Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings overnight report: prospect tourney ‘job’ talk, Datsyuk, fantasy hockey news, previews etc.

The Red Wings' media corps will attend the Red Wings "Captain's Practice" at Joe Louis Arena today, and a solid chunk of the Red Wings' roster (minus a certain restricted free agent who will fly with the Blue Angels today, assuming that the weather improves) will be taking part of today's skate.

If you think that's "a little early for hockey," please note that the KHL's regular season starts on Wednesday, the Finnish Liiga begins its season on September 9th, the Swedish SHL kicks off its 2014-15 campaign on September 10th, as does the QMJHL, and the WHL and OHL begin playing regular-season games on the 19th and 24th, respectively.

Long story long, "hockey season" is upon us, and while the content's a little lighter this morning, it does afford a shift in focus.

The Free Press's George Sipple posited an examination of the biggest fish in the Wings' prospect tournament pond, and while I'm more intrigued as to whether Blake Clarke can earn a contract, whether Tomas Nosek can physically compete with full-contact, near-NHL-level hockey and whether the summer development campers have taken steps forward...

I cannot deny that Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco wouldn't have earned top-line spots on the Grand Rapids Griffins--and the kinds of opportunities which led directly to their call-ups and strong rookie campaigns--by responding to coach Jeff Blashill's challenge to carry the team on their backs.

Sheahan and Jurco played so damn hard at the prospect tournament--and it's bloody hard to win four games in five nights with the pressure of having to deliver the first prospect tournament title in 15 tries--that they had to battle through very evident mental and physical exhaustion during the main camp.

The prospect tournament definitely impacts the Grand Rapids Griffins' pecking order, and strong performances can definitely lay the foundation for strong training camp pushes to unseat veterans and "steal jobs."

Given that the Griffins signed FIVE NCAA free agents (Alden Hirschfeld, Mark Zengerle, Tyler Barnes, Shane Berschbach and Kyle Bonis), brought back captain Jeff Hoggan, defensemen Nathan Paetsch and Brennan Evans as veterans, given that the Wings re-signed probable Griffins forwards Mitch Callahan, Landon Ferraro and Andrej Nestrasil, and given that Tom McCollum was brought back into the mix, never mind the fact that Andy Miele and Kevin Porter inked two-way deals, the Griffins' roster's going to be stacked, and at least a couple top prospects (as well as Jared Coreau and Jake Paterson) will probably find themselves starting the 14-15 season with the ECHL's Toledo Walleye.

So it's not as if Anthony Mantha, Ryan Sproul, Mattias Backman, Andreas Athanasiou, Nosek, Martin Frk, Coreau or Paterson have "nothing to lose" at the AHL level, nor can they do anything less than set themselves up for an impressive training camp...

And the "eyes" who will be watching them merit mentioning, too. In addition to Ken Holland, Kris Draper, Ryan Martin (the Griffins' GM), Mike Babcock and the vast majority of the team's amateur scouts watching them, the Griffins have two new assistant coaches (Pat Ferschweiler and Dave Noel-Bernier), and the Wings' new assistant coaches (Tony Granato and Jim Hiller) will be lending a hand as well.

From a long-shot try-out like 5'8" defenseman Joe Hicketts to Mr. Mantha, the prospect tournament represents an incredible opportunity to open eyes, earn contracts in the tryouts' cases and earn prime-time spots on a particularly stacked Grand Rapids Griffins' roster--with said front-line positions lending themselves to being called up to the NHL.

With all of that being said, here's Sipple's take on the "Top Five", or at least part of it:

■ Forward Anthony Mantha. He was the 20th overall pick in the 2013 NHL draft. He was the Canadian Hockey League MVP last season after scoring 81 goals in 81 regular-season and playoff games. General manager Ken Holland already has said that Mantha will have a chance to make the Wings’ roster, so he should be motivated to start out by dominating the NHL Prospects Camp tournament first.

■ Defenseman Ryan Sproul.He was one of nine rookies to make their NHL debut with the Wings last season. A second-round pick in 2011, he played in one game with the Wings. In his first full season with the Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL), he had 11 goals and 21 assists in 72 regular-season games, then added two goals and three assists in 10 playoff games.

■ Forward Martin Frk
. A second-round pick in 2012, Frk had a disappointing first season as a pro. He had three goals and nine assists in 50 games with the Griffins and five goals and eight assists in 15 games for the Toledo Walleye (ECHL). Frk should be motivated to make an impact from his first shift.

Sipple also suggests that Athanasiou and Tyler Bertuzzi, who will begin this season in the OHL, has much to prove due to the past two years' worth of injury-riddled campaigns, and I can't deny that it's going to be intriguing to find out how physical Bertuzzi's willing to play after having dealt with concussion and neck-related issues due to punching above his 6,' 178-pound weight class. Blashill won't have time for any of the flopping, flailing or toss-the-neck-back crap that he displayed during the Guelph Storm's Memorial Cup run.



The next story's grown legs over the past two days and taken on a life of its own, so let's have at the Free Press's take on Pavel Datsyuk's comments to Sportbox.ru's Oleysa Ursov:

[W]hile the Detroit Red Wings have the veteran center under contract for three more seasons – until he’s 38 – Datsyuk recently said he hasn’t ruled out playing in the KHL for a final season one day.

"It is hard to talk about it now,” Datsyuk told Russian publication Sportbox. “My dream is to play for the (KHL team) remains, but (I have to) look at how the rest of my hockey career (goes)."

Datsyuk, 36, was in Yekaterinburg, his hometown, to play in an exhibition with fellow NHL stars.

Datsyuk played in the KHL while the NHL went into a lockout in 2012, playing 31 games with CSKA Moscow, before returning to play for the Wings in the lockout-shortened 2013 season.

Here's what I'll suggest in my "third look" at the story and a third translation thereof: Datsyuk's being paid $10 million this season (aside from saying that I'm actually enthused by his suggestions that "coming home" is no longer a slam dunk):

In addition to having a second Mrs. Datsyuk and a baby daughter, Datsyuk's one of the players who might be convinced to extend his career because his contract ends after the 2016-17 season, and the Red Wings' new rink will open for the 2017-18 season.

I'd imagine that he, Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall and even Johan Franzen want to skate in that new barn, and that's a good thing, not a bad thing, especially given the fact that an ever-increasing salary cap might allow the Wings to give Datsyuk a good chunk of money to play NHL hockey when he's 40...

And any suggestions that he'll be moved need to look at Capgeek's breakdown of $7.5 million-cap-hit deal and pay attention to the fact that he has a NO-MOVE clause, not a no-trade clause, so he's going to play out the three upcoming years in Detroit.

According to Capgeek, Datsyuk, Stephen Weiss, Niklas Kronwall and Jimmy Howard have no-move clauses this year, and Jonathan Ericsson and Daniel Cleary have no-trade clauses, which are the, "They can be traded but they have a say in where they might go" versions of the plain old no-move-no-way-no-how NMC.



I hope that we'll find out more about Daniel Alfredsson's status today, and given that he co-led the Wings in scoring last season, he most certainly merits a spot in Pro Hockey Talk's Ryan Dadoun's "Five interesting players still on the UFA market" list:

Daniel Alfredsson — Alfredsson is a bit of a different case because part of the issue is that he’s not sure whether or not he wants to return. He’s been training over the summer, but hasn’t decided if he feels like he can contribute at the age of 41. If he ultimately decides that he wants to return for one more season, then he’s expected to approach the Detroit Red Wings and at that point, it will be up to the team to decide if they want to re-sign him to add another veteran presence and offensive depth or if they want to keep the roster spot open for one of their young forwards.

At the cost of turning this into a super-repetitive entry, the Wings are doing with the 41-year-old Alfredsson what they should've done with Daniel Cleary in asking him to skate for a couple weeks and figure out whether he's healthy enough to continue before offering him a pro try-out and/or guaranteed contract with a low base salary (Alfredsson's over 35, so if he's signed, his $ will count against the cap regardless of whether he plays or retires) and performance bonuses instead of signing bonuses.



Otherwise...In fantasy hockey news, NHL.com's released a composite ranking of its "Top 275" fantasy hockey players (based upon the rankings of their three fantasy hockey scribes), and Pavel Datsyuk's listed at 27 overall, Henrik Zetterberg's listed at 29th overall, Gustav Nyquist's ranked 96th overall, Jimmy Howard's ranked 107th overall, Niklas Kronwall's ranked 106th overall, Johan Franzen's ranked 178th overall, Tomas Tatar's ranked 231st overall and the aforementioned Alfredsson's ranked 247th overall;

NHL.com's Corey Masisak reports that his website's engaging in another theoretical exercise...

Who are the best 14 players in the NHL at each position as teams prepare for the start of the 2014-15 season? Arpon Basu, Brian Compton, Corey Masisak and Dan Rosen have cast their votes and the result is NHL.com's "Top 14 for '14-15" project. Each first-place vote is worth 14 points, each second-place vote is worth 13, continuing in descending order to each 14th-place vote being worth one. There are two tiebreakers. First, which player appeared on more ballots? Second, which player had the highest individual ranking? If the voting was exactly the same for each player, it was declared a tie. Does NHL.com's list match your rankings for the best players in the League entering the 2014-15 campaign?

And they list Pavel Datsyuk...Tenth...

10. Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings, 23 points
: 17 goals, 37 points, 45 games played

When Datsyuk is healthy, he is still the "Magic Man." If he approaches 82 games in 2014-15, there's a great chance he'd be a few spots higher in a "Top 15 for '15-16" list. Don't discount him, or Henrik Zetterberg, from the discussion of elite players yet.

In "real" hockey news, DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose's "Previewing the East" articles are slowly reaching the end of their course, and today he looks at the Montreal Canadiens this morning:

ARRIVALS:  Forward P.J. Parenteau, Manny Malhotra; defenseman Tom Gilbert; and goalie Joey MacDonald.

DEPARTURES:  Forwards Thomas Vanek, Daniel Briere, Brian Gionta, Ryan White, George Parros, Louis Leblanc, Nick Tarnasky, Mike Blunden; and defensemen Josh Gorges, Francis Bouillon and Douglas Murray.


SEASON SCOPE: It was important for the Canadiens to fill the roster with complimentary pieces to fit with valuable stalwarts like Pacioretty, P.K. Subban, Alex Galchenyuk and goalie Carey Price, who is coming off an outstanding career year. The obvious first order of business for GM Marc Bergevin was to get Subban locked up to a long-term deal. The Habs also made the decision to re-sign Andrei Markov. The 35-year-old veteran is a solid puck-possession defenseman who has definite value on the power play. Montreal will need both to step it up if the team is to do a better job at retrieving and possessing the puck, which was a huge problem for the Canadiens last season.

The Habs are coming off their second 100-point season since 1993, as well as their second trip to the Eastern Conference finals in five years. Acquiring P.A. Parenteau in a trade with Colorado for older Daniel Briere was a slam-dunk move for the Habs, who get an upgrade with the 31-year-old winger, who registered 33 points in 55 games for the Avs last season.

There's much more to Roose's article, and I can't help but think that the Habs aren't quite as good as the team that made the Eastern Conference Final last season.

If you're interested in viewing the field of the recently-concluded Grand Rapids Griffins' alternate jersey competition, HockeyJerseyConcepts has a gallery of said entries on their website, and DetroitHockey.net's Clark Rasmussen offers his take on the favorites to win, including his own concept (which is superb).

I root for my pals, so I can't help but plug my friend Courtney's concept:



Speaking of pals, this is really important to me, so it's getting its own section. Sarah Lindenau does a fantastic job of covering the Red Wings' summer development camp, fall prospect tournament and main training camp, and she's the "social media captain" for the event, relaying information on Twitter, via the Left Wing Lock and the Red Wings Camps' official Twitter account. She's a must-follow, a prospect expert and a good egg, but she had to miss the summer development camp for a tragic reason:

Sarah's trying to raise $5,000 to establish a cancer fund honoring her mother Judith, and that matters, as does this:

It is our hope that raising funds that support cancer research will stop the proliferation of this devastating disease. Donations made to this fund through the month of September will be matched by a generous donor at a 2:1 ratio so a donation of $100 will actually be worth $300. No amount is too small and every donation is appreciated. The Conquer Cancer Foundation is one of only a few organizations committed to defeating all forms of cancer--from the common to the rare. Together, we are supporting groundbreaking research, sharing cutting-edge knowledge and building a world free from the fear of cancer.



Also of Twitter-related note:

In preseason prospect news...

Zack Nastasiuk had a goal in the Owen Sound Attack's 4-2 preseason loss to Barrie on Sunday; Dominic Turgeon had an assist in the Portland Winterhawks' 4-2 preseason win over Everett on Sunday; Mitchell Wheaton didn't play in the Kelowna Rockets' 5-0 win over Kamloops on Saturday, but he posted that -4 in Kelowna's 6-1 loss to Vancouver on Sunday.





Finally, this is just a tip jar now. I'm at goal, so if you wish to add a $5, $10 or $20 to the equation, that would be wonderful, but I'm happy to say that the TC trip is "on":

I've attended two of the past three Traverse City-based training camps/prospect tournaments and the past three summer development camps at your leisure. If you're willing to lend a hand, I would greatly, greatly appreciate it.

Any and every donation helps pay the way up there (I break even) and I'm strongly considering printing some t-shirts and/or ensuring that every entry has a "sponsored by/brought to you by" note (and as always, the coverage is based upon your suggestions and questions, so it's an interactive experience).


My "merchant ID" is my non-work email address, rtxg at yahoo dot com, and I'm incredibly grateful for your readership and support. Thank you.

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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.