Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Impressions from the Red Wings’ win over the New York Rangers at the prospect tournament ‘17

The Red Wings' 4-1 win over the New York Rangers at the Wings' prospect tournament both earned the Wings a possible 2-and-2 finish, assuming that they defeat the St. Louis Blues in the 5th place game Tuesday afternoon (3:30 PM on Fox Sports GO, DetroitRedWings.com and NHL.com), and from a more immediate perspective, the Wings were able to breathe a sigh of relief after finally playing a simpler, steadier and more efficient game as both individuals and a team.

Jordan Sambrook, Axel Holmstrom (who had a goal and an assist), Dylan Sadowy and Dominik Shine (empty-net goal) scored for the Wings, Matej Machovsky made 32 saves, and Givani Smith started the game out with a bang as he fought Adrian Carbonara (who may or may not have bit Dominic Turgeon later in the game; Turgeon was incensed when he came out of a scrum with Carbonara, and he informed the referees and Wings' trainer of Carbonara's ill intentions).

The Red Wings' prospects finally looked like a team that had settled into the pace, flow and intensity of prospect tournament play. There were times during Friday and Saturday's losses to Carolina and Chicago (respectively) in which the team had looked so snakebitten--and fragile--that they just weren't able to roll with the punches, and this time, they inflicted a few punches of their own.

I'd also describe it as a game of "unliklies," from Jordan Sambrook of all people hammering home the game's first goal to Dennis Cholowski and Filip Hronek forming an unlikely alliance as a defensively-capable defensive pair, and the fact that Matej Machovsky was so superbly steady in the crease--and probably should have gotten a shutout--stole the cherry on top away from the excellent performance by the Axel Holmstrom-Luke Esposito-Dominik Shine line.

MLive's Brendan Savage penned a game recap...

The Red Wings finished with a 1-2 record in the round-robin portion of the event, leaving them third in the four-team Gordie Howe Division. St. Louis finished with a 2-1 record in the Ted Lindsay Division after beating the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 Monday.

After a scoreless first period, the Red Wings took a 2-0 lead over New York to the third on goals by Jordan Sambrook and Axel Holmstrom. Dylan Sadowy made it 3-0 at 6:58 of the third with his second goal of the tournament before Dominik Shine finished the scoring into an empty net with 3:10 left.

Shine's goal was his third, tying him for the tournament lead. Shine and Holmstrom also picked up one assist apiece and Holmstrom's plus-3 rating was the best on either team.

The Red Wings had reached the championship game in three of the past four years, winning the tournament for the only time in 2013.

The game started with some fireworks as Detroit's Givani Smith dropped the gloves with Adrian Carbonara two seconds after the opening faceoff. Smith and Carbonara have a history with each other, having both played in the OHL the past three seasons.

They were teammates on the Barrie Colts in 2014-15 and fought each other last season, when Smith was with the Guelph Storm and Carbonara was playing for the London Knights.

And in terms of player assessments, bearing in mind that I am one biased observer...

Forwards:

Dylan Sadowy #44--Michael Rasmussen #27--Evgeny Svechnikov #77 "A"

Dylan Sadowy #44: If there were a set of grades to give lines, the Wings' "first line" would get a solid "B" because Rasmussen and Svechnikov haven't scored (though they've tried damn hard)...and Sadowy would get a solid "B" simply because scoring a goal on 5 shots is meeting expectations. Despite being traded for all of a 3rd round pick, the 6,' 205-pound Sadowy was expected to be a finished prospect and not a project when he was brought over from San Jose a year-and-a-half ago, and maybe that was the problem. Sadowy is still all of 21, and after a disastrous pro debut, he's come back stronger, faster and more willing to rip a smart, corner-picking shot through traffic and past opposing netminders. Sadowy's passing, playmaking and skating are already smooth and of high skill, but it's his unwillingness to shoot that's cost him, and Sadowy's figuring out that the shortest route to the net can often be the best one.

Michael Rasmussen #27: Along those lines, I'm kind of getting aggravated by the suggestions that Rasmussen is somehow already a bust or already ticketed for a 3rd-line center's spot, and while I readily admit that I wrote, "Ras-ppula?" in my notes, coach Nelson himself suggested that there's a step to be gained and strength to be put on an already-massive 6'6," 221-pound frame. Just as importantly, Rasmussen already lugs the puck down low with aplomb, he skates very well for a player of his size, and at all of 18, there's a poise and patience to Rasmussen's game that really impresses me. For someone who missed half a season with a wrist injury, Rasmussen looks more than up to speed, and in terms of his offensive prowess, the "Ras-ppula?" in him is simply a dutiful tendency to play defense-first hockey, even on the first line. The kid's going to be an NHL player of some sort, and he's a leader, too. Fear not.

Evgeny Svechnikov #77 "A": Svechnikov has done everything except score during this prospect tournament, and "everything" includes blocking a heavy Rangers shot or two along the way. Svechnikov finished the game with an assist on six shots, he's tied with Sadowy for a second-best-on-the-team 12 shots over the course of three games played, and while the 6'3," 206-pound Svechnikov may not make the jump to the NHL right out of training camp, it's not for a lack of readiness; it would be for the sake of allowing Svechnikov to really blossom as an AHL scorer instead of putting him on an NHL team's fourth line and expecting him to adapt to a checking role. Evgeny is feisty, that's for sure, but he's not a Tyler Bertuzzi-like pest, and it's better to have a budding power forward develop into just that.

Axel Holmstrom #49--Luke Esposito #58*--Dominik Shine #56*

Axel Holmstrom #49: I've said for a couple of games now that Holmstrom simply looks professional and polished out there, and Axel delivered in a big way when the Red Wings needed him to on Monday night, assisting on Jordan Sambrook's goal before using his "go-to move" faking top shelf and finding the five hole on Rangers goalie Chris Nell. Holmstrom, all 6'1" and 219 pounds of him (that might be a little liberal in converting kilograms to pounds, FTR; "Homer" has enough bulk but no baby fat), plays like someone who's spent the vast majority of the past four seasons with Skelleftea AIK of the SHL; there's no panic, no desire to make one too many moves, and nothing but a balanced offensive forward with a heavy shot, excellent passing, better skating than he is given credit for and just a ton of poise...And when you combine him with a pair of 24-year-olds in Esposito and Shine, Holmstrom looks like what he is--at the top of the heap in terms of maturity. He's going to need some AHL seasoning, mostly to get used to the physical game and travel/playing schedule, but not a bunch.

Luke Esposito #58*: Esposito and Shine need to separate themselves from a mass of forwards in order to earn spots in the AHL instead of the ECHL, and while Eposito is the less demonstrative of the pair, he's done a very good job of proving that he can keep up. At a liberally-listed 5'10" and 183 pounds, the graduate of Harvard has 2 assists, a +3 and 6 shots over the course of 6 games played, and Esposito is an efficient and speedy puck-possessing forward who can both find teammates and flick smart shots toward the net. For someone who's more like 5'8" or 5'9," Esposito needs no assistance grinding his way through traffic, and he's defensively responsible as well. Again, he's 24, and he should be playing ahead of the game in a prospect tournament.

Dominik Shine #56*: Shine earns the "bombastic" award because he's the team leader in points, having registered 3 goals and 2 assists in 3 games, and he's taken a team-high 13 shots. Shine's empty-netter was almost as important as Sambrook's surprising first goal in terms of giving the Wings breathing room, and all the 5'11," 175-pound graduate of Northern Michigan University has done is reward the Griffins and Wings' faith in him, offering some early signs of a speed merchant who simply skates, skates, and shoots, shoots his way to the top of the scoring heap. He's been damn impressive in a small dose, and he's my #1 candidate to watch, "Not fall off a cliff" during training camp.

Givani Smith #48--Dominic Turgeon #23 "A"--Lane Zablocki #46

Givani Smith #48: Smith apparently knows Adam Carbonara well, and the two decided to renew acquaintances with a spirited scrap at puck drop, and the rest of Smith's game was more than the sum of its parts. At 6'2" and 206 pounds, Smith is happiest when he's clutching and grabbing his way toward pucks along the side boards, in the corners and behind the net (if not in front of it); the only real problem with his game is that he clutches and grabs when he could stick his ass out and protect the puck a little more--or he could skate into the puck instead. In other words? He's got some Major Junior Hockey tendencies, and he's going back to the Guelph Storm to un-learn some of those tendencies. Given his excellent shot, sound passing and good skating and defensive habits, he's on the cusp of being better than a top-nine forward, but it's going to take work and getting into uncomfortable territory skill-wise for Smith to advance.

Dominic Turgeon #23 "A": At the other end of the spectrum, Turgeon, who probably did get bitten on the finger by Carbonara, needs to do what he did during the game against the Rangers--keep on keeping on, with a little more passion. At 21, Turgeon's 6'2," 200-pound frame has filled out nicely, by both genetics and a lot of hard work, his skating has improved by a stride, and between his innate defensive awareness, his visible enjoyment of engaging in and then winning physical battles for the puck, in all three zones, and his heads-up playmaking, Turgeon reminds me of his uncle, Sylvain, who carved out a fine career for himself as a checking forward some 20 years ago. Dominic could be the next checking Turgeon in the NHL.

Lane Zablocki #46: Zablocki has gotten better and better as the tournament continues, and the 6," 190-pound forward had one shot, has scored a goal on 4 shots, and the Red Deer Rebels winger has blended in almost seamlessly as the "high man" (i.e. first back on defense, if he wasn't skating with Turgeon, anyway) on his line. He's a particularly speedy skater, for his size, he's strong, he checks well and sorts out his defensive responsibilites with aplomb. He's not exactly the next Michael Rasmussen, but the kid can check and grind.

Brady Gilmour #67--Zach Gallant #64--Oliver Castleman #70

Brady Gilmour #67: The talent level drops off from the third to fourth line on most NHL teams, and the talent level has dropped off a bit for the Wings as well, but Gilmour has done a good job of differentiating himself from the herd, as it were, with impressive poise in traffic and while engaging in the physical grind. That's something to be said for a 5'10," 170-pound center from the OHL's Saginaw Spirit, and while he hasn't been a dominant player, Gilmour has embraced his limited role and ground out the better of two of three games' worth of work. His line was on the ice for the Rangers' only goal, but they didn't stand much of a chance on it.

Zach Gallant #64: Gallant has been more up-and-down. The 6'2," 198-pound center out of Peterborough sometimes looks like a strong checking center, and there are times that he's been overwpowered physically or otherwise overwhelmed by the opposing team's skill level. Gallant skates superbly, he wins faceoffs, his passing and shooting skills are strong and he's faster with the puck on his stick than without the puck on his stick, but there's some work to be done.

Oliver Castleman #70**: The same can be said for Oliver Castleman. Castleman finished "even" because he had an assist on Sadowy's seeing-eye goal, and the 5'10," 180-pound Niagara IceDogs winger has looked rushed--which can be a good thing when you're making savvy plays in the offensive zone, but not such a good thing when you're rushing back to defend a set of opposing players that are generally bigger and stronger than you. Castleman is a very fast skater and he poke-checks his way into puck battles with aplomb, but he's got to work on his size and strength.

Defensemen:

Dennis Cholowski #53--Filip Hronek #24

Dennis Cholowski #53: The unholy alliance! Somehow, some way, coach Todd Nelson found a way to tame Filip Hronek's rushes, and his solution was simple: pair him with the other guy who has great offensive instincts but sometimes makes questionable defensive decisions, and throw them over the boards as the first defensive pair! And it worked! In all seriousness, Cholowski had a very solid game of his own, finishing at +1 and playing as the straight man to Hronek's...well, straighter-than-usual-man, but Cholowski really impressed me because he still had the confidence to make some smart pinches and gutsy plays despite who he was paired with. Cholowski has elite vision in all three zones, he's got a good first pass, he can carry the puck up ice as well as distribute it to his teammates, his shot is hard and he keeps his head up most of the time; there are times when he takes the wrong angle defensively, however, and he can make life a whole lot more "interesting" for himself and his teammates than he needs by mis-reading situations from time to time. At the level of the prospect tournament, you learn by making the most of your mistakes, and Cholowski has shown both immense talent/potential and the plain old fact that he didn't play in a challenging league (BCHL) before he was drafted or play much at St. Cloud State. He needs seasoning of the experiential variety, and while he's listed at 6'1" and 200 pounds, he could add another ten without issue.

Filip Hronek #24: And here we come to the problem child...Who had a very good defensive game, took 3 shots, and played downright mean-spirited hockey at times. Hronek has the most offensive talent of perhaps any player in the Red Wings' system, but he's not the greatest defensive defender, and on Monday, he was able to display his talents without hurting himself or his teammates as a high-risk, high-reward defenseman. Hronek, at a faithfully-listed 6' and 174 pounds, is a puck-rusher of the first order who makes daring dashes with the puck into the offensive zone...but he is not without possession of an elite, hard shot, excellent passing and all-round vision, good lateral movement and a mean streak a mile wide. Hronek may never be the biggest guy, but his heart and his mind are big, and when his eyes don't get too big trying to force offense, he can defend pretty darn decently, too. In Monday's case, Hronek was an asset to his team, not an obstacle, and for his entire career, that's going to be the goal for him--to keep it a little simpler so that he doesn't become a Brendan Smith-risk-reward type player.

Libor Sulak #47--Vili Saarijarvi #29 "A":

Libor Sulak #47: Sulak is playing with an injured...erm...hand...and he was a little quieter on Monday than on Friday, and that's not a bad thing for a guy who finished at -5 on Friday. Instead, Sulak played alongside Vili Saarijarvi, and he seemed to have adjusted to the North American-width rink much better, choosing the correct defensive lane (for the most part) and correct defensive play much more regularly. The bow-legged Sulak, all 6'2" and 207-liberally-listed pounds of him, has professional experience, and Sulak's game is a polished one--the ways in which he skates up the ice, with or without the puck, the passes he makes, the shots he takes, it's all really smooth and silky--but in a weird way, he's like Cholowski in that his pro experience is also somewhat lacking. At this point, I think that Sulak will get through training camp and be sent back to Lahti of the Finnish Liiga to get his pro legs under him (the Austrian league is no shrinking violet, but it's not Finland, either) before he truly "turns North American pro" next season.

Vili Saarijarvi #29 "A": I gave Vili a thumbs-up after the game, and he said to me, "Thumbs-up? I told you we would win, didn't I!" and Vili was right, of course. The affable Saarijarvi is wearing an "A" not because he is gregrous or a great interview (two things that he most certainly is), but because he's probably the most NHL-ready of the Wings' defensemen. I don't know if Saarijarvi is going to be better offensively than Hronek or Cholowski, but I know that he's going to play in the NHL. At 5'10" and 172 pounds, Saarijarvi gives up size to a lot of opponents, but he gives no quarter physically, and while he's not physical, he holds his own and then some against guys who are 6'4" and 6'5," and that's impressive. Saarijarvi defends well with his stick and defends well using the "Rafalski tackle" (allowing players to skate into his body and separating the puck from them like it's a soccer tackle), Saarijarvi sees the ice superbly, so his angles are right, and he skates with smoothness. He's equally expert at firing a seeing-eye puck through opponents to outlet the puck or carrying the puck up ice himself, and his shot is not going to break a pane of glass, but it's accurate and sneaky. Saarijarvi just needs to have a good season to season-and-a-half in Grand Rapids, and he'll be ready.

Jordan Sambrook #63--Reilly Webb #50

Jordan Sambrook #63: The unlikely hero! Sambrook's goal, a goal on his only shot of the tournament, was desperately-needed and well-deserved as Sambrook is a two-way defenseman who's growing into a 6'2," 193-pound frame, and he's a two-way defenseman who admittedly needs to work on his defense, but Sambrook is learning on the fly at the prospect tournament, and the Erie Otters blueliner shows moments of promise as an all-round defender who is more than able to bump, grind, block and poke-check his way to strong defensive plays. There's a hint of offense in his game as well, and that's intriguing.

Reilly Webb #50: Webb looks like Sambrook did a year ago--big and raw. At 6'3" and 201 pounds, with another 20 or so to go before he's filled out, the Hamilton Bulldogs defenseman was picked by the Wings because he's capable in his own end, and for the most part, he's been capable in his own end, sometimes showing glimpses of a puck-outletting game that may or may not be there. Mostly, he's been bumped and ground himself, but that's going to happen when you're playing two pro-level games and you're coming out of the OHL. He wasn't a detriment to his team, and on the third defensive pair, sometimes that's an asset in itself.

Goaltenders:

Matej Machovsky #68: Machovsky needed this one. 24 years old, coming off of four years with HC Plzen of the Czech Extraliga, Machovsky had a messy "pro debut" on Friday, giving up 5 goals, and on Monday, he responded as a good goalie should--with a steady, sometimes spectacular game and 32 stops, including 14 stops in the 3rd period. Machovsky isn't overly big at 6'2" and 187 pounds (not by today's mammoth goaltender's standards) and he isn't "big" physically, but he manages to put himself in good position to stop shots, and his remarkable reflexes allow Machovsky to battle for the puck and fight through traffic to get his glove, blocker, toes, pads or chest protector on the puck. He's instinctively a "battling" goaltender and an aggressive netminder who would rather play the puck himself (which he can capably accomplish) than wait for his defensemen, but when he's patient, things flow much better for him. He'll settle down, probably in Toledo, as he gets his North American sea legs again.

Corbin Boes #36, G**: Boes is on the other end of the spectrum, somebody massive and calm at 6'3" and 225 pounds of big, safe Dalhousie College free agent netminder, and he's been a model citizen as a back-up back-up for his teammates. Boes is most likely headed right back to school once his prospect tournament is over, but he's worked very hard with the goalie coaches to improve his footwork and quickness.

Scratches:

Patrick McCarron #54, D*: I've got no complaints about this Griffins-contracted defenseman. McCarron, 6'3" and 201 pounds of Cornell graduate, has been everything he's advertised to be--a stay-at-home defenseman with physical bite and good puck skills. McCarron will probably rotate into the lineup again for the championship game, and he's strong enough and smart enough to hold his own.

Kaden Fulcher #60, G**: Fulcher has been the back-up to Machovsky's starter, and regardless of whether Fulcher draws in for the 5th place game, he's impressed everyone in the organization with his immaculate butterfly technique and willingness to learn as a free agent out of Hamilton of the OHL. Fulcher's 6'3," 182-pound frame will fill out, and when it does, somebody's going to draft this kid.

Cole Fraser #74, D: Fraser has been drafted by the Wings, and it's a good thing, because the 6'2," 191-pound defenseman is has a nasty edge to him. Fraser has displayed solid chops on the blueline and surprising physicality, and he moves the puck with urgency, too. If he comes back into the lineup, he'll be an asset to his team.

Isaac Johnson #75, LW**: Johnson and Josling have been almost interchangeable as right-shooting fourth-line wingers, and Johnson, a 6'2," 174-pound winger out of Sioux Falls of the USHL, has been the more physical of the two. Johnson can certainly hold his own in a battle for the puck, and he likes those battles.

Sean Josling #76, RW**: Josling, a 5'11," 166-pound winger from Sarnia, has been the speedier of the pair of fourth-line wingers, and Josling has better finishing skills.

Luke Kutkevicius #78, C**: Kutkevicius has been given an opportunity to display the promise that he showed during the summer development camp, and one game didn't take for him. It's a hard business, being an amateur try-out in a short-format prospect tournament against the best of seven other NHL teams, and in this case, the 6'1," 162-pound center from Windsor of the OHL may have gotten one and only opportunity to impress at a game level, but there are scouts from not only the remainder of the NHL teams at the prospect tournament, but also many professional organizations---they don't rename the mezzanine the "Scouts' Lounge" for lack of 200 sets of eyes watching the players play--and hard-working players will get their chances.

* = Grand Rapids Griffins contract, ** = Try-out.

Update: Hello there. George here at 3:20 in the morning. I'd like to remind you that I'm still trying to raise funds for my trip up here. Many generous donors have gotten me to about $1,150, but that's $850 short of the $2,000 I'm trying to raise to break even. I'm not trying to do anything but that--break even in terms of hotel, gas and groceries--and if you're willing to lend a hand, http://www.paypal.me/TheMalikReport = an easy way to donate. Any denomination is accepted (I've gotten a dollar once), and anything helps.

As always, thank you for your time, your readership and your support.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink
 

Comments

Avatar

I watched most of the first and parts of the 2nd and 3rd periods. Either NYR’s offense was anemic or Detroit’s D was excellent. I’d like to go with the latter. Cholo and Hronek moved the puck very well and were patient. Cholo made some good lead passes but at times put the puck behind the forward causing them to slow down and reach back for the puck. He looks like he still needs to work out the timing of his passing. On the power play the team looked good and the 3 on 5 also was impressive - either completely shutting down NY or exposing them for not having much offense (in the 1st). I’m glad the Wings made the trade to get these two guys. Sure, it would have been nice to have a Dman jump right to the Wing’s roster (wishful thinking) but between the two of Cholo and Hronek the Wings picked up some positive future pieces.

Svech look like the best player out there and he should have. He moved the puck with ease and played some good D.

Razz was impressive to me for being 18. He looked comfortable and confident. With this peer group he looked even with them on skating, a little better with his passing, but didn’t seem aggressive as expected for a “power” forward. He seemed too willing to give up the puck to other players (with good passes) and I don’t recall him driving to the goal once. I doubt he would have been able to put himself into position to score the way Axel did.

Posted by howeandhowe from Seattle on 09/12/17 at 11:46 AM ET

Add a Comment

Please limit embedded image or media size to 575 pixels wide.

Add your own avatar by joining Kukla's Korner, or logging in and uploading one in your member control panel.

Captchas bug you? Join KK or log in and you won't have to bother.

Smileys

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Feed

Most Recent Blog Posts

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.