The Malik Report
by George Malik on 09/05/13 at 03:54 PM ET
It's an understatement to suggest that the Red Wings' prospect tournament is a whole other ball of wax as compared to the summer development camp, and that was very, very evident as the Red Wings' prospects and try-outs engaged in something of a morning skate ahead of tonight's 7:30 PM game against the Minnesota Wild (Jared Coreau told me, among other things, that Jake Paterson starts this evening, and you can at least follow the game's box score along on Poinstreak and the Left Wing Lock).
Grand Rapids Griffins coach Jeff Blashill, assistant coaches Spiros Anastas and Jim Paek, Red Wings director of player development Jiri Fischer, goaltending coach Jim Bedard and executive and defenseman's mentor Chris Chelios were all on the ice with the prospects, so six of the 10 coaches from the summer camp returned--yielding smoothly and superbly-run drills, with players able to ask for pointers whenever necessary...
But the focus was totally different this morning.
The team was split into a "red" set of skaters and a "white" set of skaters, with Andreas Athanasiou, Ryan Sproul, Alexei Marchenko, Tomas Jurco, Teemu Pulkkinen, Riley Sheahan, Marc McNulty, Phillipe Hudon, Marke Tvrdon, Zach Nastasiuk and try-out goalie Cam Lanigan forming the "red team"...
And Rasmus Bodin, Barclay Goodrow, Tyler Bertuzzi (wearing a "T. Bertuzzi #59" jersey), Jordan Maletta, Calle Jarnkrok, Max Nicastro, Martin Frk, Richard Nedomlel, Anthony Mantha, Jake Paterson and Jared Coreau representing the "white team."
This time around, all of the players were wearing the Red Wings practice jerseys with gray trim (and no Amway logos) instead of the throw-back "swoopy stripe" duds, but the incoming Griffins' skater' adoption of Reebok-branded sticks and gloves was...middling...With now-AHL vet Tomas Jurco breaking out his old pair of Warrior gloves from his first summer development camp and more than a few guys using Easton or Bauer (in Calle Jarnkrok's case) sticks.
The squads were split almost immediately after taking to the ice. The red team, skating at the south end of the ice, took shots at Paterson and Coreau, first firing glove and then blocker-side shots from the bottom of the faceoff dot (as indicated by a hockey stick placed at the "shooting area"); the skaters at the north end engaged in first a simple dump-in drill on the right or left wing in which 2 defensemen and 2 forwards would have to retrieve a coach-dumped-in puck from the end boards and carry it up the wing while keeping the "gap" between forwards and defensemen tight.
Very shortly, however, the coaches got into the mix, emphasizing puck recovery and quick transitions.
While the goalies at the south end of the ice were occupied with lateral movement drills, watching a player skate out from behind the net and across a pair of sticks placed in front of the crease before shooting, the skaters at the north end engaged in a drill that I can only describe as "strange":
In four-man groups, the "forwards" would skate very hard from the right wing half boards to the center blueline, and then skate backward, almost in an inverted "V" (a ^), and while that was happening, a pair of defensemen positioned a little deeper in the zone would skate laterally from side to side, all with the 4-man unit expected to remain in some sort of reasonably-spaced box.
Soon after, 4-man groups were positioned near the corners of the right (glove side) faceoff circle, and the players had to make a quick transition from 2 forwards at the tops of the circle and 2 defensemen at the bottom--think in a "box" shape--to one defenseman shifting toward the half boards, one taking the "bottom" of the circle, a forward edging toward the "top" of the circle and the other forward taking away a pass to the slot. Sort of a "box" becoming a "diamond."
At the south end, the goaltenders then took shots from players skating from the half boards to the slot; then they had to skate post-to-post and square up to a shooter -the coaches got into the game, and this is where things got really interesting:
The "four-man box" was set up against Chris Chelios standing at the right blueline, Jiri Fischer parked at the right wing half boards, Spiros Anastas down low, and Jim Paek lurking near the hash marks--and Blashill in the middle of the faceoff dot. The players had to negotiate Chelios setting up Fischer as the playmaker, who would either try to go down low to Anastas (who would feed pucks to Paek) or just plain old shake coverage.
Blashill was incredibly specific during the drill, stopping and re-starting it, telling players to get their sticks in lanes and watching coverage closely.
After that drill wrapped up, the majority of the balance of practice focused on puck movement and shooting on goalies in somewhat more realistic situations:
There was a "four corners" drill where a skater would start at a far blueline spot, pass to players and receive passes back at three other "repositories" of players at each board-wall side of the blueline, and then skate in on the goaltender at the end of the ice from which that skater came from;
The drill was sped up so that skaters were going in on both the north end's goaltender and the south end's goaltender at the same time;
At one point, 2 forwards and 2 defensemen set up in the offensive zone, with the LW forward giving to the left defenseman, who would send a lateral pass to the right defenseman, and ideally, either pass the puck to the RW forward or shoot the puck with the RW forward parked in front of the net.
The skaters had a stretch in the middle of all of this--and Max Nicastro led the stretches...
Then a full five-man unit of players would retrieve coaches' dump-ins and skate back to center ice, where a "pile" of players stood waiting to chase the next dump-in;
That drill then included an iteration where the goaltenders retrieved the dump-in and passed the puck to one of the defensemen;
And finally, there was a big, "dump and go the other way" drill where a 4-man unit would retrieve dump-ins with a the first defenseman passing the puck up to a forward, that forward would pass it to a defenseman standing at the far blueline, and then the forward would receive a pass from that far-blueline defenseman and skate back in on the defenseman who retrieved the dump-in.
At the very end of practice, there were some quick drills in which the centers took faceoffs, at the south end of the ice, d-to-d passes yielded shots with screened players in front of the net, and at the north end, three sticks were laid out in a shaper resembling the "horseshoe" at the top of the crease, and skaters coming out from either the blocker or glove hand side of the goal could pick any one of the four "gaps" in the sticks to shoot, but those drills ended quickly.
Again, I have to remind you that the observations I offer are both subjective and are NOT be-all-end-all assurances of success, failure or NHL-readiness, but instead, are just one man's educated takes on what the players he's watching are showing or not showing, but here's what stuck out to me over about 45 minutes of practicing--with the games likely telling the real story:
#15 Riley Sheahan: Sheahan looked pretty much like he always looks. He's big, he's mobile, he can check decently and he's mostly a no-frills 3rd line center with the hands to make plays. I still don't know if HE's figured out whether his offensive chops are going to make him more of an offensively-minded 3rd-liner or a meat-and-potatoes player, but that's always been the case with him.
#26 Tomas Jurco: Jurco doesn't look big. Jurco doesn't necessarily play big. But he is 6'2" and he is still filling out at 195 pounds, he's slick as all hell get out and he's a sniper. What he didn't show was a willingness to muck it up, but this was just a practice.
#39 Anthony Mantha: Looked to have filled out a bit since early July, and he didn't look like he was in over his head. He's a very naturally-gifted sniper with a hard, high shot, and his mobility is good.
#42 Martin Frk: Sniper sniper sniper. Frk is most definitely a goal-scoring machine, and it's going to be interesting to see if the Hunchback of Halifax can keep scoring at the AHL level.
#56 Teemu Pulkkinen: Literally, the kid's still very small. He's still built like a European pro--bulky up top and with a skinny little waist--but he's got a one-timer that's Hull/Kurri-esque. He's going to need to learn how to adapt to a smaller rink, but his potential remains Frk-and-Jurco like.
#59 Tyler Bertuzzi: His head was up more and he looked like he's got some good hands when he focuses on having hands. But the puck bounced by him as well. Likely itching to hit people.
#60 Marek Tvrdon: Remains a Slovkian power forward puzzle. Still don't know whether he's going to play for Grand Rapids or Vancouver, still don't know what to make of his massive size and rusty but slick hands.
#62 Zach Nastasiuk: Showed more of the offensive chops that his draft bios indicated that he possessed, and he looked good defensively.
#63 Phillipe Hudon: Hudon can be a bit of a puck hog for a grinder and he still gets on himself when he shoots wide, which is most of the time. He needs to get into a game where he can hit people, too.
#64 Jordan Maletta: He's listed at 6'3" and 215 and he looked like it. That's all I've got for now.
#67 Rasmus Bodin: Rasmus remains a wandering Swede. Sometimes he looks like a power forward, and sometimes he looks like a defensive forward, and sometimes he looks like he's in the wilderness.
#70 Calle Jarnkrok: Excellent skater, very slick, good playmaking, need to see more as I haven't seen him play since the 2012 World Championships, but his pace is remarkably professional.
#84 Barclay Goodrow: Fast checker. Reminds me of Trevor Parkes--a power winger, not necessarily with offensive ability, but somebody who can patrol the wing and bang bodies.
#47 Alexei Marchenko: Marchenko looked to have added at least 5 pounds to his still-lanky 6'2" frame, and he looked much more comfortable on North American ice this time around. Big playmaking, passing defenseman, very mobile.
#48 Ryan Sproul: Sproul and Xavier Ouellet are all but a frickin' on-ice bromantic couple, and they make perfect foils. Sproul's big and powerful and sort of LOOMS on the ice with that hard shot and good lateral mobility...
#61 Xavier Ouellet: While Ouellet (and I'm out of numerical order) quietly, slickly and almost casually plucks pucks out of trouble, slides them to Sproul or head-mans play himself, never looking out of place as Mr. Simplicty.
#58 Max Nicastro: Nicastro is a huge man at 6'3" and at least 225 pounds, and while his role with the Griffins involves being a massive stay-at-home defenseman, he is not without excellent speed for his size and a pretty solid shot. Kind of a Maltby-esque player in that he was an offensive defenseman in college but is comfortable playing a supporting role as a pro.
#74 Marc McNulty: Still has the face of a 14-year-old, is still lanky as fark at 6'6" and maybe 185 pounds, still glides on his skates, still has slick hands all of 2-and-change months from being drafted.
#75 Michal Plutnar: The free agent try-out kept up. That's about it.
#77 Richard Nedomlel: Richard is gigantic at 6'5" and at least 230 pounds, he's lankier than Jiri Fischer and Darren Helm combined and he's a superb stay-at-home defenseman. He also looks like he's itching to hit people. But he can be "gotten around."
#31 Jared Coreau: Coreau's movement is fluid as can be for a 6'5"-6'6" goalie, now that his shoulder is better, his glove hand is excellent, his blocker's good, and he seals the ice well, but he still needs to work on his lateral mobility and puckhandling. Still incredibly promising as a free agent signing.
#36 Jake Paterson: Turns his glove hand over when he's "resting" in his stance and turns it over when he handles the puck. Again, very elegant, very poised, looks kind of like Corey Schneider, but when his concentration wanes or he is off his near-perfect angles, there are holes.
#68 Cam Lanigan: Lanigan looked all of 6'3" and 202 pounds, and his fundamentals were superb. Hybrid goalie, slightly butterfly-y, looked solid.
That's it for now. I'll try to get something out after the game and get as many interviews as I can.
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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.