hear about and think he's gonna be good and turns out to be as good as advertised. Not a top-pair defenseman at the AHL or NHL level, but just as you hope for the Nedomlels to keep it simple and the Ouellets to keep it subtle, you hope the Jensens keep head-manning the play by skating the puck up ice themselves and dishing it off after an expertly-placed pinch.

Long story short:: Second-pair puck-lugger. In the making.

#74 Marc McNulty: The 6'6," 185-pound defenseman looks like a man with a boy's face. Man, oh man, is he huge, surprisingly, at all of 18, he's very comfortable in that big body, he's physical, he plays a simple but skilled enough game to keep up, and he's got a bit of a bite to him. But he's very underpowered.

Long story short: Wings see a package of size and skill in someone who wants to be a poor man's Shea Weber. But his body has to cooperate and he's just been drafted.

Taking part in the off-ice activities: Mitchell Wheaton: And I haven't even seen him yet, which is a shame.

Goaltenders:

#38Toni Eskelinen: Finnish to the point that he uses a "Kiprusoff spec" Vaughn goalie glove, which occasionally falls off his hand. Acrobatic and a proponent of the "Finnish butterfly," which is what Jonathan Quick and Tim Thomas used to play before they put their spin on the on-your-knees-legs-splayed style of play. Acrobatic at times, mostly because he gets spun around.

Despite the fact that he played in an under-20 league, just from some brief viewings, watching his competitiveness and his ability to stay cool when people are hacking and whacking at him, I'm really impressed. But he backs into his net at times and he gets backed in at others.

Long story short: They make really good goalies in Finland. He may or may not be one of them.

#34 Jake Patterson: "Two T's" wears Jimmy Howard-stylized Vaughn Iceberg pads, made in the London factory instead of the Oxford, MI one as Patterson plays for the London Knights, and the Knights' back-up goalie looks like someone who was barely passed over in the draft because he somehow swims in those pads despite being six feet tall and maybe as much as 190 pounds.

Swimming is not good when you're that big, because it means you're making lots of unnecessary movements and that your pads and glove are being employed as counterweights instead of blocking surfaces.

Honestly, he looks like Jimmy Howard and Felix Potvin were mashed up. That can be good because his hands and legs provide "layers" of blocking surface, but it can be bad because it also means that your feet may be spread wider than your shoulders and your blocker and glove may be posed so far out in front of you that you end up looking like a tyrannosaurus trying to play goal.

Long story short: Athletic, good fundamentals, and movin' all over the damn place. Which isn't super if you're a goalie trying to find a job with Detroit.

Jared Coreau did take part in some drop-and-stop drills, and he looked fluid, sometimes elegant given his size, and BIG. 6'5" and a really solid blocking goaltender who says that he tries to channel Pekka Rinne. Exciting stuff, but without seeing him play, well, the Wings know better and signed him to a contract. His shoulder should be good to go in about two weeks.

That's it for me. I'll be back with an "early overnight report" in a bit. Other people have posted good content while I was writing this butI just want to get it out there and then get back at 'er after a breather as I've been working since 5 PM and it's almost 10...And I got to the rink at 7:45.

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Comments

awould's avatar

George, your blurbs on all of the prospects are truly great and I appreciate the work.

Posted by awould on 07/11/13 at 11:16 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

yeah.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 07/12/13 at 12:15 AM ET

Primis's avatar

Good stuff once again George.

Trust your eyes.  People here trust them enough to send you.  And when you say you “don’t know, haven’t seen enough”, we know you mean that and respect that.

Great work, keep it up as best you can, but don’t kill yourself.  We don’t want to hear the word “setback” for Helm, but we don’t want to hear it for you either..

Posted by Primis on 07/12/13 at 12:15 AM ET

Hank Scorpio's avatar

Thanks, George.  I’ve been particularly curious about Janmark-Nylen, so your thoughts are very welcome. It sure seems like we’ve got a lot of great potential in the system. No clear cut future all stars, but a ton of solid players.  Say what you want about Holland’s trades (or lack thereof) over the past four years, but we finally have a group of talented future Wings again.

As some of the other commenters have noted, you have a good eye for talent.  Thank you so much for being there and sharing your thoughts.

Posted by Hank Scorpio on 07/12/13 at 12:22 AM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

Wonder if the Wings have any plans to bring in Scott Howson, he seemed motivated.  Lots of experience as a scout and executive in the NHL.  Has a history with Renney.  He could be a really good addition at the draft table as well.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 07/12/13 at 12:23 AM ET

Avatar

Just some friendly feedback.

I think many people read your prospect analyses because they want to know about these prospects, and, more to the point, they want to know if these prospects are doing well. For some of your assessments, it comes across as though the guys who are a longer shot to become pro players are actually better than the higher status drafted guys.

For example, you speak quite well of Nedomlel and his progress from last camp to this camp. One would likely come away thinking “Maybe this Nedomlel guy has something special going for him!”

On the other hand, it’s easy to read Ouellet’s analysis in a negative light. One comes away feeling like although he is highly skilled, he simply doesn’t care a lot or is a hot dog. Although you do note his skill, you seem to put a negative spin on his game.

Yet, despite these different treatments, it would likely be relatively trivial to tell which of these guys is going to be the NHL defenseman in a few years; it’s likely Ouellet.

Of course, you might like Nedomlel more—I’m partial to the underdog, myself—but I want to stress that your readers also want to know which guys they’re going to see in Detroit sooner than later, and so they might be a little confused when it’s Ouellet and not Nedomlel.

Posted by Slabby on 07/12/13 at 12:42 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

Good point. It’s hard to say without some game action, so I’ll try to focus on the, “How far away are they?” aspect on Friday evening.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 07/12/13 at 12:52 AM ET

Gary A$$ SUCK !!'s avatar

Thanx a million George, and keep up the good work..!!

Posted by Gary A$$ SUCK !! from Fort Myers, Florida on 07/12/13 at 01:19 AM ET

Vladimir16's avatar

Long story short: Frk has a long way to go in terms of rounding out his game. But can he snipe pucks and can he bulldoze his way to the net. His skills are already at professional levels in those departments.

This, this, this ^^^^^

Posted by Vladimir16 from Grand River Valley on 07/12/13 at 08:11 AM ET

Avatar

thank you George . . .

This is great stuff

Posted by bobbo on 07/12/13 at 09:13 AM ET

Primis's avatar

Wonder if the Wings have any plans to bring in Scott Howson, he seemed motivated.  Lots of experience as a scout and executive in the NHL.  Has a history with Renney.  He could be a really good addition at the draft table as well.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 07/12/13 at 12:23 AM ET

He’s back in the EDM org I think.

Posted by Primis on 07/12/13 at 11:21 AM ET

bdos's avatar

Great stuff George! I love reading your assessments.

Posted by bdos from Columbus, OH on 07/12/13 at 11:54 AM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

Posted by Primis on 07/12/13 at 11:21 AM ET

I was completely sarcastic primis, I’m sorry.  I mean, you’re talkinga bout the guy who in 03 drafted Zherdev with a top 10 pick.

Columbus has followed all of the new NHL templet.  Lose lose lose, draft high draft high draft high.  BOS, PIT, CHI as examples.  But go figure, the guy who was with two franchises that’ve been perenial losers and even with successive high draft picks couldn’t do anything with it.  I mean, we have their lead scout who’s bringing his friend, why not get the whole gang back together, lot of experience together.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 07/12/13 at 12:21 PM ET

shanetx's avatar

I really enjoy your prospect blurbs; they’re quite possibly my favorite hockey-related thing to read all year long with the only other contenders being a properly salty piece by the Chief taking some other fanbase to task… or the annual “Avalanche eliminated from playoff contention” piece.  Those are definitely on my holy grail of hockey reading.  Thank you so much for doing these.

Slabby’s comment touched on something I was thinking as well.  You’re such an optimistic person in your prospect analysis and you seem to connect with the players and genuinely want them to succeed so much that you sometimes shy away from pointing out the holes in their games.  I’d like to hear both sides, to a degree, but I understand that might be less comfortable to write.

Also, to touch on Slabby’s point, I’d not mind seeing something of a power ranking of guys at position or archetype (ranking stay-at-home, power forwards, etc) and would also ask you to consider letting us know YOUR thoughts on where guys fit into the organizational picture.  Which defensemen will get time in GR next year?  Who has a shot the year after? Etc.

Anyhow; keep up the good work.  I really like your writing at this time of year.

Posted by shanetx from Floydada, Texas on 07/12/13 at 02:36 PM ET

SYF's avatar

#48 Ryan Sproul: It’s strange to watch Sproul because so much of his game has been involved in making bombastic hits, issuing hard seeing-eye passes and ripping hard slap shots, and while he can do all of those things, he’s starting to get invisible in all of the best ways. Sproul has filled out his 6’3” frame and he’s just a heady, heady puck-mover and playmaker whose skating is really good and whose hands are superb. He’s kind of bursting at the seams to get into more battle drills because he competes so well there, but he’s worked very hard to not work so damn hard to make things happen—or not happen.

My nipples are so perky, you just cannot comprehend.

Posted by SYF from the team that re-signed KFQ and DFC by KFH on 07/12/13 at 03:18 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Power rankings are a bit much given the status as a summer development camp. I can’t say who’s going to play in Grand Rapids and who’s going to get called up based upon a few days’ worth of observations from what are mostly skill drills. I’ll try to offer more this evening, but I’m not exactly trying to suggest that player X will score Y points in year Z.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 07/12/13 at 03:19 PM ET

Avatar

So Bertuzzi lost 20 lbs since he arrived in Detroit?  Did Detroit weigh and measure them? Would be great to see official #‘s on these kids.

Posted by hockeyobserver on 07/12/13 at 10:18 PM ET

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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.