Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Quick impressions from Monday’s morning skate at the Red Wings’ prospect tournament ‘17

The Red Wings' prospects prepared to snap their 0-and-2 record when they face the New York Rangers (7 PM at Centre Ice Arena, on Fox Sports GO, DetroitRedWings.com and NHL.com), and the Wings were feeling like a team coming off a much-needed "off day"--they were chipper, they were enthusiastic and they were upbeat, staying on the ice for a full hour and lingering during their last practice like rink rats.

As stated in the audio post, the best way for the team to view tonight's must-win game is probably to simply look at the tournament as a short set of games that need to be finished strongly; there is no doubt that thoughts of training camp are already creeping into the prospects' heads, but between now and Friday, there's work to be done.

The goaltenders preceded the players onto the ice and worked on recovery drills (i.e. squaring up to the "top of the horseshoe" at the far goalpost and getting back to stop a shot fired from the opposite goalpost), but the players soon joined the goalies, and after a quick game of two-touch with the puck--a drill where players were lined up at the edge of the center-ice faceoff circle, and the player who missed a pass had to stand in the center and try to pick off passes--coach Nelson hopped on the ice and took charge.

The first drill was an extended version of the 2 forwards-pass-to-defenseman-at-far-blueline, turn-against-defenseman-from-near-blueline-in-3-on-1 drill, where the forwards had to "gap up" to the second defenseman before he peeled off with the forwards in a 3-man attack against a defenseman who set up the drill with an outlet pass;

After a simpler drill, in which forwards from the "four corners" would take a pass from a defenseman at the far blueline and turn back in 2-on-0's to warm up the goalies, including iterations where there were two passes between defenseman and forward, and then two forwards taking two passes, with the first forward standing at the front of the net to tip pucks from the second forward...

Things got a little more complicated as the first drill was set up with a dump-in retrieval serving as the "outlet pass," and the forwards had to interchange positions at center ice after taking the pass from the defenseman at the far blueline...

Drills then separated out as the forwards went to the south end of the ice and the defensemen headed to the north end. The forwards worked in a 3-on-2 drill where Ben Simon and Mike Knuble served as the "defensemen," and at the north end, the defensemen worked on one-timers after passing and reversing flow.

The lines looked familiar for the forwards, though there were small tweaks:

Holmstrom-Esposito-Shine

Sadowy-Rasmussen-Svechnikov

Smith-Turgeon-Zablocki

Josling-Kutkevicius-Johnson

Gilmour-Gallant-Castleman

24 minutes into practice, the players skated toward the coach for a final chat--with the last person to the scrum having to take a lap--and the players split into three units, with a set of one-timer-takers occupying the south end of the ice, centers taking faceoffs at center ice, and a few defensemen and forwards helping the goalies work with the goaltending coaches at the north end of the ice.

The players remained on the ice for another 20 minutes, and they had to be chased off the ice by the coaches.

In terms of player observations, kept short as there's a game tonight at 7 PM:

Forwards:

Dominic Turgeon #23: Turgeon is doing his best to add some offense to his game, and again, that's going to be necessary for the 6'2," 200-pound center to separate himself from what might be a dozen good checking forwards in the Wings' system. He understands that the "A" on his sweater means that he's got to set an example as well.

Michael Rasmussen #37: I don't know whether the 6'6," 221-pound center is going to be a 1st liner, 2nd liner, or 3rd liner, but I think it's far too early to write him off, and most of the prospect experts are doing that to an 18-year-old who still needs to fill out a body that could be playing effectively at 235-240 pounds. Rasmussen is more skilled than he gets credit for, and a goal or assist tonight would help dispel the myths about him.

Dylan Sadowy #44: Sadowy continues to flash a smooth, silky set of hands and a smart skill set during practices; he's just starting to use that 6,' 205-pound frame to bang some bodies and make room for himself in games. He's going to have to not fall off a cliff performance-wise when training camp gets here.

Lane Zablocki #46: Simple. Steady, a bit of a snarl to him. The 6,' 190-pound Red Deer Rebels winger has earned a spot in the top six as a checking forward, and that's impressive in itself.

Givani Smith #48: Smith, like Rasmussen, gets downgraded because his experience is somewhat limited, but a big offensive season with Guelph would help dispel the belief that the 6'2," 206-pound winger is nothing more than a grinder with soft hands.

Axel Holmstrom #49: Holmstrom simply looks very comfortable doing what he's doing as he comes from a pro pedigree with Skelleftea, but the 6'1," 219-pound Holmstrom is working very hard in practice to keep improving his skills and to keep adjusting to North American-sized ice.

Dominik Shine #56**: He's looked smooth and slick as a 5'11," 175-pound scoring dynamo, and the graduate of Northern Michigan University will have to dig even deeper tonight for the Wings to beat the Rangers.

Luke Esposito #58**: Esposito is in the same territory despite his 5'10," 183-pound size. The Harvard graduate is all of 24, and as an older player, he's got to continue displaying poise and resolve in the offensive zone.

Zach Gallant #64: Three work days in, the 6'2," 198-pound Peterborough Petes center continues to perplex me. He's strong, a stout checker and occasionally a puck-transporter, but he looks more Zach Nastasiuk slow than Dominic Turgeon speedy.

Brady Gilmour #67: Still looks like a little pain in the butt. 5'10" and 170 pounds, the Saginaw Spirit center has pluck and poise.

Oliver Castleman #70*: Castelman just looks rushed to me. The 5'10," 180-pound Niagara IceDogs center can lug the puck up ice with speed, but everything seems to be too fast for him. He's got to adjust to the pace he's facing.

Isaac Johnson #75*: Johnson had a good game on Saturday but might be out tonight due to lineup changes. The 6'2," 174-pound Des Moines Buccaneers graduate has been solid.

Sean Josling #76*: Josling, a 5'11," 166-pound winger out of Sarnia, has skated faster than Johnson but hasn't looked as steady.

Evgeny Svechnikov #77: "Geno" has impressed, but Geno has to score, too. At this level, Svechnikov should be having his way with his opponents, not struggling to score. I believe that there's more than enough potential in Svechnikov's going-toward-the-NHL level of skill and work ethic to break through, but the 6'3," 205-pound winger needs to break through soon.

Luke Kutkevicius #78*: Kutkevicius just had a couple of miraculous days at the summer development camp, and it's been downhill from there. The 6'1," 162-pound Windsor Spitfire has good skills as a grinding forward, but there's another level of defensive skill.

Defensemen:

Filip Hronek #24: Hronek has to steady himself and display both his tremendous offensive skill and some solid defensive chops for the remainder of the tournament. The dashing defenseman can score, score and also score, but he gets scored on regularly because he's not big enough, strong enough, or defensively dedicated enough to stifle his opponents' chances. At 6' and 164 pounds, he's got more to grow and more to give.

Vili Saarijarvi #29: Saarijarvi has been a model defenseman and has earned his "A" over the course of two tough games, and the 5'10," 172-pound defenseman looks bigger and stronger and steadier than he did last year at this time. He may not have as high a ceiling as Hronek, but he works harder and is definitely going to start the year in Grand Rapids.

Libor Sulak #47: Sulak had a terrible game on Friday but still impressed with his raw skill, and he may return to the lineup tonight after icing his right hand down for a couple of days (he blocked a shot with it on Friday). The 6'2," 207-pound defenseman is most likely bound for the Lahti Pelicans, but he's got two more games to intrigue the Wings and Griffins' brass.

Reilly Webb #50: Just solid. The 6'3,'" 201-pound defenseman out of Hamilton of the OHL is all-round steady.

Dennis Cholowski #53: Still finding his toolbox to contain his excellent disparate skill set, Cholowski remains relentlessly positive though low-key, and he's a big self-believer without being cocky. Cholowski understands that he's got to improve both offensively and defensively, but the dynamic performer will get his chance to get some playing experience with the Prince George Cougars this year, and it's experience that Cholowski needs to graduate from project to top prospect.

Patrick McCarron #54**: Big, steady, versatile, the Cornell graduate has looked very good on the point with whoever he plays, and there's some physical panache to McCarron as well.

Jordan Sambrook #63: Sambrook should get back into the lineup tonight, and the 6'2," 193-pound Erie Otters defenseman needs to display a steadier defensive game before heading back to juniors.

Cole Fraser #74: Because he's already physically mature at 6'2" and 191 pounds and has a harder, nastier streak to him, Fraser may stick in the lineup tonight, and he's shown intriguing potential as a mean stay-at-home defender who may have more to give.

Goalies:

Corbin Boes #36*: Boes backs up Machovsky tonight. The 6'3," 225-pound Boes is working on sealing his holes as the Dalhousie College goaltender works to find more spring to his stride and resourcefulness to what is a massive blocking body.

Kaden Fulcher #60*: Fulcher may be the Red Wings' loss and someone else's gain if he doesn't get drafted by Detroit come next spring. The 6'3," 182-pound Fulcher has been immaculate in terms of his technique and pretty good in terms of results.

Matej Machovsky #68: Tonight's game is huge for Machovsky. The Wings need to see a steady, effective and efficient netminder work through his angle issues and adapt to North American ice in a hurry, and Machovsky, who gave up some squeakers on Friday, needs to put that 6'2," 187-pound frame to better, safer use as a goaltender in better control of his game. Tonight is Machovsky's time to deliver a win.

* denotes a free agent and ** denotes a Grand Rapids Griffins-contracted player.

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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.