The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/26/11 at 04:11 AM ET
Of note: Big news about Jonathan Ericsson staying in Detroit and Jagr watch blah inside: After an extended period of time perched over my laptop, frantically searching for information on the nine newest Red Wings who became part of the team in a little under four hours, I succumbed to the boss’s advice and fatigue and took a nap. And I had a dream that My Little Ponies were singing a Wu-Tang Clan song…no, wait, I did see that on YouTube (can’t link it, though). And I can confirm that the Red Wings have at least drafted one player who wowed the local media enough that this YouTube video made its way onto the evening news:
If you followed the draft day open post, we’ve at least got a general idea of who the nine players the Wings picked are, and somewhere between 3-7 years from now, the Wings hope that at least one or two of Tomas Jurco, Xavier Ouellet, Ryan Sproul, Alan Quine, Marek Tvrdon, Phillipe Hudon, Mattias Backman, Richard Nedomlel and/or Alexei Marchenko are playing for the Red Wings. That’s a hard mathematical equation to swallow on a day that’s akin to high school graduation day, but as Mike Babcock tends to say, “That’s the facts.”
The Red Wings are also increasingly becoming one of the few teams that, at least given the dealing over the past couple of days, actually seem intent upon honoring their end of players’ “lifetime contracts.” As ESPN’s Scott Burnside suggests, loyalty’s become overrated and then some in terms of the Jeff Carters and Brian Campbell’s of the world, and as the Sporting News’s Craig Custance suggests, the Wings are becoming a member of an increasingly rare club of clubs, if you will—the Red Wings like to draft their players, develop them, and keep ‘em, preferably because the players are willing to take a little less than their open-market value to remain with the team that drafted them:
The Red Wings have gotten great deals from players for years, allowing them to cram more talent under the salary cap. And they’ve kept them. Johan Franzen is a 30-goal scorer with a cap hit under $4 million. Nicklas Lidstrom earns less than Wade Redden. Take a look at Craig Anderson’s new contract and compare it to Jimmy Howard’s to see another example of the Detroit discount.
“The guys we committed to long-term, they’re Red Wings for life,” assistant GM Jim Nill said.
But even Nill had to add a qualifier.
“Unless something happens down the road,” he said, “but I don’t see that.”
So the hope today, obviously, is that somewhere down the line, Jurco or Tvrdon become the next Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen or Niklas Kronwall that the NHL Network (when the analysts weren’t blathering amongst themselves) and TSN kept comparing every first-round draft pick to on Friday night and the early part of Saturday’s second through seventh rounds. The NHL Network played this little ditty about some of the Wings’ draft day steals as the fifth round rolled on by:
Before we get to the feel-good portion of this semi-overnight report, however, we must begin in reality land, where the Red Wings plan on spending this week attempting to hold onto one player they drafted and two who they acquired via trade in Jonathan Ericsson, Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller. The Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness fired off this report earlier this evening…
“We’ve talked to all of their agents,” Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill said. “We’ll probably get more done next week.”
“This week we focused on the draft,” Nill said. “We’ll get working more on that next week and hopefully get them all signed up.”
The Wings are believed to have offered Ericsson a multi-year deal worth just over $2 million a season.
“We’re in the same ballpark,” Wings GM Ken Holland said Friday.
Holland is waiting to hear back from the agents for Eaves and Miller.
“If they have interest, they’ll get back to us,” Holland said.
And Holland’s intonating something he suggested earlier to MLive’s Ansar Khan on Friday—as it turns out, it’s actually Eaves and/or Miller who appear more likely to test the market as the Wings simply cannot offer the pair the kind of payday they might be able to find as unrestricted free agents in a marketplace where the forwards crop is as thin as the hair on Ryan Getzlaf’s head.
The Detroit Free Press’s Helene St. James says that, as it turns out, you can probably keep your Ericsson jersey...Or your foul word-emblazoned t-shirt from the Production Line…
The Red Wings are closing in on a deal for defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, with only some details left to discuss. General manager Ken Holland met with Ericsson’s agent during the NHL draft at Xcel Energy Center, and said Saturday the two are planning to talk again Monday.
“A little bit of the conversation that’s going on with Ericsson’s camp is where we see him fitting in,” Holland said.
The Wings have three top-four defensemen signed in Nicklas Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart. They’re going to use free agency—which starts Friday—to fill the fourth spot. Ericsson is penciled into the fifth slot, but Brendan Smith is going to get a chance to make the team, and Jakub Kindl, who really impressed with a strong second half, is a candidate for the third pairing, too.
Ericsson, 27, is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent, but he has said all along he’d prefer to stay with the Wings, who selected him with the very last pick, No. 291, in 2002.
Put simply, folks, Ericsson is way cheaper to retain than he would be to replace on the open market. I know that some of you don’t like him very much because he makes some boneheaded mistakes, but on July 1st, 6’3,” 210-pound defensemen who are in their mid-20’s and have a modicum of NHL experience enjoy ridiculous contract offers from teams desperate to stabilize their bluelines, and especially as Rafalski’s retired, it just makes sense for the Wings to hang onto Ericsson and worry about spending significant dollars on Rafalski’s replacement, a probable back-up goaltender and maybe a free agent forward instead. Or even Jagr, but we’ll get to that in a minute…
Holland offered a summary of his negotiations with Ericsson and then the Wings’ other UFA’s-to-be...
“We had a good talk [with Ericsson’s agent] and we’ll see where it goes,” said Holland, who added the two sides are “in the same ballpark.”
At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Ericsson has the size and skating ability other teams would seemingly covet, along with the belief there is still room for him to develop as a player. Ericsson earned $900,000 last season, but is expected to double that salary, at least.
While Ericsson and the Wings inch toward a deal, forwards Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller might not be as close. Holland has yet to hear from the agents for both players after submitting offers recently. Holland said he’s “comfortable” with the offers he made to both players.
On the coaching front, Holland did not leave the draft with two assistant coaches to flank Mike Babcock’s shoulders, but it’s not for a lack of trying…
“We’d like to get things settled so people can move on with their lives,” Holland said.
… One of those rumored candidates, former Wing Gerard Gallant, coached the Quebec League’s Saint John team two seasons ago and spoke glowingly of the Wings’ second-round pick Tomas Jurco (from Saint John).
“Gerard felt we may have gotten a bit of a steal in where we picked him (35th overall, second round),” Holland said.
I’m still hearing, informally and from people who gab, that Pete DeBoer and Bob Boughner are the favorites. Gallant will be coaching another powerhouse—and Jurco—if he stays with Saint John, so my gut tells me that he’s probably not a serious candidate. The Wings might promote from within, too…
And then there is the ever-present Jaromir Jagr watch. He can’t sign with a team until July 1st, but Kulfan says that the Wings would prefer to hear from Jagr as to which team he plans on joining before 12 PM EDT on July 1st…
Holland said the Wings have interest in Jagr, but only at a reasonable price. Holland would like Jagr’s decision before Friday.
And as has become usual, aside from Mike Babcock and Penguins coach Dan Bylsma telling the Sporting News’s Craig Custance that chasing Jagr, or vice versa, isn’t an exercise in failure to come...
“He’s in a position that he gets to decide,” Babcock told Sporting News. “We’ve had lots of success with veteran players.”
Even if one of those players wasn’t Modano.
“You could say Mike Modano didn’t work the way we wanted. We didn’t know Mike Modano was going to cut his wrist,” Babcock said. “Do you not even investigate it because it didn’t (work out)? That’s not the way we go about our business.”
Byslma said he’s spoken with Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek, who plays with Jagr internationally, and the reports are favorable: He had a hat trick last month in a 4-0 win over the United States in the quarterfinals of the world championship, where the Czechs finished fourth. Now Jagr has to make a choice.
“We’ll see,” Babcock said. “It’s all about him deciding he wants to be a Red Wing. Maybe he wants to be a Penguin. I don’t know.”
The news of the day came from the Pittsburgh Penguins’ front, where Penguins GM Ray Shero told the Penguins’ Twitter account that the team “has interest” in Jagr, and he offered PittsburghPenguins.com’s Michelle Crechiolo the following:
On if he has had any more conversations with Jaromir Jagr’s agent: No, no. He hasn’t come to Minnesota because of the issues he’s got going. I think he’s possibly going to be in Montreal next week, so we may have our conversation in the next day or so just to touch base.
On how the talks with Jagr have been going: (Jagr’s agent) Petr Svoboda was supposed to be here in Minnesota, but I think he’s got a family issue and I don’t know if he could come. But I do believe he’ll be in Montreal on Monday, so I’ll probably talk to him in the next day or so to express our interest and see we are and see if there is anything we can talk about further. So we’ll see how it goes.
On if the Penguins have interest in Jagr: Yeah, we have some interest. I’ve talked to the agent and I’ve talked to Jaromir just to find out what we have to offer and what he’s looking to do, what’s the motivation to try to come back to the National Hockey League versus going back to the KHL. So I wanted to meet with our coach here, because certainly from our standpoint, it’s important for our coach to be on board with what we do with free agents. So I met with Dan (Bylsma), so I’ll get back in touch with these guys in the next day or so.
If you want to read a near-philosophical discussion as to what the Penguins “must do” to snag Jagr, you can read the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Dejean Kovacevic’s column on your own, but the bottom line remains the bottom line here: Jagr first sought out the Wings and probably the Candiens, and then he got nostalgic and spoke to Pittsburgh. It at least appears that Jagr’s priority is to sign with the Penguins and end his career where it began, so the Wings are…His fall-back team.
Which is pretty weird to deal with from a Red Wings fan’s standpoint, especially given that the Wings are supposedly offering a 39-year-old who hasn’t played in the NHL in 3 seasons more money than his former team has offered him.
And did I mention the fact that the widely-rumored massive realignment of the NHL into uneven but better-geographically-spaced divisions is, per Yahoo Sports’ Nicholas J. Cotsonika, no longer in the realm of fantasy? It’s still just talk—and draft-day talk at that—so I wouldn’t get my hopes up too much, but the Sporting News’s Custance, Cotsonika, the Globe and Mail’s David Shoalts and Sports Illustrated’s Sarah Kwak, among others, talk about the issue, albeit not with anybody from the Wings.
We’ll see what happens, but the scuttlebutt suggests that at the Board of Governors’ meeting next December, things might get interesting.
Okay, onto the main course. Starting with a wide focus and narrowing it ever-so-slowly, I posted a massive post discussing the Wings’ picks as they happened today, and both The Sports Forecaster and RedWingsCentral’s Matthew Wuest know prospects far better than I do, so they’re the sources who I suggest going to over the long haul, especially as Wuest and Sarah Lindenau will be posting feature articles about the Wings’ picks.
They know the Wings’ scouts. I don’t. I hope to have more information to give you when I head to Traverse City a week from Thursday to watch at least a few of the new picks skate in the Wings’ summer strength and conditioning camp, but here’s a solid survey of the Wings’ haul from the media, starting with an overall grade from Sportsline’s Brian Stubits...
Detroit Red Wings: In classic Ken Holland fashion, the Wings weren’t afraid to move back in the draft, trading out of the first round to grab three picks in the second. Their first selection was Saint John winger Tomas Jurco at No. 35. I’m a big fan of the kid and he is oozing with potential. They decided to get defenseman-heavy with five out of nine picks, but I’m not going to challenge Holland’s track record in the draft. Grade: B
Yahoo Sports’ major junior hockey expert, Neate Sager, has this to say about Jurco…
Wings: Tomas Jurco, 35th, Detroit Red Wings (Saint John Sea Dogs, QMJHL)
BTN’s fondness for Jurco, AKA Tommy Toe Drag, might need no introduction to regular readers. He has shown there is much more to him than having some sweet skills. Red Wings GM Ken Holland, et al., saw something that other teams evidently did not prize as much, since they traded out of the first round (sending their 24th overall pick to Ottawa to for the pick used to take Jurco and the 48th, used on Montreal Juniors defenceman Xavier Ouellet).
As luck would have it, Tyler Cavanaugh, who was an athletic training student with Saint John, wrote a post Saturday relating a side of Jurco that people maybe didn’t see.
Jurco was always one of the last guys at the rink. He was doing whatever he could to improve his game. He was working hand in hand with Jeff Kelly to try and improve his size in the Sea Dogs weight room, asking about supplements and vitamins that would be beneficial, and doing whatever he could to be better. He wants to add to his size and strength. From the time I was with the team in February until the Memorial Cup in May I noticed huge improvements in his game. (Station Nation)
The Wings think they’ve found a potential diamond in the not-so-rough in Jurco, who, as Kulfan noted, played for Gallant’s Saint John Sea Dogs, and the slick stick-handling beanpole from the QMJHL definitely qualifies as a bona-fide first round pick who the Wings happily gobbled up on Saturday, as Jim Nill told the Free Press’s Helene St. James:
“He had to take a backseat a little bit, because they had about six go-to guys,” assistant general manager Jim Nill said. “He kind of came in and was going to be the go-to guy, and they had a very good team, so he had to learn the team concept, which is important. And he still put up a lot of points. He’s been on our radar screen even last year. We kind of track under-agers, you want to see how good were they the year before, and then you keep track of them. You want to make sure they’re developing.”
It helped that Saint John is coached by former Wings forward Gerard Gallant, with whom many in the organization still have close ties. Gallant endorsed Jurco, describing him as a Marian Hossa-type player, and that, combined with how well Jurco played at the Memorial Cup, sealed the Wings’ choice. After getting over his disappointment of not going in the first round, Jurco, a native of Slovakia, saw a definite upside to being picked by the Wings.
“I was hoping I’d still go in the first round, but it’s all good,” Jurco said. “It doesn’t really matter where you get drafted, the important thing is if team is going to give you chance and I think Detroit will. I am going to do everything to play there as soon as I can.”
Jurco cited Pavel Datsyuk as his favorite Wing and said he patterns his game after the skilled Russian playmaker.
“He is similar player to me,” Jurco said. “It’s going to be great to see what he can do on the ice. I am just going to learn and try to do some of his moves.”
Jurco, who wears #13, actually went a little gushy when speaking about Datsyuk to NHL.com’s Mike G. Morreale:
“It’s unreal, I still can’t believe,” Jurco said. “I might be able to see someone like him in person … that’s hard to believe. I’m hoping I’m going to learn something from him and play well.”
In addition to his 31 goals and 56 points in 60 games during the regular season, Jurco was 5-for-6 in shootouts this past season, after going 9-for-11 in his first season in the league. His shootout percentage in two years is an impressive .823 (14-for-17)—likely a prominent statistic for interested NHL scouts and general managers.
He struck for 6 goals and 18 points in 19 QMJHL playoff games and connected for a team-leading 4 goals in four games in the Memorial Cup. He is most noted for his tremendous stick-handling ability, which he showcased at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Toronto in January.
He was the talk of the Showdown Breakaway Challenge during the skills portion of the event at Air Canada Centre on Jan. 18 following an amazing lacrosse-style scoop with his stick from between the circles, followed by a spin-o-rama backhand whip to record a goal that received the highest score among the 12 participants.
The Slovakian star, who represented his country at the 2011 World Junior Championship in Buffalo, N.Y., wants to be known as more than just a magician with the puck. He could get that chance in Detroit.
“Pavel Datsyuk has great hands, is a great player, but he’s not a clown,” Jurco told NHL.com. “That’s his style of hockey. I’m not saying I’m Datsyuk, but I like to do those same moves and it’s just a plus that I can do the stuff with my stick off the ice. I don’t really like to be known as just a guy with the stick off the ice. I’m first a hockey player.”
Here’s NHL.com’s profile of Jurco, via the Wings’ website…
And Jurco told the St. John Telegraph-Journal’s Scott Briggs that waiting was the hardest part:
“It’s just a little plus to be drafted in the first round,’’ Jurco said. “The important thing is the team that drafts you and how long (it) takes to play in the NHL. I hope that Detroit will give me a chance, and I’ll do everything I can to play there as soon as I can.’’
Jurco was the fifth pick of the second round and Saturday’s first player plucked from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Three Sea Dogs were drafted in Friday’s first round. Forward Jonathan Huberdeau went third overall to Florida, Montreal grabbed defenceman Nathan Beaulieu 17th and Minnesota took forward Zack Phillips 28th. All three returned to their hotel with NHL jerseys and hats, secure in the knowledge of which team they would report to for training camp. Jurco could only ponder possibilities as he trudged out of the building Friday night. And while being a first-rounder comes with prestige, being drafted by Detroit in the second round has to be the next-best thing. One of the NHL’s model organizations, Red Wings were ranked No. 1 in The Hockey News franchise rankings.
“I still cannot believe it,’’ Jurco said. “It’s something I’ve been dreaming about since I was a little kid and now I’m drafted by Detroit, a team with big history. It’s a really big thing for me and I’m really happy.’’
“For me, it’s Pavel Datsyuk,’’ the Saint John star said when asked about the player he’s most looking forward to meeting. “He’s kind of a similar player to me. He’s got great hands. I can’t even imagine that I’m going to skate with him on the (same) ice and see all the stuff he used to do when I was trying to do the same stuff. It’s unbelievable. I’m just happy that I’m finally drafted and I don’t have to care about those rankings and (projections)… Detroit has lots of Europeans and that’s why they are that good and I hope I’m going to help them.’’
“I’m really proud of Tomas,’’ said Saint John’s J.P. Barry, Jurco’s agent. “I think he had a terrific finish on a really good team. That was such a good team that you had to fight for your ice time. I think he did battle for it and made an impact at the end. They had guys who could score pretty much all the way through their three lines. There aren’t a lot of teams that can do that.’’
And about Gallant possibly going to the Wings?
“I’ve talked to a few people about a couple of different things,’’ the bench boss said. “If the right thing comes up, I’m definitely going to look at it. But right now, I’m really happy and everything is pointing to being back in Saint John. We know we’re going to have a good team again next year.’’
Jurco spoke to DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose about his unexpectedly long wait as well…
“I was kind of upset and it was kind of hard for me to sleep, but now it’s all good and I’m happy to be a part of the Detroit organization,” said Jurco, a 6-foot-2 forward from Kosice, Slovakia.
The Sea Dogs were loaded with incredible NHL-like talent this season, boosting nine players eligible for the 2011 draft. The Saint John squad had a trio picked Friday – center Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida, No. 3); defenseman Nathan Beaulieu (Montreal, No. 17); and center Zack Phillips (Minnesota, No. 28).
“We knew that four of us could possibly be first-round picks,” Jurco said. “So we knew that this would be a big thing for our team. I’m really happy for my three teammates who went in the first-round. For me, maybe it’s better that I didn’t go until the second, because know I’m with Detroit and they’re a really good team, and I hope they’re going to give me a chance.”
While falling out of the first-round is now water under the bridge, Jurco pointed to what he called a less than stellar regular-season for his falling out of the first-round.
“I didn’t have a good regular-season,” Jurco said. “I think I had a good playoffs and Memorial Cup. I was still hoping that I could get into the first round, but it’s all good. I would have three really good games then I would have a bad game. That’s what the scouts don’t like to see, but I think there are a lot of players like that. I think maybe it was because it was my draft year and I was thinking about it. Next year will be all good. No problem.”
That’s the theory, as Wings director of amateur scouting Joe McDonnell and amateur scout Mark Leach told RedWingsCentral’s Matthew Wuest:
“Playing on such a good team in Saint John, he was getting second-line duty, second power play, and I don’t know if it turned people off, but it didn’t turn us off at all,” said Red Wings director of scouting Joe McDonnell. “His skill level is real high first-round material, and that’s where we had him rated.”
“He’s a power forward, a strong skater with very good hockey sense and stickhandling ability,” said Red Wings QMJHL scout Mark Leach. “He has a willingness to go to hard areas, willingness to compete in physical situations.”
Jurco put an emphatic exclamation point on the Red Wings’ assessment with his performance at the Memorial Cup in Mississauga, Ont., where he stepped up when it counted most and scored four goals and an assist in four games.
“He was battling in the corners and he was excellent there,” McDonnell said.
“We find he has a very quick stick in tight, in situations, in traffic,” Leach said. “His poise under pressure, his ability to do things in tight areas and willingness to go into tight areas, and it really helps him do things at high speeds. He’s just got good upside. He’s a good chance to be a top-six forward.”
The Red Wings actually considered taking Jurco at 24th overall in the first round but opted to trade down with the Ottawa Senators for two second-round picks at No. 35 and 48. They had a grouping of players in mind and weren’t sure Jurco would still be there, but they’re glad he was.
“We took a gamble, the gamble paid off,” McDonnell said. “He’s a high-level, talented kid and we’re excited to have him.”
And NHL.com’s Bill Hoppe might have scored the best interview with Jurco, prior to the Sea Dogs’ Memorial Cup win, and I’ll leave you with the teaser:
While Jurco likes some of the attention, he doesn’t “want to be known just as a guy with a stick.”
“I’m not a clown,” Jurco said Monday prior to his scoring the game-tying goal in the Sea Dogs’ 3-2 overtime win against the Owen Sound Attack in Monday’s MasterCard Memorial Cup game. “I’m a hockey player.”
The Red Wings’ other second-round pick comes from a team that the Wings are tapping for prospects on a yearly basis in the Montreal Juniors. The Wings’ scouts have seen defenseman Xavier Ouellet play while checking up on the already-signed Louis-Marc Aubry (from last year’s draft) and Trevor Parkes (a try-out turned signed prospect), and as DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose notes, Ouellet and the Wings’ third-round pick, Soo Greyhounds defenseman Ryan Sproul, help the Wings essentially re-stock the cupboard on defense:
The Red Wings used two of their three second-round picks – and five all together – on big defensemen first selecting 6-footer Xavier Ouellet and 6-3 Ryan Sproul with the 35th and 48th pick, respectively, in the 2011 NHL draft at Xcel Energy Center Saturday morning. Ouellet is no stranger to at least a few members of the Red Wings’ organization. He plays for Montreal of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League along side of forwards Louis-Marc Aubry, who was the Wings’ third-round pick last summer, and Trevor Parkes, who was signed as a free agent last September.
“I talked to them both, but not too much (about the Wings),” Ouellet said. “Maybe I’ll start this summer.”
Ouellet, 17, is a reliable defenseman, who makes good tape-to-tape breakout passes, something the Red Wings’ front office and scouting staff covet when reviewing defensive prospects.
“I’m an overall defenseman, who can do everything. But I need to get stronger,” said Ouellet, who since he was 5-years-old has idolized Nicklas Lidstrom. “In my mind, he is the best defenseman in the world,” Ouellet said. “This is a dream come true.”
With their third and final pick of the second round, the Wings took Sproul, who played for Sault Ste. Marie of the Ontario Hockey League. Cut from his Junior A team in 2009, Sproul made a solid turn-around when in his first OHL season, he led all Greyhounds’ defensemen and rookies in scoring with 14 goals with 19 assists in 61 games.
“Some good things happened for me. My future starting looking good from the middle of the season and everything went up hill from there,” said Sproul, of Mississauga, Ontario.
Here’s Ouellet speaking to the media at the draft, via the Wings’ website…
And here’s Sproul:
Sproul’s a bit of a late-bloomer, and the 6’4,” 190-lb defenseman spoke to the Sault Star’s Peter Ruicci about being drafted by the Wings after almost choosing to take the college route instead of playing in the Sault (it’s pronounced “the Soo” for those of you who don’t know):
“I was thinking of going to university,” said Sproul, who’d been talking to the University of Michigan about playing for the Wolverines.
Sproul missed the Greyhounds exhibition season and first two games of the regular campaign. But former Hounds general manager Dave Torrie, who’d offered Sproul a contract following the Prospect Camp, finally lured the Mississauga native to Sault Ste. Marie.
“The OHL, I thought, would be the quickest way to reach my dream, which is to get to the NHL,” said Sproul, who scored 14 times, including eight on the power play, while adding 19 assists in 61 games as an OHL rookie.
Most of the offensive damage he did came in the second half of the season when Sproul’s ice time increased. Going into the draft ranked No. 54 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, Sproul said he had no indication the Red Wings were especially interested.
“They interviewed me at the NHL Combine,” said Sproul, one of just over 100 players invited to the combine, which began May 30 in Toronto. “But not again before the draft.”
“It’s an amazing organization. They have a great reputation and always have a winning team,” said Sproul, who’ll take part in Detroit’s prospects camp July 6. “This is absolutely just the beginning for me. It’ll be a long summer with tons of hard work.”
Nill spoke to the Free Press’s Helene St. James about the Wings’ decision to pick two defensemen early and often, going with blueliners five of nine times…
“The game has changed,” assistant general manager Jim Nill said. “You need to be able to move the puck. All our guys are good puck movers. You want some size, and then the combination is, you’ve got to be able to move the puck as well.”
Nill said using more than half of the nine picks on defensemen was “a focus, but also kind of how it fell, too. But we wanted to get some size on our back end. It worked out well. We know we’ve got to get bigger on the back end. The Ouellet kid has got real good skills, moves the puck well. Sproul is a big kid, but has good skills, too.”
Ouellet, a native of France, is six feet and already solidly built. He had 35 assists this past season for Montreal of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He was ranked 60th by the Central Scouting bureau. Sproul, ranked 54th, is 6-feet-3, and had 14 goals and 19 assists for Sault Ste. Marie in the Ontario Hockey League. Ouellet and Sproul named Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom as their ideal role model.
“He’s my idol since I was 5 years old,” Ouellet said. “He is the best defenseman in the world. Maybe I see him at camp this year — I would be so happy.”
Sproul noted that “anybody who is a defenseman would want to play like Nicklas Lidstrom. He’s incredible and I think he’s got a couple of years left in the league. Hopefully I can take over his spot, like what he does. His offensive ability and his power-play skills are things that I want to incorporate into my game as well. Hopefully I can learn a couple of lessons from him.”
Whereas Ouellet has good hockey sense and needs to focus more on developing the physical part of his game, Sproul needs to work on being more responsible in his own end.
“It’s going to be an unreal experience if this works out for me,” Sproul said. “It’s tough to know they don’t really take the younger guys as much, but I mean, at the same time, it’s a team you want to make because you know how competitive they are and you know how good they really can be, and you want to be on one of the best teams in the league, which is what they are.”
85th overall pick Alan Quine is more of a classic Wings pick—he’s a smallish center, supposedly 5’11” and 178 lbs, and he has a more “Red Wings-like” story attached to him—he was struggling like nobody’s business while playing for the Kingston Frontenacs, and was then traded to Mickey Redmond’s Peterborough Petes and took off…and I’ll let the Peterborough Examiner’s Mike Davies tell you the details:
Quine, the second overall pick in the 2009 OHL Priority Selection, saw his offensive production take off once he joined the Petes in a Nov. 11 trade which sent Ryan Spooner to the Kingston Frontenacs. Quine had 15 goals and 39 points in his first 81 OHL games in Kingston. In 52 games with the Petes he had 22 goals and 42 points.
“Coming from Kingston to Peterborough everything went uphill as soon as the trade was made,” Quine said. “I just wish I could have been in Peterborough for my whole career. I think coming to Peterborough definitely helped a lot. Being on a younger team I got a little more icetime than I was used to,” said Quine. “I got a little more opportunity and the coaches were all extremely good here at working on my game and trying to help me get better in areas they thought I needed to get better in.”
The deal gave Kingston a player they nominated as their MVP this season, while the Petes got a player they slid into the spot vacated by Spooner.
“It happened pretty quick. The GM of Kingston told me he would move me if I didn’t get the icetime I felt I deserved. We didn’t even ask for it and Spooner dropped out of Peterborough which opened up a spot for me to pretty much take his spot which was a huge plus,” said Quine.
After the draft, Quine gave Davies a “Wow” commentary:
“It’s a dream come true and just complete happiness,” Quine said, from St. Paul. “It’s awesome to be there with your family and especially getting drafted to Detroit such a prestigious organization. It’s pretty cool. All you hear when you’re a kid is that they’re pretty much a dynasty. I’m really happy with how things worked out.”
Quine joined the Petes in a Nov. 11 trade from the Kingston Frontenacs. He totalled 26 goals and 53 points in 69 games. Quine says he owes a lot of thanks to his parents Sean and Gail for helping him reach his dream.
“For how much time they’ve spent in getting me to where I am today and especially my dad who comes to pretty much every game and has always been there for me,” he said.
While Quine knows there is a lot of work ahead for him to reach the NHL, he says this moment is one of childhood dreams.
“You think about it since you’re five or six years old playing road hockey and thinking about which teams you’re going to be in the Stanley Cup finals,” said Quine.
And the Ottawa Citizen’s Ken Warren provides us with a little more information about the youngster:
Saturday was also an exciting day for Ottawa’s Alan Quine, the Peterborough Petes centre who was chosen in the third round, 85th overall by the Detroit Red Wings. Quine, who had received limited playing time in Kingston, blossomed after being traded to the Petes, scoring 26 goals and 27 assists in 69 games. Quine grew up as a fan of the Senators and former stars Martin Havlat and Marian Hossa, but was somewhat in awe while talking about Detroit’s rich history. Quine also spent the year as a linemate of Matt Puempel, selected in the first round by the Senators on Friday.
Here’s Quine speaking to the media:
Then the Wings took a Teemu Pulkkinen-sized gamble in selecting Vancouver Giants forward Marek Tvrdon, a 6’2,” 210-lb Slovak (their second of the day—methinks Tomas Tatar has some youngsters to mentor) who tore up his left shoulder so badly after 12 games with the Vancouver Giants that the words “shorn off bone” were used in terms of repairing it.
Prior to his injury, Tvrdon was being talked up as a sure-fire first-rounder, if not a top-15 pick, but the would-be power forward missed the remainder of the 2010-2011 season, and as Wings WHL scout Jeff Finley told RedWingsCentral’s Matthew Wuest, the Wings couldn’t pass potential up:
“I thought a kid with his size, skating and skill, had he been healthy all year, probably would have been a second-round pick or higher,” said Red Wings WHL scout Jeff Finley. “I think had we not stepped up and taken him in the fourth round, he probably wouldn’t have been there and another team would have selected him.”
Tvrdon came over from Slovakia in August as the 13th overall pick in the Canadian Hockey League import draft to play in the WHL with the Vancouver Giants. But he appeared in just 12 games — scoring six goals and five assists for 11 points — before being knocked out after an Oct. 16 game with season-ending shoulder surgery. Finley was one of the select few scouts who saw him in the WHL, catching him once in the exhibition season and once in the regular season.
“He jumped right out at me with his size, his skating and his skill,” Finley said. “He’s a really good skater. He’s a similar player to (second-round pick and fellow Slovak) Tomas Jurco, to be honest. He’s really skilled and he’s a very good skater for his size.”
The Red Wings’ scouts in Slovakia and the Czech Republic gave Tvrdon rave reviews as an underager in 2009-10. He piled up 25 goals and 31 assists for 56 points in 45 games at the under-20 level in Slovakia that season and added three goals and an assist at the world under-18 championship. The Red Wings also received assurance from Tvrdon that he’s back to 100 percent from surgery already and that he’ll be ready to go in the fall. Since he hasn’t played in almost a year, some patience might be required — but the hope is Tvrdon will eventually pick up where he left off last October and emerge as a high-end prospect.
“We’re rolling the dice on him,” said Red Wings director of scouting Joe McDonnell. “He’s got two more years out west with Vancouver and we’ve got lots of time. We’ll see what happens.”
Things get a bit sketchy in terms of information from here on out, but here’s what I know about Phillipe Hudon—the 6’0,” 193-lb center and right-winger is taking a route the Red Wings love their prospects to take when they’re a bit raw, a.k.a. the college route, as the Montreal Gazette’s Pat Hickey notes:
There was one Quebec native who wasn’t drafted out of the Q and that was Philippe Hudon of Hudson. He played minor hockey through bantam before going the prep school route at Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut. The 6-foot, 197-pound power forward was drafted by Detroit in the fifth round but will be heading to Cornell University in the fall.
Hudon looked a lot bigger when he spoke to the press, via the Wings’ website…
And only the Hockey News’s Ryan Kennedy, who notes that Hudon’s 20 points in 22 games with Choate were underwhelming, offered a real interview with the youngster…
From way back on December 21st, 2010:
An incredible student who shook off the Quebec League in favor of a future at Cornell, Hudon is thriving at the prep school level in Connecticut. A big kid who likes Milan Lucic’s game, Hudon possesses excellent athleticism and isn’t afraid to throw his weight around.
“People have classified me as a power forward,” Hudon said. “I think that is a perfect categorization. My role is to set the tone; get a quick goal or make a quick pass, but also to make a big hit.”
Hudon has switched positions several times in his young career, starting as a defenseman before shifting to center. Playing the wing maximizes his effectiveness, but the Quebec native admits he still has a pivot mentality sometimes and needs to work on staying in his lanes.
“The problem is,” he said, “I have a tendency to be everywhere on the ice.”
In other words, the Wings picked a player who they see long-term potential in but believe needs a good three or four years to develop into what they hope is at least a big, checking forward, thus their attraction for college-bound players when it comes to projects.
The Wings’ last three picks—Linkopings HC defenseman and beanpole Mattias Backman, gigantic defenseman Richard Nedomlel, who has his own Hockeyfights channel and overage defenseman Alexei Marchenko (who plays for CSKA Moscow, and as such, will be incredibly hard to pry from the KHL should he turn out) are all long-shots of the first order, and information on them is limited at best.
As such, we’ll let Nill take us out in terms of the multimedia department (save the Free Press’s and Wings’ website’s draft galleries [edit: and some Free Press player capsules]) via his end-of-draft media scrum on the Wings’ website…
And while the following media members offered in-depth analyses of every draft pick, I’m going to focus on their information on these last three picks, as well as Nill’s overall take on the draft.
Here’s what Nill said about the Wings’ last three picks to DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose...
In all, the Wings selected five defensemen, three forwards and a center. Of the nine picks, the Wings landed three players from Canada, two from Slovakia, and one each from Sweden, Czech Republic and France. Asked if the Wings were adhering to a quota mandating the selecting of Swedish players, Nill joked, “We have to keep the Swedish government off of our backs. We have to start paying taxes if we don’t.”
For the 17th straight year, the Wings selected at least one Swedish player when used a fifth-round pick (146th overall) on 6-2 defensemen Mattias Backman, who played in 27 games with Linköping Junior in Sweden’s SuperElit League.
“He’s another big defenseman and our guys caught him late in the year,” Nill said. “We like his size and his puck-moving.”
After the Backman pick, the Wings finished the draft by selecting two more blue-liners: 6-4 Czech Richard Nedomlel (six-round) and 6-2 Russian Alexei Marchenko.
“Nedomlel, he’s a Czech kid, a big, strong kid, and plays real hard,” Nill said. “Marchenko will play or the Russian World Junior team this year.”
Marchenko had 11 goals and 23 assists for CSKA-Krasnaja Armija Moskva, who won Russia’s MHL championship last season.
With their final pick, 205th overall, the Wings took defenseman Alexei Marchenko (6-2, 183) from CSKA in Russia. Marchenko went undrafted last season despite being highly ranked.
“He’ll be one of the top defensemen on Russia’s World Junior team,” Nill said. “He’s one of the better young defensemen in Russia. Our Russian scouts know him well and he says he wants to come out in a year,” Nill added. “So we feel we have the ability to get him (in the NHL) if we need to.”
In total, Detroit drafted four forwards and five defensemen.
“Every team has pressure to win,” Nill said. “We’re all in the same business and it’s become equal. Everyone has the same money, so the system has leveled out. There has only been two teams since the lockout to make the playoffs every year, us and San Jose,” Nill added. “We want that trend to continue. If we continue doing that it means we’re doing something right.”
And overall, as Nill tells the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan, the Wings are pretty happy with their haul, from Jurco on down…
“A lot of skill, good ability, you just let them grow and hopefully down the line they’ll mature into NHL players,” said Jim Nill, the Red Wings assistant general manager, who runs the team’s draft table. “We’re happy. We had a pool of players who we would have been pleased to have gotten and we got some of those kids. We’re pleased with the way things went.”
Three picks in the second round highlighted the day for the Wings, two of those picks coming from the Senators on Friday night in a trade for the Wings’ first-round pick. The Wings selected right wing Tomas Jurco (Saint John Quebec League), and defensemen Xavier Ouellet (Montreal, Quebec League) and Ryan Sproul (Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario League) with those second-round picks. Jurco was considered a first-round talent in some mock drafts.
“He’s a highly-skilled player,” Nill said. “He has as much pure skill as any player in this draft. He has Marian Hossa-type of skill. He was one of those guys that we had on our list and were hoping we’d have a chance to get him.”
To their mid-round picks, who he discussed with MLive’s Ansar Khan...
Nill called the French-born Ouellet “our type of player.”
“He’s a very good puck-moving defenseman who skates well, defends well,” Nill said. He said the 6-foot-3, 175-pound Sproul is a late developer with good size and a great shot. He scored 10 of his 14 goals after Jan. 1.
Nill also had high praise for center Alan Quine, the club’s third-round pick (85th) from Peterborough, saying he reminds them of speedy Red Wings center Darren Helm.
“He has Helm-type speed,” Nill said. “He’s on the puck, he’s tenacious. He’s an energy player.”
And the late-rounders as well, obviously, but as Nill told Khan, the Wings felt that the best thing they could do was trade down for two second-rounders and then stack the deck…
“There was a lot of action for the [35th] pick, but we weren’t going to move it,” Nill said. “We didn’t want to move down anymore. We were trying to accumulate more second-round picks, but it didn’t work out.”
The nine picks is the most the Red Wings have had since 2005, the draft that produced Jakub Kindl, Justin Abdelkader and Helm. It gives them a greater opportunity that two or three of these players will wind up in the NHL in 3-5 years.
“It gives you another roll of the dice that you might find a player,” Nill said.
Because the Wings felt there were more than enough talented players available early on, as he told Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji (who probably offers the best profiles of the prospects—and she mentions that Jurco’s sister is a Slovakian Olympian)...
“After the top 12-15 players, there was a group of about 20 players that were all the same,” Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill said in a phone interview following the draft. “We really liked them, they had good potential with some weaknesses, some things they needed to develop. Instead of getting one, we thought we would get two or three and it worked out well.”
And the bottom line remains the bottom line here—these players are long-term investments, and when you’re hoping to find one or two meaningful roster contributors out of a crop of nine players, trying to look half a decade ahead in terms of these players’ physical, mental and on and off-ice development, it’s hard to get all the variables to line up and end up with nine eighteen or nineteen-year-old youngsters who grow up to become NHL’ers.
That’s not the way things happen in real life, but the Wings have always liked their chances to grant their prospects every opportunity to overachieve:
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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.