The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/11/13 at 07:28 AM ET
Today's the second day of the Red Wings' summer development camp, and it will kick off the first of three days (though the first is followed by a scrimmage on Friday and an "off-day" before a Sunday-Monday slate) spent emphasizing skill development with Tomas Storm and significant time spent learning the Wings and Grand Rapids' systems of play on the ice to familiarize players with the style of play they'll be expected to master at the fall prospect tournament and, if they're lucky, the Wings' main training camp...
And off the ice, the Wings will subject their prospects to the sometimes brutally rigorous level of fitness training required at the NHL level under the guidance of Wings strength and conditioning coach Peter Renzetti..
As noted yesterday, the most notable figure attending the development camp is one Darren Helm, who gave a difficult interview to the press corps regarding the state of his still-healing back. The Detroit Free Press's George Sipple revisits Helm's comments this morning:
“Two months without skating — obviously, I didn’t put my head down and go after it,” Helm said. “I thought I skated well. My hands are always a big issue. … Just give it a couple weeks, and I’m sure I’ll get that back.”
Helm said he was at “70-80%” with his skating and hopes to continue to build on that each day this week. A week of skating drills will help build Helm’s confidence heading into training camp in September.
"Absolutely, it gives you confidence ... to skate more and push harder, working out with heavier weights,” Helm said. “That's what I wanted to do when I came here, see where I'm at and see if I could make the next step.”
That next step will not include taking big hits from a rising prospect. Helm wasn’t anticipating playing in a two-hour scrimmage scheduled for Friday.
“I don't think I'll take part in the scrimmage,” Helm said. “We'll see what happens Thursday. I've been off for two months, no point getting out there and start hitting at this point of the summer. It would be stupid.”
Sipple also posited a video interview with Helm:
The other "big story" of the first day of the summer camp was captured by the Left Wing Lock's Sarah Lindenau and the Detroit News's David Guralnick in their respective Day 1 photo galleries, but those of us who staked out Helm (as we waited a good 25 minutes for him to appear) missed the fight between Nick Jensen and Tyler Bertuzzi while we were in the locker room.
Bertuzzi and Jensen discussed their scrap with the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan...
“I asked him to fight and we went at it,” said Bertuzzi, drafted in the second round last month. “It was good. We’re good now. We shook hands. It’s part of the game.”
Said Jensen: “That’s hockey. We’re blessed we can settle it on the ice. I don’t hate him for it. He gave it to me, I gave it to him, and that’s what happens in hockey.”
And Kulfan also spoke with Tomas Holmstrom regarding his currently informal role as a net-front-specialist teacher during the summer development camp...
“I don’t want to do any scouting, I want to be on the ice and in the drills and working with kids,” Holmstrom said. “This is perfect for me. I enjoy it. Hopefully the things I teach the kids will help them and make sense.”
He spoke with one Michael Babcock regarding his desire to keep learning before he embarks upon a season with the USHL's Fargo Force....
“Just be a sponge and get as much information as I can, whether it be the coaches or the other players,” said Babcock, son of Red Wings coach Mike Babcock. “I just want to be ready to compete every day and get better.”
And as an FYI:
Forwards Damien Brunner and Daniel Cleary, unrestricted free agents offered deals by the Red Wings, have yet to sign with them — or any other team.
The other "main focus" of Wednesday's interviews involved the fact that Ryan Sproul, Xavier Ouellet, Alexei Marchenko and Nick Jensen are all "turning pro" with the Grand Rapids Griffins this upcoming season. Sipple spoke with Sproul and Jensen regarding embarking upon their professional hockey careers...
"Definitely looked forward to stepping up to the pro level and I think I’m ready for it,” Sproul said Wednesday after the first day of the Wings’ skill development camp at Centre Ice Arena.
Sproul, 20, played two games for the Grand Rapids Griffins this past season.
“Just want to come in and do my thing and help the team as much as I can,” Sproul said. “I’m coming in with about 10 guys battling for a couple spots.”
Jensen, a fifth-round pick in 2009, was the defensive player of the year in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. He scored four goals and 27 assists for 31 points in 42 games last season.
“A lot of people see it as competition — you’ve got a lot of good (defensemen) coming in,” Jensen, 22, said of the Griffins. “I was in college, it was a little different. You’re always on the team. It’s not like (the pros), where you can be sent to different teams. The better players are going to be playing and you gotta perform if you want to play.”
(That's an excellent point given that some of the Wings' young defensemen will clearly find themselves playing for the ECHL's Toledo Walleye)
Kulfan noted that the Wings have another gem in Xavier Ouellet and a hulking stay-at-home defenseman in Richard Nedomlel, and that the Wings have gushed about Mattias Backman's potential, too (though he's not taking part in this year's camp)...
“Time will tell, but it’s pretty exciting is what I think,” said Jiri Fischer, director of player development for the Red Wings.
None of the defensemen were first-round picks. The closest were Sproul and Ouellet, both second-round picks in 2011.
“The best available,” Fischer said of the draft philosophy. “Guys find a way, and that’s what pro hockey is about, finding ways and needing to reinvent themselves.”
And already there’s a sense of players pushing each other.
“We’re all fighting for a spot,” said Ouellet, a 6-foot, 187-pound two-way player who had 41 points (10 goals) for Blainville-Boisbrand in the Quebec League. “There’s a lot of competition, and that’s a good thing for all of us. It pushes us to the limit, and it’s something that’ll bring out the best in all of us.”
Sproul, Ouellet, Jensen, Marchenko and Richard Nedomlel (2011, sixth round) are all slated to play in Grand Rapids this season.
With Jonathan Ericsson and Kyle Quincey approaching unrestricted free agency following this season, there could be openings on the roster — and the potential for trades. But one thing is certain: The Red Wings don’t need to rush any of the prospects.
“Everybody matures at their own pace,” Fischer said. “We treat everyone individually. Everybody can get better.”
And Michigan Hockey's Nick Barnowski spoke with Sproul and Ouellet, too:
“You’re still fighting for a spot,” [Sproul] said. “Coming in with 10 guys all battling for a couple spots, it’s my goal over the summer to keep those guys out.”
Joining him in that battle will be Ouellet, who will also be turning pro after three seasons in the QMJHL.
“I know there’s going to be a big step for sure, and I”ll do my best to get ready for that step,” Ouellet said.
The 6-foot, 187 pound defenseman noted that he will draw upon his two-week experience as a Griffin last season when making the transition to the pros. While he did not see action in a game, he was able to practice with the team, which was helpful.
“I practiced with the team for a couple weeks and it was a really good learning process for me,” Ouellet, who played in six games for Team Canada at the 2013 World Junior Hockey Championship, said.
We didn't hear from Alexei Marchenko, but Fischer weighed in on Marchenko's likely adjustment to an 85-foot-wide rink after playing on 100-foot-wide ice in Russia, and Chris Chelios commented on Marcenko's "upside" given that he played for a superb pro team in CSKA Moscow for the past two seasons:
“Playing on big ice will be different from playing on small ice,” Fischer said. “For defensemen, coming to small ice and all of the sudden being forechecked a lot harder, having a lot less time on the breakouts because there is always somebody coming, it’s a little more hectic under pressure than it is in Europe.”
Chelios spoke highly of Marchenko.
“Just watching him last year, he plays like a man,” he said. “He really engages and asks a lot of questions which is a good thing.”
Jensen, whose Saint Cloud State University Huskies made it to the Frozen Four final this past season, is a real "feel-good story," and the Left Wing Lock's Sarah Lindenau spoke with Jensen about his college accomplishments as they pertain to helping him prepare for what he hopes is a long pro career:
The unassuming blueliner showed tremendous growth in his three seasons, but his final year was one he will never forget. Not only did his team reach the semifinals of the frozen four before bowing out to Quinnipiac, but Jensen was individually recognized with the 2013 WCHA Defenseman of the year award and named first team all-American. Despite the lengthy list of accomplishments, the 23 year-old is the first to redirect any credit to his coaches and teammates.
“I couldn’t have made it without the guys standing next to me on the ice,” he said. “They made me a better player and are the reason I won that award. Obviously it was really exciting to win, but I am even more proud of the team for making school history and advancing so deep in the tournament.”
Jensen, who was the 150th overall selection in the 2009 NHL draft, signed a two year entry-level contract with the Wings following his junior season. The Rogers, Minnesota native is expected to get a long look for a roster spot with Grand Rapids next season.
“I am excited to start my pro career and especially with such a great program like the Detroit,” he said. “I am just going to work as hard as I can and play my style of hockey and hopefully it will pay off. You have to earn your spot and I have always been a believer in hard work.”
The offensive defenseman had a taste of what the AHL will be like after signing an amateur tryout contract with Grand Rapids at the end of last season. While he didn’t see any game action, Jensen practiced with the team and stayed for the duration of the Griffins Calder Cup run.
“It is one of the greatest groups of guys I have ever met,” he said. ” I got to stay all the way until the championship and watch them win it. It was super exciting even though I didn’t get to play and I felt just as much a part of it as they did.”
In the multimedia department, the Detroit News's Kulfan posited a photo gallery-accompanied listing of the Wings' "Top 15" prospects...
The 7&4 News's Harrison Beeby posted a video report which includes the Ken Holland scrum with news crews, comments from Helm and some quips and quotes from Anthony Mantha and Chris Chelios...
The 9&10 News's Jared Smith also filed a video report...
And NBC 25's Erik Columbia filed a video report as well:
In other news: Via RedWingsFeed, the troubles for the Howe family don't stop: after winning a $3 million settlement against former business managers, their attorney now wants a significant chunk of the jugdement;
- In a strange case of parallelism, the day after the Muskegon Lumberjacks hired Trevor Nill as an assistant coach, the Sault Star's Mike Verdone reports that Paul MacLean's son AJ has been hired by the OHL's Soo Greyhounds as an assistant coach;
- In the literal odds department, Sportsnet reports that Bodog estimates that Daniel Alfredsson will score 19.5 goals and 48.5 points this upcoming season (those are the over-under numbers);
- If you care to watch Senators owner Eugene Melnyk speak about Alfredsson's departure and any plans to honor his Senators legacy from the CBC Ottawa, you may most certainly do so on your own, and the Hockey News's Ryan Kennedy suggests that the departure of Alfredsson leaves a "burning question" as to whether the team's leadership group can fill the void;
- Several Wings and Wings alums are among Grantland's Sean McIndoe's "All-Time 'Gave Up Too Soon'" roster;
- In foreign-language news, part 1: CSKA Moscow GM Sergei Fedorov will be engaging in a Q and A on Sovetsky Sport's website;
- In foreign-language news, part 2: I am JUST about to head out the door, so you'll have to read the Google translation of Hockeysverige.se's Ronnie Ronqvist's interview with Nicklas Lidstrom, but Lidstrom states that:
1. He will scout for the Wings in Sweden, will serve as a team ambassador, and thanks to a full 82-game season, he'll make multiple trips to Detroit, and while he won't be a "coach," he'll be on hand to help give some tips regarding power play execution and the Wings' defensive game;
2. He's also working with Vasteras IK's 2000-born team as an informal assistant coach;
3. He was very proud of the Swedes' efforts at the World Championships;
4. He believes that Daniel Alfredsson will help the Wings' power play, he'll help on the ice and off, and he states that he was not part of the group recruiting Alfredsson to come to Detroit;
5. He's also very happy to know that Tomas Holmstrom's working with the organization to help the team work on its power play;
6. And he does believe that the youth movement-driven Wings could be a playoff contender this upcoming season.
- In foreign-language news, part 3: I'll try to get some sort of translation of Tomas Holmstrom's interview with Aftonbladet's Erik Karlsson as time permits;
- In the Twitter department:
And finally, the Traverse City Record-Eagle's James Cook JUST published articles about Chris Chelios's Hockey Hall of Fame selection and Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi's desire to "silence their critics." I have to put my dress clothes on and get the hell out of here, so I can't post "highlights." Sorry!
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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.