The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/03/14 at 10:28 PM ET
This is an entry about several current and several former Red Wings prospects, including one who's contributing to the NHL roster. I'm not quite sure whether it will mesh together, but I'm gonna give it a go.
If you missed the earlier Mitchell Callahan post, the Grand Rapids Griffins made an announcement regarding the young man's surgery for a broken jaw and somewhere between 10 and 12 missing teeth (as Fox 17's Steve Amorose noted, it's not certain whether the physicians who operated on Callahan knew that he'd lost his two front teeth long ago)...
Griffins coach Jeff Blashill also told the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner that Callahan was no longer in the "selfie" doghouse, and Luke Glendening told Fox Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji that his former roommate was "okay."
According to Wallner, Callahan's remaining roommate in Grand Rapids is the man whose slapshot mauled Callahan's face--defenseman Ryan Sproul--and Sproul knows how Callahan is feeling given that he suffered a broken jaw due to blocking a shot when he was with the Soo Greyhounds, but that didn't ease the pain of hurting a friend:
The on-ice image of Callahan bent over just outside the goalmouth for a few seconds before blood began to spill onto the ice and play halted was disturbing to Sproul, who lives with Callahan.
“I pretty much almost broke down right there,” Sproul said after practice Thursday. “I was scared for him, and went right over to make sure he was all right because, like I said, he’s one of my best friends.”
Callahan, the Griffins’ third-year forward, had surgery Thursday to repair his fractured jaw. He lost up to 10 teeth, some of which Sproul picked up off the ice, as well.
“I picked up four, but I think there was probably more out there,” he said. “I know he lost nine or 10 … It was definitely tough. I could barely pick them up my hands were shaking so much and in shock of what happened."
Sproul said Callahan understands that his injury is part of the game and that both are moving on from the first period incident in the Griffins 6-1 win over Iowa.
According to Wallner, Sproul and Trevor Parkes are going to help Callahan adjust to what I'm sure is a soft-food-and-liquid-painkillers diet--there are more surgeries to come to implant new teeth, to be sure--and I can at least tell you that I have been informed that a real, actual adult will join the roomies to supervise Callahan's care.
Two Red Wings prospects are playing playoff hockey this evening--Marek Tvrdon and Mitchell Wheaton's Kelowna Rockets begin their second-round WHL playoff series against Seattle at 10 PM EDT--but some comments made by the QMJHL's MVP and leading scorer, who begins his second-round play when his Val-d'Or Foreurs (I love that the team name translates to "The Valley of Gold 'Diggers'") battle the Drummondville Voltigeurs tomorrow.
Yahoo Sports Buzzing the Net's Mike Sanderson broke down the Val-d'Or-vs-Drummondville series with some words that might be taken as unflattering to Mantha's abilities, but also quite accurate in terms of the fact that we forget he's got a long way to go to replicate his junior successes at the NHL level:
Why the Foreurs should win: League MVP Anthony Mantha didn’t score a ton in Val-d’Or’s first round win over Acadie-Bathurst, but he didn’t have to as the Foreurs toppled the Titan in four. He will be better in this second round series.
The Foreurs have other offensive options as well, in Samuel Henley, Louick Marcotte and Pierre-Maxime Poudrier, as well as Randy Gazzola and Guillaume Gélinas on the blueline. No junior team in the league can boast what the Foreurs have: a bona-fide top two pairing with major offensive talent. They can have all five players run all-out attack with ease throughout a game unlike any other QMJHL team.
Val-d’Or dramatically outshot their opponents in the first round, a 157-74, including a 55-19 run in the first period. The Foreurs gave up only one goal in the first frame, and none in the second one. They start games fast and quick, and hope the other team can’t catch up.
How the Voltigeurs could win: Keep in mind that Mantha is a sniper, and snipers are hot and cold. If Mantha is on a cold streak, the best goal scorer in the QMJHL is a non-factor. Drummondville can score too, as the five-game win over Victoriaville proved. They had seven players at a point-a-game or above.
I don't believe that Mantha's going to experience the kind of struggles that Martin Frk has adjusting to pro hockey--after all, Frk was jamming home passes from Jonathan Drouin and Nathan MacKinnon last year at this time, and Frk's 3 goals, 9 assists and 12 points in 49 AHL games and 5 goals, 8 assists and 13 points in 15 ECHL games belie the fact that Frk still has 20-25-goal potential if he picks up his game...
But we do need to remember that Mantha's had all the time in the world to wind up for one-timers and that he's a 6'4," 209-pound behemoth skating through 16-to-20-year-olds in the QMJHL. His 57 goals, 63 assists and 120 points registered over the course of 57 games played speak to nothing less than honest-to-goodness 30-goal potential, but he's not going to step into the Wings' lineup and dominate.
He'll need time in the AHL to round out his game and ensure that he's "a factor" when he's not scoring goals, and he'll need to learn how to defend and protect the puck against men, not kids. It may take some time for Mantha to mature, and while I fully believe that he is "the real deal" and then some, we have to be careful to not expect immediate NHL results.
Shifting that narrative on its head, sometimes "immediate results" don't necessarily portend long-term succes--or at least I hope that's the case in the following instance.
My reaction to the fact that the "David Legwand-for-Calle Jarnkrok, Patrick Eaves and a 3rd round pick that becomes a 2nd rounder if the Wings make the playoffs" trade was consummated at 2:59 PM was this: "Dear Gord, why couldn't Holland have been late?"
Legwand's played pretty well for the Wings (he's posted 3 goals, 7 assists and 10 points in 15 games, though he's a -7) and between Mike Babcock's Fan 590 interview and the whispers that the team wants to re-sign Legwand already (the same beat writers suggesting as much were the ones who told us that the Wings were going after Stephen Weiss in February of 2013), I think the Wings' coaches and management will make the same justification for paying a stiff price for Legwand that they did for acquiring Robert Lang in 2004--and if you happen to recall, that trade cost the Wings Tomas Fleischmann and the first-round pick that became Mike Green.
The Wings will end up arguing that, without Legwand, they wouldn't have made the playoffs, especially given that Luke Glendening, Riley Sheahan and Cory Emmerton were the team's healthy centers at the time of the trade, and given the team's sudden depth at center, one can understand why Jarnkrok may have bolted for Sweden (see also: Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Helm, Weiss, Sheahan, Glendening, Andersson and the no-longer-waiver-exempt Landon Ferraro next fall)...
But Jarnkrok's taken off with the Predators, posting 1 goal, 4 assists and 5 points in 6 games (ahead of tonight's Predators-Ducks tilt), and he's earned rave reviews from the Predators' players, coach, GM and press corps.
The Tennessean's John Glennon reports that Nashville's actually playing better without Legwand, who the Predators weren't going to offer a contract extension to anyway...
The Predators expected to take a short-term loss after the trade, considering Legwand had been their top center — and leading scorer — through 62 games.
But they are actually doing better in some regards since the trade.
The Predators were 26-26-10 (.419 win percentage) prior to the trade and have posted a 7-6-1 record (.500) since then.
They were averaging 2.44 goals per game before the trade and — thanks to their best offensive surge of the season over the last six contests — have averaged 2.79 goals in the 14 games since the trade.
On the other side of the ice, the Predators have been a bit stingier as well. They were allowing 3.05 goals per game in the 62 contests prior to the trade, and they’ve allowed 2.86 since then.
And the Predators are happy with both Jarnkrok and another player for whom Legwand's departure opened up a roster spot:
Legwand’s departure figured to bring more offensive opportunities for former first-round pick Colin Wilson, who is playing center this season for the first time in his NHL career.
But Wilson has posted only four points (one goal, three assists) and a minus-four rating in the 14 games since Legwand was traded. He saw more than 15 minutes ice time in each of the first eight games following the trade, but has only topped that mark once since Jarnkrok was called up six games ago.
As for Jarnkrok, he’s off to a very good start. He produced five points (one goal, five assists) and a plus-five rating in his first six games with the Predators. He has also contributed on the penalty kill and earned regular praise from coach Barry Trotz for his all-round play — promising signs for the future.
Now there's no guarantee that the 22-year-old Jarnkrok can keep up the pace, especially that his NHL-listed stats of 5'11" and 156 pounds are a little more realistic than his Wings-or-Griffins-reported 175-to-185 pounds (he'll probably max out at 170), but he could develop into a 50-point-producer, too.
The problem with this kind of trade is that "early trends" don't look super in terms of the Wings surrendering one of their top prospects, who could have relatively easily switched to playing on the wing if necessary, for the sake of adding a veteran center who's still 33 and an unrestricted free agent-to-be, but making any judgments at this point...
At best, any guesses we can make are just that: guesses, even if they're educated ones. I watched how much time, energy and effort the Wings placed into making Jarnkrok as happy as possible by allowing him to stay home to train in the summers after he took part in his first prospect camp, and then witnessing him step right in and look so very good this past fall was so encouraging that seeing the Wings "bail" on his potential is a little baffling, if not frustrating, from my perspective.
But it's early yet, and neither you nor I know what stories the players in question have to author for us on the ice over the course of the Wings' remaining schedule.
For what it's worth, the Hockey News's Brian Costello penned a blog entry that reminds us the pressure under which Ken Holland, Kris Draper, Ryan Martin and the Wings' management group are operating under in terms of attempting to extend the Wings' playoff streak by any means necessary:
Detroit’s come-from-behind victory over the pace-setting Boston Bruins last night all but secured a playoff spot for the Red Wings. Sportsclubstats.com has Detroit’s playoff chances at 93.7 percent after the win.
If and when the Red Wings lock down a playoff position, they’ll have extended their consecutive season playoff streak to 23 years. That’s the best active streak in the NHL and fifth longest of all-time. The Bruins (1967 to 1996) are the gold standard at 29 seasons, followed by the Chicago Blackhawks (1969 to 1997) at 28 seasons, St. Louis Blues (1978-2004) at 25 seasons and Montreal Canadiens (1970 to 1994) at 24 seasons.
The oldest current Detroit player, 39-year-old Todd Bertuzzi, was a 14-year-old bantam player in Sudbury, Ont., the last time the Red Wings missed the playoffs.
The longest active streak after Detroit is San Jose, now at 10 seasons. Pittsburgh is next at eight seasons followed by Boston and Chicago at six seasons. If the Washington Capitals can rally and make the playoffs, they’ll also be at six seasons.
While I was writing this, by the way, Columbus defeated Philadelphia 2-0, and all of a sudden, a team that ends its season with 7 games in 11 nights is breathing down the Wings' necks again:
In terms of a prospect who came and went, the Red Wings made sure to invite Dean and Jake Chelios to as many prospect camps as the brothers would attend. The pair are turning pro after completing their senior seasons at Michigan State University: Dean and Jake joined the Toledo Walleye, and now, the Walleye reports that Jake's heading up to the AHL to play for the St. Louis Blues' AHL affiliate:
Defenseman Joe Gleason has been reassigned to Toledo from the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL. Defenseman Jake Chelios has been loaned to the Chicago Wolves of the AHL.
Gleason has appeared in 7 total games this year with the IceHogs with one assist. He has 18 points (3G, 15A) in 48 games played with Toledo.
Chelios has collected one goal and one assist in seven games since signing with Toledo on March 22. The son of former NHL defenseman Chris Chelios scored his first professional goal on March 30 against Kalamazoo.
And finally, there are cases in which the Red Wings are patient, the prospects they draft are equally patient in terms of accepting the ups, downs and demotions involved along the way to earning a permanent NHL spot, and their physical maturity, mental maturity and hockey maturity processes intersect at just the right time.
Gustav Nyquist, as the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa reminded us, came over from Sweden to play college hockey at the University of Maine. When he did so, he was basically Jarnrkok's listed size--5'10" and maybe 150 pounds soaking wet--but Nyquist got matured on the ice, he got good grades in school and he patiently built up his strength to the point that the Wings' 5'11" and 185-pound-listed stats aren't that far from the truth.
He also patiently put in his time at the AHL level when he turned pro, and as we all know, he didn't demand a trade when he got stuck with the Griffins after the Wings re-signed Daniel Cleary.
Now, people are talking about Nyquist's goal-scoring expolits like he's going to be the next Pavel Bure because...Well, the AP's Larry Lage explains why:
The Detroit Red Wings forward has scored 23 goals in 28 games after having just 63 NHL games of experience.
''I don't know how many players in the history of the game have done that,'' Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said.
Not many: Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin and former NHL star Pavel Bure are the only two other players who have pulled off that feat since the 1989-90 season, according to STATS. Nyquist said the only thing that matters to him is helping the Red Wings make the playoffs.
Nyquist harbors absolutely no ill will toward the Wings for sending him down to accommodate Cleary, Mikael Samuelsson, Jordin Tootoo and Cory Emmerton...
''They just said the facts that I was going down, play hard and you'll get your chance,'' Nyquist recalled earlier week. ''I said I was going to be ready when I got a chance. And, it finally came.''
While he was hitting his stride before the Olympic break, Holland believes that Nyquist really kicked 'er into gear after skating as Sweden's 13th forward:
Nyquist scored nine times in a nine-game stretch just before the Olympic break, earning a spot on Sweden's team at the Sochi Games to replace injured Red Wings teammate Johan Franzen.
''The experience of playing with and against the best players in the world in Russia has only added to his confidence,'' Holland said.
Nyquist has scored 12 times in his last 10 games - the most by any player this season in a 10-game stretch - and has a league-high 23 goals since Jan. 20.
But Nyquist, at 24, has dealt with the spotlight as a seasoned Wings Swede, as he tells Lage (I can't quote all of Lage's article, and I strongly encourage you to read it in its entirety), and Lage also found that Nyquist's teammates are taking note of #14's calm demeanor and team-first attitude:
''He's been great about all of this,'' [Luke] Glendenning said before a swarm of reporters engulfed Nyquist. ''He is keeping his humble attitude and the great work ethic that got him here.''
The Red Wings' decision to place Jiri Fischer in charge of player development, to hire a strength and conditioning coach, first for the Griffins and then to serve as both the Griffins' and Wings' fitness coach (in Peter Renzetti), the team's decision to allow Fischer to serve as a hands-on mentor, and then to surround him with former Wings to serve as player mentors in Chris Chelios and now-assistant-GM Kris Draper, the team's use of Jim Bedard and sometimes Chris Osgood to mentor the goalies, and of course the Wings' tradition of bringing in strong coaches in Curt Fraser, Jeff Blashill, and the guy who's stuck around through all the Griffins' coaching changes in Jim Paek, as well as instituting the skill development camps to teach players how to train, how to eat and to attempt to instill the "you must want to self-improve" mantra...
All of those things have transformed what was a herky-jerky prospect pipeline into something of an assembly line, but in my interactions with prospects--from Callahan, who I feel so fondly towards that witnessing him get hurt has been heartbreaking, and I'm not afraid to admit it, to Jarnkrok, Nyquist, the Chelioses, Mantha and everybody in between--has taught me that the players themselves are ultimately responsible for their development into professional hockey players...
And it's just not an exact science, and the odds are stacked against the youngsters thanks to the new CBA. Once the prospects sign pro contracts, they've got 3-5 years to try to mentally mature, physically mature, hone their games, to learn how to prepare for the game like professionals, to take care of themselves like adults (which is very hard for junior players, who live with billet families), to not do stupid things with the large amounts of free time they suddenly find themselves holding (please see: Riley Sheahan, Tomas Tatar and Darren Helm for lessons in, "Maturity doesn't happen all at once") and to end up ensuring that all of those phsyical, mental, emotional, on-ice and off-ice intangibles intersect at the same time.
The harsh reality of the situation is that if we were to look at the Wings' blueline prospects, and list their names--Adam Almquist, Ryan Sproul, Mattias Backman, Xavier Ouellet, Richard Nedomlel, Max Nicastro, Nick Jensen, Gleason Fournier and Alexei Marchenko are all pros, and Mitchell Wheaton, Marc McNulty, James de Haas, Ben Marshall and, depending on whether you define him as a defensemanor forward, Mike McKee are all playing either Major Junior or NCAA hockey--realistically speaking, if the Wings can get ONE star player and two to four more contributing players out of that fourteen, that's fantastic.
If the Wings get an entire blueline out of that group over the next ten years, they're batting into the stratosphere.
Not everybody develops. Not everybody works out. For all the time, energy, effort and money the Wings put into their pool of 30-something current prospects, if the Wings get half a team out of that within the next decade, that's effing remarkable and nothing less than that.
If they get another Nyquist and another Helm up front, another Kronwall and Ericsson on defense and Petr Mrazek developing into the goalie we all believe he can become, then the team's going to be doing very well for years to come.
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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.