Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings summer development camp 2014, day 2: morning skate impressions

Updated 2x at 2:20 PM: The Red Wings' summer development campers held simultaneous practices from 9 to 9:45 AM today, ahead of this afternoon's scrimmage (3 PM at Centre Ice Arena), so I had to play "pick a team" (this is the least-favorite game for someone who goes ga-ga about taking in hockey information).

I had watched the star-heavy Team Yzerman (Mantha, Larkin, Holmstrom, etc.) for the most part on Friday, so today, I watched the goalies warm up in the West Rink, and when I realized that Team Lidstrom was going to practice in David's Rink...

So I yanked out the pop-out extension cord for the laptop (I have a little "cheater" plug that pops right out should anyone start tripping on the cord--the cord is far less important than a person not going down in a heap), unplugged the laptop, grabbed my "rink bag" (I carry more extension cords, Kleenex and cold medication to deal with the Northern Michigan summers, hand sanitizer, chewing gum, sunglasses, my planner, pop and Powerade [have you seen how much a 20-ounce bottle of pop costs at a rink?] and of course my U of M seat cushion [sitting on metal seats for 5+ hours a day = rink rat sore butt syndrome]) and hauled tail over to David's Rink.

Prior to the switcharoo, and a good 20 minutes before the main practice started, goalie coach Jim Bedard had Kingston Frontenacs goalie Lucas Peressini, Peterborough Petes goalie Andrew D'Agostini, Walleye/Griffins goalie Jared Coreau and the turning-pro Jake Paterson skate so vigorously that the ice should've been Zambonied again before Team Yzerman got on the ice.

Bedard was really, really emphasizing edge-work with his goaltenders, and they just tore up the ice.

There was a significant amount of standing-up skating--the goalies skated up and back through the main faceoff dot in an M shape, but with a double-set of skate-up-skate-back pushes in the middle of the M (as in ^II^); soon after they were incorporating a "slide-back" into the final motion of their ^II^, and in a drill that I thought was sneakily smart, Bedard had the goalies push back three times from the "top" of the dot to the bottom of the dot while on one or both knees, and then moving forward sort of skittering like Tim Thomas might. This required the goaltenders to get their skates parallel to the ice to slide back and then down and off their pads to push forward.

Then there was an "X" drill that started on the glove side and ended on the blocker, all with the goaltenders standing up and skittering forward and back, and finally, a skate-up-to-the-far-side-of-the-circle, skate-down-to-the-bottom-of-the-circle, skate-to-the-center-ice-dot and charge to the far blueline drill.

Center ice was just a mess of skate cuts after that.

The goaltenders then skated back to the glove side faceoff dot, and they engaged in what I call a "4 corners" drill, where the goalie stands in the center of the dot and has to "square" himself to a theoretical shooter in each of the cardinal directions.

The drill was made more difficult with a "4 corners sliding to your right using a t-push" and then "4 corners sliding to your left using a t-push" iteration, and even I got a little lost when it was "4 corners, double butterfly, snap your thigh rises together at the end of each time you "square up."

The goalies got a little in-the-net time, too, and I'm going to give you the OpenOffice notebook version of what the last drill entailed:

"8:55 AM: complicated drill: push to center of horseshoe, push to right blocker side back, square up, drop glove side slide, to center, slide back to post, recover for a shot. One two three four five six seven movements before you even stop a shot. Or eight."

If you are familiar with the concept that a goal crease is seen as a "horsehoe" or an inverse "U" shape, the goalies had to push to the very center of the top of the crease, push back to the goal post on the blocker side on their knees, square up, slide to the glove side post, slide up to the center of the crease, slide back to the glove side post, and then recover to take a close-in shot. That's seven movements before they even stopped a shot.

It should be noted that Jake Paterson led every drill, and based upon what I witnessed--and based upon the goalies' performances in the team drills that followed:

Andrew D'Agostini is all of 5'11" and 180 pounds, which might be an inch and five pounds optimistic, but he is a battling, battling, battling goaltender. In the skating drills, there was a ton of upper-thigh and pad movement going on, but he works his butt off to skate to the right spot and to get the drill right. He's mobile and athletic, he's combative, his toes are fast, his stickhandling is emphatic, and his glove and blocker hands are good...But he's small in an era where goalies that are 6'1" are considered a little undersized. He can be beaten to the far side along the ice and top shelf, and there's just a huge uphill battle ahead of a really technically sound and won't-be-beaten-for-lack-of-trying netminder in terms of trying to make the pros.

I'm still trying to get a read on 6'2," 185-pound Lucas Peressini, but the best way I can describe the 19-year-old is as something of a "vampire squid." He's more of a stand-when-able netminder than the pure butterfly of Paterson or D'Agostini's "battlefly" netminding, but when Peressini goes down, his proportions--big chest, long arms, long legs--allow just about every shot that get into his body. Even though he's bigger than D'Agostini, he can get beaten in all four corners of the net, as well as the five hole when he's not squared up (his butterfly can be very wide or very narrow, which isn't necessarily a good thing), but he has an absolutely fantastic glove hand, his stick skills are solid, if a little stiff, and he looks like someone who went through a growth spurt and is still trying to figure out how he fits into his body.

Jake Paterson is more than ready to turn pro. He may have been ready to turn pro last season. He's polished, poised, confident to the border of being cocky in the net, he's the best natural stickhandler of the group by far, his blocker hand is superb, he catches well with that CCM "baseball-style" glove, he kicks out pucks into the right places when they come off of his pads (his almost-all-white CCM Retro-Flex pads look very spiffy), he's square to the puck shoulder wise and while he's listed at 6'1" and 183 pounds, he's a bit stocky, which is good for a goaltender. The reason he didn't turn pro previously involves the fact that he can still rely too much on that perfect butterfly technique, to the point that if you get him off his angle just right or get him turned around in an inopportune situation--or backed into the crease--you can beat him easily and make him look pretty bad while doing so. He reminds me of Carey Price in the Vaughn days, a goaltender who was just worried a little too much about making picture and technique-perfect saves, and it's he's got to accept that sometimes, the best saves are ugly ones.

Jared Coreau is still amidst a learning curve given his disastrous pro debut, but I've been watching a goaltender who is extremely technically proficient and who is working incredibly hard (as he pointed out) on his skating. Coreau is just massive at 6'5" and 235 pounds, but he gets around much better than he did last summer at this time (it ain't easy for a man that big to stop and start and stop and start, but there's some fluidity to his movement now, and those "upper leg" jitters that are the sign of a less-than-perfect skater are gone). Coreau squares up to the puck wonderfully, his glove and blocker hands are in the right position, he seals the ice impeccably well, and he's neither a true "butterfly," a battler, a more stand-up style goalie or an unconventional netminder--he's a hybrid of every style and tries to take the best of all of those styles and use the techniques as necessary. The big concern for Coreau is that he's an impeccable first-shot netminder, but he's still turned around and beaten on second or third shots, and he, Paterson and D'Agostini could use a little chat about the benefits of playing a little "ugly" on rebounds and off-angle shots.

 

 

 

At David's Rink, Team Lidstrom's practice got underway, with Jim Paek, Walleye coach Derek Lalonde and Wings video coordinator Keith McKittrick (who is chirping me a bit, which is actually funny) were very specific from the get-go and throughout the practice regarding the concept that the players were to learn about puck management and were to learn about puck management, a phrase I heard repeated throughout the 45-minute practice (that and defensemen had to "gap up," i.e. keep the spacing between themselves and their forward  counterparts tight).

Team Lidstrom consists of...

Forwards:

72 Andreas Athanasiou
81 Michael Babcock
59 Tyler Bertuzzi
86 Blake Clarke
92 Christoffer Ehn
76 Darby Llewellyn
62 Zach Nastasiuk
63 David Pope
22 Brandon Robinson
67 Tylor Spink
73 Tyson Spink
78 Dominic Turgeon
82 Tomas Nosek

Defense:

95 Scott Cznarowczan
46 Trevor Hamilton
51 Ben Marshall
77 Richard Nedomlel
64 Ryan Obuchowski
79 Logan Schmidt
53 Nick Zotl

Goal:

36 Jake Paterson
38 Lucas Peressini

Logan Schmidt did NOT skate today.

"Puck management" is also a code word for, "We're going to focus on our transition game today," so the first drill involved four defensemen lined up at the bluelines and a pair of forwards. The blueliners who started the drill would make side-to-side passes, send the puck up to a forward, and after allowing the "long side" blueliners to get into a "six corners" passing drill, the forwards and defensemen would turn and skate against the defenders who started the drill.

Then the usual start-of-practice drills took place, with 2-on-0's flying up the right wings as players took passes from a defenseman and roared up the middle;

The old dump-in-goalie-plays-it-5-men-skate-up-ice drill was played without taking a shot, and with the skater who had the puck last sending the puck up to a coach at center ice, who would fire it down to the other end of the ice, where another set of 5 players would clear the zone.

With goalies back in play as puck-stoppers, wrinkles would be thrown in, like a defenseman taking the dump-in and sending very purposefully into the slot to a second defenseman who was supporting him (a Red Wings "clear the zone by putting it in your own slot" play if there ever was one), sometimes Paek or McKittrick would serve as an opposing player who would easily turn the puck over, and the forwards would have to make passes to each other--i.e. 3 people had to touch the puck--so you'd end up having all 5 skaters touch the puck before a shot was taken.

For a good chunk of time, the "street hockey" drill (i.e 3 on 3 within one "zone") got a fascinating revamping; the goal was taken out of the equation, and instead, the drill became a puck-management drill instead of a try-to-score one. 3 players would stand on the perimeter of each side of the ice--six players in total--and they constituted a "side" that would battle 4 players in the middle of the zone. The players in the middle were split into one pair facing "east" and the other pair facing "west," but the goal involved either the 6 players trying to move the puck through that mass of 4 "defenders" to the other side, or the 2 facing "defenders" attacking the 3 players closest to them, attempting to retrieve the puck to clear it to the blueline or give it to their "opposite-facing defensive" partners.

While Jim Bedard had Peressini and Paterson taking in-tight shots at the other end of the ice, the 6-on-4 drill took up a significant amount of time, with Paek once yelling out, “Everybody understands the game, right? There's a consequence here so let's manage the puck!”

Teamwork was very evident here, and I suppose this is where I should mention that:

The red team consisted of Richard Nedomlel, Scott Czarnowczan, Ryan Obuchowski (defensemen) and Tyson and Tylor Spink, Andreas Athanasiou, Zach Nastasiuk, Darby Llewellyn and Tomas Nosek (forwards)

And the white team consisted of Trevor Hamilton, Nick Zotl, Ben Marshall (defensemen) and Dominic Turgeon, Tyler Bertuzzi, Christoffer Ehn, Michael Babcock, Brandon Robinson and Blake Clarke (forwards).

The red team had the upper hand for most of the "game," regardless of whether they were on offense or defense, but Turgeon, Bertuzzi, Marshall, Ehn and Babcock were all "game" for it.

The "bench" drills began about 21 minutes into practice. Three forwards and two defensemen from one "team" would face two defensemen from the other team. The "defending" players would start things off with a side-to-side pass, they'd give it to the opposing forwards, who would pass back to their own defensemen, and the offensive defensemen would start a 5-on-2 rush.

This is where "gap up, gap up!" was heard on more than one occasion, and Paek threw in a wrinkle when he said, "Just got deep, winger I want you right down to the hash, square up, wait for the late man" to ask one of the wingers to stop at the hash marks once his team had gained possession and control to wait for either a trailing forward or defenseman.

Then the drill became tap pass-tap pass-drop pass-forwards go to the net and the point man shoots it; sometimes the drill ended with a goal, sometimes the drill ended with successful defending by the 2-man group, and sometimes the coach just called it and the players changed pretty regularly.

This is where I'm going to tell you that Richard Nedomlel has been absolutely essential in keeping Tomas Nosek loose and explaining almost everything in Czech. Nosek looks INCREDIBLY UNCOMFORTABLE, as if he thinks that his job depends on how he plays up here (it does not--this is an orientation camp), so you see these absolutely gloriously talented hands and speedy feet for a very big and very lanky man and think, "Why isn't it coming together?" and you remember that the smaller rink, English, all of this is new to him.

Frankly, people like Richard, the whooping-and-hollering (seriously) Athanasiou, Nastasiuk and Michael Babcock of all people serve as both leaders and comic relief, and they've really stepped up to show the way for the rest of Team Lidstrom.

The drill had some iterations in which it became a 4-on-2 or a 4-on-1, but the system was the same--everybody touched the puck, outlet passers became defenders.

At 9:33, groups were split up for what were nothing less than hilarious-at-times drills.

All of the defensemen were sent to the north end, where they took shots on Peressini while skating laterally, while skating against the grain after making side-to-side passes, or making a lateral pass and receiving one for a one-timer (I adore it when the Wings make their defensemen move laterally before shooting given that I am a Nicklas Lidstrom fan--it's essential for changing the angle of one's shot and getting it through shot-blocking defenses)...

The wingers took shots on Paterson first, and eventually (halfway through the drill, Peressini as the goaltenders swapped ends), either skating in, taking passes from players along the side boards, or taking passes from below the goal line (coach or player)..

And Athanasiou, Nastasiuk, Ehn, Turgeon, the right-shooting Tylor Spink and Michael Babcock did faceoff drills at center ice.

This is where the comic relief portion kicked in, because Athanasiou pulled out his entire bag of dirty tricks to win draws, adding some hacks and whacks, basically tackling his opponents to use his low-body leverage to shove the puck back via his feet or even his hands, jabbing their sticks so much that the tape nearly fell off of the toe of his CCM RBZ stick (the red one), or otherwise both seriously and goofily trying to steal pucks;

Turgeon was very solid in this department, Ehn, despite being 6'3" and maybe 180 pounds, stood tough, and Michael Babcock...Fell on his ass a lot and fell on his face a few times, and laughed the whole time, chasing down loose pucks that would slither to the side boards and bringing them back to the faceoff circle. Coach McKittrick had to get out of the way more than a few times because the guys were both being very serious and having a very purposefully silly time, and their sticks' butt ends were waggling all over the place.

When the drill ended, Athanasiou let out a "WHOO!" before joining the wingers, and at the very end of practice, Paterson led the stretches.

You guys know how I get about smarm and arrogance, but comparing the Andreas Athanasiou of two years ago or even one year ago to this year, and he's got the, "When I can be cocky and silly and when I am all business" thing down pat, and the reason that the other Wings bloggers are gushing about him isn't just because he's a more physical version of Darren Helm, possibly with better hands--he's "fun," the good kind of "fun," the hockey player who can be a team player and be a leader and be a goof and manage all three.

Okay, quick player assessments as the scrimmage is drawing near:

Forwards:

72 Andreas Athanasiou: He's learned how to slow down, which is essential. Athanasiou's speed and leg strength are frickin' amazing, but in addition to learning when not to be a "goof," he's working much harder to win those one-on-one battles and to let defensive aplomb yield the opportunity to deke, dangle and dazzle (he top-shelfed a couple of pucks). I really don't know what his pro "upside" is, but I am writing about a player who I firmly believe will play in the NHL within the next 2-3 seasons.

81 Michael Babcock: Again, he's his father's son, but he's at the camp because he's earned it. 5'9," 160 pounds, going to Merrimack sooner than later, he will need all four years there to put bulk on his frame, but he's ripped, he's intense, and he works his tail off to be a strong defensive forward, to skate well to get into position to help his teammates and to check and grind and jab and jam. His work ethic is stellar and he's going to earn a pro contract somewhere in five years.

59 Tyler Bertuzzi: Bertuzzi and that odd mid-toe curve on his stick did a lot of looking around into the crowd and standing around and reminding me that he is still someone who just graduated from high school. He is everything he was at the Memorial Cup--speedier than you'd think, with a better shot and better vision for passing than you'd think, with solid defensive abilities and a head for the game--but there are times that his, "Don't kill anybody" brain for this camp conflicts with his, "MUST BE PEST" instincts and he holds up here.

86 Blake Clarke: Tools but no toolbox. I was puzzled about the fact that Clarke didn't get drafted, and the Saginaw Spirit forward is solidly built at 6'1" and 180 pounds, he's fast, he's got a good shot, he's evidently got more skills, and he gives up on drills sometimes. There were rumors that he wasn't drafted on the basis of character and I don't see a lack thereof, but I see way more raw talent than I do the application thereof.

92 Christoffer Ehn: I like Ehn. He's painfully skinny at a listed 6'3" and 181 pounds, which probably included his hockey gear, but it's his posture that intrigues me. He leans into shots with his top as well as his bottom hand to propel them (most guys just use their top hand as a pivot--Ehn literally pushes the puck forward when he's shooting and passing), he leans down when he's in one-on-one battles, those big, lanky legs churn and he's got a great shot and he's just a strong competitor despite not being strong and tenacious despite not being physical. He's going to take a while to develop, but he's in the Frolunda Indians' system (they're a player factory), and you just see somebody doing all the right things naturally and do this: yes

76 Darby Llewellyn: Llewellyn is something of a stealth prospect. He's from Ann Arbor, he had an OK season with the Kitchener Rangers and he's a lanky 6'1" and 175 pounds, and you don't notice him until he steals the puck from someone or he appears out of nowhere and makes a nice play on a rush. I haven't watched him intently or intensely but I think, "He's got some jam to him."

62 Zach Nastasiuk: Nastasiuk is ready to turn pro as a defensively-minded checking center and/or winger. He's gritty, he's got jam, he's poised, he's much, much stronger than he was last year, he's a much better skater and he's filled out as a player and person. His own Athanasiou-like edge has mellowed some and he's clearly ready to earn his way as a grinding player, which isn't an easy road to hoe.

63 David Pope: I thought I would have figured out more about Pope by now but he's become something of an enigma. Long and lean at 6'2" and 187 pounds, all arms and legs, Pope is indeed a sniper and a half, putting pucks off the crossbar on a very regular basis, but he also looks like someone who played in the BCHL at 19 going on 20--the max age for the league--and he looks like the world of playing against players who are as tall or taller than he is and who are 30 pounds heavier than he is will be quite a challenge. Luckily he's going to the University of Nebraska-Omaha, and the speedy sniper will have several years to fill out. He's a shot-telegrapher, big time.

22 Brandon Robinson: 6'3," 216, played for Kitchener, big and hulking at times, but that's all I see. Big and hulking.

67 Tylor Spink: Spink the center, the right-shooting 5'10," 185-pound Colgate forward, is a buzz-bomb of a center who is your classic NCAA-thriving player--someone whose size would hold him back in a more physical Major Junior league but someone whose pluck and jam make him and his brother the recipients of an opportunity to spend their junior and senior years proving that their size shouldn't deter them from earning pro contracts.

73 Tyson Spink: Ditto, except that he's the finisher.

78 Dominic Turgeon: Turgeon is still a little heavy-footed off the draw, which he admittedly has to work on, and his bloodlines are admittedly there in terms of his puck skills and just all-round smoothness, especially when dekeing and dangling his dad's-patterned Easton, but it's his work ethic that stands out. Could he be a second-line, two-way center that produces points at the NHL level? Sure, down the line, he has flashes of elite talent, but he's earned his bread and butte playing hard in the defensive zone, and while he isn't big at 6'1," he's all of 196 pounds of well-trained muscle, and he knows how to out-compete opponents for the puck via angles, body position, leverage, stick checking and hard work. For the present moment, he looks like a fine defensive forward in the making.

82 Tomas Nosek: Nosek has a deft and elegant (yes elegant) pair of hands, he's downright slithery when he's making seeing-eye passes or taking sneaky one-timers, he's big and lanky at 6-2-and-a-half and a still-quite-lean 201 pounds, he's very fast for someone who's really top heavy--he's built more like a swimmer, with a huge upper body--but he looks so uncomfortable that it's silly. The smaller rink, English, the pace of drills, he looks like he's playing as if his job depends upon his performance RIGHT BOOKING NOW, and it just doesn't.

But there is every reason to watch him over 10 or 15 minutes as opposed to 2 to 5 and to see the reasons why the Wings offered him an AHL deal. He's got that classic "European" level of puck-handling aplomb, he's smart, he's determined and he's clearly played professional hockey. He's just uncomfortable right now.

Defense:

95 Scott Czarnowczan: The 5'10" Ferris State defenseman is...Fast. He's fast and physical for his size, and you see his shoulders bumping and jabbing people away from the puck. But that's all I've seen thus far.

46 Trevor Hamilton: Hamilton has really grown on me during the past two summers.  He's stout at 6' and at least 186 pounds, he's got a strong right-shooting shot, he passes well and sees the ice solidly enough, he's speedy and his positioning is very good. He also has very good pace to his game--some of the try-outs take forever to get set up, and Hamilton is just bang-bang done, okay, I've got to make a pass and react, done, okay, I've got to get into position, done, it's not that he's the speediest or strongest or most talented, but he's there.

51 Ben Marshall: His senior year will tell the tale. Marshall remains 5'9" and he remains 175 pounds--after having put on 25 over his draft-weight of 150 and his show-up-to-the-2010-camp baby-faced, apple-cheeked self--but he's somewhere between Brett Lebda and Brian Rafalski. I know that's not particularly specific, but he has the skating ability of a Lebda--not super powerful, but very fast for his size, and very maneuverable--and he has a wonderful one-timer, he can rush the puck up ice himself or fire an outlet pass with equal aplomb, he's grittier than you might expect and he's very good positionally. He needs to have a monster senior season at the University of Minnesota to prove that he can produce points there and that he is worth taking a chance upon.

77 Richard Nedomlel: In addition to providing comic relief and a massive 6'5," 230-pound frame, Richard has gotten so much smoother skating-wise from the gangly dude who was literally tripping over his legs two years ago that it's silly. He does not project to be anything more than a very physical 6/7 defenseman, and he is still learning how to master puck possession play after having played chip-and-chase hockey in the WHL, but Richard keeps slowly but steadily improving in all aspects of his game. His goofiness doesn't explain the seriousness with which he approaches the game.

Is he going to succeed and become a pro player on the Griffins' stacked defense? I really don't know, but he's someone who's worth rooting for, and he's putting in the effort. QUIETLY so!

64 Ryan Obuchowski: From West Bloomfield, going into his junior year at Yale, puts up points despite limited ice time, and...He's here.

79 Logan Schmidt: Another undersized defenseman from Kitchener (there are 3 Rangers on Team Yzerman's roster) at 5'11" and 169 pounds, Schmidt is smart and sneaky, but he hasn't stood out other than being smart and sneaky.

53 Nick Zotl: Zotl's the kind of player you wish will find some skill in a hurry. He's 6'5" and 214 pounds, he's 19 and has played the past 3 seasons for the Mississauga Steelheads, he doffs mitts...And he takes a LONG time to get into the right position, he telegraphs his shot and he telegraphs his passes, and he is just first-year-Nedomlel clunky in terms of his ability to move with any sort of smoothness.

Goal:

36 Jake Paterson: Again, backs in too easily, still trying too hard to be perfect technically, but he's also near-perfect technically and he is more than ready to be a pro goalie. He's just got such a great all-round skill-set that it's silly; the question is whether he can maximize it. Almost too easygoing, frankly.

38 Lucas Peressini: The "Vampire Squid" is big, lanky, still growing into his body, superb if you fire the puck anywhere inside his massive frame, his glove hand is Kiprusoff-style tilt-it-back-and-snag-style, he's pretty solid when he gets turned around, but he's got holes.

 

Quick update: I asked Hampus Melen how he was doing on Twitter:

Pavel Datsyuk's with his favorite lady today, his daughter Elizabeth...

The "McGill Reporter" noted the following:

Mike Babcock, a graduate of McGill, was honoured recently at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, B.C., along with three products of the McGill Martlets for a Hockey Canada ring ceremony to commemorate the Olympic gold medals won by Canada in hockey at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.

Joining him were Olympians Mélodie Daoust, a 22-year-old physical education student along with McGill grads Catherine Ward (B.Com. ’09) and Charline Labonté (B.Ed. ’12).

It was the sixth championship ring for Babcock, head coach of the Detroit Red Wings, who patrolled the blueline for the Redmen from 1983 to 1986. The 50-year-old native of Saskatoon, Sask., also won gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, in addition to a Stanley Cup victory (2007), an IIHF world junior championship (1997), an IIHF world senior title (2004) and a CIS University Cup banner with Lethbridge (1994).

Babcock (B.Ed ’86) led Canada to an unblemished 6-0 record in Sochi last February and guided a young and injury-plagued Detroit squad to a 39-28-25 record and a wild-card berth in the post-season, extending the team’s playoff appearance streak to 23 consecutive years. He was a finalist for the Jack Adams Trophy, which goes to the NHL coach of the year. His combined lifetime coaching record, at all levels, stands at 921-615-180 in 1,710 games overall, including a 484-274-110 mark in the NHL regular season.

Regarding B.Ed '86's team, NHL.com's Dan Rosen assessed the Wings' free agency struggles as follows, in a survey of the Atlantic Division teams' free agency machinations:

DETROIT RED WINGS

Additions: none

Re-signed: Kyle Quincey, Jonas Gustavsson, Riley Sheahan

Still unsigned: Tomas Tatar (RFA), Danny DeKeyser (RFA), Daniel Alfredsson (UFA), Mikael Samuelsson (UFA), Todd Bertuzzi (UFA), Daniel Cleary (UFA)

Subtractions: Jordin Tootoo (buyout), David Legwand (Ottawa Senators)

The Red Wings so far have struck out this offseason, even with approximately $9.5 million in cap space to use and an obvious need for a right-handed defenseman.

They tried to get Dan Boyle, Matt Niskanen, Stephane Robidas, Stralman and Christian Ehrhoff but each signed elsewhere. The best the Red Wings have done since the free-agent market opened is re-sign Quincey.

They still want to add players through a signing or a trade and Alfredsson will either return to Detroit or retire. But the Red Wings right now appear to be the same team they were last season, minus some veterans whose roles depleted toward the end.

That may not be a terrible thing considering the emergence of Gustav Nyquist, Tatar, Sheahan, Luke Glendenning and DeKeyser, plus the fact that they played half of last season without Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk and still made the playoffs.

Shifting focus back to "up here," the Red Wings very wisely asked Centre Ice Wings Director of Events Anne Reeves why the team's chosen to hold training camp, the prospect tournament and now the summer camp in Traverse City:

Michigan Hockey's Tom Mitsos penned an article about Anthony Mantha...

Mantha said winning the QMJHL title as well as a deep run in the Memorial Cup helped prepare him for a future with the Red Wings.

“I learned a lot,” he said. “How to manage your time, how to manage your physical and mental (state). I think going out there is just the big thing for me.”

This is the second year Mantha is attending the development camp, but he said he is always looking for ways to better himself.

“Getting more experience, playing with new guys — competing hard for sure,” he said. “It’s a rookie camp, but you want to show this organization what you can do out there.”

Mantha added his defensive game has improved since attending the camp last year. The opportunity is just a couple of months away, but Mantha said he isn’t getting ahead of himself.

“You want to be an NHLer one day in your life,” he said, “and as soon as you come, you try to make every step to get there.”

Winging it in Motown's Kyle McIlmurray spoke with Mantha and Dylan Larkin today...

Anthony Mantha, who isn't known for his skating as much, could be a great fit for Larkin. Larkin, who has the ceiling to be an elite-skating setup center that can breakout and draw attention as Mantha strides in to cleanup the job. It's almost like Blashill might know what he's doing here.. Which makes sense, he's a pretty smart guy after-all.
After day two's morning skate, I spoke with Mantha:

(About playing with Larkin)

    It feels great, honestly.. To have a new partner. The chemistry is going to come out a bit more during the scrimmage, I think. But it was even much better this morning than it was yesterday at the first practice, so I think that is good. He's a great player and it's very exciting to play with him.

(On what he would like to work on during this summer)

    Training is huge, obviously. I'd like to put on a bit more weight. Working on how I play in the defensive zone is a huge focus for me and the coaches.. They'd like me to be an "every-dayer." They tell us that every year, and that's what I worked on last year.. I think it's going well so far.

Octopus Thrower's Peter Fish penned an article about Nosek...

Nosek does have limited experience on a North American ice surface by playing in the World Junior Championships in Canada, but is still adjusting to working on a smaller ice surface.

When asked about the difference between the styles of International Hockey and North American Hockey Nosek said:

“Big difference… there is so much more hits and other training practice in fitness or on the ice and high intensity, so it is different.”

Nosek played in the Czech League, which is miles behind the, KHL, Swedish Hockey League, and Liiga and because of that Nosek might not be used to the quicker pace of CHL/AHL/NHL hockey.

In order to play in the AHL next season, Nosek will have to drop some of his Czech League tendencies he has developed. When heading down the ice, Nosek skated from the middle of the ice to the boards in order to try to pass a play with his speed, but since the ice surface is smaller he would get too close to boards and get walled off.

And Hooked on Hockey's Kevin Sporka posited his observations from Day 1 (and they continue at length)...

Axel Holmstrom was noticeable early on, if not only for the fact that he was wearing #96. Although not related to the four Stanley Cup-winner Tomas Holmstrom, he easily stood out from the rest of the group because of his number. My first impression of new Holmstrom is that he needs a lot of work on his skating (sound familiar?). He’s got a pretty good shot and works hard, but he stumbled a few times while turning on the speed. All that can be attributed to being nervous about his first development camp, so I’ll have to observe more in the next couple days.

Marc McNulty, the 6-ft-6 defenseman, looks exactly like he did last year: way too tall and awkward. He’s not an overly impressive skater, he doesn’t pass very well, and he just looks out of place.

Julius Vahatalo demonstrated his knack of getting good position near the net. He wasn’t afraid to get a bit physical either. He had one or two slight stumbles, but skated well otherwise.

Dylan Larkin is not a lazy skater by any stretch of the imagination. Out of all the players on the ice, he put the most effort into each drill. He’s very good at covering his opponents. He’ll lift sticks, prevent shots, and stays with his man. He battles hard every time.

Update #2: DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose (via RedWingsFeed) spoke with Griffins coach Jeff Blashill and one Tomas Nosek about the adjustments that European prospects have to make to adapt to playing professional hockey:

"You forget sometimes that everything is brand new to them,” said Grand Rapids coach Jeff Blashill, who is conducting the on-ice practices at camp this week. “If I could place myself in their shoes as a young guy, a 20-year-old, going over to a country where maybe I don’t speak their language great you have to really remember as a coach that there is more of an adjustment than just hockey.

“I found that even with a guy like (Calle) Jarnkrok last year that the adjustment period can be hard. Some of these guys have never been away from home, their parents’ home, and then to add another country to it is a difficult transition.”

While the first-year Europeans are still getting assimilated to the Wings’ cultures and the smaller ice surface, the prospects trudged through Saturday morning’s 45-minute practice, which had more of a morning-skate feel to it as the two equal groups prepared for an afternoon intra-squad scrimmage.

“Today was a combination of a pre-game skate and also another core habit,” Blashill said. “Each day we’re working on a core habit; today’s was puck management and valuing the puck. It’s important to take that extra second and never give the puck away. Mike Babcock talks all the time about who has the puck when you’re done with it, so we want to get those messages across now so come main camp it’s not new to them.”

Roose continues...

Update #2.5: the Wings posteda a photo gallery, too.

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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.