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The Malik Report

Morning news: Navigating LCA; on training camp, prospects, Zetterberg’s numbers and AA

Updated 2x at 12:30 PM: Of Red Wings and Little Caesars Arena-related note this morning:

1. For better or worse, Kid Rock opens up LCA this evening, and WDIV's David Bartkowiak Jr. and Ken Haddad (parking and amenities), WWJ Newsradio 950 (parking) and MLive's Edward Pevos (one more photo tour) have you covered;

2. Along the rink lines, Ilitch Holdings VP Doug Kuiper penned an essay in the Free Press today, defending the investment spent to build Little Caesars Arena and the District Detroit;

3. Shifting focus back to hockey, the Free Press's Helene St. James offers "10 thoughts" about the Red Wings as they leave for training camp tomorrow:

1.    Who’s in the middle? Coach Jeff Blashill’s plans are to have Henrik Zetterberg, Frans Nielsen and Riley Sheahan serve as centers. Zetterberg is almost 37, but he’s still got the smarts and willpower to control the game when he is on the ice. Frans Nielsen is a solid two-way player, good on face-offs and reliable in shootouts.

2.    Dylan Larkin will be interesting to watch – last year at 19, he struggled enough within the first few weeks of the season that the coaching staff pulled Larkin off center duty and returned him to the wing. But one upside of slipping out of playoff contention last spring was that Larkin spent the last month playing center, and did much better. Then he went to the World Championship and won 62.33% of his faceoffs, and he was out in the last minute of the quarterfinal against Finland.

3.    Nobody needs a better individual start to 2017-18 than Sheahan. He went 79 games before scoring last season. Face-offs was one of the few areas he was solid, winning 50.6%. This is a crucial time for him – he is in a contract year, and needs to show last season was an aberration, not the start of a trend. He came into the league with sound defensive instincts and scored 15 goals as recently as 2015-16.

St. James continues...

4. Looking back at last night's Wings prospects win at the Wings' prospect tournament, DetroitRedWings.com's Art Regner penned a "Trending" recap...

2. Axel Holmstrom: Early in the second period, Holmstrom picked up an assist on Detroit's first goal, scored by Jordan Sambrook, which broke a scoreless tie. Several minutes later, Holmstrom gave the Wings a 2-0 lead when he showed his skill and soft hands by deking Rangers goalie Chris Nell, who thought Holmstrom was aiming for the top corner of the net. Instead, Holmstrom beat Nell through the five-hole. It was a pretty goal. Holmstrom finished the game with two points and was plus-3. He played both ends of the ice and showed good speed and instincts when attacking the Rangers zone.

Quotable: "(Luke) Esposito made a really good play. I don't know how he got the puck to me. I just tried to open him (the goalie) up and put it in there. I wanted him to think I was going to go top shelf backhand; once he opened up that hole, a lot of times you have (to make) a quick move and I guess that's my move (going five hole)." -- Holmstrom

5. And he asked Dennis Cholowski the unspoken question earlier in the day:

Arizona drafted [Jakob] Chychrun with a pick that originally belonged to the Wings. Detroit traded the pick away along with Pavel Datsyuk's contract because the Red Wings needed to free up cap space.

While Cholowski was playing in college at St. Cloud State and Chychrun was in the NHL, many observers began to question Cholowski's game compared to Chychrun's, assuming the Wings would have taken Chychrun if the deal wasn't made.

Cholowski acknowledges the comparisons between him and Chychrun, but he knows there isn't anything he can do except refine his game.

"I just need to control what I can control," Cholowski said. "My goal is to play in the NHL, so I need to continue to progress in the areas the Wings have stressed, which is getting bigger, stronger and increasing my numbers offensively. Being linked to Chychrun is something I really don't think about. As long as I stick to what I need to do to become a Red Wing, it will all work itself out."

Since he was drafted by Detroit, Cholowski has put on close to 20 pounds of pure muscle without losing a step on the ice. He is a good skater with the ability to move the puck up the ice. He is encouraged about his game from where it was a year ago.

"I want to make a pro team," said Cholowski, who left college after a year to sign with the Wings. "Of course I want to play in Detroit. Grand Rapids would be nice, too, but if I end up playing for Prince George (in the WHL), I believe the experience will benefit my overall game."

Regner continues, also speaking with Michael Rasmussen...

6. Also from Regner, we look back a little further as Regner penned an article examining Henrik Zetterberg's 2016-17 season "By the Numbers":

19:43 - Zetterberg's average ice time last season. On November 8, Zetterberg's ice time was 24:04, his highest total for the year. The Wings achieved a 3-2 shootout victory over the Flyers in Philadelphia. Zetterberg had one assist on Tomas Tatar's goal. For his career, Zetterberg's average ice time is 19:35.

550 - He recorded his 550th assist in Boston on January 24 in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Bruins.

900 - His 900th career point was scored against the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 5-3 defeat in Tampa. Zetterberg assisted on a goal by DeKeyser.

1000 - In a season where the Wings struggled despite the efforts of their captain, it's poetic justice Zetterberg played his 1000th career game on April 9, which was the last Wings game played at Joe Louis Arena. Detroit skated past New Jersey, 4-1. Zetterberg recorded two points, assisting on a Tatar goal and scoring a second-period goal with Gustav Nyquist picking up the lone assist. The goal gave the Wings a 3-0 lead.

Regner continues...

7. And The Athletic's Corey Pronman listed the back half of his top 100 players under 25--players 100-50--and one Red Wings player made his list:

Andreas Athanasiou, LW, Detroit: Athanasiou is a very tough player to evaluate. He can make incredible plays seem routine with his elite speed and top-end puck skills. You’ve often seen him appear on highlight reels at every level. He can also be a competent penalty killer. I wonder when I watch him if he knows when to pull up and make a play. In his first full NHL season he was productive and its hard to ignore. Athanasiou remains unsigned as of this writing.

Update: ESPN's Sean Allen also penned a fantasy hockey preview for Eastern Conference teams:

Detroit Red Wings

Bounce-back for Mrazek and Larkin: With the exception of the defense, the Red Wings should have been a better team of individuals last season. Petr Mrazek and Dylan Larkin, and to a lesser extent, Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar, left fantasy owners disappointed last season. Much of the same group will return for this season, so is it crazy to expect a different result? Larkin is a sneaky stash after his sophomore slump, and Mrazek has to be better after a truly disastrous campaign. However, it's been a couple consecutive years of the same output from Nyquist and Tatar, so perhaps it's time to start looking at the next wave of potential scorers, including Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou.

Weak defense: When your collective team defensive scoring (113) manages only four points more than the collective team defense of the Devils (109), you know you have a problem. Unfortunately, the only "upgrade" the Red Wings made on the blue line was adding the mercurial and oft-injured Trevor Daley. Don't be surprised if the Red Wings have another season without a fantasy relevant blueliner.

Update #2: Among The Athletic's Pronman's top 50 players under 25:

47. Anthony Mantha, RW, Detroit

Mantha has worked hard to address the deficiencies in his game. He’ll never be his team’s go-to penalty killer, but he’s more consistent in his effort in battles and getting back on defense than he was a few years ago. The result is a skilled and reasonably quick 6-foot-5 forward who can score and that his coach trusts.


30. Dylan Larkin, C, Detroit

Larkin stagnated after his incredible rookie season as a 19 year old. While his offensive skills may hold him back from being a true scoring force, for a player with his elite speed, great competitiveness and smarts, there will be a place in Detroit’s line-up for him for a long time.  Adjusting to life as an NHL center can be tough for a 20 year old, but Larkin could be a good two-way pivot while clearing 40 points regularly.

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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.