The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/12/14 at 09:32 AM ET
Four Red Wings players will be taking part in World Championship action today:
At 9:45 AM EDT, Tomas Tatar's Slovaks will battle France;
And at 1:45 PM, Jakub Kindl's Czechs will tangle with Canada.
This morning's crop of Red Wings news focuses on the Wings' prospects, however, and as noted a little bit earlier, those who are still playing include Anthony Mantha, whose Val-d'Or Foreurs will play in a winner-take-all Game 7 of the QMJHL's President's Cup championship tomorrow, and the Grand Rapids Griffins, who open a set of back-to-back games tomorrow night against a Texas Stars team who they trail 2 games to none.
Regarding Mantha, the Free Press's Helene St. James posited a prospect profile of "Tony" Mantha which includes a bit of a surprising quote from the Red Wings' GM given his coach's cautious take on an in-person visit to Val-d'Or:
“He’s going to get a chance to make our team,” general manager Ken Holland said Friday. “He’ll play five or six or seven exhibition games, and if he belongs in the NHL, we’ll put him in.”
Mantha has spent 2013-14 establishing himself as a bonafide teenage star, with Val-d’Or Foreurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and with a superb stint at the World Junior championship. He’s currently in the QMJHL finals, which will lead either to a chance to contend for the Canadian Hockey League Memorial Cup — or, should Val-d’Or lose, a chance to play in Grand Rapids, as Mantha would immediately be assigned to the Griffins.
Wings coach Mike Babcock just spent a couple days scouting Mantha, seeing him score four goals in two games. The Wings prefer their forwards to play 200-foot hockey, but, as in the case of Gustav Nyquist, goals consistently adding up can make up for it. Mantha has proven he’s a producer. He scored 57 goals (and a staggering 120 points) in 57 games this past season, following up on the 50-goal season that prompted the Wings to draft him.
After 22 playoff games this spring, Mantha has 23 goals. He’s a 6-foot-5, 200-plus-pound bulldozer who skates well and shoots hard.
As St. James notes, it's not likely that Mantha's going to make the jump directly to the NHL:
Mantha is done with juniors after this season, so the options for next season are Detroit or Grand Rapids. He turns 20 in September, and that’s very young to make the transition to the NHL. Mantha is a first-rounder, but even the elite top five picks can struggle to look comfortable right away at the NHL level. Mantha isn’t a grinder type, so he’d need to get decent minutes to be better off in Detroit than as the go-to guy in GR.
When the Red Wings "traded down" to snag Mantha with the 20th overall pick, they didn't exactly give up chopped liver--the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson reports that the San Jose Sharks expect big Swiss defenseman Mirco Mueller to step into their lineup in the fall--but the Wings did receive a "bonus pick" in the deal, and they used that pick to draft Tyler Bertuzzi 58th overall.
Bertuzzi's going to take part in the Memorial Cup, a tournament which pits the OHL, QMJHL and WHL's champions against each other (and a bonus host team that gets to take part in the tournament regardless of where they finished), and this year's Memorial Cup takes place in London, ON starting on Friday....
But at present, Bertuzzi's catching up on his homework (he's in his senior year in high school) after his Guelph Storm won the OHL championship last Friday in Guelph. The Sudbury Star's Ben Leeson penned an article about Bertuzzi's playoff-scoring exploits since he returned from a neck injury that required assistance from the University of Michigan's physicians to fix...
“It's pretty surreal,” a beaming Bertuzzi said Saturday. “It's definitely pretty crazy. And the way we were able to come back in the third like that, it was awesome.”
It was an especially tight group that went all the way this year, said Bertuzzi, who counts many teammates among his very best friends. He's very grateful to have been part of it.
“It was great to get back in and be with all the guys,” he said. “To be able to play hockey again and to contribute, it was awesome.”
And contribute he did. The 19-year-old winger, prized for his gritty, go-go-go gameplay, collected 10 goals and seven assists, along with 24 penalty minutes and a plus-14 rating, in 18 playoff games.
Playing games in North Bay, just an hour and a half from his hometown, ensured Bertuzzi had a good-sized cheering section.
“There was about 20 people there to watch me,” he said. “It was great.”
Many family members made the trip to Guelph, too, and joined him on the ice to celebrate Friday's victory.
“We took a bunch of pictures on the ice with the trophy with my mom and dad,” Bertuzzi said. “It was great.”
And the Guelph Mercury's Tony Saxon reports that Storm coach Scott Walker plans on keeping his young team focused under an international spotlight in London:
"Our meeting (Sunday) was basically about getting prepared for things to get busy and knowing that we're going to have to adjust," Walker said. "We're going to try to keep things as normal as possible."
They will practise in Guelph at the usual time Monday and Tuesday then hold a late-morning practice on Wednesday before heading to London to settle into their hotel.
They will practise at Budweiser Gardens Thursday and Friday, then open their Memorial Cup round-robin schedule with a game Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. against the Western Hockey League champion.
They play the Quebec champions Monday night and the London Knights on Wednesday night.
"We told them we're going to enjoy it and there's going to be a lot of different things going on," the coach said, "but most importantly you have to take care of your family, yourselves and your teammates. The game doesn't change. Yes, there's a lot more cameras and media and things like that, but we have to learn to be adjustable. "
Walker said having it in London is an advantage because the players won't feel so isolated. They will still see family and friends occasionally and still be able to use cellphones to stay in touch with everyone.
"If it was far away out west or in Quebec it would be different. Far enough away, but close enough to eat what food we're used to and get the odd family visit in."
Hockey's Future's Adam Schnepp focused on several other top prospects in issuing "prospect awards" to the "next wave" of Wings players...
Fastest Skater: Andreas Athanasiou, LW, Barrie Colts (OHL)
It was no secret that Detroit drafted Andreas Athanasiou in 2012 for his skating ability, but he has shown in 2013-14 that he can do more than just skate. He has learned how to create on the fly, so much so that he potted 49 goals and 46 assists in just 66 games with the Barrie Colts. The gamble that the Red Wings made when they drafted him may well pay off, as he has only taken two seasons to go from a player who could move faster than he could act to one that can create faster than others can skate.
Breakout Player for 2014-15: Mattias Janmark, C, AIK (SHL)
Janmark scored 30 points in 45 games with AIK, which is no small feat in the low-scoring SHL. Janmark pairs a high hockey IQ and polished offensive skill set with a physical edge, which should bode well for him as he transitions to the AHL. Janmark has already made his North American debut with the Griffins during the AHL playoffs, and that extra experience has him poised for a big season with the Griffins in 2014-15.
Overachiever: Andrej Nestrasil, LW, Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL)
After splitting time between the ECHL and AHL, Nestrasil finally settled in to a full-time AHL role in 2013-14. He started the season slowly, and it appeared that he may have played his way out of Detroit's future plans. The second half of the season saw Nestrasil get extra ice time due to the Red Wings recalling a number of players, and Nestrasil took full advantage. He went on a scoring tear, finishing the season tied for fifth in scoring for Grand Rapids with 36 points.
Highest Risk/Reward: Martin Frk, RW, Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL)
It is hard to deny that Martin Frk has a great deal of offensive ability. It is also hard to deny, however, that there are still questions surrounding whether he will be able to improve his skating enough to make his stellar shot a truly dangerous weapon. Frk had a disappointing 2013-14 season, recording only 12 points in 50 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins while also being sent down to the ECHL for 15 games. Whether Frk will turn into the player who scored 84 points in 56 QMJHL games in 2012-13 or the one who scored 12 in 50 games in 2013-14 is yet to be determined.
And at the other end of the "can't-miss" spectrum, the Boston Globe's Fluto Shinzawa focused on one of three prospects who will either make the Wings' roster or be subjected to waivers--and probably picked up on said waiver wire--in Landon Ferraro (Mitch Callahan and Adam Almquist face make-or-break Septembers as well), asking Landon's dad Ray about his son's journey before stating the following...
As a father, the 49-year-old Ferraro wants nothing more than to see his son become a full-time Red Wing. But in his professional capacity as one of TSN’s sharpest analysts, Ferraro understands that rapid acceleration to the varsity is not the Detroit way.
Landon Ferraro is a third-year pro. The Wings drafted Ferraro 32d overall in 2009. Detroit general manager Ken Holland believes in development through Grand Rapids, the Wings’ AHL proving ground. Aside from call-ups because of injuries, the Wings will only consider their youngsters for promotions when they consider them ready for permanent varsity status.
That rule stood for Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, and Tomas Jurco. They played for the Wings in the first-round loss to the Bruins. But they also spent plenty of time in Grand Rapids.
The 22-year-old Ferraro projects to be a bottom-six NHL grinder. As a second-year pro, Ferraro scored 24 goals and 23 assists for Grand Rapids coach Jeff Blashill. Ferraro added five goals and 11 assists in 24 playoff games as the Griffins won the Calder Cup.
Ferraro is a good AHL player. But he’s probably not ready to become one of Mike Babcock’s regular foot soldiers.
“If they get here too early, coaches, fans, and managers get down on them,” Holland explained during his end-of-season news conference. “It’s why young players get traded to other organizations. They get there too quick and they’re not quite ready for the challenge. People get down on them, the manager and the coach. Then they go to another city. I’m hoping to keep players away from here as long as possible so when they do get here, the growing pains are as short as possible.”
And this made me smirk...
Partly because of the change he’s seen in son Landon Ferraro’s play in Grand Rapids, Ray Ferraro does not believe Grand Rapids coach Jeff Blashill will be working in western Michigan much longer. “There’s no question Jeff Blashill will be an NHL coach, whether it’s now, in a year, or however it works out,” Ray Ferraro said. The Red Wings will not allow other teams permission to interview Blashill. But that could change upon the conclusion of Blashill’s contract after the 2014-15 season.
Because the Buffalo News's John Vogl duly noted what the Red Wings' GM had to say about the concept of losing Blashill:
Detroit has been a training ground for front-office types (Tampa’s Steve Yzerman, Dallas’ Jim Nill) and coaches (Ottawa’s Paul MacLean, San Jose’s Todd McLellan), but it appears no one else will be leaving before his contract is up. “I don’t really want to be a development team for other teams,” Red Wings GM Jim Holland told the Detroit News in explaining why minor-league coach Jeff Blashill is off-limits until his contract ends after next season. “We’ve got to get this team going.”
As I was writing this, the Free Press's George Sipple penned an article about the fact Blashill's Griffins are down 2 games to none after Saturday night's loss to the Texas Stars, with back-to-back games slated to take place tomorrow and Wednesday in Grand Rapids...
“We gotta go to work Monday and we gotta work at fixing the things we’re not doing good enough,” Grand Rapids coach Jeff Blashill said after a 4-0 loss in Game 2 on Saturday. “We don’t obviously have a lot of time, but we’ll use Monday’s practice to work on fixing those things.
“You have to have a ‘what’s next’ mentality. We lost two games. We’re not playing good enough.”
The Griffins, the defending Calder Cup champions, have been outscored, 9-2, in the first two games against the Stars. Cory Emmerton and Tomas Jurco — who appeared in the playoffs with Detroit — have scored the only goals in the series. Petr Mrazek has allowed all nine goals, while making 64 saves.
The Griffins are 1-for-6 on the power play, while the Stars have scored on 3-of-9 chances. The Griffins are 0-4 all-time when trailing 2-0 in a best-of-seven series.
This is the the third time in 30 playoff games that the Griffins have lost two consecutive games under Blashill. In the other two occasions, the Griffins came back to win two straight games.
The Stars are 5-0 in the postseason and have gone 23-2-0-3 in their last 28 games.
And, via RedWingsFeed, the Wings have posted the third installment of their Griffins-following videos, profiling Xavier Ouellet. Here are the three episodes:
In the Business of Hockey department, Mr. Ilitch made a visit to the Detroit Tigers' game on Saturday, and the Detroit Free Press's John Gallagher reports that job-training initiatives will help the Ilitches ensure that 51% of the workers who build the Wings' follow-on rink are Detroit residents;
In a different kind of numerical notation, the Free Press's Steve Schrader reports that Sergei Fedorov was the only Wing to be named among SI's best players based upon their jersey number;
DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose also penned a "By the Numbers" look back at Todd Bertuzzi's final season as a Wing...
59: The fewest numbers of games he played in a full season since back surgery forced him to miss all but 15 games in 2006-07 when he split the season between the Panthers and Red Wings.
40: Total number of shots on goal he had in 16 of the last 17 regular-season games that he played for a 2.35 SOG per/game average. During that stretch, he produced three goals and five points with a minus-6 rating. He averaged 1.43 SOG per/game during his first 42 games of the 2013-14 campaign.
15: The number of games that he was a healthy scratch, accounting for nearly a quarter of the regular season. He missed just eight games due to injury, including a shoulder ailment that sidelined the veteran forward for six games in late November and early December.
And finally, whether you want to watch the entire episode of Sunday's "7 Sports Cave" on WXYZ, or just its "Fast 5 Minutes," you will not be surprised to find that the Detroit News's John Niyo refuses to give up on his belief that Mike Babcock's skipping town after next season, nor will you be surprised to find that 97.1 the Ticket's Mike Stone provides an aggreeable partner to such suggestions.
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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.