Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Impressions from Day 4 of the Red Wings’ development camp

This is my third summer covering the Red Wings' development camp in Traverse City, and the location I stay at is almost directly under the flight path for the Coast Guard Air Station. It's a little after 5 PM EDT as I'm starting to write this, and a few straggler helicopters (probably choppers tasked with paroling the U.P.) are coming in late for "shift change."

The sound of Coast Guard choppers and my routine here have remained pretty constant. What I've witnessed at the Red Wings' summer development camp has not, and I'm still not sure whether the changes--on and off the ice--are the "good different" or the "weird different."

In terms of the reshaping of the Wings' front office, only time will tell. It's going to be a learning experience for Tyler Wright, Jeff Finley, and the rest of the amateur scouts as they begin their 2014 scouting season on all of August fricking 4th when Jake Paterson and Hockey Canada begin their World Junior selection camp, and the U.S. WJC selection camp (which includes appearances by Finnish and Swedish teams) takes place in Lake Placid, NY.

As he runs the Grand Rapids Griffins, Ryan Martin, will learn more about stocking the Wings' AHL and ECHL teams, and both Martin and Kris Draper will essentially fill the void of Jim Nill, whose departure as the man who kept all eight octopus arms moving in the same direction has been felt up here.

In terms of the on-ice changes, the number of graduating Griffins means that the team that takes to the ice to battle for jobs and spots in the pecking order in the prospect tournament will look very different--and different from this summer camp's squad, too, because a decent chunk of the Wings' main roster and the try-outs are either NCAA players, and would miss school to take part, or they're going to be starting their European leagues' seasons by the time September 12th rolls around.

There's no doubt that some of the try-outs who aren't invited back by the Wings have been seen by representatives of other teams, too--that's been the case for every summer camp I've attended, even the ones that were held in an all-but-empty Joe Louis Arena--and some of the try-outs will pursue what they believe to be greater opportunities to earn pro contracts somewhere else.

With only one more day's worth of on-ice sessions to go...

July 15

8:30 am – 10:15 am Team Lidstrom practice (Admission $5)

8:30 am – 9:45 am Team Yzerman off-ice workout

10:30 am – 12:15 pm Team Yzerman practice

10:45 am – 11:30 am Team Lidstrom off-ice practice

My understanding was that today's events involved a half-day's worth of practicing because some players were banged-up from the scrimmage and others were just plain old banged-up after three hard days and a hard-playing off-day (paintball is most certainly a full-contact sport), but...

I can't say that I liked the concept. I know that I heard coach Blashill sound so happy with what ended up being all the skaters (including Darren Helm) taking part in one big systems practice from 9-9:50 AM that he said, "Every practice should be like that," I know that the management has duly noted that this year, as is the case every year, involves almost more emphasis upon learning how to train properly, how to eat properly and learning from the other off-ice activities that the players take part in (I know they're doing yoga today and that Tomas Holmstrom's doing another video presentation, and this is just a Tyler Seguin of a guess, but I'm assuming that in this day and age, social media schooling is also part of the equation), and I know that the players stated that they really enjoyed the faster-paced, higher-intensity practices that Blashill had them engage in, both in terms of skill development and systems play...

But the players will go into tomorrow's practice having spent a total of 40 minutes working on stickhandling drills with Tomas Storm, and about 40 minutes working on power skating with Andy Weidenbach.

Most years--and again, the lockout cut this camp two days short because a late draft + late free agency = a conscious decision to engage in 4 total days of practicing and 1 scrimmage instead of 6 total days of practicing and 1 scrimmage...

But some years, the players have spent four practices with Storm and Weidenbach, and while this year I've gotten the usual, "Wow, Storm does some wild things" and, "Edge work is so important" about the respective coaches, those longer periods of time seem to yield more than just drills that are so intricate that I can't keep up with them. 

How much is enough? How much is too much? At times, Curt Fraser would follow up 45 minutes of Tomas Storm drills and 45 minutes of Andy Weidenbach drills with as long as 90 minutes of systems work, and that's double the time the players have had over two days of skill-and-systems emphasis (if tradition holds, tomorrow's practice will follow the same kind of "getting to know you" format as the first, with some sort of semi-scrimmage, but one never knows) over as many as three times the days spent on said detail work.

Around the fifth day, even the players who insisted that they were here to "be a sponge" (I heard Zach Natasiuk use that term today, and he's not alone) got to the point where they'd absorbed all that they could, and the mental as well as physical burn-out would yield a, "Please, somebody wring me out!" look on their zombified faces.

People got hurt just as often during those marathons, too. The honest to goodness fact is that when you take nearly 40 players and put them in a competitive hockey situation for the first time--for most of them--since they last hit the ice in March or April, people are gonna get hurt.

Is short and intense going to reduce mental as well as physical wear and tear over the long haul?

I don't know. Especially given that these kinds of camps started with Curt Fraser, Jim Paek and Jim Bedard on the ice, and now there are as many as nine coaches (Tomas Holmstrom and Chris Chelios) on the ice at one time, with 2 goalie coaches, the entire Griffins' coaching staff, Wings video coordinator Keith McKittrick, Holmstrom, Chelios, Toledo Walleye assistant coach Dan Watson and director of player development Jiri Fischer all available to help, and there's much less standing around with a coach leaning his stick against his chin than you might think. The coaches are a blur of movement at times, too.

A bunch of new prospects, much more infrastructure in terms of on and off-ice assistance, a different coach's imprint and a big, big "roster" shake-up in the front office. How it will all play out, I don't know yet, and the Wings don't know, either.

But there was the good news this afternoon that's worth repeating in Darren Helm telling MLive's Brendan Savage that he felt really good after today's battle drills and systems work. If you missed it:

"I like the way things have went so far," Helm told MLive.com. "Got one more skate tomorrow. Like I said before, it's a process. I'm encouraged, for sure. I see this moving in the right direction, especially in the last few days. I've got another skate tomorrow. I'll probably be in Detroit for a while after that and then just move forward."

    ...

Sunday, he skated for about 50 minutes in the second on-ice session and then returned again for the third and final workout, taking part in 2-on-2 drills that included some light contact. He didn't participate in the 1-on-1 drills that featured a bit more hacking and whacking.

There was more than light contact going on by the end. Not hacking and whacking Helm's back, but some good cross-checks and lots of bumping, grinding and especially tugging, pulling and pushing.

"Guys were pushing me around a little bit," Helm said. "We were doing some battle drills. I don't think guys were going too hard on me. I think they understand what the situation is but it was nice to get pushed around, to push back. I didn't have any (back) issues with that. I'll try and take it a step further the next day."

The Red Wings limited Helm's ice time during the first two days by design since he hadn't skated since May, when he tried without success to get back into the lineup for the Red Wings' second-round playoff series against eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago.

"We weren't going to jump into it and start going all out," Helm said. "It was encouraging I was able to get through the practice. Just excited to move on."

...

"It's been a tough year and a half," said Helm, a member of the 2008 Stanley Cup championship team. "It's going to be 18 months in September and I've played maybe 15 minutes. It hasn't been a fun time. There's been a lot of ups and downs. But I see a light."

Otherwise, also in the "in case you missed it" category:

  • I posted audio from interviews with Michael Babcock Jr., Rasmus Bodin, Zach Nastasiuk, Xavier Ouellet, Luke Glendening and Jake Paterson;
  • The Red Wings posted this Tweet a couple of hours ago, and then followed it up with a 59-image Facebook gallery from today's practices (and somehow, Chris Chelios managed to get to Chicago and back to see Jake on Saturday and then take part in today's practice):

Or wear gaudy jewerly. Tyler Bertuzzi's got some sort of gold chain dangling from his neck, as do half a dozen other guys, and Alexei Marchenko actually wears a very fancy wedding ring on his right hand (Eastern Orthodox tradition = right ring finger is your ring finger).

No one tell these "kids" that they probably look exactly like their fathers did when dad was their age...

Holmstrom had a really hard time picking pucks out from behind the goalie, too--and it's a really neat thing, an honest cut-out of a goalie in the butterfly position, with little "holes" near the glove and blocker sides and a sort of "keel" to hold him up.

There's good reason for that:

I cannot tell you how big a "no-no" fighting at the development camp is. Even after

And these are quite important:

Lindenau posted a pair of galleries from today's practices at the Left Wing Lock, and she penned an article about Grand Rapids Griffins defenseman-to-be Xavier Ouellet (and this is just part of it):

With his junior hockey career behind him, Ouellet is gearing up for training camp this fall. The 48th overall selection in the 2011 NHL draft is one of five incoming rookie defensemen competing for limited roster spots in Grand Rapids.

“I can’t worry about the other guys, I’ve got to focus on myself,” he said. “I have been playing a lot of minutes in junior and that’s my goal in pro too. I want to be in top shape by getting stronger and gaining some speed. I think that will help me win a spot with the Griffins.”

Like several other prospects, Ouellet had a chance to experience the AHL after joining the Griffins for a few weeks. The two-way defenseman practiced with the team before leaving to return home to rest his ankle.

“It was a good learning experience,” he said. “Being there gave me a chance to be on the ice with the guys and adjust to the speed of the game. I watched the games from the stands and it helped me see how there is a lot of structure and speed at this level. I think that will be great help coming into next season.”

After winning the Calder Cup, expectations for the Griffins remains high heading into next season. The young defensive unit, which will likely be headlined by Ouellet among others, will need to play beyond their years to have a shot a back-to-back championships.

“Next year they will have another good young team and I hope to be part of it,” Ouellet said. “There is a lot of expectations on the team, but I can’t wait to get started.  It is going to be a big challenge but I am ready to be part of it.”

Michigan Hockey and Nick's Notebook's Nick Barnowski posted some pictures and some Tweet "teasers" for articles we're going to see about Tomas Storm (who I've never had the opportunity to talk to) and Dean Chelios:

Yes, yes they did:

Fischer and I had a good chat about the stick, which he insisted was excellent for cross-checking and slashing people wink

(I took some pictures, too, but Nick's camera is better than mine):

Ahem:

Honestly, everyone I talk to says that Mike Babcock is a genuinely nice guy who has time for everyone, but I've figured out why his relationship with the press is a little antagonistic and adversarial: he likes it that way. He's the coach and he's someone who has privileged information, and he wants to dissuade people from trying to pry it out of him. That, and the man is an alpha alpha male, so the testosterone has to work itself out somehow.

WXYZ happened to post a day-late-dollar-short video from Friday's scrimmage (via RedWingsFeed), and the elder Babcock plays a large role in said video:


Octopus Thrower's Peter Fish penned an article offering scouting reports regarding Jake Paterson and Jared Coreau:

During drills, Patersson showed that he has good recovery speed, can move from one post to another quickly, and he possesses a phenomenal glove hand.

In the scrimmage, he wasn’t able to catch the puck, but used the padding on the glove to make the save. Once he made the save, he immediately found the puck and snatched it up before an opponent had a chance to skate near the net.

In the shootout after the scrimmage, Patersson did not bite on fakes, but instead continued to follow the puck and because of that he was able to shut down all but one player from Team Yzerman.

Patersson will spend one more season with the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL before heading the Grand Rapids the flowing season.

He shows a lot of promise and I am looking forward to see his progression next year.

Jared Coreau did not participate in many drills because he is still recovering from shoulder surgery, but he took part in most of the goalie drills. The fact that he is able to train at all is a big step in the right direction for him.

Coreau is one of, if not is, the biggest goalie prospects the Red Wings have ever had at 6’5″. The height does not affect his movements, speed, or agility which can be rare with bigger goaltenders. He showed solid positioning, a good burst when moving side to side, and more than enough speed.

Again, Coreau took part in the majority of the non-systems drills activities today, dropping into the butterfly and taking shots that were aimed below his still-healing shoulder, and he looked...Smooth. Incredibly smooth. More on that in a little bit.

And we'll go from one end of the spectrum to another here as I try to get all the Wings-related stuff in one place:

TSN reports that former Wings prospect camper and defenseman Derek Meech has signed with Dynamo Minsk of the KHL after not being able to crack his hometown Winnipeg Jets' roster...

While MLive's Brendan Savage talked with Chelios about his Hockey Hall of Famer status and whether the prospect campers are talking to him about the honor:

"Some of them," said Chelios, who spent 10 of his 26 NHL seasons in Detroit and is the Red Wings adviser to hockey operations. "For whatever reason, most of the kids are shy. Maybe now, because I'm part of management, that might have something to do with it. But it's pretty cool when one of the young kids comes up and congratulates you."

Chelios has been getting lots of congratulatory messages since he was elected along with former Red Wings teammate Brendan Shanahan and fellow defenseman Scott Niedermayer, another first ballot Hall of Famer.

"It's a great feeling the support you get, especially in Michigan," Chelios said. "The texts, the phone calls, the people you haven't spoken with in years. Pretty amazing. I'm pretty happy for my family and close friends, everybody who has had a part in my career."

Chelios said the magnitude of earning induction into the Hall of Fame still hasn't hit him.

"I don't think it really (will) until I'm standing at the podium in Toronto and you're making your speech and you're with all the other inductees," said Chelios, who was packing for the Development Camp when he got the call from the Hall of Fame informing him that he'd been elected.

Okay, for the record, it's 6:40 as I begin my portion of this blog entry.

The team I've been calling Team Yzerman, per the Left Wing Lock's list of teams, took to the ice first to spend 20 minutes with Tomas Storm and Andy Weidenbach; then both Teams Yzerman and Lidstrom took part in a 40-minute set of systems play, and Team Lidstrom repeated the Storm and Weidenbach drills while Team Yzerman's players showered and ate.

Again, Nick Jensen (shoulder), Mitchell Wheaton (shoulder) and Kurt Etchegary (undisclosed injury, and I'm sorry about the swollen cheek thing; it turns out that that's a birth defect) are not participating, Helm didn't take part in every drill, and Jared Coreau's participation was limited at times.

Tomas Storm's drills included the following (Jim Bedard and his assistant had the goalies take part in drills I'll get to in a moment):

  • Beginning by asking players to skate through three tires set up in a triangle in front of the "super expensive shooter tuitor"--with the players kicking their leg out as they skated around the first tire in the triangle, skating laterally past the second tire in the inverted triangle, and then firing a backhand shot at the net, with the "kick" coming from the leg opposite the one you're supposed to "shoot" from (i.e. lefties skating toward the tires kicked out their left leg as they skated past the left tire; righties skating toward the tires kicked out the right leg as they skated past the right tire);
  • Placing two full-car-sized tires on the ice which had a stick propping the tire up to represent a "stick check"--one facing toward the side boards closest to the tire (i.e. "west") and the other stick facing the opposite way (i.e. "east," thankfully Centre Ice Arena has a literal north-south rink direction) and having the players hop over the pair of tires placed near the blueline about 10 feet from the boards and then a second "stick check" tire placed near the top of the faceoff circles, and then repeat their kick-and-backhand move;
  • Storm's iteration of the drill involved pointing the first tire-checker's stick toward the blueline. He asked the players to slide the puck under that tire-checker's stick, regain control of the puck, and carry it up to the seond tire, where the players would have to hop over the tire-checker's laterally-placed stick. And then they proceeded to complete the kick-and-backhand spiel;
  • Storm then placed a third "active" tire near the blueline, almost to the point that the three tires before the "triangles" in front of the net looked like a backwards "L." The first tire had no stick, but the players had to skate across the blueline and around it; the second tire was the first tire-checker, and the players were asked to spin away from the tire on their backhand and then spin toward the second tire on their forehand--with the "spins" requiring clockwise and then counterclockwise spins for righties and vice versa for lefties;
  • That drill was repeated with two spins away from the tire-checker;
  • Then Storm changed everything up--and repeated this drill on both the right wing boards and left wing boards: the players had to start at the right wing blueline, skate to the center ice dot, go around the two tire-checker tires that had been moved out to the blueline and about halfway from the blueline to faceoff dot, then go through a smaller set of tires stacked "vertically" at the half boards, just inside the faceoff circle, then avoid a third tire-checker in the slot while sliding the puck under that tire-checker, and then shoot;
  • Storm offered iterations of this drill where the players had to slide the puck under two (not three) tire-checkers, or they had to hop over two (not three) tire-checkers, again, on first the right wing boards and then the left wing boards.

While those drills were going on, Jim Bedard had his goalies engage in the following drills--and Jared Coreau took part in most of them--with half of each team's skaters taking part in the Storm drills and half of them working with the goalies;

  • First, setting up either a 3-lane (for the Yzerman group) or two-lane system in which the goalies would stop shots while in the butterfly position, at the faceoff dots, from players taking wristers at the blueline;
  • Some "stand up, drop and then face a shot" drills where the goalies would have to chug from the center of the net to a glove at the top of the right "horseshoe," drop, and slide over to a glove placed near the left top of the "horseshoe" crease, and then get back up and skate back to the center of the net--or they'd skate to one of the gloves, skate back to the center of the net, and then drop into the butterfly position;
  • Then two goalies were placed at the part of the faceoff circle closest to the half boards, and, facing toward the hash marks, they had to lose their sticks and make toe saves while in the butterfly position, sliding left to right and right to left;
  • I really liked the drill where Bedard would fire a pass from the goal line, directly parallel with the faceoff dot, and the player would have to skate from either the goalie's blocker side dot to the catch glove side dot, and then skate back to the slot and shoot between the hash marks;
  • Things got even more complicated when, starting on the blocker side (all five goalies are "regular" goalies, so they catch with their left hand and use their right hand to hold their stick and blocker), a coach would fire a pass to a player coming off the opposite side wall (i.e. blocker side coach passes to skater coming off glove side half boards), the player would have to shoot between the hash marks, and then the player would receive a second pass and would shoot to the goalie's glove side, shooting between a glove and stick placed on the ice to mark the "shooting area." And vice versa--so you've got the goalie watching a player come off the side to which he would end up facing the second shot;
  • And finally, Bedard had skaters taking one pass at the left hash mark, shooting, taking a second pass from the same "down low" location (let's say it was blocker side), and skating to and then spinning off of the right hash mark to take a seond shot. This drill was repeated going the other way.

Andy Weidenbach engaged in drills with every skater; the goaltenders worked on positioning (I'll get to that in a minute):

  • Weidenbach's first drill is what I call the "don't fall over" drill, because in earlier years, he'd have the skaters engage in it for about 10 minutes. Essentially, the skaters move in an S, skating around the top of the right faceoff dot, and then the bottom of the left faceoff dot--in a "half moon" shape, if you will--all while skating via crossovers and leaning into the circle with one's inward shoulder being raised to as level a position as possible--before skating to the blueline;
  • In the second drill, the same "half moon" shape was repeated, but this time, the players made "C cuts" with the leg facing away from the circle, pushing outward instead of forward and allowing that outward movement to propel them around the circles;
  • Then things got complicated. Weidenbach had the players skate back to the end boards, and he placed three tires on the ice. The first tire was at the right side of the blueline, the second tire was placed essentially in the center of the blueline, and the third tire was at the center ice faceoff dot. The players were asked to skate backwards to that right-or-left-side-blueline tire, to spin off that tire facing the center blueline tire, to shuffle their skates skating toward that center blueline tire, and then to peel away from that tire and skate to the center ice tire. Technically speaking, it's was a forehand spin and then a backhand spin for the lefties--clockwise and then counter-clockwise--and the opposite for the righties.
  • Things got interesting after that, because a skater starting at the right or left goal line had to take pucks and protect them while skating through real-live defensemen placed on the boards-side and hash-marks-sides of the faceoff dots, parallel to the half wall, all while protecting the puck as the "forward" skated in a figure 8 around and through the defensemen and then attempted to shoot on the net;
  • Weidenbach's final drill also involved puck protection, but it was simpler, involving one skater skating with a "shadow" from the blueline to the faceoff dot, and then spinnning to either their forehand or backhand, twisting inside toward the goal.

At the other end of the ice, Jim Bedard's goalie drills weren't particularly complicated:

  • I'll quote my notes here: first the goalies has to drop into their butterfly, get back up, go post to post, skate out to a glove at top of crease on the blocker side, glove at top of crease on the glove side, and stop shot in their butterfly--and the drill was reversed;
  • Then they skated from either the left or right post to the top of the circle, shuffled side to side while standing up, and then dropped to stop a shot in the butterfly at the faceoff dot, essentially skating in an L;
  • They skated behind 6 cones spread out over the half boards, having to skate up to each cone and then shuffle back and away from that cone (toward the next one) in a V, with the goalies' motions looking like this: /VVVVV\
  • The "V's" became "U's" as they skated up to the cone, skated back, and then shuffled side to side until their bodies were perpendicular to the next cone;
  • And the final drill went like this: skate from the end boards to the bottom of the faceoff circle, stop, then shuffle to top of circle stop, skate back to back to the dot, stop, skate all the way back to the bottom of the circle, stop, and skate HARD all the way to the blueline.

At 8:45 AM, the skaters got off the ice for the Zamboni to resurface the ice, and at 9 AM, both Team Yzerman and Team Lidstrom took to the ice--with Darren Helm in tow.

Coach Jeff Blashill's drills included:

  • Warm-up drills involving 2-on-0s with players passing and skating up the right wing side (against goalies in both nets);
  • Switching up that 2-on-0 to 1 forward stopping at the front of the net and the other shooting pucks into that screened situation;
  • A rather complicated drill in which "repositories" of forwards stood at each side's half boards. One forward would pass "vertically" to a defenseman at the opposite blueline, that defenseman would pass to his partner (either right to left or left to right), and the second defenseman would fire a diagonal pass back toward the forward who set him up--with that forward having skated to the opposite blueline--and then that forward would turn and skate in on the goalie;
  • A drill in which 2 forwards and 1 defenseman would chase down a dump-in from center ice to the far goal line, and charge all the way to the other goal, with the forwards and defensemen achieving possession and control of the puck, the forwards making a side-to-side pass, and then one of the forwards sending the puck back to the blueline, where the defenseman would wait for traffic to form in front of the net and would take a slap shot or wrist shot;
  • At the halfway point, for some reason, that's when coach Blashill decided to have the players stretch, and stretch they did, with Darren Helm leading the way. Helm led the stretches at the end (when Dean Chelios was "pied"), too;
  • Then things got a little kooky (while the goalies were separated and skated to the faceoff dot and back to the half wall, shuffled on their knees from the faceoff dot to the half wall, and then shuffled in a "quarter moon" while facing outward):

Blashill cut the rink in half and placed 3 players along the wall, with one standing just inside the blueline, one standing at the half boards and one standing at the goal line. With no goal nor no goalie present, he placed 3 players opposite them, with the 3-and-3 facing each other. In the middle of the zone, Blashill placed 4 players who stood in a penalty-killing style "box."

The goal here involved the six players playing on the perimeter attempting to keep play going, and the four "penalty-killers" in the middle attempting to steal the puck from them and clear it to center ice. It was essentially 6-on-4 keep-away, but it involved LOTS of hitting, TONS of battling and the kind of pushing, shoving, hacking and whacking that Darren Helm wasn't supposed to be taking.

He looked fine.

  • Blashill turned the drill on its head, replacing the net and going with a 4-on-3 situation, with the "4" playing in a box and the "3" spaced between them. This one got even more physical as the "4" ended up having to try to clear the puck away from the "3," who worked very hard to negate the man advantage;
  • While that was taking place, the goalies were first doing what I'd call a "V bisected by an I" drill and then skating in not a W, but an M, all on their feet, with Bedard emphasizing edge work;
  • Eventually, Blashill chased the goalies to the benches via a drill that was modeled by Chris Chelios and Tomas Holmstrom.

That kind of drill. In each of the five faceoff circles, a puck carrier and an opponent battled it out from the "start" of Blashill's whistle to the "stop" of his second one. Full contact, cross-checks, hacking, whacking, you name it, it was Kosher.

Darren Helm sat this particular drill out.

  • The players needed a water break after that "battle" drill, and understandably so. And this is the only way I can describe the next 1-on-1 drill, per my notes: 1 player at RW side far blueline faceoff dot, takes pass from player facing pass and then spinning off his own goal line, he skates toward net which the first pass came from—so the player skates to the blueline before giving it to the "dot" guy and going on the defensive as that player skates all the way up the ice and attempts to score on the "defending" player's goaltender;
  • Then Blashill had the skaters set up at each of the four corners of the ice. Two skaters, one from each "side" of the ice, would be told to chase a dump-in in the direction of Blashill's choosing, and those puck-retrievers would attempt to score...And then have to back off as the players defending them would peel off, and two new "attackers" would be given a dump-in to attempt to score upon. This one was really complicated to say the least, but every "attacker" attempted to retrieve the dump-in, go the other way and score on the opposite net, and then they had to "defend" against a new pair of puck-chasers, who then became the defenders.

And that's as simply as I can put it.

  • Finally, they engaged in what I've been calling "street hockey" at both ends of the rink, with four goals set up on the half boards and players going 4-on-4 against goalies, and when that was over, they skated from one end of the ice to the other, and back, and they were done.

I do need to note that Coreau did not tend the net when the players were battling each other, but he did face shots during the "skill" drill presentations, working with first Team Yzerman's goalies and then Team Lidstrom's goalies.

So that's a lot of drill work and a ton of skill drills. And each and every one of the healthy players participating.

I'm gonna go with shorter player assessments this time around because, quite frankly, I started this at 5 and I'm still writing at 9:07.

And again, DISCLAIMER TIME: Please remember that I am disussing players who are taking part in a skill development camp, mostly against their peers, in July. These assessments are not supposed to be be-all-end-all determinations. They are situationally-based assessments, and the games where jobs are on the line don't begin until the prospect tournament in September.

Team Yzerman:

Forwards:

#43 Darren Helm: Helm hasn't worked out much and he stayed away from the most physical of the battle drills, but he looked chipper, speedy, able to take some punishment, and, most importantly, happy. He was very literally light on his feet today, and while his hands looked like hands of someone who's barely played in a year, and while the power in his stride isn't back yet, the fact that he was able to deal with the pushing, shoving, tugging and pulling was fantastic.

Long story short: He said he'd push it over the last two days and he pushed it. And he looked fine. He appears to be slowly but surely getting upon his way back onto that dang road to recovery, but he's still in the parking lot.

#67 Rasmus Bodin: I don't honestly know what to make of Rasmus. He shows so much potential as a big, hulking power forward with some solid hands and skating, but sometimes he just spaces out. He's got the skill, he's got the tools, he's got the toolbox, and he seems to understand his role, but today in particular, he was kind of floating at times, and you don't want to see a big man float.

Long story short: His "upside" in my opinion is that of a 3rd or 4th line forward who isn't overly physical but can crash, bang and keep up with play at a high level. He's got to come out of the wilderness more regularly, though, and today, Rasmus was hangin' out at the tree line.

#80 Dean Chelios: Chelios took the momentum of a superb scrimmage outing and ran with it. He's starting to find his form, and again, while he is wiry, and while he's at least going to need his senior year to prove that he is someone who's worth a pro contract, he's starting bump, grind and mash right back in the battle drills, and when he's on his game, he's a speedy puck-rushing center with excellent vision and a solid shot. The issue is that I saw what looked like an elite player today, and I haven't seen that every day. He has these flourishes when you wonder why someone hasn't signed him, and then he fades into the woodwork and you understand--and Jake, who is a defenseman, is similar in that regard.

Long story short: Has gotten a lot better as the camp's gone on, remarkably so. But remarkably better and a remarkable pro are two different things. I do wish him a happy birthday and I hope that he's here next summer competing for a spot on the 50-man roster, because he's grown up into a very nice young man. He needs to find some consistency to his game.

#42 Martin Frk: Frk hot-dogged it through the drills today, and I'd be upset if he wasn't so honestly hard-working. He was much more focused on putting the puck in the back of the net during the Tomas Storm drills than he was regarding hopping over the sticks and putting the pucks under them, and he was kind of goofing off during the power skating drills as well. But when he's asked to be serious, in the systems or battle drills, he spares no effort.

Is there some Brendan Smith, circa 2008, in him? Yeah, to some extent, he thinks he's hot shit. But there's no denying that when he's asked to put his nose to the grindstone, he happily obliges. And he's just born to score goals. His hands are as good as, if not better, than Pulkkinen's, and he has the skating and strength to go to the net himself instead of sniping like Pulkkinen does (and I think Pulkkinen's something special).

Long story short: He's got an ego. But his skill set is indeed elite and he is a sniper, sniper, sniper with enough power to bulldoze his way to the net. Obviously, playing against men is going to be a huge challenge for someone who's dominated major junior hockey, because the time and space with which he had to make an extra move or look for a better shot are gone at the AHL level. But if he's a hot dog, he's a hot dog that does love to work and is realistic about the fact that he's nowhere near where he needs to be to play in the NHL yet. And you want a player that talented to understand that.

#63 Phillipe Hudon: Hudon cursed at himself as he kept missing the net during Tomas Storm's drills, but he excelled during the battle drills in particular and he just ground, ground, ground and ground out the puck. He's still fighting an uphill battle in terms of finding a job with the Wings, but with two years left to have a really solid season as an overager in major junior and then to turn pro, he's someone you hope will have impressed someone by his work ethic enough to wait for his skills to sharpen a little more.

Long story short: He's also embraced the grind, but he's grinding to a very different role.

#64 David Pope: Again. Don't see him. Snipes a goal. Don't see him. Pops up and scores top shelf. Don't see him. Roars up the wing and takes a perfect pass, puts it into the net. See him doing OK protecting the puck, doing OK in the skating drills, and when he gets to the net, the puck goes in it. And he's frickin' huge.

Long story short: Very raw, incredibly lanky, and 6'2" but maybe 180 at most. The Wings drafted a set of hands attached to a body they hope will grow.

#76 Ty Loney: Frustrating to watch. I see his father's grit, I see hard work, I see heart and grit, but I don't see a ton of any of those qualities all at the same time, and at 6'3" and 195 pounds, he should be standing out, not blending in.

Long story short: Still not sure what to make of him. That's not exactly fantastic.

#73 Brody Silk: Silk is a little smaller than Loney and a little grittier, and he can move the puck at a very high pace. But he's also kind of bobbing along.

Long story short: Free agent try-out. Hopefully he's impressed someone.

#39 Anthony Mantha: I'm not allowed to tell you where I heard it, but I heard someone say that he's "*#$%@& soft," and I could see where that criticism came from. When there's a scoring opportunity, or there's a way for him to get the puck to the net, the frickin' giant-bodied, huge-wingspanned Mantha blossoms into a flurry of excitement, enthusiasm, hard work, remarkably deft skating for a man of his size and a sniper rifle of a wrist or snap or backhand shot. He's a good playmaker, too, and he can stand up to physical punishment.

But when the puck's not in scoring position, or he isn't, he looks like a 6'4," 170-pound kid with a smiley face drawn on his left glove (seriousy). His natural scoring ability is second only to Frk's, his creativity and enthusiasm are excellent, but his "compete" level away from a scoring position can be good and it can make him look like a boy in a giant's body.

Long story short: Top-top-top-shelf potential. But just as Frk says he has to be a better pro, Mantha acknowledges that he has to become a better player in terms of his engagement on a shift-by-shift basis, and he does.

#62 Zach Nastasiuk: There are times that I think he's superbly ahead of the curve as a checking winger and there are times that I think he needs to go back to Owen Sound and work on his skating. He knows exactly what's going to butter his bread as a grinding forward with some solid hands and boatloads of grit. When he's actually battling people--kind of the opposite of Mantha--he competes like hell. But he needs to round out his skill set.

Long story short: A work in progress, though he's embraced a less-than-glamorous role already, and has tons of potential as a gritty forward.

#86 Dominik Shine: Shine has not shone. He will go to Northern Michigan and try to improve his skill set.

Long story short: Bobbing along, but barely.

Defensemen:

#47 Alexei Marchenko: I finally figured him out on Sunday. Marchenko is a top-four defenseman, without a doubt. Good, hard shot. Superb outlet passes and vision. Good playmaker, good puck lugger, good speed, good mobility. But he's still a product of European training--building up one's upper body to look like a weightlifter--and his core strength is lacking. He gets overpowered in board battles and there are times that the extra step he should have, especially as something of a gambler at times, isn't there. The skill and will are there, but I don't think he's figured out how to build his body from the "core" on out. That, and when he does make mistakes, he makes them because the time and space available on a 200'x100' KHL rink aren't available here.

Long story short: Has top-four potential and then some. Needs to adjust to North American hockey and North American training.

#77 Richard Nedomlel: Nedomlel, doing well. He had some boobles and stumbles during some of Storm's more advanced drills, but they were few and far between, and he's just doing a fantastic job of playing a simple, physical stay-at-home game. Richard is not going to wow you with thunderous bodychecks every time he and an opposing player go into the corner, which may disappoint you given that he's 6'5" and all arms and legs, but he's likely to come out of that battle with the puck, and to shovel it over to a more offensively-inclined partner.

Long story short: I think he's going to have an easier time adjusting than Marchenko will because he's been training here--and because he can laugh off his mistakes and learn from them. He's got an easy-going demenaor to match his intensity, so he's just an even-keeled fellow, and that's important when you're learning--and he's about to take a huge step.

#48 Ryan Sproul: I think that the transition between dominating at major junior levels nad playing as an elite, top-pair defenseman at the AHL level are two very different things. But in addition to having a rocket shot, hard passes as a playmaker and a puck-lugger, possessing superb skating skills and physicality...He's gotten to the point that it almost seems like he intimidates people out there. Not with his physicality per se, but with his skill set. Opponents seem to come into battles with him knowing that he can out-muscle and out-skill them, and that's scary for some of the younger, rawer players.

Long story short: Also making a big leap. But the top-pair potential is real.

#79 Ildar Telyakov: Ildar had a rough time during Storm's most technical drills. This was the first time that the 6'9" behemoth has been stumbling over himself, and he stumbled all over himself at times. There were other times when, as has become usual, he blended in, and during the battle drills, he held his own, nothing flashy, no big nasty hits, but he got the job done. He's...A project. A big project. I hope the Wings are able to take him on, but I can't say for sure.

Long story short: If he was 6'2" he's been invisible enough in all of the right ways long enough that I'd be intrigued and would suggest that he may be ECHL material. But I'm not the Wings and I'm not overly enamored by the fact that he's so big. I'm impressed by the fact that he's been solid.

#28 Trevor Hamilton: Worked very very very hard today. Was gritty today. Is going to Miami of Ohio. Needs to fill out and fill out his game.

Long story short: If there were two more days and he wasn't one of 30-something skaters today, I'd have more.

Goaltenders:

#68 Jake Paterson: "One T" has no faults to his game other than that overabundance of upper-leg movement when he's doing those skating drills. Smooth as can be, simple hybrid game, good blocker, good glove, nice stickhandling, good toes, good reactions, doesn't get turned around much, is a cool cucumber. During a skill development camp.

Long story short: He was fantastic on Friday. I want to see how he does playing 3 games in 4 nights, if holes appear in his game, because thus far, there have been none. He's just solid. He does nothing spectacularly but everything well.

#34 Andrew D'Agostini: Size is a problem for the minuscule netminder. If he was not 5'10" and 173 pounds, I think someone would easily take a chance on him as his more reactionary game works very well for him. But he's really small, and really small goalies don't last over long periods of time in pro hockey unless they're really special, and he's just really good.

Long story short: Someone else's free agent try-out?

And, in limited participation, #31 Jared Coreau: Coreau says that he wants to model himself after Pekka Rinne, and I could see that. His glove hand isn't as good as Rinne's, but he is smooth as silk, which is downright bizarre for someone of his size. Up and down, into the butterfly, hopping back onto his feet, doing shuffles and skating, stopping shots as a "blocking" goalie, playing pucks with his stick, it's all really good.

But then you see him get turned around and you see a shot-blocker who has had shoulder surgery and can't scrmable--you hope--or maybe just a shot-blocker whose size might get him into trouble.

Long story short: Definitely worth the contract. Let's see how he holds up.

Team Lidstrom:

Forwards:

#72 Andreas Athanasiou: Athanasiou the natural athlete is a wonder to behold. He's an elegant skater, he just explodes out of the middle of the ice, he roars up and down the rink, passes well and has a better shot, and he's a two-way center. The issue for him going forward is that he's got to get a little grittier. He can plow through so many people so naturally that sometimes it seems like that's all he does, and that's...Predictable. He handles himself well enough in battle drills, but there's little to no snarl to his game as I've seen it, and while he protects the puck superbly, sticking his hands out and his butt out to maintain possession, he tends not to use those arms or legs to back someone off with a check or an elbow.

Long story short: There is work left to do for someone well on his way to a pro deal. He's remarkably gifted and worth the hype, but grit can be learned.

#81 Michael Babcock: All grit and work. Babcock is heading to the Fargo Force of the USHL, and it's a rough-and-tumble league. Even as an undersized grinder, he's prepared himself for it. He's got some good hands and he's got very good feet, but he makes himself useful because he's going to hunt people down on the forecheck and steal pucks from them, because he's going to make it very hard for bigger and stronger opponents to get past him, and because he gives no quarter despite giving half a foot to some players. Where he takes that heart and grit is up to him.

Long story short: A project of an undersized grinder with the work ethic to make himself into someone's must-have free agent signing. In three or four years' time.

THIS IS GOING TO FLOW OVER INTO THE COMMENTS!

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Comments

George Malik's avatar

#59 Tyler Bertuzzi: Somebody put a leash on him. He’s got wheels, as it turns out. Good wheels. He’s got a nice shot and good passing skills. He holds his own in his battle drills. He did fine in the skating and Storm drills. And he skated like he’d been neutered.

Which is good.

Long story short: You can’t be Wendell Clark if your teammates don’t like you. Welcome to reality land.

#85 Kurt Etchegary: Wanted to see him. Turns out that that swollen cheek is a birth defect. He seems like a helluva kid. Would have loved to see him play.

Long story short: Injuries suck.

#21 Luke Glendening: Good. Very good. He likes to grind and mash and jam. He’s a very serviceable player in terms of shooting and passing, he obviously wants to get better at everything and he works incredibly hard. And he competes, competes, competes competes and competes, using his skating and strength to offset his size, and it works.

Long story short: Someone I also want to see in a game, because I know what he does in games. He makes things happen, and to some extent, he’s been bottled up during this camp. And I can still see that he’s a helluva grinder.

#84 Barclay Goodrow:
He’s got some pro experience and he’s got some fleet feet, but he hasn’t done enough, especially at all of his listed 6’2” and 214 pounds, to impress me. He’s kept up.

Long story short: Maybe someone else’s depth forward.

#82 Mattias Janmark-Nylen: On Friday the pace of the game seemed to sidetrack him, and today, it was his stick. He’s got an extremely flat blade with no “rocker” at all, and that’s great for making fine passes, but not so great for stickhandling through cones and over and under tires with sticks sticking out of them. His skill level in terms of his passing is elite. His skill level in terms of on-ice vision is superb. He’s a big man, a stocky guy, and that’s very good in terms of winning puck battles. But he can get thrown off by tires.

Long story short: Excellent player, but it was intriguing and sometimes confusing to see him struggle so mightily because he’s been pretty nearly perfect otherwise. Just…Strange to see him struggle.

#60 Marek Tvrdon: Tvrdon has gotten better in terms of mucking and grinding as time has passed. He’s starting to slowly but surely rebuild his game. And there is so much potential there in terms of playing like a big, physical Slovakian power forward who can also shoot and score with a sneaky hard shot. But he’s still picking up the pieces.

Long story short: He needs to play in games, not just a development camp, to really get back to being himself. And it’s been two years since the Wings saw what that was.

#70 Jamien Yakubowski: For someone who’s supposed to be incredibly physical, I haven’t seen it. He’s got an edge to him, but he hasn’t stood out, he hasn’t laid anybody out, and he hasn’t stood out in any really remarkable way, shape or form.

Long story short: A bit of a puzzle.

#87 Dane Walters: Gritty gritty gritty, hard-skating, hard-charging, experienced, knows how to steal pucks and grind it out as a defensive forward. I don’t know if he will be someone the Wings are interested in, but he’s a meat-and-potatoes grinder that will carve out a pro career somewhere. He’s good in the skill drills but that’s not his dinner role, if you will.

Long story short: A consummate pro, a good guy and a grinder’s grinder. Just probably not Detroit’s.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 07/14/13 at 10:41 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Defensemen:

#75 James De Haas: There was some huffing and puffing from De Haas as the big, talented defenseman…Struggled at times against players smaller than himself during the battle drills. He’s a really superb-skating puck-moving defenseman with a bit of an edge to him, but he’s been playing in the BCHL for a long time, and when people surprise him, given his ability to skate—and he’s fast—he can come out looking flat-footed. For the most part, he’s been really solid and exciting to see develop into a man, but today I was reminded that he’s been a man playing in a very young man’s league.

Long story short: Still on target to earn a contract with the Wings, but the hulking puck-mover is going to college for a reason.

#71 Alex Gudbranson:
Gudbranson’s also been impressive since the scrimmage. Hard hard shot, moves the puck solidly, keeps his head up, is built like a brick wall. He’s got some potential. But not on this stacked defense.

Long story short: has bobbed up to the top level of those free agents. Isn’t necessarily what the Wings want, though. Another #5/6 defenseman.

#61 Xavier Ouellet: Mr. Smooth. He doesn’t stand out because he’s invisible in the best of ways, and he was invisible most of the time today, sliding slick passes up ice, headmanning the rush himself, firing hard shots on net, skating superbly both forward, backward and laterally, and he was winning tons of puck battles as well, but you don’t notice him. Which is exciting.

Long story short: Ouellet is more than ready to transition from the QMJHL to the AHL. Whether he’ll have any troubles is beyond me because he just does so much so well that I think he’s going to sneak up on a lot of Wings fans.

#3 Nick Jensen: Has to go see a shoulder specialist, which blows.

Long story short: May have to delay the start of his pro career because someone who the Wings value very highly took a chunk out of someone the Wings value more highly for little to no reason.

#74 Marc McNulty: Baby-faced defenseman, overpowered easily, bumped around, holds his own, has a good shot and passes well, and then you find out that this 6’6” kid who may way 175 pounds has wheels like frickin’ Athanasiou at times. It’s just remarkable, because it doesn’t happen too often, but when he gets on his high horse, he absoutely flies, and for a big man, that’s baffling. Sunday was one of those, “Did I just see what I think I saw?” days.

Long story short:
Big defenseman with top-four potential…Based upon four days of viewing. And some ridiculous wheels.

Taking part in the off-ice activities:
Mitchell Wheaton: I’ve seen him eating bagels. He is indeed 6’5” and 230 pounds. And I haven’t gotten to do much other than give him his space as he’s watched his teammates do his thing as Wheaton’s recovering from shoulder issues.

Goaltenders:

#38Toni Eskelinen: I hate to say it, but I think he’s a one-trick pony. He does the Finnish butterfly thing very, very, very well, and when he’s down in that “crab” position, he stops pucks, but he’s got holes when he’s going down, he’s got holes when he’s coming up, and if you’re gonna rely on that one style of netminding, you’ve gotta be impeccable at it. He’s not.

Long story short: Needs to master his craft.

#34 Jake Patterson: “Two T’s” really does play like Jimmy Howard. Except that his blocker is too low and his glove is too high, which is one of the reasons he looks like he’s swimming in his gear.

Is he big enough? Yes. He’s supposedly 6 feet tall and 191 pounds.

Is his technique good enough? Yes, at least when it’s not blocker below his knee and glove at his shoulder level.

Is he consistent?

No. And he looks smaller than D’Agostini based upon his play. Which is just baffling.

Long story short: Needs more work than the Wings can give him.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 07/14/13 at 10:43 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

So that’s what I’ve got. I started writing this entry at 5, It’s 10:44 PM, I have to get up at 6…

And it’s been a privilege and an adventure, but I’m exhausted.

I will see you in the morning.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 07/14/13 at 10:44 PM ET

Puppies and Hookers's avatar

THANK YOU GEORGE!  You totally rock!

Posted by Puppies and Hookers from La la land on 07/14/13 at 11:10 PM ET

Primis's avatar

Great job as always George.  I often wonder if any of the other 29 teams have someone like you that can go to these camps and punch out 3903284923034 words on what you see in all the kids.

Great stuff.  Frk is already getting huge hype in some corners, it’s nice to see a dose of reality in with it.

Posted by Primis on 07/14/13 at 11:47 PM ET

Avatar

Excellent work. Sounds like there are some intriguing sleeper prospects in that group.

Posted by Slabby on 07/15/13 at 12:22 AM ET

cowboycoffee's avatar

wow!

Posted by cowboycoffee from San Francisco, CA on 07/15/13 at 01:04 AM ET

Gary A$$ SUCK !!'s avatar

Tack så mycket George !!! awesome job !!!

Posted by Gary A$$ SUCK !! from Fort Myers, Florida on 07/15/13 at 02:16 AM ET

gowings's avatar

Great fix to start of my day.Thanks smile

Posted by gowings from MTL on 07/15/13 at 07:19 AM ET

Red Winger's avatar

Great stuff, George, just like being there!

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie on 07/15/13 at 10:40 AM ET

SYF's avatar

Adding this page to my drills folder, George.  I cannot thank you enough for describing the drills these kids are trying to master.

Posted by SYF from the team that re-signed KFQ and DFC by KFH on 07/15/13 at 12:44 PM ET

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About The Malik Report

The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.