The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/08/14 at 09:34 PM ET
Now that the players have packed up their gear and engaged in a final yoga class, probably before either heading to their hotels or to the airport, I look back at days one, two, three, four and now five of the Red Wings' summer development camp, I can say, without a doubt, that it was a great experience and a lot of fun for the players...
And for me, this was a *#$%@& grind. With so many simultaneous practices, the mad dash to get interviews before the players had to work out or otherwise be disposed with activities almost immediately after they peeled off their gear, the schedule changes, the competition (competition is good, but having to battle uphill against FSD and the Wings is not), the intensity of the on-ice drills sort of leeching into coverage...
I interviewed about half of the people I wanted to interview, and interviewed them for shorter periods of time; I watched half the players actually skate and work on drills half as much as I have in previous seasons; I felt a quarter as comfortable as I usually do making any sort of observations, and I don't even feel particularly satisfied with the my coverage as I have in years past because people with professional equipment are, in my opinion, producing better content than these fingers can produce upon a fading keyboard.
A professional skill development, strength and conditioning and orientation camp is fun if you're 18-to-24, you're on the ice taking part in the drills and you get to be done at 1 or 2 and have the day to yourself. It's not as much fun if you feel constantly off-balance and fatigued from the immediate switch from covering the lead-up to the draft, the draft itself (for TMR) and free agency (for both TMR and KK) to a second and third week's worth of sixteen-hour days.
I'm not having fun anymore, and I don't know what that means for how I cover the camp. This wasn't fun in the slightest. It's always hard work at a grueling pace, but I'm used to that. Add in the incessant trade talk and the 4th-of-July weekend, which seemed to drastically drop any interest in the development camp and drastically raise the cost of coming up here, respectively, and this just wasn't particularly enjoyable at all. I'm glad that it's over.
Maybe I put too much pressure on myself regarding the level of competition, because it turns out that the non-MSM'ers have a high level of respect and admiration for each other's work, and I was at least able to let my fellow Wings bloggers know that the fact I haven't referenced them on a regular basis had nothing to do with a superiority complex or anything less than oodles of respect for what they do.
Maybe I just wasn't ready for how intense this ended up being, or maybe I wasn't in a good place mentally or physically to start.
All I know is that as hard as this job is and as hard as my stupid-ass anxiety disorder and depression make it to do, I love it, and I haven't been in love with my job over the past five days. This has been like playing goal while Milan Lucic's camped IN your crease, Brad Marchand is buzzing by trying to jab you and Zdeno Chara's taking shots and laughing maniacally, and getting scored on repeatedly.
Maybe I'll be more ready for the fact that, under Jeff Blashill and Jiri Fischer, this very player-centered camp is going to be a hard-ass run next year. It was never like this before--even though it was intense, there was a comfort level in knowing that this was a summer event--and this had the pace and feel of a try-out camp as opposed to an orientation or skill development one.
The players and coaches were great, they always are, and the young players coming into the organization are quality human beings who are easy to root for. The organization was incredibly kind enough to invite me here. The fact that so many people helped me get up here and that so many people came up to me in the rink and said that what I do matters to them was humbling and inspiring.
But covering this was...I'm always a bit uncomfortable and in a decent amount of physical pain. That's part of living with the illnesses I live with, and I do not ask anyone to feel sorry for me or to fight those battles. But the rink is usually my happy place, even if doing a job there exhausts me. This year, the rink was a frustrating, confusing, disconcerting, disappointing, worrisome and sometimes infuriating place to work, and I carried those feelings back to the hotel.
I hope they didn't leech into my work, and I'm gonna give 'er a good effort today because I have very literally had people tell me that what I am doing matters to them...
But something's gotta change next year. I don't know what yet, and I have to figure it out, because I don't want to have another experience like this again. The rink is supposed to be the place where the anxiety disorder and depression sort of disappear and I'm enjoying hockey, and I can actually talk to people and be comfortable with my weird-ass self.
That didn't happen here, and that's not a good sign.
The players on the ice today, from an absolutely dominant line of Kyle Baun, Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha, to the absolutely surprisingly dominant defensive pair of Mike McKee and James De Haas, to the players who have been invisible as pollen on the wind all played really well as the summer campers closed out their camp with a scrimmage that was played at near-fall-touranment levels.
Tyler Bertuzzi had to sit out due to a Charley horse, Richard Nedomlel took some abbreviated shifts as he was battling an undisclosed injury, and Blake Clarke took a puck to the face late, but I spoke with Blake after the game, and he was fine.
Alexey Marchenko also took a long pre-warm-up skate, working very hard on his backwards-skating crossovers, shooting pucks and occasionally speaking with a member of the training staff for about fifteen minutes. He also shanked shots off the heel of his stick less, which may have indicated that his leg strength (he's been working out for the entire camp off the ice) is starting to return.
There's no reason to risk someone's surgically-repaired ankle in July, so he never took part in practices or scrimmages, but just watching him skate around the ice was witnessing someone who, as coach Blashill pointed out, looked a little shaky last summer appear in rock-solid, near-ready-for-the-NHL form. He's such a technician in the way that he approaches the game that it's not hard to see that his "Hockey IQ" is incredibly high.
As for the game itself, it consisted of 2 25-minute periods (the first 5 minutes of each 25-minute period were a running clock; the final 20 were stop-time; penalties = shootout shots with both teams chasing the shooter as any rebounds were in play; there was a shootout after the game as well.
Team Yzerman (coached by RPI's Seth Appert, Walleye assistant coach Dan Watson and Wings assistant coach/video coordinator Keith McKittrick) beat Team Lidstrom 5-1 (and Team Lidstrom was coached by Griffins assistant coach Jim Paek and Walleye coach Derek Lalonde).
The lines were very similar to the previous scrimmages' lines:
Dylan Larkin #19-Anthony Mantha #39-Kyle Baun #84
Julius Vahatalo #94-Hampus Gustafsson #70-Luke Sandler #83
Dean Chelios #24-Axel Holmstrom #96-Cole Bardreau #85/Hayden Hodgson #17
Mark Cooper #37-Alex Globke #45-David Johnstone #80
Marc McNulty #74-Joe Hicketts #27
Kevin Clare #97-River Rymsha #71
Mike McKee #58-James De Haas #75
Goalies: Andrew D'Agostini #68, Jared Coreau #31
David Pope #63-Dominic Turgeon #78- Christoffer Ehn #92 (no Tyler Bertuzzi #59)
Tyson Spink #73-Tylor Spink #67-Darby Llewellyn #76
Tomas Nosek #82-Andreas Athanasiou #72-Zach Nastasiuk #62
Brandon Robinson #22-Blake Clarke #86-Michael Babcock #81
Ben Marshall #51-Trevor Hamilton #46 (with Richard Nedomlel #77 rotating in)
Nick Zotl #53-Ryan Obuchowski #64
Scott Czarwowczan #95-Logan Schmidt #79
Goalies: Lucas Peressini #38, Jake Paterson #36
Anthony Mantha was credited with Team Yzerman's first goal, but it was Mantha who got the puck from Dylan Larkin off a faceoff at the glove-side offensive faceoff dot, standing in the "sniper" position, he evaluated his options when he realized he couldn't shoot, and he saw big defenseman Mike McKee chugging in from the blueline. McKee ripped the puck over Lucas Peressini (Peressini and Andrew D'Agostini got the starts) and Team Yzerman led 1-0, with 13:51 left in the 1st half.
That was all the scoring that took place in the first half, and Peressini stopped 8 of the 9 shots he faced, while D'Agostini stopped 13 of 13.
59 seconds into the 2nd half, defenseman James De Haas roared in from the blueline and chipped the puck over Jake Paterson's blocker, giving Team Yzerman a 2-0 lead.
De Haas led another rush up ice and made a lateral pass to Hayden Hodgson, who skated in from the "glove" faceoff dot and popped the water bottle behind Paterson, giving Team Yzerman a 3-0 lead with 20:17 left in the 2nd half.
Team Lidstrom got on the board when Trevor Hamilton, who's really impressed me throughout the camp, set up a superb outlet pass from his right-blueline position, Brandon Robinson lugged the puck up the wing, he gave it back to Hamilton in the very high slot, and Hamilton fired a shot on net that Blake Clarke expertly tipped past Jared Coreau. Team Lidstrom was down 3-1 with 14:27 left, and in theory, "the game was on."
That was certainly true after Kyle Baun absolutely fanned on a breakaway on Paterson, and after Richard Nedomlel tripped Dylan Larkin with 8:32 left, Paterson bailed Nedomlel out by stopping Larkin's backhand shot (and then Larkin fell down as he hit the end boards, not his best shift).
I should note two things about vocal players: in general, this was by far the most-encouragingly noisy game I witnessed. The players were constantly talking to each other, letting each other know where they were, what needed to be done in a certain situation and whether they were in a precarious situation.
There was some chirping, but it came from unfamiliar sources: De Haas very audibly said, "Come on, Nedo, come on" when Nedomlel was opposing him, and his partner, Mr. McKee, said,"F***!" so loudly that someone in the next town could hear him when he iced the puck twice.
I should also note that the Baun-Larkin-Mantha line was literally and figuratively double-shifted all game long, and Mantha received time on other lines on occasion. He was still taking those super-long shifts, but he was also bailing out his defensemen from time to time, so this was the first time that I can indeed say that Mantha looked like, "A man amongst boys," because he really did. In doing so, he out-played Andreas Athanasiou, whose decision to go with older Reebok 9000 gloves with ripped palms didn't help his stickhandling, McKee, De Haas and Coreau, who was rock-solid.
Anyway, Clarke went off with about three minutes left in the game, and shortly thereafter, Jim Paek chose to pull Paterson.
It didn't pay off as Julius Vahatalo and Hampus Gustafsson combined to give Gustafsson a top-shelf empty-netter with 2:17 left, giving Team Yzerman a 4-1 lead...
And with Paterson back in the net, Alex Globke tipped an absolute rocket shot by defenseman Joe Hicketts through Paterson, giving Team Yzerman a 5-1 win.
Coreau ended up sharing his shutout with D'Agostini, with Coreau facing perhaps 11 shots; Paterson gave up 4 of a good 16 he faced.
The shootout was my favorite part of the game because I'm a former pest-turned goalie.
It went as follows:
Team Yzerman's Mantha skates in on Paterson, stifled.
Team Lidstrom's Nosek skates in on Coreau, easy save on the deke.
Team Yzerman's McNulty skates in on Paterson, glove save and a squeeze.
Team Lidstrom's Obuchowski skates in on Coreau, stopped center-of-mass.
Team Yzerman's Vahatalo fakes, goes top post over Paterson's blocker, post makes the stop.
Team Lidstrom's Ehn skates in, loops left to center, dekes backhand, hits the post.
Team Yzerman's Holmstrom skates in, stops, starts again, is stoned by Paterson.
Team Lidstrom's Nastasiuk skates in hard, is stopped easily by Coreau.
Team Yzerman's Larkin skates in, stopped by Paterson.
Team Lidstrom's Llewellyn skates in, didn't think he would score, and the notes simply say, "Nope."
Team Yzerman's Cooper stumbles on his own regains his form recovers is stopped by Paterson.
Team Lidstrom's Athanasiou loops in dekes stoned by Coreau.
Team Yzerman's Hodgson skates in stopped simply by Paterson.
Team Lidstrom's Turgeon skates in very wide and fires it wide of Coreau.
Team Yzerman's Bardreau skates shoots gloved by Paterson.
Team Lidstrom's Spink the lefty--Tyson--dekes, is stick-checked by Coreau.
Team Yzerman's McKee has dekes fantastically but is stopped by Paterson.
Team Lidstrom's Marshall sticks dekes and hits the crossbar over Coreau's blocker.
Team Yzerman's Baun sticks fires it over Paterson's glove and in, 1-0 "red."
Team Lidstrom's Czarnowczan skates in stops stopped by Coreau, and that's that.
21 shooters. One goal.
Again, disclaimer: these impressions and observations are the subjective result of five days' worth of viewing players at a summer development camp, where the checking was limited and no jobs were on the line as players from mostly developmental leagues played with and against each other.
84 Kyle Baun:
What I saw during the practices: He really didn't stand out as anything more than a player who could make space for people. He's 6'2" and 204 pounds, he's going into his junior year at Colgate with really good stats (basically 2 points every 3 games), and you'd kind of go, "Meh, says Baun on the back, that's nice, and yeah he can skate, but that's it."
What I saw during the scrimmages: A completely different player. Baun's speed became a significant asset, he played an excellent give-and-go game, he had a solid shot and he was physical. He didn't have the speed of someone shot out of a cannon, but he sure plowed into people and won one-on-one battles for the puck. He was dynamic during games and disinterested during practices.
What I think about the player's potential: It's hard to say whether he's going to come back here. He's shopping around--he'll be at the Bruins' camp next week--and you have to think that "Bobby Baun's grandson" will play into the equation of somebody giving a potential power checker a shot.
85 Cole Bardreau
What I saw during the practices: Fast at 5'10" and 184 pounds, the Cornell senior looked like Baun didn't--like he was trying to make things happen. But he didn't actually accomplish a ton.
What I saw durng the scrimmages: He possesses very good speed and there were a whole lot of "almosts."
What I think about the player's potential: The Left Wing Lock's Sarah Lindneau reports that Bardreau suffered a fractured cervical vertebrae in 2013, and maybe the fact that he's still playing is good.
24 Dean Chelios
What I saw during the practices: A bigger, faster, better version of the scrawny little kid who came to camp out of high school five years ago, someone who grew up into a man and someone whose speed and natural playmaking abilities as a 2nd-or-3rd-line center had a long time wait for his body to catch up to him--at 6'2" and 185 pounds, that's a good thirty pounds heavier than he was at Cranbrook and at least 15 pounds heavier than he was during his junior year at State. He worked his tail off and he looked solid.
What I saw during the scrimmages: Despite a lack of results in the scoring department, Chelios continued to work very hard to generate offense alongside Holmstrom and the offensively-challenged Hodgson, he won his one-on-one battles and he was just savvy, you could watch him see the game not a full play ahead, but enough ahead of the game that it's noticeable.
What I think about the player's potential: He's going to have a hard road to hoe to get to the NHL, but if Dean keeps working hard and establishes himself as a scorer at the ECHL level in Toledo, I fully believe that he has the skill, brains and determination to make the long road worth it.
37 Mark Cooper
What I saw during the practices: The 6'2" Bowling Green junior has reached that 2-points-in-every-3-games college scoring threshold, but I certainly didn't see somebody that was 185 pounds of talent.
What I saw during the scrimmages: The part where he fell over himself during the shootout attempt? That was his high point.
What I think about the player's potential: I didn't see much of him but what I saw suggested that he needs to go back to college and get better coordinated.
45 Alex Globke
What I saw during the practices: Globke kind of underwhelmed. From Waterford, 6'2," 194 pounds, Lake State sophomore, just kind of meh.
What I saw during the scrimmages: He scored goals. Multiple. Went to the net, and either tipped pucks in or rammed them in himself. Which made the fact that he was invisible in practices and skill drills puzzling.
What I think about the player's potential: He's 20, he had 31 points in 39 games, if he wants to come back next summer, I'd suggest that the Wings invite him. Local kid, has a big body and goes to the net in games, but he's got to do more than that to be a well-rounded hockey player.
70 Hampus Gustafsson
What I saw during the practices: 6'4" and 205 pounds of Merrimack sophomore doing tolerably well. He kept up and started to really intrigue me as the camp went on because he did keep up and he got better.
What I saw during the scrimmages: During the second scrimmage, he played center instead of Julius Vahatalo, and he really looked good. In addition to scoring a goal, he looked like a very mobile forward who could overwhelm his opponents, albeit not by being mean, but simply because he was bigger and stronger than they were, and he generated offense that way. He moved like a smaller man and he had good hockey sense.
What I think about the player's potential: Another player that the Wings might want to watch this season and invite to camp next summer. He really is a gigantic man and he's almost the anti-Rasmus Bodin, a generally tuned-in big man who has the promise to be some sort of power checker.
17 Hayden Hodgson
What I saw during the practices: Absolutely nothing. He was invisible.
What I saw during the scrimmages: Ditto save his goal. Massive for having just turned 18 at 6'2" and 204 pounds, the Sarnia Sting forward didn't win any battles and he wasn't physical, offensively savvy or defensively determined.
What I think about the player's potential: The brain needs to catch up with the body.
96 Axel Holmstrom
What I saw during the practices: Someone having a really good time working hard and consistently learning how to play the North American game at the North American pace. He faded as the camp went on but that tends to be the case for a lot of just-drafted prospects, especially ones who've come over from Europe. He skates well (not prettily but well), he's got a good shot, he's a strong passer and he just powers up and down the middle of the ice.
What I saw during the scrimmages: Again, he faded a bit, but Axel wasn't intimidated by anyone and he was enthusiastically involved, going from net to net, making sound defensive plays in his own end and attacking the other crease.
What I think about the player's potential: He's 6' but almost 200 pounds, he's intelligent, he isn't going to be another Tomas Holmstrom shot-tipping forward, but he's a superbly-talented player who hugs the middle of the ice, he's fearless and his teammates like him. He'll go back to Skelleftea AIK and try to make the men's team. He's an exciting player to watch because he's already mentally and physically mature at 18 and he's talented as well.
80 David Johnstone
What I saw during the practices: I really didn't see much of anything. I heard so much about Johnstone's magic hands at Tech, but they never appeared.
What I saw during the scrimmages: At 5'11" and 175 pounds, he was fast, but he wasn't able to get through or around people, and the Grand Ledge native didn't look like he liked it.
What I think about the player's potential: I think that he's one of the players who came to this camp having played at a high skill level and perhaps having been overwhelmed by the gulf between NCAA hockey and pro hockey.
25 Dylan Larkin
What I saw during the practices: Hard *#$%@& work. Hard *#$%@& work. He's talented to near-elite levels in absolutely every aspect of his game, skating, shooting, passing, playmaking, tenacity, hockey sense, and he's got an edge to him.
What I saw during the scrimmages: He played as Mantha's center, and while he was overwhelmed during the first game, by the second "formal" scrimmage he was winning the vast majority of his faceoffs, going to the net to jab at pucks and he had a pair of assists. He's just 17--he turns 18 at the end of this month--and still growing into his 6'1," 190-pound body.
What I think about the player's potential: He was worth the 15th overall pick and he's grounded enough to hope and pray that he doesn't let the temptations of being a Michigan-born Michigan Man with the world on his Zingermans-sized portion of University of Michigan Athlete's level of privilege (more than anyone else on campus, whether it's academically, socially or otherwise).
He needs the time to grow and gain experience, and he needs the maturity to not screw up in a world where people are going to try to convince him that his shit doesn't stink. But if he can tough it out, he's going to be an elite player.
39 Anthony Mantha
What I saw during the practices: I saw a lot of Memorial Cup fatigue from someone who's too proud to admit he's tired, and I did not see a men amongst boys. I saw a 6'4," 209-pound superstar-in-the-making having to fight a bit to deal with a regular-sized rink for him, and that was strange.
What I saw during the scrimmages: He kept getting better as the scrimmages wore on, and while he continues to take ridiculously long shifts, my goodness, what a talent. He's an elite sniper, he's an elite passer, for a big man he skates superbly well, his attention to detail is excellent, he thinks several moves ahead at least and he is actually surprisingly sound defensively. He also knows how to use his body to bang and crash his way to the net, though he's not a naturally "mean" player.
What I think about the player's potential: Power sniper, and again, I am not sure whether he's ready, mentally or game-wise, to truly steal someone's job and make the jump to the NHL, but I haven't seen a player this talented since Brendan Smith, and he's twice as mentally mature as Smith was at 19. Mantha is special. Mantha is an untouchable. Mantha is going to score 20+ goals at the NHL level. When, I don't know, but he's going to do it.
Why? Mantha is the kind of player who loses the first battle for the puck and wins the second one, or loses the first and second and wins the third. He is like Datsyuk or Zetterberg there--he will not let you beat him in the end. That kind of tenacity and ability shows a level of hockey brilliance that few possess. He likes to swear, too.
83 Luke Sandler
What I saw during the practices: What a drop-off from Mantha...Anyway, 6'1," 202-pound Chicago native, he's played all of the seasons in NCAA-eligible junior hockey that he possibly can, and he sure looked like he wasn't playing at a high level. He just didn't have much of anything other than the ability to marginally keep up.
What I saw during the scrimmages: See above.
What I think about the player's potential: He's gonna have to find a place to play and find a place to improve his skill level. Big Sandler was just sort of there.
94 Julius Vahatalo
What I saw during the practices: Massively gangly 6'5," 191-pound player, a little tentative, like his personality and his familiarity with North American-sized rinks, but he worked very hard and he got all the drills down well, even the bunny-hop. He's a strong skater, he's got a good shot, he's a playmaker and mostly he's the type of player that goes to the net and lurks looking for rebounds, but he's also defensively responsible.
What I saw during the scrimmages: Scored a goal in the first game, faded in the second and third, but he was always right around the net and when he got physically overpowered, he would try to get back at it and he wouldn't be intimidated. He just looked like someone who wasn't quite sure where those damn arms and legs were supposed to go at all times.
What I think about the player's potential: He's going to go back to Finland and try to play in what I believe is the "toughest" European pro league. He's not aggressive in the physical sense but he is aggressive in terms of fighting for the puck, and he is quite the project, but TPS Turku is one of those elite franchises that keeps turning out players. Could he be the next Mikko Koivu? Not unless his metabolism turns into mine, but I could see a strong two-way center emerging in three or four years, and he'll be under Finnish scout Ari Vouri's eye in Turku, so he's going to be told what he needs to do to get more comfortable in his own skin.
94 Kevin Clare
What I saw during the practices: The 6'1," 210-pound graduate of the University of Michigan kept up.
What I saw during the scrimmages: Nobody knocked him off the puck, and he would make the occasionally smart pass or sound defensive play, but in a format like this, a sound defensive defenseman who isn't bombastic doesn't stand out.
What I think about the player's potential: He needs to find a place to play, be it the ECHL, CHL, wherever, that will allow him to increase his skill level.
75 James De Haas
What I saw during the practices: Frustratingly top-heavy, De Haas looks "rabbit-legged," like someone with skinny legs holding up a whole lot of 6'3," 205-pound rabbit. Coming out of his freshman year at Cornell, I expected to see a more polished product, and while he is an elite puck-mover and puck-rusher when he's at his best, he can be an uncoordinated top-heavy mess at his worst.
What I saw during the scrimmages: During the first game, big Mike McKee carried his partner. During the second game, they were even, and during the third, my goodness, De Haas looked as good as he should, as a puck-rusher who made the play happen by lugging the puck up the ice and dishing it to his teammates, or shooting the damn thing in the net himself. He looked more like a moose--skinny little legs and a big body moving in a hurry. He's not physical per se, but he knows how to use his size to seal people off or to knock them off the puck.
What I think about the player's potential: He's as much of a project as Vahatalo is, but he has just as much potential. There aren't many puck-rushing defensemen who are 6'3" and there aren't many players who remind you of what the Wings thought Jakub Kindl could be. He's got to go back to Clarkson and establish himself as an offensive force.
27 Joe Hicketts
What I saw during the practices: I saw this little booger hanging around. Nothing particularly exciting, but this 5'8," 186-pound defenseman who I'd heard played with a 6'6" partner in Victoria chugging up and down the ice and doing very well in the skill drills.
What I saw during the scrimmages: I saw that rocket of a shot and watched him just flourish playing alongside Marc McNulty, hitting people to take them off the puck, making great outlet passes and firing high, hard shots past goalies. I thought, "Wow, he could be somebody else's small defenseman..." but over the games, I realized why the Wings have invited him to the prospect tournament: he's just this little pain in the ass who happens to be superbly skilled.
What I think about the player's potential: He's got a ridiculously uphill battle to fight but he's got a big heart and a strong skill set, and his center of gravity is below the ice. We'll see how well he can do in September.
47 Alexey Marchenko
What I saw during the practices: He didn't practice, but he skated on his own, and he was fun to watch, even on a heeling left "wheel." He's so technically intelligent, someone who clearly knows the angles he needs to take to get from point A to point B efficiently, he picked up the goalie drills like they were kid's games (they're kind of complicated) and he never goofed off with the goalies, though they patted him on the back and seemed to genuinely appreciate how seriously he was taking their warm-ups.
What I saw during the scrimmages: He didn't play in any scrimmages. No point in harming an ankle that's just had 2 surgical pins taken out of it.
What I think about the player's potential: I don't know if Alexey's body is quite up to snuff in terms of his strength, but physically he is frickin' ripped, his skating is excellent and maneuverable, he's incredibly intelligent and his passing, shooting and poke-checking are all excellent. At 6'2" and 212 pounds, he's another, "What Jakub Kindl could've been" players--he's not physical per se, but he will hit you with that body and he will occasionally hit you hard. He has no need to be mean but if he's forced to show some snarl, he will.
58 Mike McKee
What I saw during the practices: I saw the big lug--6'5" and 255 pounds--not look at all like someone who'd played an extremely limited number of games at Western Michigan while transitioning from a defenseman to a forward. I saw somebody who looked like a completely different player from the gangly chewing tobacco-spitting kid who came to camp like a frickin' lumberjack out of the wilderness two summers ago.
What I saw during the scrimmages: He really held James De Haas in the first game, he was OK in the informal game, and while he can't play at full speed in terms of his physicality, he crashed, he banged, he intimidated, and he SKATED, he showed superb hockey sense, his shot was excellent, and he was smart. I never thought I'd see Mike McKee play smart hockey.
What I think about the player's potential: The fact that he's grown up into a man on and off the ice and that he's so damn grounded, combined with the flashes of way-better-than-7th-defenseman-skill all have me hoping that big Mike goes back to Western Michigan and earns a regular shift at whatever position he ends up playing. He may be the team's most intriguing prospect in terms of his physical prowess and sudden flashes of solid skills. Where he'll be in 3 years, I don't know, but I'm hopeful.
Oh, he stopped chewing chewing tobacco, too, and I didn't see much of any of that stuff (I didn't see enough of Tyler Bertuzzi's locker to know whether he's still chewing). It used to be pretty common among prospects, and I've seen Landon Ferraro, Mitch Callahan and Calle Jarnkrok use it--Jarnkrok was still chewing during last year's prospect tournament and even during the main camp.
74 Marc McNulty
What I saw during the practices: McNulty's just such a string-bean. He is literally a speedster at 6'6" and 193 pounds, he has strong shooting and passing skills, he is an outlet-passer instead of a puck-lugger and he knows how to use that long stick to jab the puck off people's sticks or to steer people into the boards.
What I saw during the scrimmages: Sometimes the fact that he's just so damn lean that he can be bumped right off his feet by much smaller players. His skill set is fantastic, but he's someone who needed little Hicketts to provide the bang to his flash.
What I think about the player's potential: It's exciting to think about a defenseman who's 6'6" that skates as well as he does developing into a gigantic offensive defenseman, but as Jiri Fischer said, he hasn't played in any post-season hockey during his first 3 WHL seasons, and he's got to crank up the offense while stepping into a leadership role as the Wings have to figure out whether to sign him by next summer.
71 River Rymsha
What I saw during the practices: I barely saw anything other than the "Rymsha" name.
What I saw during the scrimmages: Ditto.
What I think about the player's potential: The 6'2," 195-pound native of Huntington Woods seems to have been invited to camp because he was a teammate of goaltender and 2014 draft pick Chase Perry on the NAHL's Wentachee Wild. He won't turn 18 until August, so he needs to go back to the NAHL and earn a college scholarship--and go from there.
31 Jared Coreau
What I saw during the practices: Superb superb superb technical proficiency for a 6'5," 235-pound human being with excellent proportions, great glove and blocker and stick skills, textbook sealing of the ice and a fantastic use of his big frame to stop first shots, but a whole bunch of instances in which guys could deke him out and put pucks into empty nets.
What I saw during the scrimmages: By the third scrimmage, Coreau was moving side-to-side to stop those second and third shots, and although there are some pop-outs and pop-ups out of that catcher, he seems to have fully recovered from shoulder surgery in terms of both catching and his overall technique.
What I think about the player's potential: He had a disastrous start to his pro career, but he's too talented, too hard-working and too smart to not get his game in order. He's going to be an ECHL'er but he should do fine.
68 Andrew D'Agostini
What I saw during the practices: 5'10" or 5'11," 180 pounds, the 21-year-old Peterborough Petes goaltender has an impeccable work ethic, a Coreau-like fantastic attitude and a battling style with super-fast toes, good stickhandling and all sorts of pluck.
What I saw during the scrimmages: He was effective. Occasionally players would find a far corner on him, but he doesn't get backed into the net, he doesn't get rattled by bad goals and he just plays.
What I think about the player's potential: He may have to go to the University of Guelph to be someone else's small goalie. Having seen him play for successive summers, I hope he makes it. He's just a superb young man who has earned his chance already.
72 Andreas Athanasiou
What I saw during the practices: Hoo baby. Although Andreas's decision to ditch his new gloves for his broken-in ones actually harmed his stickhandling, he's got Darren Helm speed, he dekes and dangles and turns and burns with the best of 'em, he's a smart passer, he's got a gorgeous wrist shot and he's a two-way player.
What I saw during the scrimmages: He and Zach Nastasiuk formed a dynamic duo, and he was surprisingly physical but far more sound than he used to be. Instead of just trying to power through people himself thanks to his remarkable leg strength, he skated around them and used his teammates--and made sure he was there to help them out, too, and he's 6'2" and 200 solid, strong pounds, so he can handle the bump and grind and then some.
What I think about the player's potential: His physical gifts and hands = a rich man's Darren Helm, and he's grown up so much from a cocky kid to a cocky young man to a "smart arrogant" turning-pro player that I'm' happy to tell Griffins fans that there's an enthusiastic player who's going to have tons of fun trying to become your team's second-line center, and he's going to give you Tomas Tatar-like moments of unbridled enthusiasm. He's a good one. I don't know where his full "upside" lies, but he's gonna play in the NHL.
81 Michael Babcock
What I saw during the practices: 5'9" and 170-ish pounds, he's probably as big as he's going to get, and he's probably as strong as he's going to get, and he's probably as hard-working as he's going to get. That should be enough to play for four full years at Merrimack after one more year with the Fargo Force, and he's just so "ultra-competitive" and enthusiastic that he wins battles by force of will, he crashes and bangs as best he can and he's a defensively sound center who knows what he's in for.
What I saw during the scrimmages: He didn't generate scoring chances, but he generated energy, tons of energy, and he's just as quick to smile and draw a laugh, even during a game, as he is to bear down upon an opponent and refuse to be beaten.
What I think about the player's potential: He will need those five years ahead to fully physically develop and to continue to improve his skills with the puck. He's got to be more than a fourth-line center who's comic relief; he's got to be heart-and-soul responsible. I believe he can do it.
59 Tyler Bertuzzi
What I saw during the practices: Strong skills, superb skating, a sneaky wrist shot, good vision of the ice to make passes and a surprisingly sound defensive ability, but big lapses in concentration as he's not a grown-up yet.
What I saw during the scrimmages: The same, including having some difficulties with the concept that he could neither fight nor dive nor drive his opponents crazy by playing dirtily or chirping them. It's like asking a rattlesnake to keep his mouth shut. Being 6'1" and 178 pounds, he can be pushed around when he's not fully engaged in winning a battle for the puck.
What I think about the player's potential: He'll come to the prospect tournament knowing that he can play as nastily as he wants, and he should continue to show a whole boatload of potential as a nasty but useful second or third-line forward. If he acts out as much as he did in the Memorial Cup, however, he's going to be picking his teeth up off the ice and visiting a dentist here in Traverse City. If he can figure a way to know when to act like an *#$%@& and when to let up, he's got NHL potential. But he needs to do some growing up between the ears, and one never knows with a kid who stares into the crowd like he does.
86 Blake Clarke
What I saw during the practices: Someone who became increasingly noticeable for good reasons. Strong skater, good passer, solid shot, enthusiastic and hard-working. Strong enough at 6'1" and 190 pounds.
What I saw during the scrimmages: Somebody who should have been drafted. He scores goals, he hits people, he's fast, he's good hockey sense and he makes things happen on his own and knows when to utilize his teammates to make things happen.
What I think about the player's potential: If he has a strong showing at the prospect tournament, the Wings will say, "Well, he had a terrible draft year, but this left winger from St. Louis sort of fell into our laps and we believe he could be a second or third-line forward with some scoring punch and a lot of speed." He's that good--if he puts it all together.
92 Christoffer Ehn
What I saw during the practices: I saw a gangly project like Vahatalo, at 6'3" and 181 pounds, and a little worryingly, like Babcock, I saw someone who isn't going to get that much heavier. But I saw someone who was far more comfortable with his body, far more comfortable with the language and far more comfortable with North American ice. He is a very good skater, a strong shooter and a better playmaker, and despite his gangliness, he does not back down.
What I saw during the scrimmages: He made shit happen, man. He scored a goal, he had an assist, he glided up and down the ice and worked and ground and looked as intimidated as Axel Holmstrom was--not intimidated at all. And he's playing for his favorite team, so there was some jump in his step.
What I think about the player's potential: Like the rest of his European compatriots, he probably won't be back for the fall development camp, but the Frolunda Indians' player development system is one of the gold standards of Swedish hockey, and Hakan Andersson will be watching him there. He'll probably play on their under-20 team but will make a push for the men's team, and Ehn looks like a lanky playmaking center with a boatload of speed. He's a project, but he wants to play for his favorite team, and you can't buy that kind of motivation.
76 Darby Llewellyn
What I saw during the practices: The Kitchener Rangers forward isn't big at 6'1" and 175 pounds, but he went up and down the wing as a very responsible defensive forward.
What I saw during the scrimmages: He was just solid. He kept up and was noticeable because he was in the right spots at the right times. Not great skill but he was doing more than "being there."
What I think about the player's potential: The Ann Arbor native needs to go back to Kitchener, establish himself as a real point producer, and come back to a pro camp in another year.
69 Zach Nastasiuk
What I saw during the practices: Nastasiuk has come a long way from his draft year--which was last year. He's gained that step he needed to gain in his skating and he's grown into a strong and properly bulky 6'2" and 196 pounds, built like a tree. He's gained a good chunk of maturity and is a great foil to the fun-loving Athanasiou--a mostly serious person whose status as the captain of the OHL's Owen Sound Attack has forced him to find a sense of humor in there. Mostly, he's a very hard-working two-way forward who plays excellent defensive hockey, wins faceoffs, grinds it out down low in his own zone, makes good outlet passes to his teammates, has the speed to lug the puck up the middle of the ice, and he has a solid shot and good passing skills. He's conscientious and attentive to detail and he is physical with an edge without being mean.
What I saw during the scrimmages: If you play him in a shut-down role, he will shut people down. If you play him in a scoring role, he and Athanasiou give-and-go superbly. If you ask him to go to the front of the net, he will go there and stay there. He's a multiple-tool forward who understands that he's a multi-tool forward that will earn his paycheck based upon his grit, grind, effort and resolve to play a "200-foot game."
What I think about the player's potential: Nastasiuk projects to be at least a very sound and solid 3rd-line forward at the NHL level, in no small part because his contributions to successive Grand Rapids Griffins playoff campaigns suggest that Nastasiuk could turn pro now if his birth-date didn't prevent him from doing so. At all of 19 he's a serious and strong-willed man who's had to become a leader and he's embraced that role, and he has the speed--not full-flight but "speedy" speed--offensive abilities and jam and grit to do very well as a professional. His job for this season is to go back to Owen Sound and try to rack up some high scoring numbers. He will be a pro player in name as well as shape soon enough.
63 David Pope
What I saw during the practices: OOf, project. Pope's an incredibly lanky 6'3" (he's listed at 6'2" and 187 pounds) who has pure sniper's instincts but is still trying to get his body parts moving in the same direction. He skates fast but there's little power to his stride, he's got a great shot but it's got little oomph behind it, and he can deke and dangle but he can't get his body to make the moves his stick can.
What I saw during the scrimmages: All of the above and a lot of Pope getting hit because playing in the BCHL isn't as good as NCAAA or Major Junior hockey. He got hit A LOT. He tried very hard to make offense happen and he got some chances, but that was all he could do physically.
What I think about the player's potential: He's heading to the University of Nebraska-Omaha, a historically grittily-playing university, as someone who's anything but physical and anything but comfortable in his big body. He's going to need all four years to figure out whether he's an elite sniper-in-the-making or not.
22 Brandon Robinson
What I saw during the practices: I wanted to see more of the 6'3," 215-pound Kitchener Rangers forward, but I didn't. He, Hayden Hodgson and Nick Zotl were the most physically-gifted players that were invisible.
What I saw during the scrimmages: Ditto.
What I think about the player's potential: He needs to go back to the OHL and get his brain and skills to catch up with his body.
67 Tylor Spink and 73 Tyson Spink:
What I saw during the practices: The tale really is the same for both, whether we're talking about the right-shooting Tyson or the left-shooting Tylor. They're both 5'10" and 183 pounds, they're both fleet of foot but not big or physically engaging. They're both superb shooters and passers, but they seemed to do little more than "keep up" while showing flashes of speed.
What I saw during the scrimmages: They generated scoring chances, but they were also easily held to the outside or overpowered.
What I think about the player's potential: The Spink twins will head back to Colgate for their junior seasons needing to work on their strength so that they're able to be more than classic, "Small players who can succeed at the NCAA level and ONLY the NCAA level."
78 Dominic Turgeon
What I saw during the practices: I saw the 6'1," 196-pound Portland Winterhawks center play defensively like he'd been on a WHL powerhouse team--like Nastasiuk, he uses his head as much as his physical skills to cut off angles, to poke check like a defenseman, to be physical efficiently and to just take care of business. There's a lot more "youth" to his game, so he doesn't tend to venture into the offensive realm as much as he'd like to, but he shoots well, he's a great playmaker and I really like the fact that he knows how to put pucks into places that his opponents won't get to before he or a teammate will. The Wings haven't had this smart a dump-and-chase player in their system in a long time.
What I saw during the scrimmages: The same, mostly focusing on defense, but showing flashes and flourishes of immense potential.
What I think about the player's potential: He's just been drafted and he's going back to a team where he's going to have to fight for ice time under a new coach, and he's already someone who looks like he could be a third-line center in the NHL in five years. Whether he's got more offense to his game remains to be seen, and as he's said, he needs to work on his skating to find another step or two, but he's smart, he's confident and he has some good role models, including that guy whose name he wears on the back of his jersey.
82 Tomas Nosek
What I saw during the practices: I saw a learning curve and a half. I saw a player coming over to North America from the Czech Republic for the first time, someone who was playing on an 85-foot-rink for the first time, I saw someone who was having problems with the language and I saw someone whose 6'2," 201-pound frame looked kind of hunched over. Nosek's natural posture looks incredibly awkward.
What I saw during the scrimmages: A different human being wearing a #82 jersey. I saw someone who was fleet-footed, had a fantastic shot and Datsyuk-like deke-and-dangle hands, smart and silky playmaking abilities and a surprising aplomb at using his size to win battles.
What I think about the player's potential: He's so very new to this continent and the game played here that I think he's going to take a while to acclimate, but again, I believe that we're looking at a rich man's Tomas Kopecky, someone who might be able to check, grind and score 15+ goals, if not deke and dangle and impress. There's an elite skill set in that hunched-over dude, and if he can adapt to the pro game, he's going to be fun to watch and a pain in the ass to play against.
95 Scott Cznarowczan
What I saw during the practices: I saw a 5'10," 176-pound Ferris State graduate and Macomb native who had Hicketts' center of gravity but not Hicketts' hockey skills. He worked hard.
What I saw during the scrimmages: Ditto.
What I think about the player's potential: He turned pro with the Idaho Steelheads and he needs to find a place to play. He's a hard worker and he's very steady for his size, but it ain't easy for someone of his size to find a job.
46 Trevor Hamilton
What I saw during the practices: I liked what I saw from the 6," 186-pound Miami of Ohio sophomore. He skates well, he's got good instincts, he's a solid shooter and good passer and he keeps up with the Wings' pace of play because he's been here--last summer.
What I saw during the scrimmages: He was fantastic during the first scrimmage, good during the second scrimmage and mediocre during the third scrimmage. He's an up-tempo player who can generate offensive chances, but the reason he's going back to Miami of Ohio is because he hasn't shown enough consistency to prove that he's worth giving a pro contract to--yet.
What I think about the player's potential: He's not a defenseman that's going to wow you with 40-point-producing abilities, but he's really solid in all aspects of his game and he's the sort of player that sticks around in your head because you keep seeing him do good things. That's good enough for another invite to the summer camp next July.
51 Ben Marshall
What I saw during the practices: I saw somebody whose game has really matured. Marshall was 5'6" and 150 pounds when he was drafted, and now he's 5'9" and 170 pounds, and having played a trio of seasons for the University of Minnesota, the fleet-footed puck-rushing defenseman has some very Brian Rafalski-like qualities.
What I saw during the scrimmages: He's very fast, at least as fast as Hicketts, he's maneuverable, he's "heavy on his feet" and withstands battles with the Manthas of the world, he's a great passer and a good puck-rusher and his shot is hard, and he knows how to utilize having a larger partner to his advantage, too.
What I think about the player's potential: Marshall's problem is that he has yet to establish himself as a point-producing defenseman at the NCAA level, and while he's a Wings draft pick, they may have to pass on him a year from now if he doesn't take the next offensive step as a senior. He's got a ton of skill, a ton of poise and he's grown up into a very intelligent, hard-working young man who understands that he's going to be skating uphill. I don't know if he can make the jump, but I'll be rooting for him.
77 Richard Nedomlel
What I saw during the practices: Another player who is several light years removed from the player he was when he first came to camp three years ago. Richard was just as tall as he is now--6'5"--but he was maybe 190 pounds, not 228, and he was literally falling over his limbs. Two more seasons in the rough-and-tumble WHL and a season in the ECHL later, Richard can keep up with the Red Wings' game, he can be nastily physical and he's not only a vocal leader and a vocal jokester, but he's also a vocal player who knows when to poke-check, when to stand back and ensure that the Marshalls of the world can wheel and deal, and when he can use his hard, low shot and smart passing skills to serve as an advantage. He's mobile, too, so people don't skate around him any more.
What I saw during the scrimmages: I liked what I saw. He played in a limited role during the 3rd scrimmage due to an undisclosed injury, but when he was there, he was a leader on and off the ice, not only for Tomas Nosek, but for the entire locker room and bench. He knows he's a physical defensive defenseman, and he does his job very well.
What I think about the player's potential: Richard played a ton for a bad Walleye team, but he took some dumb penalties. He needs to play more efficiently and a little smarter to earn a spot on the Grand Rapids Griffins' defense. He's in the process of slowly but surely becoming someone the Red Wings might consider adding to their defensive corps, and that's going to take a couple of years of hard work, but he's gone from being a cocky kid to a properly smart-assy man who knows when to work that ass off.
64 Ryan Obuchowski
What I saw during the practices: I saw a 6'1," 185-pound sophomore from Yale who had a very large name on the back of his jersey.
What I saw during the scrimmages: The West Bloomfield native was solid, very solid defensively, but that was about it.
What I think about the player's potential: He needs to go back to Yale, have a strong sophomore season and add some panache to his game, because he's just kind of there, and those defensemen can be very useful if they're more than just there.
79 Logan Schmidt
What I saw during the practices: The 5'11," 169-pound Kitchener Rangers defenseman showed some flashes of offensive skill, but only flashes.
What I saw during the scrimmages: Ditto. He kept up.
What I think about the player's potential: He had an OK draft year in Kitchener and he needs to go back there and have a better year.
53 Nick Zotl
What I saw during the practices: You hear that the Wings got a 6'4," 215-pound defenseman who dropped gloves regularly while playing for the OHL's Mississauga Steelheads and you think that you're going to see some snarl. Instead of that I saw someone who got bumped off the puck and who barely kept up.
What I saw during the scrimmages: He was there.
What I think about the player's potential: He's got to make himself more than a skating pair of fists.
36 Jake Paterson
What I saw during the practices: I saw someone who looked like he'd taken all of that impeccable butterfly form and had refined it to the point that he's ready to turn pro. He looked absolutely stellar in the drills, flashing out his glove to snag pucks, fielding dump-ins with his excellent puckhandling, blockering pucks away, kicking them out with his toes and thighs and smothering every rebound. He looked dominant.
What I saw during the scrimmages: Eventually, after making some superb saves, I saw a different goalie, especially as players got to know his tendencies. Paterson began to inevitably back into his net whenever pressured, and he began to overplay shots and over-butterfly when he either needed to stand up or battle when he needed to battle. The fact that he's 6'1" and 183 pounds does not make him overly big by today's NHL standards, either, and I do wonder whether his thigh rises are legal for NHL play, because they are BIG.
In writing, there's a rule that you have to balance form and content. In goaltending, that's true, too, and Paterson is so concerned about his form that the content and product of his efforts in actual games is lacking.
What I think about the player's potential: It's so incredibly hard to get into Paterson's head or get an answer from the easygoing young man that you wonder if anything's there. You can be an easygoing guy who gives up a bad goal or three when you're stopping 40 a night in Saginaw, but he doesn't believe that there's a difference between stopping 40 of 44 and winning or stopping 17 of 18 and winning...
And as a goalie, that tells me that he's somebody who's gotten by on his form while bailing out a very mediocre OHL team for the past two years, being told that whether he won or lost, he did just fine. You've got to show some fire and some drive, and you've got to show some mental fortitude. He's going to find pro hockey to be interesting. He has the skills to be an NHL goalie, but he's got to grow up a bit, and the ECHL is the perfect place for him to do that.
38 Lucas Peressini
What I saw during the practices: At first, the "vampire squid" was merely adequate, making Kiprusoff-style flash-out-the-pancake-catcher saves and otherwise being OK. The 6'2," 185-pound Kingston Frontenacs goalie got better as he went along, and I started to wonder whether a myth I don't believe in--black pads yielding an illusion that a goalie is smaller than he really is--is in fact a reverse when it comes to pucks shot into someone's goal pants.
What I saw during the scrimmages: He was good and he got better. Yes, he gave up some goals, but he got beat honestly, and he put in a solid effort.
What I think about the player's potential: He'll go back to Kingston and try to improve upon his first full OHL season, and he'll go back there having learned a lot about skating and playing at a pro pace. I don't know where he's going to end up, but he certainly showed me that he's a skilled goaltender with promise.
This entry took seven hours, and I've literally run out of room. I hope that my coverage was worth your time and sponsorship. I'll be back next summer, and hopefully things will be...different.
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About The Malik Report
The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.