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Red Wings overnight report: Rookie Showcase fun; Zetterbucket; on Sheahan, Pulkkinen & Athanasiou

I've learned that when one does not attend the Joe Kocur Foundation's softball games, one finds out news about the event in ramshackle fashion because, like the late-90's Red Wings, stories from a really good hockey party leak out bit by bit. So for now...

The incriminating evidence, I mean evidence that a good time was had by all, will slowly but surely surface.

That's not the case regarding the NHLPA's Rookie Showcase in Toronto, where Anthony Mantha and Ryan Sproul took part in an event/photo shoot held by the league's trading cards rights-holder, Upper Deck:




Mantha didn't manage to make his way into any of the mainstream media interviews posited on Saturday, but NHL.com's Tal Pinchevsky pointed out that Mantha counts himself among a significant crop of 2013-14 season rookies who have familial NHL ties...

Detroit Red Wings prospect Anthony Mantha's grandfather, Andre Pronovost, won the Stanley Cup four times as a member of the Montreal Canadiens. Kerby Rychel, the Columbus Blue Jackets forward prospect, is the son of Warren Rychel, who hoisted the Cup in 2006 as a member of the Colorado Avalanche.

One of Mantha's soon-to-be-rivals has a tie to the Wings...

Another attendee, Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Vladislav Namestnikov, is the son of one former NHL player, Jevgeni Namestnikov, and the nephew of two others, Vyacheslav Kozlov and Ivan Novoseltsev. As a child, Namestnikov was invited into Kozlov's home dressing room, where he likely crossed paths with his future general manager in Tampa Bay, longtime Detroit Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman.

"When I was little, I got to go into the Red Wings locker room with my uncle. Just to see what it's like, it was unreal," Namestnikov said. "My dad watches all my games, so that also helps. He gives me advice."

And Florida Panthers uber-prospect Aaron Ekblad is both from Windsor, ON, and he wears #5 for a very specific reason, as he told the Toronto Star's Lance Hornby:

Ekblad will wear No. 5, like his childhood idol Nicklas Lidstrom, whom he crossed the Detroit River many times to watch at Joe Louis Arena. "He was one of the best defencemen ever to play and a lot of people say he was a great person, too" Ekblad said. "I was talking to (NHLPA exec) Mathieu Schneider yesterday about Lidstrom and what he had to say was pretty cool. I met Lidstrom once at a minor hockey game in Plymouth, Mich., but I didn't get a chance to pick his brain."

In terms of "dirt," however, Sportsnet's Ryan Dixon suggested that none of the players participating in the NHLPA Rookie Showcase possessed the kind of wide-eyed, bushy-tailed, non-media-trained presence that late-round picks might display in early July:

Ekblad isn’t the first high-profile draft pick who seems completely at ease with the media and all this hoopla before playing his first professional game. And certainly, it’s not too hard for these kids to get a handle on the stock answers (to stock questions, in fairness) they’ll be facing for years.

But just looking at the body language of these teens tells you we’re in a different world now.

By the time these high-level players get drafted, most of them know as much about microphones as sticks. Sure, there are exceptions and always a few “I can’t believe this is happening” smiles, but the vast majority are anything but wide-eyed.

A lot of that has to do with the sheer volume of events prospects attend now. From development camps with their national programs to equivalent gatherings with their NHL clubs to things like the Rookie Showcase, they learn the drill pretty quick. Beyond that, the blogosphere has made it possible for fans to follow players from such early stages in their careers that, by the time they’re 18 or 19, it’s all almost old hat.

The Red Wings give their prospects more than a little bit of media training during the team's summer development camp, so it's often eye-opening to compare the blunt answers they issue during the early days of the development camp from the manner in which they're coining and contextualizing their phrases by the end of the week, never mind by the end of the fall prospect tournament.

In the hockey world, days don’t get much more dog than the ones that fall in late August. Yet here these guys were, talking to a substantial amount of media while carrying themselves in a nonchalant manner that never belied the levelheaded things they were saying. And all that before you could find their face on a rookie card.




Speaking of Twitter-based shenanigans...

So the Zetterberg Foundation now has an Instagram account to go along with it Twitter account, Facebook page and website, and
while Instagam post number 1 wants to remind fans that the foundation is holding a charitable event in Troy on September 12th...

Captain Carl Henrik did indeed engage in the Ice Bucket Challenge to support ALS (again, the U.S. ALS Foundation is online at http://www.alsa.org and the Canadian ALS Society's website is http://www.als.ca/en):

Via RedWingsFeed, Wings photographer Dan Mannes weighed in on Zetterberg's Instagram presence in media form:

Henrik Zetterberg is now on Instagram, @zetterbergfoundation. This photo is telling of the big heart he and his wife Emma have. Hank and Tristin from March 26th, 2012 at The Joe. Tristin visited us from Make-A-Wish Foundation, and this photo ended up in their 2013 calendar for November. It was quite the moment to witness. #imth #redwings #hank #z



Yes, there is a "harder news" portion of this entry. It just took a while to get to it. The Wings media corps' offseason "assessments/fits" have a strangely predictable way of following similar timelines, so we're going to be talking about Riley Sheahan today, just as we did yesterday, because the Free Press's Helene St. James' "focal point" involves the Windsor Star's Bob Duff's Friday-posted interview subject, a certain #15.

As St. James notes, Sheahan just inked a 2-year contract with a cap hit of $950,000 per season (per Capgeek, he makes $850,000 for the upcoming 2014-15 season and $1,025,000 in 15-16), and Sheahan registered 9 goals, 15 assists and 24 points over the course of 42 games, finishing at +8 during the 13-14 regular season, but going pointless and -1 over the course of 5 playoff games.

Is the speedy, heavy (6'2," 212-pounds) center of the "Riley and the Slovaks" line going to unseat Stephen Weiss as the team's second-line center, as SI's Allan Muir suggested is possible, or will Sheahan and Darren Helm duke it out for the 3rd line center's spot? Here's St. James' take:

Looking back: Made first appearance up from the minors in mid-December, playing in four games. Re-appeared for good in mid-January, soon establishing himself as a solid second-line center between Tomas Tatar and Tomas Jurco. Displayed more willingness to play with the puck after achieving comfort level at NHL level, and finished off regular season with goals in three straight games. Was quiet offensively in the first-round series against Boston, but played very well defensively while seeing a lot of minutes against Richard Krejci, one of the Bruins’ best centers.

Looking ahead: Sheahan, 22, spent most of his time last season as second-line center by default, as the position was decimated by injuries to Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Stephen Weiss and more. Sheahan enters this season’s camp already on the roster, but he’ll have to contend for minutes with more established teammates. Presuming everyone is healthy, and that the Wings opt to play Zetterberg and Datsyuk together, the depth down the middle includes Datsyuk, Weiss, Darren Helm, Joakim Andersson and Luke Glendening. The latter two can play wing, though, while Sheahan is best suited to stay at center.

Among Sheahan’s assets are his size (6-feet-2, 210-plus pounds) and the attention to defensive-zone play instilled in him during his years at Notre Dame and continued at Grand Rapids. Both make it realistic to pit him against opposing team’s bigger centers

Sheahan would do well to focus on developing offensively, because he clearly can maneuver with the puck. If Weiss is able to center the second line, as he was brought in to do, Sheahan would benefit from being out against the other team’s lesser defenders. He could center what would have the potential to be a very capable third line

I'm going to repeat myself and suggest that, like Glendening's status asa forechecking forward, Sheahan could very well be more effective as a net-front man if he was relieved of the defensive and faceoff responsibilities of a center, and he probably will move back and forth from the wing.

I don't believe that he's going to remain a winger for long, however, because Sheahan's stronger on faceoffs than Glendening, he's not afraid of traffic and he did pretty dang well in terms of knowing when to go all-out offensively with Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco and/or Gustav Nyquist on his wing, and knowing when he needed to hang back and allow his wingers to do the work down low while he remained "high" to bail them out.

He's a better skater than Joakim Andersson, he's more naturally physical, and he has a significant amount of experience navigating the landscape Tatar, Jurco and Nyquist create via his time spent in Grand Rapids.

At all of 22, I'm hoping that the Wings remain healthy enough that we get to spend the next two or three years arguing amongst ourselves as to whether Sheahan and Helm are centering a "third and fourth line" or whether the Wings have "two third lines, 3A and 3B."

Regarding Teemu Pulkkinen, Winging It in Motown's SlapshotGoal wondered whether Teemu Pulkkinen might break through the logjam of forwards battling for roster spots (see also: Mitch Callahan, Landon Ferraro, Anthony Mantha, Daniel "Wins by Default?" Cleary) due to his fantastic goal-scoring abilities, and The Sports Forecaster's Fantasy Inbox answered that question in a roundabout way:


Q: If you have to keep one winger between new Nashville Predator James Neal and Detroit prospect Teemu Pulkkinen, which would you guys pick? - Tommi M. (Helsinki, Finland)

FI: Thanks, Tommi. It's a very interesting question. If Neal was still a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, this would be a no-brainer. It would clearly be Neal here. Now? It's definitely a bit more of a toss-up. We would probably still go with the veteran NHLer here over the unproven prospect. The main reason is because Neal only turns 27 next month, so he still has plenty of good years left. Also, he's a former 40-goal man. That may no longer be possible in Nashville but the Preds could be more offensive under Peter Laviolette than they've been in the past under Barry Trotz. Also, Pulkkinen still has a lot of stiff competition for a job in Detroit, and it figures to be that way for the foreseeable future. Therefore, in this particular case, the devil you know is better than the devil you don't. Keep Neal.

One of the first call-ups, definitely. A job-stealer in the making, definitely. Starting the year on the roster? Not so likely.



In more dedicated "prospect" talk, preseason hockey version, via DRW Prospects on Twitter:

Mattias Janmark and Christoffer Ehn didn't register points in the Frolunda Indians' 7-1 win over French team Briancon Diables Rouges, and the Champions Hockey League's website did post a highlight clip from the game;

Axel Holmstrom didn't register a point in Skelleftea AIK's 4-1 win over Norway's Son...Sonderj...ah, hell, cut and paste: "SonderjyskE Vojens."

The CHL is airing some of the games online, and if you want to watch some hockey today, Julius Vahatalo and TPS Turku are taking on HC Pardubice, and Mikael Samuelsson and Djurgardens IF are battling Zlin:

FYI/FTR: There's going to be a significant amount of confusion regarding Tomas Nosek this upcoming season because there is a David Nosek who plays for Ocelari Trinec of the Czech Extraliga, and Ocelari's playing in the Champions' League preseason tournament (they defeated SC Bern 7-0 on Saturday);

The KHL is not participating in Champions League hockey, so Adam Almquist didn't register a point in Severstal Cherepovets' 7-3 loss to Lokomotiv Yaroslavl on Saturday.

I read something about the Champions Hockey League hoping that NHL teams might actually participate in the tournament to determine who the world's "best team" is at some point in the future, and I tried very hard to not laugh.

In non-playing action, Octopus Thrower's Howard Ward wraps up his three-part, "Have [the Red Wings] done enough to replace Calle Jarnkrok" series (Part 1 profiled Holmstrom and Alexander Kadeykin, and Part 2 profiled Mattias Janmark and Tomas Nosek), discussing a very, very long-term prospect in Dylan Larkin (I get the feeling that Larkin's going to need at least three years at U of M to mature given that he just turned 18 and is still growing into his body) and a player who most definitely matches Jarnkrok's speed:

[Andreas] Athanasiou was selected in the 2012 draft in the fourth round and is the only player on the list who is also listed as a winger.  He was originally projected to go anywhere in the first round after 15th selection but slide all the way to the 110th pick where the Red Wings happily snagged him.  He posses elite NHL skating and amazing stick handling skills.  Andreas has great size at 6’2 200lbs and is not afraid to drop the gloves.  RedWIngsCentral.com had this to say about Athanasiou:

“Elite NHL skating ability with acceleration and incredible top gear … Loves using his speed to drive wide and can flat-out beat defenders with his feet … Also beats defenders with his stickhandling, creativity and deft 1-on-1 moves … Scores beautiful, highlight-reel goals … High-percentage shootout shooter … Underrated playmaking ability … Huge threat on the penalty kill … Can play both center and left wing, preferring center but playing the majority of his junior career on the wing.”

After being traded to the Barrie Colts from the London Knights Athanasiou rose in the ranks of OHL forwards.  Scoring 49 goals 46 assists fpr 95 points in 66 games in 2014.  He joined grand Rapids for the Calder Cup playoffs and impressed Griffins Head Coach Jeff Blashill who played him extensively, for a rookie, in his short time in GR.  He still can work on his two-way game, but saw a lot of time on the penalty kill in Barrie.  His ability to play both center and wing could be huge if paired with a natural center or center capable winger in helping the Red Wings win faceoffs and control the puck more.

Athanasiou can glide just as fast as Jarnkrok, but he's far more explosive, has far more power in his stride, and unlike Jarnkrok, he doesn't "glide by" the puck--he attacks the damn thing.

I don't know if he's going to project to anything more than a Darren Helm-style player despite his stellar stats this past season on a stacked Barrie team because he tends to play too fast for his linemates, but he sure as hell motors up the ice like Helm, and his hands are made of magic and broken-down hockey gloves with torn palms, not Helm's depleted uranium.

I'm excited about Athanasiou turning pro for good this year and we should expect him to at least take a leadership and scoring role at the fall prospect tournament. From there, he's going to have some learning to do in terms of playing with far less time and space than he's accustomed to utilizing (that and he's going to have to be a LITTLE less individualistic).



Otherwise...Pro Hockey Talk is going to dedicate August 27th (Wednesday) to a set of Red Wings-related articles, but James O'Brien's timing of Daniel Alfredsson's listing as the fan-picked "greatest Senator in franchise history" explains why I plan on placing all of Wednesday's Pro Hockey Talk articles in one place--unlike NHL.com's 30-in-30 series, which posits its articles at the same time, PHT starts its 5-to-7-article series around 8 or 9 AM and continues posting new content until 10 or 11 PM.

Unless I can convince the aunt to not head to the family physician on Wednesday (i could ask, but I don't want to be killed, and she might very well do that), I'm probably not going to spend all day breathlessly awaiting the next article while sitting behind my laptop for 14 frickin' hours, so I'm going with the, "Here's the post, check back later and it'll be updated" format.

(Many thanks to SI's Allan Muir for mentioning my time-consuming content in Saturday's Top Line, too)

Speaking of Alfredsson, in addition to suggesting that the Bertuzzi-Moore lawsuit's settlement is not plausible until Moore's representatives confirm it, the Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons notes the following...

Department of odd stats: Ray Whitney, picked 22 spots and one round after Eric Lindros in the 1991 NHL draft has played 570 more NHL games than Lindros and has scored 199 more points. It’s rare years later to find players not taken early in the first round to end up as the leading scorers of their draft classes ... Others in that category: Daniel Briere, 24th pick in 1996; Daniel Alfredsson, 133rd in 1994.

And I believe that the Red Wings' scouts would agree with New Jersey Devils draft guru David Conte here:

The superscout David Conte says that an NHL scout hasn’t really made it until he has made a million-dollar mistake on a player. He also says: “Scouting is a lot like baseball. If you’re 3-for-10 you’re great at your job and should be going to the Hall of Fame.”

Drafting and developing players remains an art as well as a science, and I'd suggest that the biggest part of the "development" equation involves players' bodies, brains and skills all intersecting to "professionally-developed" levels within 3 to 5 years of being drafted, and that's an incredibly hard feat for anyone to achieve.

The Wings are trying to avail themselves of every edge to increase their drafting results, and in a weird way, the Kelowna Daily Courier's Larry Fisher penned an article in which Kelowna Rockets GM Bruce Hamilton suggests that the Red Wings' new assistant coach is involved in the "fancy stats" business:

This trend started with baseball, back around the turn of the century, and specifically with the Oakland Athletics as portrayed in the blockbuster movie Moneyball starring Brad Pitt as A’s general manager Billy Beane. So how did Hamilton end up ahead of the curve? Credit his ongoing involvement with Hockey Canada.

“They’ve got a great program there, and me being around that has enabled me to see it and probably believe in it a little bit more,” said Hamilton, noting Hockey Canada’s video coach Jim Hiller, formerly the head coach of the WHL’s Tri-City Americans, was hired last month as an assistant with the Detroit Red Wings based on his expertise in this emerging field.

(Technically speaking, Hockey Canada's Olympic video coach was Andrew Baker, the Wings' new video coordinator, but it's particularly interesting to know that Hiller was also working with Hockey Canada in the video scouting department--that probably played into the player-tracking system Hiller was going to pitch to NHL teams before the Wings hired him)

The Wings' former assistant coach was busy at work on Saturday...




And finally, I've got about two weeks to go until the prospect tournament starts (a week from yesterday), and I've raised...$700...Out of a necessary $2,000+ to stay in Traverse City for two weeks and eat like a college student and cover the prospect tournament and main camp. I don't know how I'm gonna do it without your help.

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.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink


WingedRider's avatar

Good stuff on the Wings young guns!!

I can’t emphasize enough how important figure skating was with my young goalie starting out at 5-10 years old. I was amazed at the improvement in every facet of his skating!  Tough sell for boys but it was hard work and paid off!

I hope Alfie signs as he brings a lot to the table on and off the ice!

Posted by WingedRider from Saskatoon, SK on 08/24/14 at 01:02 PM ET

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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.