The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/12/11 at 03:50 PM ET
The Detroit Red Wings’ prospects are doing their absolutely best to keep up with the complexity and high-paced tempo of drills at the Red Wings’ summer development camp, but even after a Monday spent off-ice working out and then enjoying a barbecue, jet-skiing and a little “R&R,” they returned to Centre Ice Arena to participate in the last three days of on-ice activities, well…
With their butts dragging a bit, which is ironic given that today’s drills involved recovering pucks and generating offense on the counterattack, detailed positioning and, in the cases of the skill development coaches, conservation of energy and efficiency via employing proper skating and stickhandling techniques, and of course, a speedy pace of play.
For reference purposes, here are the rosters of the “teams” participating in the development camp…
38 Thomas McCollum
66 Tyson Teichmann*
2 Brendan Smith
32 Adam Almquist
64 Danny Dekeyser*
42 Max Nicastro
15 Richard Nedomlel
62 Ryan Sproul
3 Brad Walch*
47 Brent Raedeke
14 Gustav Nyquist
60 Trevor Parkes
70 Willie Coetzee
58 Landon Ferraro
58 Nick Oslund
68 Adam Estoclet*
24 Dean Chelios*
63 Julien Cayer
45 Casey Fraser*
Injured: Gleason Fournier
34 Petr Mrazek
31 Evan Mosher*
25 Brian Lashoff
54 Sebastien Piche
27 Travis Ehrhardt
56 Bryan Rufenach
61 Xavier Ouellet
75 Artem Sergeev*
77 Jake Chelios*
28 Tomas Jurco
53 Louis-Marc Aubry
65 Mitchell Callahan
71 Travis Novak*
50 Brooks Macek
74 Alan Quine
29 Marek Tvrdon
73 Phillipe Hudon
72 Zachery Franko*
49 Jesse Fraser*
Note: Players with an * next to their names are try-outs.
And here are the details regarding attending today and tomorrow’s two-a-day sessions, as well as the scrimmage on Thursday:
The Red Wings’ 2011 Prospect Development Camp will continue next week with on/off-ice sessions taking place in Traverse City [T]uesday and Wednesday (8:30 – 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 – 4:30 p.m.). This year’s camp wraps up on Thursday, July 14 with another intrasquad scrimmage as well as a skills competition (8:30 – 10:00 a.m.). More information on Traverse City ’s Centre Ice Arena can be obtained by visiting www.centreice.org.
The tickets cost $5, which is a pretty darn good deal.
“Team Lidstrom” practiced this morning, and they were subdivided into “red” and “white” teams consisting of the following players:
Red Team: Trevor Parkes, Danny Dekeyser, Adam Estcolet, Ryan Sproul, Brent Raedeke, Adam Almqvist, Brendan Smith, Gustav Nyquist, Thomas McCollum.
White Team: Brad Walch, Casey Fraser, Dean Chelios, Nick Oslund, Landon Ferraro, Willie Coetzee, Richard Nedomlel, Max Nicastro, Julien Cayer, Tyson Teichmann.
I should also note that I watched the sessions along with Nick Barnowski from Nick on Sports, and that he’ll probably have a report up on the day’s proceedings as well. It was very nice meeting him and I wish I’d been as organized as he was at 17 when I was…Hell, 30.
The other “human interest” story involved something that will probably pop up on DetroitRedWings.com: There was, shall we say, a George-shaped goaltender,, wearing all Vaughn equipment, who took part in the skill drills and individual goaltending sessions with Thomas McCollum, Tyson Teichmann (who’s now sporting a very nice set of Brain’s leg pads in addition to his new Brian’s gloves) and goalie coach Jim Bedard. I’ll politely suggest that said goaltender, who did face shooters and did a pretty solid job, plays a little like I do: he was a stand-up goaltender with a good glove hand, good blocker hand and solid stick who challenged shooters and rarely went down into the butterfly…because when he did so, he couldn’t get back up.
I was told that he was part of a reality TV show, and that he got to live out a big wish in playing hockey with the Red Wings.
In terms of the players who fit the under-30 and under-220-pounds club, the goaltenders began the day down in the butterfly position with their gloves and blockers very tight into their bodies and practically resting on their leg pads, attempting to squeeze off holes and “flash out the leather” to snag shots aimed for the top shelf or far posts, all with shooters operating within ten feet of the net. Surprisingly, the goalies let up more than a few squeakers, and in Thomas McCollum’s case, it was regrettably a sign of things to come.
At the other end of the ice, Tomas Storm engaged the players in a deceptively simple drill in which two or three players, grouped relatively tightly together, skated from the blueline to the bottom of the faceoff circle and then made a near-circular loop around the faceoff circles before skating back and backwards to the blueline, all while facing the end boards. Let’s just say that a few players lost the puck in the process.
Then Storm finally brought out some sort of obstacle for his players to deal with—this time they were construction cones instead of lawnmower tires—and placed them in an “L” shape going across the bluelines horizontally and then “vertically” up the ice to the half boards. The players were instructed to skate in to the half boards, skate back toward the blueline and deke through the four “horizontal” cones before charging up the middle and skating through a few more cones before kicking out their off leg as they shot.
Perhaps just as surprisingly, as the cones were rearranged and drills were refined, the players were engaged in what I can best describe as the, “Datsyuk warm-up,” where they deked the puck back and forth in a big pile of players skating from side board to side board between the blueline and the center ice red line, which is what Datsyuk does during warm-ups.
Then things got complicated. The cones were set up “vertically” from the blueline to goal up the middle of the ice, in a serpentine pattern—if you can imagine a \ / \ pattern with cones at each end of the “snake”, stacked on top of each other, toward the net, like this:
Then you’ve got it. The players were asked to stickhandle through the serpentine cones holding the puck out in front of them as far as possible—while skating on one leg—and then they deked through one more set of cones and shot the puck into the net. Very quickly, Storm and Jiri Fischer began to simulate defensemen attempting to poke the puck away from the players through the first two sets of serpentine cones, and the players had to first deke the puck back away from said sticks, then pull it behind the first cone, in front of the second, and so on, and finally, they were asked to combine these moves with a backhand spin-o-rama and shot while kicking one’s leg out.
Simple, right? Not so much, and while the players with shorter sticks, like Brent Raedeke, Adam Almqvist and the dangle-and-deke machine that is Gustav Nyquist, and the gigatnic-wingspan-possessing Ryan Sproul could all do these drills proficiently, even Landon Ferraro and Willie Coetzee were having trouble with the drills at times, and they can usually stickhandle in a phone booth. Ferraro and Coetzee, however, were two of the few players who kept their heads up while they engaged in the drills. Most of the other players looked down at the puck the whole time.
After 15 minutes, the “red” and “white” teams switched, and at the other end of the ice…
Bedard had the goalies and shooters engaged in the usual drills, albeit with some cones in play—first with players skating around a cone at the faceoff dots just inside the right or left bluelines, charging at the net and shooting, and then attempting similar shots while coming off the side boards, and then the forwards got in tight again on one goal and two sets of “cones” for the sake of the third goalie’s presence and jammed pucks at the three goaltenders while they dropped to the butterfly in the center of the net, recovered, slid to the top of the right or left sides of the “horseshoe,” dropped to the butterfly, recovered, returned to the center of the net and then the other side thereof. Goalies might be familiar with the concept that goalies are taught to play in a “horseshoe” as opposed to the old half-moon crease’s set of positional drills, and this was all about the horseshoe.
Around 9 AM, things wrapped up and got particularly complicated for the players. Power skating coach Andy Weidenbach first had the players engage in exaggerated long-stride drills (reminding players to not drag their toes on the ice), then a three-stride-and-c-cut-forward drill, then a c-cut backward drill—where both Weidenbach and Jiri Fischer told the players that if their arms were moving to counterbalance their skating strides, they should move straight forward and backward instead of side to side, which bleeds off momentum…
And as the goalies engaged in what I can best describe as “mirroring” drills moving across the faceoff circles, dropping to the butterfly, recovering at the faceoff dot, and then skittering back to the side boards, and then essentially skating back and forth in a “W” motion to emphasize proper crease positioning, again, with various iterations of butterfly drops and recoveries into a standing position, or sometimes “half butterfly” drops with one leg kicked out and the other leg pushing across, forward or backward…And I was surprised to find that Teichmann’s skinny frame allows his legs to move around a little more and get better push-offs and side-to-side “skitters,” while McCollum can have trouble moving laterally if his technique isn’t absolutely perfect because those big legs can’t twist and turn to get his skate blades to dig into the ice.
The skaters first engaged in some simple crossover drills before skating in gigantic loops taking up the entire perimeter of the rink and the area from the blueline to goal crease, skating backward the entire time, completing a full circle before stopping at the blueline, and then repeating this through center ice. Superb skaters like Smith and Almqvist made the drill look pretty easy, as did the “natural” skaters in Brent Raedeke, Gustav Nyquist and Ryan Sproul, and but it’s very hard for a player to trust in the concept that he’s not gonna fall over while skating full out backwards, so most of the forwards had some trouble.
Then things got really complicated. Weidenbach and Jiri Fischer took a long time to explain the subsequent drills as they involved standing facing either the side boards or center ice, and while facing one’s right or left side, “snapping” one’s leg underneath one’s body to push off and skate backwards, then stopping at the blueline and pushing off to simply skate backwards to the goal line. It’s pretty hard to describe other than to say that the players started with their skates parallel, and then had to “snap” one to the side parallel to their shoulders to glide backward and had to snap the other skate into, not out from, their body to push in instead of pushing off, and everybody had a helluva time with it.
Fischer insisted that the Nick Lidstroms of the world don’t get tired easily because they’re efficient skaters, and their upper bodies don’t move while their legs do the work, but man, the drills were incredibly hard for even the best skaters, whose shoulders weren’t parallel to the ice and whose arms and chests were bobbing around.
The next drills involved what I can best describe as “butt shimmies” and the ultimate iteration of the “snap” drills, where the players were asked to face their left or right sides while “snapping” both feet under them and turning to skate forward and then backward, forward and then backward, with Weidenbach insisting that the feet moving 180 degrees was fine as long as the hips opened up instead of the players’ knees, and that again, their shoulders should remain level and their upper bodies shouldn’t be moving but should be “loose.” Some of the more natural skaters, like Brendan Smith, could do it on one foot, but the vast majority of the players had tremendous difficulties with the drills.
The final drill was even crazier as they had to essentially emulate Storm’s first drill and then make a full 360-degree turn at center ice, with again, the goal involving not bleeding off momentum.
When Curt Fraser took over after at 15-minute break for a Zamboni scrape, Fraser’s drills offered few surprises.
First, four players dumped the puck in, retrieved it, looked for an outlet pass and skated the other way, where a fifth player, a forward, joined the rush, received the pass, and either shot or tossed it back to the defenseman who retrieved the dump-in to begin with. The dump-ins were soon eschewed for a soft dump to the fifth player, who set up the breakout going the other way from the far blueline and usually that fifth player set up and shot.
The drills went up the middle, shifted to 3-man drills with skaters going up the left or right side of the ice, started out with a blueline-to-blueline pass and then a rush going the other way with the 3rd man joining the 2 forwards who started the drill, then 2-men in with lateral passes at the blueline, then two defensemen going d-to-d and firing a diagonal pass up the middle to a forward charging down the ice—and in a remarkable turn of events, this year, when this drill’s happening simultaneously in both directions, nobody’s ran into each other at center ice…
Then breakout drills began which involved two forwards skating up and passing the puck to a stationary coach at the side boards at center ice, and the coach giving the puck to a third forward who would jump into play…
And things got really complicated when Fraser added a five-man dump-in, where a coach in the corner would essentially give the puck away, and I have the order of passes for the five players going the other way listed as follows in my notes: LD to LF, LF dump to CF, CF back to either LF or RD.
So the left defenseman gave the puck to the left winger, the left winger would dump it down and the center would retrieve the dump and send it back to either the left forward or right defenseman for a shot.
Then the dumps went off the wall. Or the play started with a d-to-d pass.
Then we went to, “D to RW RW to New F back to RF to RD shot rebound active.”
Or, “Dump retrieved by RD RD up to center to RF RF to NF to RF to RD shot or pass.”
Then, “5 players dump in, D goes around back of net, charges up gut, pass forward to LF to RF dump around and either back to D or RF and shoot….or pass and shoot with traffic in front and rebound active.”
To switch things up, Fraser engaged in the most complicated positioning drill I’ve seen in some time, attempting to teach forwards and defensemen how to “rotate” on a power play to support each other and provide passing lanes up the side boards, into the slot, or from d-to-d with a forward dropping back to help, and after engaging forwards and defensemen in “battle drills” where one forward would have to attempt to get past a defenseman sealing him to the side boards to get a shot on the net…
All of that stuff occurred at the same time with the “dump and rotate” concept being defended against, with forwards either sending the dump-in around the back of the net to another forward, back to an attacking defenseman or to one of the three forwards that took the slot position, who was supposed to rotate into the middle to provide either a slot pass or a screen on the goaltender. There was always a “fifth man high”....
And the drills ended with players lining up on opposite bluelines, passing to a player on the opposite blueline, skating up to the red line to retrieve the pass and then going in on breakaways, with first passes prescribed and then the forwards choosing who would take part in the drill next.
If you want to read an alternate take on all of this stuff, Nick Barnowski’s write-up might summarize things better than I have, if not with a little better clarity…
And in terms of player-by-player observations:
Thomas McCollum: Suffered from his usual bugaboo—when shots started to go in, he started to get angry, and he started to get leaky. McCollum is tremendously square to shooters, his glove hand is superb, his blocker’s gotten way better, all week long he’s started to bump rebounds out properly instead of letting them rattle around in his gear, he’s sealing the ice well and closing holes, but when you get him angry, he gets off his angles, overcommits instead of letting the shooter make the first move, coughs up squeakers or gives up the kind of rebound that forces him to spin around and make a scrambling save, if he makes it at all. He swore at the end of the day and he had every right to, but it’s still…He’s an elite goalie, but he’s got to get it through his head that when you give up a bad goal, you can’t do anything about it other than to focus very hard on stopping the next shot.
Tyson Teichmann: Now that he’s wearing properly-fittedg gear that’s not so worn-out that he’s afraid of the puck, he’s playing really, realy well. He’s got solid fundamentals and moves around the net tremendously well, especially for a skinny guy, and he was good in terms of rebound control and not scrambling. He does, however, remain a bit of a “hole-y” netminder who can allow shots through his superb coverage, and pop-outs from his glove are a big problem for him as he’s breaking in his gear.
Brendan Smith: He’s kind of on cruise control right now. Smith is one of the few skaters that can keep up with Andy Weidenbach’s drills, he’s familiar with Fraser’s positioning drills and he adores being able to “battle” because then he can show his nasty physical game off. Mostly, he’s made Adam Almqvist a better player by providing a solid example as to how one must play at an NHL level….
Adam Almqvist: And while Almqvist is a superb skater with a good shot and great vision in terms of his playmaking, he remains as underpowered as a full-size pickup truck with a four-cylinder engine—except that his build suggests a Yugo with a hamster wheel instead. His skills are elite but he needs to get stronger and he’s not used to the 85-foot-wide rink, which yields plays happening much faster than he’s accustomed to and less time and space for him to steer shooters wide.
Danny Dekeyser: Simple stay-at-home defenseman. Solid. Decent playmaker. Good shot. Great in terms of battling. No frills. Had a lot of trouble with the mechanics of the skating drill but could at least do them.
Max Nicastro: Nicastro’s bigger and stronger but has a ways to go in the filling out department. He’s gotten better as the camp has gone on and he looks comfortable out there, utilizing his wicked shot, hard heads-up passes and strong skating to generate offense and his positioning and poke-checking to deflate opposing teams’ scoring chances. He’s getting better.
Richard Nedomlel: Ditto in the “getting better” part, figuratively and literally. Now that he’s relatively healthy and the antibiotics seem to have worn off, I can see flashes of the raw talent and power that prompted the Wings to draft him. He can be a plodding skater and is still very very lanky, but he does have more than a simple stay-at-home defenseman’s skill set, his positioning is good and even though he’s a stringbean, he can really dominate other players physically. He’ll look more like a dominant physical force in the fall, methinks.
Ryan Sproul: Sproul may be the most naturally physically gifted athlete the team has had since Brendan Smith. He’s 6’3” but skates like Gustav Nyquist, his wingspan and reach with his stick are just gigantic, he’s got a hard seeing-eye shot, he passes the puck smartly with his head up, he’s physical and occasionally gritty, and on top of it all, he was doing a really nice job of mastering the technical details of the skating drills. Moreover, he’s only 18 and has some serious-ass filling out to do and strength to add to his frame. His potential “upside” is huge.
Brad Walch: Either he’s lurking in the weeds or he’s just lurking. Walch is a good skater and he’s efficient at playing a sound defensive game, but he has stood out like camouflage in its natural setting. He’s big, he’s strong, and I can’t figure him out.
Brent Raedeke: After establishing himself as a meat-and-potatoes grinder, it’s good to see the kinds of offensive skills he flashed as a junior-aged player appear again. He can be as slick and crafty a passer and shooter as he is a gritty and determined player, he’s really strong and he’s just smart, smart, smart. I hope the Griffins allow him to earn a bigger role on the team this year.
Gustav Nyquist: Gustav desperately needs to have some ups and downs in the AHL, realizing that he’s not going to have the time or space to make his extra dekes or dangles, wait an extra half-second to commit to making plays or attempt to hot-dog it because he was the most skilled player on NCAA ice. When he’s playing against men, his offensive output will suffer, he’ll get banged around and he’s definitely going to have some stretches where he doesn’t score, but it will all be a good thing because he’s ridiculously talented, is a lovely skater, is a sneaky, sneaky, sneaky sniper and playmaker whose nose for the net might as well be a foot long, he can stand up to the pushing and shoving even as an undersized player who needs to bulk up and he plain old has fun out there. He just needs to learn how to play like a pro and train like a pro.
Trevor Parkes: Parkes is back to his back-twitch, where every time he’s got a moment to stop he stretches his back so far into his hockey pants that his jersey starts tucking itself in, and I asked him about doing so. He said that his chiropractor taught him to do that to avoid tightening up his back, so that’s just a sign of a player who’s twitchy and a little “general-body soreness” as everybody’s slightly nagging issues are acting up (lots of ace bandages and wraps and ice packs this week, but I’ve chosen to not tell you where or on whom ), but he made up for it by scoring at the rate he did during the scrimmage, going to the front of the net, staying there and both picking up garbage and making some gorgeous plays of his own. As I told one of the people I met today, I think that the Wings probably will send him back to the Montreal Juniors, but he’s gonna score 40 goals there. Whether that means that he’s going to be anything more than a “power grinder” at the pro level, I can’t say, but for now he’s putting on a bit of a clinic.
Willie Coetzee: Coetzee had a bit of a down day today but it’s hard to not see his fantastic hands, great skating and big hockey brain shine. He worked hard today and while he didn’t score as much as usual, he continues to acquit himself well. He’s gotten stronger, too.
Landon Ferraro: Had a rough day when he couldn’t score and suffered from the same bugaboos that McCollum did. He was very good in the skating drills and held up well in the battle drills, but when he stopped finding the net he became frustrated and that was evident in everything he did. I’ve been asked if he has an attitude problem and from what I’ve heard and seen of him in the locker room when the sound recorder’s off, he’s really a nice kid who’s very driven, but his expectations of himself are sky-high, and when he doesn’t reach them he gets peeved at himself. He needs to let that go and worry about trying to score on the next shot or get an assist on the next play, or plain old take pride in the fact that he’s a really good and conscientious player in every zone.
Nick Oslund: Big power grinder whose time to impress is running out and who kinda blended in with the scenery today. He’s very strong and he’s very hard-working and he’s just not standing out.
Adam Estcolet: He says it’s est-o-clay. Nice kid. Great hands. Great skates. Gangly as hell and needs more time to find a toolbox to put his tools in. He can score some absolutely beautiful goals and he can grind it out on occasion.
Dean Chelios: As his comfort level’s gone up he’s become more visible as a slick, slick, slick forward whose playmaking ability is superb and whose ability to slither through bigger and stronger opponents serves him fantastically well. He just needs to get bigger and stronger himself, and he’s got the time to do so at Michigan State. He should eventually establish himself as a scorer there.
Julien Cayer: I spoke to him, too, and I’m glad that he understands his senior season at Clarkson is so important to him. He’s just starting to display the kind of strong skating power forward’s game (with some pretty damn decent hands), excellent work ethic and desire to seek out physical opponents and tick ‘em off and grind ‘em down. He’s developing into a real player now.
Casey Fraser: Continues to have fun and continues to keep up, and that’s all you can ask for.
I asked Thomas McCollum about his endorsement contract with Brian’s but not his frustration level. Sorry:
Here’s an introduction to Mr. Adam Estoclet…
And it’s taken me three years to finally interview Julien Cayer:
Also of Red Wings-related note this afternoon:
• In the, “News that’s not” category, TSN’s re-hashing the, “Wild owner Craig Leipold said that the Wings and Blue Jackets wouldn’t be in the Central Division for the 2012-2013 season” story for the FOURTH time and this is being broadcast as new news over again. Remember, this is all speculation and while the NHL may very well engage in a radical realignment, what one owner says in early July is not the rule of law—and the Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran has ran with the idea big time, offering three realignment options....
• Per Puck Daddy, The Score’s Scott Lewis and Pro Hockey Talk’s James O’Brien and Japers Rink, Tomas Vokoun apparently told ISport’s Pavel Barta that he’d approached the Red Wings before deciding to play for the Washington Capitals.
News because a goalie thought about taking a back-up’s role before deciding to go to another team to be a #1 guy? You bet. News because we should all be shocked that the Red Wings still believe that Jimmy Howard’s their #1 goalie? No.
• Via the Grand Rapids Griffins’ Kyle Kujawa, I guess we can’t call them the Montreal Junior anymore, because the Junior have relocated to Blainville-Boisbriand, a Montreal suburb, where the QMJHL’s website reports that they’ll be called the “Armada”...
• RedWingsCentral’s Sarah Lindenau profiles a former Wings prospect camp try-out in Washington Capitals forward Joel Ward;
• And finally and perhaps appropriately, the Grand Rapids Press’s Michael Zuidema spoke to Thomas McCollum about his inconsistency:
“It obviously was a lot of ups and downs. It was just something I have to learn how to deal with,” he said. “Unfortunately, I had a bit more experience with it than I wanted, but it’s part of the process, everybody goes through it. I’m really just looking forward to putting together a good season.”
The Red Wings still love McCollum’s size (6-foot-2, 210 pounds), he moves well between the pipes and his technique is sound. The biggest issue is his lack of consistency, Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said.
“His high games are very good, but when he’s not on he’s way off,” Holland said. “When he’s at the top of his game, he’s as good as any, it’s just that his consistency has too big a variance from his best games to his worst. I know he’s working real hard this summer, and he has to come in to training camp ready day by day by day to show the consistency that we’re looking for.”
Griffins coach Curt Fraser said it is premature to write off a goalie who won’t turn 22 until December. He pointed out that Ed Belfour’s Hall-of-Fame career didn’t fully take off until he was about 26.
“Tommy has looked good at these camps before, very good. He’s a good goaltender,” Fraser said. “Some young kids just take a little bit longer to find their step, and hopefully, Tommy will really step up this year and earn a lot of starts and find a way to put up a lot of wins.”
“I think he’s always had a great start and then had a bad outing and lets that affect him,” [Red Wings assistant GM Jim] Nill said. “He just needs to realize that all the good goalies let in bad goals, it’s what you do with that next shot. He knows that, he’s getting over that. It’s part of the maturing process. He’ll be fine.”
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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.