The Malik Report
by George Malik on 09/10/13 at 03:44 AM ET
The Red Wings will depart for Traverse City this morning--with half of the NHL roster taking part in a community outreach tour throughout the State of Michigan, and the rest either busing or flying up--and the team will take its physicals (and deal with their "mugshots") and participate in a charity golf tournament on Wednesday, with the main camp opening up on Thursday.
At the present moment, the state of Darren Helm's back and groin and Daniel Cleary's departure for Philadelphia may be joined by tit-for-tat retorts when the Senators open up camp and open wounds flow, will likely be joined by discussions as to what the Wings can do to improve upon their OT-away-from-the-Western Conference-final status, the looming slate of Winter Classic, Olympic and Eastern Conference-acclimating storylines, and of course discussions about the Wings' new additions and roster/cap crunch...
But the Wings' prospect tournament team did something very special on Tuesday night: they captured the first championship they've ever won at a tournament the Red Wings established in 1998, and they did so while icing a team whose roster included all of 3 AHL "veterans," a bunch of turning-pro prospects and a significant number of first-year players taking prominent roles on a team that delivered a 4-and-0 record against stacked Stars, Blues and Sabres teams.
The Sabres prospects failed to repeat as champions of the annual Traverse City tournament as Buffalo fell to the prospects from the Detroit Red Wings, 4-2.
Buffalo had a rough go from the start as they gave up two power play goals in the first two periods to Wings forward Anthony Mantha. Trailing 2-0 in the third they did manage to cut the lead in half with a Freddy Roy goal to make it 2-1. That was short lived however, as Detroit's Zach Nastasiuk scored scored to put the WIngs back up by two goals.
That goal was followed by a Zach Trainor tally to cut it to 3-2 with 6:40 remaining, but in the end the Wings' Tomas Jurco put home an empty netter to clinch it, 4-2.
Buffalo's Nathan Lieuwin stopped 36 of 40 shots as the Sabres got outshot 40-25.
Despite the loss Sabres Coach Chadd Cassidy was impressed with the effort of his team, saying afterwards "I really liked our compete level from the beginning, I felt like this group of kids worked really hard and they were really committed to what they were trying to do"
As did NHL.com's Mike G. Morreale...
"Everyone knew Detroit hadn't won this tournament and we just battled hard the whole way," Mantha said. "To come out with the win and get the cup is a good feeling right now. The guys in the locker room were very happy."
Detroit (4-0-0) not only finished the tournament unbeaten, but outscored the opposition, 15-6, in an impressive showing. The runner-up Sabres (3-1-0) outscored their foes, 18-15.
The Red Wings opened a 2-0 lead on back-to-back power-play goals by Mantha. His first came with just 1:18 left in the first period, and his second was only 29 seconds into the second.
"Both goals were on the power play," Mantha said. "On the first, I was in front and just battled; got a loose puck right in front so I couldn't miss. On the second one, I just managed to put that puck into the net from in front."
"We were so close and we knew we hadn't won it before and [coach Jeff Blashill] told us before the tournament that we hadn't won it," Red Wings wing Tomas Jurco (2012, No. 35) said. "We didn't know we were going to be good at the time, but we wanted to win. As you go through the tournament, you see how good you are and you begin to realize that the change is pretty good. Before our last game, we wanted to win it really bad."
Peter Trainor made it interesting at the 12:47 mark when he struck for the Sabres, but Jurco would ultimately seal the deal with just 26 seconds remaining when he hit into an empty net to the delight of the hometown faithful. Along with Jurco, Max Nicastro and Riley Sheahan were considered the team leaders of the Detroit team this season.
"This was an unbelievable group; each line played great," Jurco said. "It wasn't like two lines were good and two lines were OK. Each line had some chances, and it's only good for the organization to have good prospects like this."
MLive's Brendan Savage posited his from afar...
Mantha, Detroit's first-round pick (20th overall) in July's NHL entry draft, scored his first two goals of the tournament Monday and they got the Red Wings started toward a 4-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres in the championship game of the annual event at Traverse City's Centre I.C.E. Arena.
Mantha scored power-play goals in each of the first two periods before Zach Nastasiuk – another member of the Class of 2013 – scored the game-winner in the third.
Nastasiuk, Detroit's second-round pick (48th overall) this year, made it 3-1 with exactly 10 minutes remaining. Mantha drew an assist on the winner.
Tomas Jurco, a second-round pick (35th overall) in 2011, sealed the victory when he scored his second goal of the tournament into an empty net with 26 seconds left.
Defenseman Xavier Ouellet, another second-round pick (48th overall) in 2011, added two assists for the Red Wings as they finished the tournament with a 4-0 record.
Goaltender Jared Coreau, who was signed this year as a free agent out of Northern Michigan, made 23 saves in picking up his second victory. Coreau also backstopped Friday's 4-2 victory over the Dallas Stars.
Via RedWingsFeed, the Traverse City Record-Eagle's Dennis Chase offered his take on the game...
“As you go through the tournament you see how good you are and how big of a chance you have to win it,” [Tomas Jurco] said. “Before (Monday night’s) game we were really pumped. We wanted to win it really bad.”
Defenseman Xavier Ouellet assisted on the first three goals.
“As a team we played a good game,” he said. “That’s how we got that win. We played together. Everybody pushed in the same direction.”...
Jared Coreau had a solid game in goal for the Wings, stopping 23 shots. The former Northern Michigan University netminder, who grew up near Ottawa and idolized Red Wings free agent signee Daniel Alfredsson, was 2-0 in the tournament.Coreau praised the Wings defense.
“I think I only faced 45 shots in two games,” he said.
The Wings, meanwhile, spread the scoring out offensively throughout the week.
“Each line was playing great,” Jurco said. “It wasn’t like two lines were good and two lines were OK. Each line had some chances. It’s only good for the organization to have such good prospects.”
“Everybody was on the same page, which is hard to do with just a couple practices together,” Jurco said.
And Red Wings social media coordinator Kevin Wilson offered a recap as well:
With 1:18 left in the first period, Mantha smacked home a loose puck in front of the net to give the Red Wings an early 1-0 lead; then just 26 seconds after the break, Mantha struck again, deflecting in Xavier Ouellet’s shot from the point in a way that would make Tomas Holmstrom proud.
“I was up front on both, just kind of battled for the first one,” said Mantha. “On the second one, Ouellet just shot the puck for a tip and I managed to tip it.”
In the third, things got interesting in a hurry. Buffalo cut it to 2-1 about five minutes into the third when Frederick Roy ripped one top shelf past Jared Coreau, but Zach Nastasiuk’s beauty of a shot from the slot at 10:01 gave the Wings some breathing room.
After Buffalo’s Peter Traynor scored in a scramble with 6:40 to go, the Wings buckled down defensively until Tomas Jurco put the game on ice with an empty-netter at 19:35.
“It was hard for us, and I think we played great even though we were tired,” said Tomas Jurco. “Each one of us is tired, so to play four games in five days and win it is great.”
The Red Wings offered significant multimedia accompaniment...
The game's highlights--or at least partial ones--aired on the 7&4 News here in Traverse City...
As usual, the Left Wing Lock's Sarah Lindenau posited a superb photo gallery...
While I was writing this, Lindenau penned a recap of her own...
“It was a fun tournament,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “There were lots of real great players in the tournament and I thought our guys did a good job of competing on a shift by shift basis. The scouting staff in Detroit has done an unreal job finding really good prospects and good character guys.”
The Wings had big contributions from 2013 draft picks Anthony Mantha (2 goals and an assist) and Zach Nastasiuk (1 goal). Both players were competing in their first prospect tournament for Detroit.
“It wasn’t just the two of us,” Nastasiuk said. “It was a team effort. We may have scored the goals, but Coreau did a great job in net and our defense was strong tonight.”
Mantha, who was awarded the game puck by the players for his effort, was also quick to put out the team effort.
“Any player could make the difference,” Mantha said. “We are all great players and I think Zach and I just stood out tonight. It is a great group of guys and we battled hard tonight to get the win.”
Tomas Jurco scored an empty net goal late in the final period to cement the championship. It was his second goal of the tournament which saw him emerge as a leader on and off the ice.
“It’s great to be the first team to win it for Detroit,” Jurco said. “Each line was playing great and had chances. We had maybe four practices total and it didn’t look like that on the ice. It is only good for the organization to have such great prospects.”
And she penned a profile of Jurco, too:
“If your not a complete player you probably have no chance to play in the National Hockey League,” Blashill said. “All the players now are complete players and it helps them win. If you want to play in Detroit then you have to focus on defense and Jurco understands this.”
If his play during the 2013 NHL Prospect Tournament is any indication than his defensive game is a vastly improved. Jurco, who also notched 2 goals and an assist during the four games, played top line minutes and saw action in all situations. The 20 year-old also was a leader on the ice helping earn the organization its first tournament championship in 13 years.
“It was a big tournament for me to prove that I can play a defensive role,” he said. “I am really happy that I think I was able to show that. They know I can be good offensively, but I have to prove my defensive side and I think I did that during the tournament.”
The Tournament also provided Jurco with an opportunity to show he is ready for more responsibility next season in Grand Rapids. With the departures of Joakim Andersson, Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist, the talent forward will be given every opportunity to earn a larger role.
“I am going to have a bigger role in Grand Rapids,” he said. “I will be on the first power play and first line. It is going to be harder because I have to play against the best defensemen on the other team, but I think I can handle it. Hopefully I can show that I am ready to be one of the first guys called up [to Detroit] if someone gets hurt.”
Jurco, who added eight pounds of muscle in the short off season, is focused on helping Grand Rapids have another successful Calder Cup run this year. The dynamic forward has been a winner at every level – including at the NHL Prospects Tournament – and hopes to continue the trend next season and beyond.
“It’s weird I just win everything,” he said laughing. “I don’t know how, but it’s good for me, I am glad. I have to knock on my head because the next step is the Stanley Cup and I hopefully will in that too in n a couple of years.”
I posted interviews with Anthony Mantha...
Tomas Jurco--who made fun of me...
And coach Jeff Blashill:
I will tell you what I told my mom when I called her (hey, you're alone in a hotel for a week. Who're you going to speak with--somebody who knows how to ground your butt in reality):
The volunteers up here have been getting up at 7 or earlier and leaving the rink at 11 or later, taking time off from their jobs and away from their families to help secure the financing that Centre Ice Arena needs to operate and to put on an absolutely elite tournament while dealing with eight teams' worth of 24-to-25 players, the front offices of eight different teams, eight teams' coaching staffs, over 100 scouts, oodles of paying customers and of course us annoying media types.
They all treat each and every individual who enters the rink like they are the most important person in the world, and their job is only halfway over--though it gets a little easier when only dealing with one team, sixty or so players and many more fans than scouts and front office folks who want all sorts of requests to be filled yesterday.
The vast majority of the folks who volunteer at Centre Ice Arena also happen to be Red Wings fans, and when Tomas Jurco scored the empty-netter that sealed the championship, THE ENTIRE RINK jumped up and down together. So many volunteers had gathered around to watch the final period, and literally, everybody jumped, hooted, hollered, banged the glass, cheered, breathed sighs of relief, high-fived, fist-bumped and let out a GIGANTIC cheer as their team finally delivered a championship.
That was an absolutely remarkable moment to be a part of, and I cheered, too.
The vast, vast majority of the roster consisted of first-year draft picks (Anthony Mantha, Zach Nastasiuk, Tyler Bertuzzi, Marc McNulty), turning-pro players who'd never taken part in the tournament (Martin Frk, Marek Tvrdon), prospects who were headed back to their teams for one final season (Andreas Athanasiou, Jake Paterson, Rasmus Bodin) and free agent try-outs or signings (Jared Coreau, Barclay Goodrow, Richard Plutnar, Cam Lanigan, Jordan Maletta), and the European pros (Teemu Pulkkinen, Calle Jarnkrok and Alexei Marchenko) had never been allowed to take part in a tournament with NHL-ready players before.
Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco and Max Nicastro were the only players taking part who have significant AHL experience, Phillipe Hudon, Richard Nedomlel, Ryan Sproul and Xavier Ouellet had played in the tournament before. That was it.
The lockout took all of what would've been last year's "experience" away from most of the rest.
After a brief skate this past Wednesday, Griffins coach Jeff Blashill, assistant coaches Spiros Anastas and Jim Paek, Wings goalie coach Jim Bedard and defensemen's mentor Chris Chelios had all of one morning skate to prepare the prospects to battle the Minnesota Wild. They built upon the blueprint established at the summer development camp, they leaned upon three Calder Cup-winning players as leaders, played a 19-year-old goalie and a free agent who hadn't played since this past March, and...
The team came together in a hurry, to the point that the players were interchangeable parts in many instances, and that there were few players who couldn't be expected to be thrown over the boards to play on the power play, on the PK, or when the team was nursing a one-goal lead--or a scoreless draw.
That's what being a Red Wing is all about. The willingness to self-improve, to sacrifice for one's teammates, to step up and lead when is necessary regardless of your age or experience, to buy into the system wholeheartedly and to work your ass off every time you step on the ice.
These players embraced the "Red Wings' values" while playing against NHL-ready competition four times over the course of five nights. They played against a scrappy Wild team, gigantic Stars team, an ornery Blues team and a Sabres team that combined the best qualities of the Blues and Stars. The players competed as a team and won as a team.
After all of one day off, the prospects will take a short skate before engaging in a second round of physicals and the ever-lovely mugshots, and with what they've learned both during practices, games and off the ice, they'll prepare to skate with the NHL roster of the Detroit Red Wings and their incredibly demanding coach on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Most of the prospects who are junior-eligible will then be sent back to their teams, those who are lucky enough to stay will get in an exhibition game on Monday in Chicago or Tuesday in Pittsburgh, and then the players will embark upon either seasons with their rights-holders or the Griffins, Walleye, and possibly even the Red Wings.
I should note that the scouts' box was a little less full than usual, but only as such because the Wings' coaches and some of the management headed back to Detroit to pack their things and prepare for the main camp. Gordie Howe was in attendance--as it turns out--both yesterday and today, along with Mark.
I've offered a significant amount of chatter about these players over the past five days, but I'd like to try my best to put things into a longer-view perspective as I write down the lines and scratches and try to get to bed before 4:
#26 Tomas Jurco "A"--#15 Riley Sheahan "A"--#56 Teemu Pulkkinen
#39 Anthony Mantha--#70 Calle Jarnkrok--#42 Martin Frk
#60 Marek Tvrdon--#72 Andreas Athanasiou--#84 Barclay Goodrow
#59 Tyler Bertuzzi--#62 Zach Nastasiuk--#63 Phillipe Hudon
#61 Xavier Ouellet--#48 Ryan Sproul
#77 Richard Nedomlel--#58 Max Nicastro "A"
#74 Marc McNulty--#47 Alexei Marchenko
Goalies: #31 Jared Coreau, starter
#36 Jake Paterson, back-up
Scratches: #75 Michal Plutnar, #67 Rasmus Bodin, #64 Jordan Maletta and #68 Cam Lanigan
Let's start with the scratches. All of them will attend training camp with the exception of Jordan Maletta, who headed back to the OHL's Niagara Ice Dogs with a leg injury.
#75 Michal Plutnar: At times, the lanky Czech defenseman (listed at 6'2" and 175 pounds) has been very, very good in terms of moving the puck up ice to teammates, making solid passes, showing that he's quite mobile and skates very well and that he's been utilized in a go-to role. But when he has played, he's shown enough inconsistency that the McNulty got the nod instead. He's still something of a talented, "He keeps up" puzzle player. Because that's what he does--he keeps up. And that's generally not enough to earn an AHL deal with a team whose blueline is as stacked as Detroit's is.
#67 Rasmus Bodin: The fact that Bodin is here and is being exposed to what NHL training and NHL competition are like is fantastic. Linkopings HC's 20-and-under team could have simply said, "We need him because in Sweden, 6'6" and marginally physical is useful," and the Wings could've let him stay, but Hakan Andersson clearly twisted an arm or two, and he's here instead.
That's important, because Bodin does indeed have gigantic size, natural physicality and good defensive awareness. But his level of focus is so scattershot that it's hard to figure out whether he's a power forward or a Swedish minor-leaguer.
#64 Jordan Maletta: Maletta was solid, solid enough that I thought the Wings would keep him around to keep him around, but he didn't stand out. At his best, he was Zach Nastasiuk at 6'3" instead of 6'1" and 213 pounds instead of 196. He was a solid grinding forward who mucked it up along the boards and in the corners and knew that his job was to play things safely. But he didn't use his very heavy body as if it was as filled-out as he really is.
#68 Cam Lanigan: Admittedly, I like the upright-stanced, lanky 6'3" netminder. He's got superb fundamentals, he boots out rebounds into the corners with ease, he has a good blocker hand, he moves the puck solidly and he's got a great glove, and for a goalie of his height, the fact that he can stand almost straight frickin' up while bending his knees in a crouch is impressive. There are very few holes in him and his positioning is good. But he hasn't played in a game yet, and he knows that, at best, he can hope for a spot on the Walleye or Griffins in a pinch, or--as he put it--an eventual job with the Wings. He's out of junior options, though, so he's here for the experience, and admittedly so.
In terms of those who played in the game...
#26 Tomas Jurco: Jurco may not be NHL-ready, but he came to the prospect tournament knowing that he was auditioning for a job on the Grand Rapids Griffins' top line, mostly by proving that he was as good a passer and playmaker as he is a scorer, and that he is both defensively responsible and can stand up to heavy traffic--if not give some guff right back to those who want to intimidate him--and he accomplished all of his goals and then some. Jurco wasn't scoring goals all the dang time, but he was trading off defensive coverage with Riley Sheahan as if he wasn't a born scorer, he was just grinding his tail off, he was tough without being foolish, he made fantastic plays and he did score some slick goals.
He's on his way up and his potential is elite as a scorer--but you're not going to be playing in the NHL if you're one-dimensional, as coach Blashill said. Not on Blashill's top line with the Griffins, either. Jurco heard that message loud and clear, and he made his coach stand up and take notice of his all-round ability.
#15 Riley Sheahan: Ditto for Sheahan. Sheahan came to camp wanting to prove that, instead of simply being a solid 3rd or 4th-line checking center in the making, that he could in fact take both offensive and defensive roles, fulfilling the potential he displayed before he was stuffed into a defensive suit at Notre Dame. Again, message received, and message sent in kind.
If Sheahan plays half his shifts with the amount of passion, intensity, focus, determination, will and as-if-his-life-depended-on-it urgency that he displayed at the prospect tournament, he's going to be more than a third-line center. He can charge the net and fire of sneaky wristers or he can make plays like a top-line center, cycling the puck, giving and going, charging and dashing toward and away from the net as necessary. He can also win faceoffs, key the power play as well as the penalty-kill from his grit and communication skills alone, he can out-compete his opponents for every millimeter of ice in the defensive zone, and he can skate pretty dang well, too.
Can he keep that up against AHL and NHL talent? We're going to find out, but he led the team like a leader should.
#56 Teemu Pulkkinen: Frickin' Honey Badger. Pulkkinen gets hit. Pulkkinen bounces off of hit. Pulkkinen gets bumped, re-sets his gaze upon the puck. Pulkkinen gets cross-checked, shoves back just enough to annoy his opponent but not enough to receive punishment in return. Pulkkinen crashes the net but doesn't lay a finger on the goalie until somebody is stupid enough to shove him--and then he gets angry. Pulkkinen is not too small nor too weak to glide his way to the net with his waterbug's stride, his playmaking sense and vision are nearly as good as his wrist, slap and snap shots, and once his timing and sights adjust to North American pace and North American rinks, he won't be catching glass. He's a little engine that can and will, and man, can he find dead zones and one-time the puck into the net like a 20-goal-scorer. But the best part of all is that he's effing fearless. He didn't score in Europe's most physical and sometimes downright "nasty" league for nothing.
#39 Anthony Mantha: Mantha is admittedly a gigantic project, 6'4" and all arms and legs, blessed with a 50-caliber sniper's rifle of a shot, the ability to roar in on the net and to get open for playmakers to send him top-shelf-directed passes, but over the course of the four games he played, he worked on his biggest weakness--his competition level. During the first game he looked like somebody's put a four-cylinder engine into a Ferrari, and by the last game, he looked like a Ferrari.
He's only 18 and his journey toward a professional career is far from safe or certain, but there's a heart beating in there, and a pulse, too.
#70 Calle Jarnkrok: Possibly one of the bigger disappointments of the tournament, not because he was anything less than elegantly smooth, solid and superb in each and every aspect of his offensive and defensive game, not because his shot is not heavy but accurate, not because his passing, playmaking and vision are sublime, not because his skating is fluid as fluid can be and not because he can win faceoffs, keep up in traffic, play the point on the power play never be a liability, and not because he's the Wings' all-round best prospect...But because he kept passing and kept playmaking and kept looking like he was having trouble with smaller ice, a faster pace and bigger players, even after all of his work on weight-training and adding bulk.
He may still be one of the Red Wings' closest-to-the-NHL players, and he may very well be their best and most important prospect, but he played with a demurring, "Oh, 'scuse me, sorry, pardon me" affect, and he doesn't need to ask permission before scoring or before making one perfect pass instead of three.
He's not going to jump right to the NHL. He's going to have some ups and downs. And even after all of his training, he is still not as strong as he needs to be. But he'll learn and he'll get better and he'll play in the NHL, and he'll be a very good player. Right now, he needs to stop being so Swedishly polite.
#42 Martin Frk: Martin Frk'in Frk.
The Hunchback of Halifax has hands and feet that out-compete and out-battle every opponent to the puck all along the perimeter of the rink, he is in fact pretty solid in his own zone, for a hunchback, he's very mobile and his passes are as laser-precise as his shots.
But he played like a kid coming out of the QMJHL, who'd played alongside draft picks #1 and #2 of the 2013 draft. He made three or four too many passes instead of bulldozing his way to the net--which he can already do against NHL players--and he barely ever flexed that short 75-flex stick (senior hockey stick flexes usually go from 70-120, with most players preferring the 85-95 range, and using a 75 when you're six feet tall and 200 pounds is kind of like using the noodle Brett Hull did [62 flex]) while attempting to score.
It's gonna take him some time to remember that he's got to do his own dirty work, and that he's got to shoot first and shoot second and then shoot third. But his potential is enormous. He, Pulkkinen and Jurco are ridiculously gifted scorers.
#60 Marek Tvrdon: What a difference a week makes. Tvrdon's broad-shouldered body can in fact chug up and down the ice with power and precision. Tvrdon plays on the point on the power play like he's half Slovak and half defenseman. He passes well, has a wicked shot and seeks traffic and seeks the net. He's solid enough in his own zone to not be a liability. And he does in fact compete. He just hasn't been a product of the Slovak Power Forward Factory on a regular basis for almost three years, and he needs to play in the AHL, not the WHL, to get his legs under him again.
#72 Andreas Athanasiou: The wonderment and the frustration that are Andreas Athanasiou's gifts...His massive legs churn and he skates up and down the ice like shot out of a cannon, he uses that ability to roar toward the net and take the puck and opposing players with him, he's a good playmaker, he got some PK time and, as he says, he loves to win. He's just not consistent in terms of trading off his natural gifts with knowing when to be the supporting cast member. He wants to be the star, and that's awesome, but sometimes even Calle Jarnkrok's right--you need to use your teammates, too. That's why he needs to go back to Barrie and have a dominant season before turning pro.
#84 Barclay Goodrow: Goodrow was and is right on the line between earning an AHL contract and being let go. Goodrow is, as previously stated on a repeated basis, a "power center" who plays Trevor Parkes' game, crashing and banging and pursuing contact as he looms in the middle of the ice, happily going to the front of the net and staying there after winning faceoffs and deferring puck possession to his wingers. He competes very hard in the corners and has a physical bent to his game, though he's not vicious by any stretch of the imagination. He's very solidly built at 6'2" and 214 pounds. And he can blend in, which is dangerous if you're a role player.
#59 Tyler Bertuzzi: Again and again, when Tyler Bertuzzi gets out of his way, he justifies the fact that the Wings picked him before Zach Nastasiuk. He's a mean, skinny little bugger who instigates, initiates and aggravates all the damn time, he forechecks, he hits, he hacks, he whacks, he fights...And he passes tape-to-tape, he can pick corners of the net, he's very very mobile and sometimes even powerful in his skating despite his lack of size, and he was a very regular penalty-killer. Like every third shift, which is earned. But he's got to learn how to let himself play. He's 18. He's going to go back to a league and a team where he needst to be more than a booger. I hope he'll let himself be Tyler.
#62 Zach Nastasiuk: Faster than he was in July. A better scorer than he was in July. A better all-round player than he was in July. Another 18-year-old with some growing and some filling-out to do, Nastasiuk does have athletic genes and he is very naturally a strong competitor who adores to grind things out in the corners, win defensive battles, be as reliable as can be defensively and to piss his opponents off, which is evident in the cuts, welts and bruises on his face. He can display top-two-line offensive abilities as well, and sometimes at will. Kirk Maltby, or something more? That remains to be seen.
#63 Phillipe Hudon: I don't know whether Phil will make it as a pro hockey player, but it will not be for a lack of trying, nor for a lack of smarts. Gritty and hard on the puck, very fast despite bulging at his 6'1," 196-pound frame's seams and intent upon embracing his role as a complimentary player, Phil works incredibly hard to out-execute his bigger, stronger opponents and he tries to play a smart grinder's game, not necessarily being mean or dirty to do his own work and sometimes his teammates' defensive work as well, hurling pucks out of trouble and up to players with more innate ability to make stuff happen. He's a fast skater, he's an efficient checker and he's fighting against a numbers game and time. He's got two more years to prove that he's more than somebody who's going to be scratched twice before he can play, but the fact that he earned his way into the championship game over Bodin and the fact that he played regular minutes this time, even on special teams, proves that he's used to skating uphill.
#61 Xavier Ouellet: Ouellet started adding some grit to his incredibly fluid, often unnoticeably slick and subtle game toward the end of the tournament. Ouellet is a sublime puck-moving defenseman who is not the biggest or fastest player, but is the smartest, and I guess unlike Hudon, Ouellet has been blessed with remarkable vision, innate playmaking skills that are fantastic, regardless of whether he's carrying the puck or finding open passers (or passers who don't know they're about to be open), unleashing a hard, low slapper and using that lateral mobility to walk the blueline and QB the PP.
But he's going to have some trouble because he got run over quite a bit, and that's what happens when offensive defensemen who are dominant at the major junior level turn pro. He's not used to having to rush things, and he's going to have to hurry up in a hurry. That poke check--and it's a remarkable poke-check, sometimes Lidstrom-like--isn't enough in the AHL.
He's still the best defenseman in the pipeline, just edging...
#48 Ryan Sproul: Sproul gets a "ditto" in terms of getting ran over and having to find out the hard way that you're not playing in a league where you can take that extra second or two to make the extra-fancy pass or to make the extra-dangerous jump into the rush. Sproul got beat up pretty good thanks to heavy hits in the latter half of the tournament. He didn't give an inch--literally or figuratively--but he did give a couple of feet.
As such, his offensive talents were blunted somewhat. Sproul is by far the most physically dominant offensive defenseman the Wings have had since...Well, Danny DeKeyser, a right-shooting 6'4" and at least 200 pounds with room to fill out, with blazing speed and excellent mobility, sound offensive and defensive senses of positioning, a howitzer of a shot and a vision for passing or plain old rushing the puck up ice himself via aptly-timed pinches. But he's coming from being one of the most physically dominant players in his league to playing in a league where he's among bigger boys, and he's not used to being rushed, or being rushed. He's got a learning curve ahead. He and Ouellet should exceed their respective curves given that they were the team's #1-2 defensemen throughout the tournament, at even strength, on the PP and on the PK.
#77 Richard Nedomlel: Jeff Blashill said he exceeded expectations, and Nedomlel did, in no small part because he added a step to what was once a very plodding stride, and in the most part because the ever-casual and ever-goofy Richard's easy gaze turned harsh when he was on the ice and on the bench. Nedomlel is a defensive defenseman and a #6 defenseman at that, a stay-at-home, get-the-puck-to-my-more-talented-teammate guy, but it turns out that in addition to being a gigantic 6'6" and 230 pounds of shot-blocking, hard-hitting, hacking-and-whacking defensive brick house, he can make some seeing-eye passes of his own, and his shot does what the rest of him does in hitting to hurt.
He's going to be fun to watch in Grand Rapids, I tell you what.
#58 Max Nicastro: Nicastro took the "A" on his chest as a challenge, and he fulfilled it for the most part. Nicastro is still trying to figure out whether he can allow the puck-rushing and puck-moving defensemen's tendencies he possessed when he was 6'1" and 175 pounds playing roller hockey to use now that he's 6'3" and 225 pounds, having been taught to shed those instincts as the, "Guy players like Richard Nedomlel move the puck to because they're the stay-at-home defensemen who can head-man the rush, tolerably, anyway." Nicastro is very mobile, has a strong stick, he hits pretty hard and he's very smart in terms of covering ice and gobbling up passes and shots, and he can play on the power play if necessary. He's going to have to continue to challenge himself to play outside his comfort zone and to bring more of the skills he possessed on inline skates to bear (without detracting from his utter reliability) if he is to climb the pro ranks.
#74 Marc McNulty: McNulty's like watching an angry giraffe. You didn't know those damn things could be so ornery, and McNulty may be both 6'6" and possibly185 gaunt and gangly pounds, but he's got the speed of someone possessing half a foot less at his weight, his toe-taped stick knocks down passes and shots on its own, he's got a hard shot and good vision, and he may be skinny as fark, but he'll mix it up. Is he a gigantic offensive defenseman in the making, or is he a massive physical specimen in the making? I'm not sure, but he was at least consistent enough--despite some defensive miscues--to play in the championship game.
#47 Alexei Marchenko: Astute, astute, astute. Marchenko is still figuring out those North American angles and the pace of the North American game, but he does possess a professional pedigree, and whether he's taking care of his own zone, making up for his own mistakes, learning that he doesn't mind giving some hacks and whacks back or whether he's showing flourishes of top-four defenseman's playmaking, shooting and skating skills, he's always learning. That's excellent for someone who's come halfway around the world to challenge himself, and he should keep getting better as he keeps learning more and more about the AHL game.
#31 Jared Coreau: I was pleasantly surprised to find out how familiar he was with his flaws and what he has to do to remedy them. Atop that 6'5" head is a man who understands his position well and knows that he tends to "lock up" when he gets into his crouch, opening up the glove and blocker sides, and a man who knows that his puckhandling is currently nearly Hasekian in its comic tragedy. He's got to work on being more comfortable in his crease and to allow his size to keep doing the work for him instead of making 6'5" look small.
He gets that and all the while, all while he back-stopped the Wings to a championship while playing his second game since this past March and his second game since undergoing rotator cuff surgery on his left shoulder. He was generally "big," he was square, his legs were very efficient and his toes very quick for someone of his size, he put rebounds in the right spots and he absorbed hard shots when trouble struck. His glove hand is very, very good and his blocker is improving, and his panic level is as low as his mask's altitude. He's not going to have it easy battling Petr Mrazek and Tom McCollum for playing time, but he's going to work it out eventually, and he won't get down on himself when he doesn't.
#36 Jake Paterson: I'm not sure if he's got a pulse. Or whether you can find him offering a quote out of context. Sometimes he can be as vanilla as he is Ouellet-like in his elegant, efficient, smart and sound play. He's not big by today's goaltending standards, but he fills the net very well at 6'1" and 183 pounds, his puckhandling is the opposite of Coreau's in being nothing less than almost-third-defenseman important at times, his glove hand is awesome, his blocker is awesome, he's fluid and kicks out pucks with his toes and thighs alike, he's square to shooters and is rarely beaten easily.
But there are times when his inconsistency shows, when he's off those perfect angles and when a squeaker gets by him. But he's 19 and he's going to go back to Saginaw and attempt to have the kind of OHL season that will assure him a spot on Canada's World Junior team and avoidance of the Winter Classic OHL games.
I wouldn't try to stop him, as nice and as "vanilla" as he may seem to be.
Otherwise...DetroitRedWings.com's Kevin Wilson discussed the depth that Coreau and Paterson provide for the Wings' future crease needs...
“I look at Jake Paterson as a no frills goalie,” said Red Wings goaltending coach Jim Bedard. “He relies on positioning and patience. He’s quick and tight, a hell of a competitor, and well-liked by his teammates.”
Paterson’s played well in his first two games in Prospects’ Camp, coming two minutes from a shutout in the team’s 3-1 win over Minnesota and a solid outing in last night’s 4-1 win over St. Louis.
“This is a great way to start of his season,” said Bedard. “He’s on our radar, and obviously he’s on the radar for Team Canada world juniors, so this is an important couple of months for Jake.”
Despite taking a different journey into the Wings’ system than Paterson, 6’5” prospect Jared Coreau gives Detroit the same result: an intriguing goalie prospect.
After his NMU Wildcats fell to Michigan in the CCHA playoffs last season, Coreau was ranked as one of the top college free-agents of 2013. Reportedly having seven NHL teams interested in his services, the Wings snatched up the touted free agent’s rights in April and signed him to an entry-level contract.
“What really strikes us with Jared is his size,” said Jim Bedard. “He’s got great feet, he competes and battles on every shot.”
“When you’re that big, you cover a lot of net and when you put good feet with big size, you expect a lot of good thing,” said Bedard. “This is his first time going through the Red Wings process and we’re very excited about it.”
Fox Sports Detroit's Art Regner discussed Darren Helm's latest setback, Daniel Cleary's decision and, well, Jordin Tootoo's fight to save his job:
“Every year is like a tryout camp for me," he said. "That’s how I take it mentally. I just have to prepare every day to be the best that I can because there’s a hundred other guys that want to be in your spot.I’m coming into camp with the mindset of fighting for a spot on the team, and that’s the bottom line.”
Tootoo is well aware of the Wings' roster and cap woes, and that he has been mentioned in trade rumors.
“I’ve been through a lot of (bleep) over the years," he said. "This is what makes you a stronger person, both on and off the ice. It’s about mentally being strong, and having the will and courage to overcome hard times. That’s why we have the guys in the dressing room. We’re all family. We pick each other up when someone’s down, and that’s what great about this game.”
Although he constantly draws praise from Babcock, it’s obvious that the Wings are willing to move Tootoo.
FYI, part 1:
FYI, part 2, from CBS Detroit:
97.1 The Ticket and The Detroit Red Wings are giving you a chance to go to the Red and White game in Traverse City to see your Detroit Red Wings on September 15, 2013. Simply click the link for your chance to win a 4-pack of tickets to the game on September 15,2013 at the Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City!
The 2013-14 hockey season is right around the corner and Red Wings single game tickets are on sale now. For tickets, call 313-471-7575 or go to http://detroitredwings.com
Contest Runs – September 10, 2013- September 12, 2013 Must be 18 years of age to enter. A Total of 3 winners.
And even though you'll have to read it in Google-translated Swedish, HockeySvergie's Uffe Bodin's Wings preview is superb and pulls no punches.
That's the end of the prospect tournament. As the Wings are heading up to Traverse City today, and the community tour and Daniel Cleary's departure will be the stories of the day. Wednesday, it's physicals and golf....
And starting on Thursday, I'll be getting up at six, at the rink at eight thirty and not done with work until midnight, for six days straight, I'm going to try to lay as low as possible today and tomorrow. Paul will do the bulk of coverage today, and I will peek out from under the sheets and stock up on pop, lunchmeat, yogurt and cookies on Wednesday.
I must note that when the main camp begins, updates may be a little more scattered as the Training Camp Fund did not manage to secure me the use of a tablet PC, so there's going to be oodles of me Twittering and not being confident with my cell phone's video or photo capabilities as I haven't really used it in those regards as of yet. I will do my best to be as timely as possible, but when you're using a literal notebook, sometimes things will go a little slower than 2013.
It's been a helluva first six days. And I've got six more to go--and eight until I sleep in my own bed.
Add a Comment
Please limit embedded image or media size to 575 pixels wide.
Most Recent Blog Posts
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.