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Red Wings prospect news: on Frk heading to Toledo and Jensen’s recovery from shoulder surgery

The Red Wings and Grand Rapids Griffins haven't made this official, but it appears that the team's chosen to assign first-year pro and still-top-prospect Martin Frk to the ECHL's Toledo Walleye. Frk hasn't registered a point and is a -3 over the course of 6 games played for Grand Rapids, and Frk himself Tweeted a photo suggesting that he's driving to Toledo today:

Petr Mrazek spent time in the ECHL and it didn't hurt him, so this move makes sense from a, "Give the guy some confidence" point of view. It's not surprising, either, given that Frk's learning that life without Jonathan Drouin or Nathan MacKinnon as his linemates is a little more difficult when one's turning pro...

And he'll be among friends in Toledo as Marek Tvrdon, Richard Nedomlel, Max Nicastro and Trevor Parkes are all playing for the Walleye, with Jared Coreau slated to join them once the Wings return Mrazek to Grand Rapids.

Several Wings fans have asked me about the team's top defensive prospect not named Ouellet, Sproul or Almquist--WCHA defenseman of the year (during his final season with St. Cloud State University) and puck-rusher supreme Nick Jensen.

Jensen needed shoulder surgery after Tyler Bertuzzi broke the golden summer development camp rule and invited Jensen to fight him, and the Elk River, MN Star News's Bruce Strand provides an update as to Jensen's status:

Nick Jensen, the former Rogers and St. Cloud State hockey star, was supposed to have started his pro career by now. Instead, the 23-year-old defenseman, signed in May by the Detroit Red Wings, has been rehabilitating since July for a shoulder injury suffered in a fight the first day of development camp in July.

“I got cleared to start skating, three weeks ago,” said Jensen, contacted Monday by the Star News. “I’m supposed to get an MRI in mid-November when I could be cleared to start playing.”

Jensen was a first-team All-American as a junior this past season, helping the Huskies reach their first-ever Frozen Four, and is regarded as a solid prospect. He was a fifth-round draft pick in 2009. When his rehab is done, Jensen will join the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Griffins, Detroit’s affiliate in the American Hockey League. He’s living in Grand Rapids.

The fight was initiated by Tyler Bertuzzi, an 18-year-old in his first developmental camp, according to accounts in the St. Cloud Times and two fan web sites, The Malik Report and Winging It In Motown. Jensen, participating in his fifth development camp, told the Times in September that he wasn’t looking for a fight and they seldom happen in development camps.

“I think he was trying to prove something to the coaches and was giving me some cheap shots,” Jensen said in that article, adding that Bertuzzi was known as an “agitator guy.” Bertuzzi had 185 penalty minutes in 105 games in the Ontario Hockey League.

Asked by the Star News if he was angry about this turn of events, Jensen said, “At first, I was not very happy about it. Nobody would be happy about missing four to six months. But I had to get over it, and be positive. My doctors have been working on it and I’m real happy with my recovery.”

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Primis's avatar

Petr Mrazek spent time in the ECHL and it didn’t hurt him, so this move makes sense from a, “Give the guy some confidence” point of view.

Well, that’s a bit apples and oranges.

The ECHL is absolutely essential to goalie development.  You only have 1 NHL and 1 AHL goalies starting on a given night..  If you have a 3rd you want to play any time, the ECH is a great place for that.  Most of the goaltending in the ECHL level is on par with the AHL, and I think most AHL and ECHL goalies could be swapped with very little effect.  You can reasonably expect that a good ECHL goalie will eventually get an NHL shot.  There’s a lengthy list of NHL goalies that spent significant ECHL time, including guys like Jonathan Quick.  Coreau playing in the ECHL is not a slight to him and means nothing about his pace of development.

With skaters, it’s a bit more complicated.  Spending significant ECHL time as a skater severely reduces your NHL chances because of depth/competition.  If you’re in the ECHL, and whole AHL team’s worth of other guys are on the NHL team’s minds before you.  Now in Tvrdon and Frk’s case, Grand Rapids is also awfully loaded and everyone knows it, so it’s not as bad a thing because guys have to play somewhere.

However, Toledo also does NOT play Detroit and Grand Rapids’ system in the years I’ve seen then.  Vitucci coaches and plays dump and chase, hard-nosed, with lots of net-crashing.  So playing with the Walleye won’t necessarily help anyone learn to play in GR or DET really with puck possession.  To be honest, I can’t imagine that helps Chicago’s prospects either (since they play possession as well).  It *does* help with pace, because in some ways the ECHL is even faster than the AHL (with, and often because of, more turnovers).

But man Toledo is pretty loaded as far as an ECHL outfit right now.  You don’t too often find legit top-end prospects like Frk at the level long, save for brief rehab stints.  Their 3-3-1 record doesn’t show it though so far, Frk might be a big help.

So let’s see how much time these guys spend there and what they do with it.

Posted by Primis on 11/04/13 at 02:48 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

For now, Frk needs to skate and he needs to get his confidence back. He’s not going to spend a long time down there, but we all knew he’d have a tough time adjusting to the pro game, and the more he and Tvrdon play down there for now, the better.

For the record, the Walleye’s assistant coach, Dan Watson, was at the Wings’ summer development camp, so the Walleye are starting to take pages out of Detroit and Chicago’s books. Vitucci and Watson attended the Wings’ prospect tournament *and* the main camp as observers.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 11/04/13 at 02:58 PM ET

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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.