The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/08/12 at 08:55 PM ET
Updated at 10:37 PM: I don’t know about you, but even from Traverse City, even having seen Ken Holland, Ryan Martin, Jim Nill and Mike Babcock focus their energies on watching the Red Wings’ prospect development camp, and even knowing that the free agent market has ground down to a slow crawl...
I can’t help but feel that the other shoe has yet to drop, at least for the Red Wings. The market is so stagnant right now that we could very well be waiting until August to see what the vats majority of this year’s remaining players are—players who have, in previous years, had to wait until late July or August to sign on with teams for less than they’d hoped as they’re either reclamation projects or come all but tattooed with red flags—and in that sense, part of me feels like the clock’s ticking toward an alarm call whose time we don’t yet know (though the guessing game seems fruitless at best and tiresome at worst).
But this afternoon’s session of on-ice activities at the Red Wings’ development camp was one for the teaching coach in attendance, for a very simple reason: while its structure all but mirrored the morning session, its tone was completely different.
The start of two-a-day sessions, split between morning work-outs or on-ice sessions, with teams alternating between morning and afternoon skates, usually involves a particularly perked-up and attentive morning session and a bit of a slow-starting afternoon affair as hockey players remain creatures of habit, and as such, they’re bused back to their hotel to catch 30 or 40 minutes of sleep before recharging.
The afternoon’s skaters had a markedly harder time working through Tomas Storm’s slate of stick drills, although some of that was due to the simple size of the players involved—asking 6’3”-and-growing Mike McKee to sweep the puck just in front of his toes isn’t easy—but everyone had a slightly more difficult go in terms of working with Storm, warming up the goaltenders for Jim Bedard, and there were actually a couple of spills when Andy Weidenbach took over for the power skating portion of the session.
While the first slate of players from “Team Zetterberg” started to grind down nearly four hours after their wake-up call in the morning, “Team Lidstrom” perked up considerably for Jim Paek, Chris Chelios and Jiri Fischer’s team-wide drills. Paek barked out requests for the players to pick up the pace (it never fails: put someone under 25 in a situation where you know that you’re 45 minutes from being done, and your attention span wanes), but when they did, boy howdy, did they ever. when engaging in 3-on-3 drills down low and especially when defensemen split off from the forwards to work on puck retrieval at the south end of the rink, the forwards engaged in a drill that went something like this:
Forward at the intersection of the goal line passes to a forward halfway between the bottom of the faceoff circle and the goal line, about 15 feet closer to the net, the players play catch for two more passes, and bam! Clutching, grabbing, all but wrestling on ice for position and hard checks and players landing on their butts were the order of the day, really from the moment that Paek and the players took to the ice for the second half of their session, and as such…
This fading blogger is going to try to skip drill discussion and, before I fall over on three hours of sleep here (bloggers have to get used to spending ten hours at the rink, too), here’s a slate of analyses of the players I watched (and players that I may need to see in the morning to get a better bead upon):
Willie Coetzee #45: It’s taken a long time for Coetzee’s hands, feet and body to get on the same page, but after a season spent playing for both the Grand Rapids Griffins and Toledo Walleye, the “whirling dervish” is finally coming together. Coetzee’s always had remarkable stickhandling abilities and he’s always been a superb skater, but his hands would go one way and his skates would go the other, and he’d over-complicate simple plays or find himself dangling and dekeing himself into a corner. With more pro experience under his belt and a physique that’s filled out, Coetzee will never be a power forward, but he’s a powerful dynamo, and it’ll be interesting to see whether he can start producing points at the AHL level, because his skill remains high-end, but he hasn’t played in a scorer’s role in anywhere but Toledo as of yet.
Brent Raedeke #47: Raedeke is what he is. He’s not particularly big, nor is he particularly demonstrative, but he’s a supremely fine 3rd or 4th-line grinding center with fleet feet, excellent faceoff skills, underrated shooting and playmaking abilities and an impeccable sense of positioning. He could use a few more pounds but he can keep up with and overpower much bigger and stronger players because he’s very smart and he understands exactly where he’s going to succeed, as that player who can play 8-12 minutes and play rock-solid defensive hockey.
Trevor Parkes #37: Parkes was up and down today. He’s most definitely literally an up-and-down winger that powers his way along and powers his way through opposing players, and as big and strong of a grinding forward as he may be, there’s certainly some offensive upside as he charges toward the net with equal vigor, and his hands are pretty solid as well, but whether he can do more than bump and grind at the AHL level and above, especially given that, like Coetzee, he scored pretty regularly in Toledo, is up to him.
Andrej Nestrasil: Nestrasil took the shuttle bus to and from Toledo this past season as well, and his skill set tends to lean toward the kind of power forward that prefers to go around instead of through his opponents while trying to make a play or skate toward the net to tuck in the puck himself. He turned pro this past season, just lie Parkes, and he’s still got some growing “out” to do, but he’s very speedy for his size and he’s starting to learn how to roll off a check with the puck on his stick.
Riley Sheahan #15: Sheahan showed some flashes of the kind of professional speed and shot that earned him a few cups of coffee with the Red Wings at the end of this past season, and at other times, he looked like a player who’s just completed his college career. He can really charge up the middle of the ice at times, setting up teammates or more frequently using a hard shot to get the job done, but he can fade into the background just as easily. He’s got a learning curve ahead of him.
Landon Ferraro #41: Ferraro remains a work in progress. Ferraro, like Coetzee, is a little undersized by today’s standards, but he’s got excellent playmaking skills, good vision and anticipation, his shot is low and hard and he can skate like the wind, and he can keep up with the rough-and-tumble stuff for the most part, especially when compared to last season, but when Ferraro gets frustrated, he gets off his game, and that can be a problem. He needs to bounce back up when he inevitably gets knocked over and he needs to bounce back up a little more determination to get even by putting the puck in the back of the net.
Andreas Athanasiou #76: Very hard to pin down on a first glance. He’s built like Darren Helm, not particularly big, but very lanky, and he can squeak through checks and skate pretty damn fast, but the puck also rolls off his stick at times and he’s muscular but still slightly built, which means that he can get bumped off the puck and bumped right out of play relatively easily. I can see why the Wings picked him given his potential for high-end skill, and I can see why he slipped down to the middle of the draft, too.
Kellan Lain #57: Lain’s a 23-year-old from Lake Superior State, and he looks like he’s 23. His skill level wasn’t off-the-charts amazing or anything like that, but he was very big at 6’6” and at least 210 pounds, he was very fast and he was very easily physical. He wasn’t intimidated by the skill drills at all and his fundamentals looked particularly good, but that’s just a first impression.
Dean Chelios #24: Dean’s brother Jake is at the Blackhawks’ camp, and in all honesty, they play better together. Dean and Jake are regrettably built like their dad—a little wiry—and Dean’s a slick forward who can deke and dangle, but his skating development hasn’t quite kept up with his physical development, and to latch on with an NHL team, he needs to generate more offense than I’ve seen from him thus far.
Ted Pletsch #67: Another big guy at 6’3,” the Bowling Green forward played just as solidly as Lain, and he was a bit faster, offering an enthusiastic game and a serious dose of heavy work ethic, but he kind of blended into the scenery at times, too.
Travis Novak #56: The oldest prospect in the fold at 24 years of age, Novak is slick, smart, speedy, defensively responsible and offensively sharp, especially as a playmaker..And he hasn’t really grown from the 5’11” and 188-pound listing that he had the first time the Wings invited the graduating Saint Cloud State University forward to their prospect camp. He’s very heady and very smart but he just hasn’t filled out, and that’s a problem if you’re a lean fellow.
Julien Cayer #65: Cayer had a bit of a slow start, but I know why the Wings invited him to camp as a graduating player who will be a free agent: Cayer’s a big (6’4”) winger who can bump and grind with the est of ‘em while remaining mobile, and a big checking forward with at least some skills is…Well, a big checking forward that’s almost always useful in some role.
Adam Almqvist #53: Almqvist will head back to Sweden to play for HV71 this season, and it’s really too bad, because he’s now 21 and he’s still 5’11,” maybe, and 175 pounds, maybe. He can more than keep up with professional players, using his Mickey Redmond-short stick to deke and dangle. He’s fleet-footed, his vision is good, he’s got a deceptive shot and he’s a great playmaker, and he’s seriously got NHL upside in the skill department…But he’s not big and he’s not strong, and he needs to get bigger to play better in both North American and Swedish hockey.
Gleason Fournier #46: He was the rich man’s Sebastien Piche and he looked to be missing his pal, but the mostly ECHL-playing defenseman is still a fantastic skater and slick defenseman…But he’s still growing into his body, too, and he’s starting to run out of time.
Max Nicastro #58: Big, strong, big, strong, big, strong, physical, big, strong, physical, very, very solid and not quite up to speed after skating on his own for an extended period of time, he’s still…A very powerful defenseman in the making. He’s an excellent skater and he’s got a hard, hard and heavy shot. His name might as well be spelled m-o-o-s-e.
Mike McKee #73: I can see why the Wings picked him and why he’s going to college for four years. He’s huge and still growing into his body at 6’3” and about 190 pounds, he’s a solid skater and a really tough customer, but he’s raw, raw, raw. Big upside, big player, a bit over his head today.
Jake De Haas #74: Jake looked like a slightly undersized playmaking defensemen all of two weeks and a day from being drafted. Again, like McKee, the Wings are going to hope that he goes to college a year from now (he’ll be playing for the Penticton Vees in the BCHL this upcoming season before heading to Clarkson University) and turns into the kind of playmakaing defenseman…
Edit/update Brendan Smith #2: Sigh. Brendan is so talented that it’s not funny, literally that talented, but there were times that he just hotdogged through drills and really half-assed it because he’s so incredibly talented that he didn’t have to work hard to get to where he wanted to be. To some extent it’s absolutely wonderful that the Wings have a player who could and hopes to be Niklas Kronwall II in the mix, but for the first day, either he was bored or he was waiting for the levels of intensity and difficulty to increase. He does indeed look like a man among boys out there, but that’s kind of the point, and a little more attention to detail would have been very encouraging.
Benjamin Marshall #50: That got left off the morning list? I must have been looking at the wrong roster, because Marshall, who plays for Team Zetterberg, really impressed me during the morning session. He remains about 5’9” or 5’10,” but a year into his career with the University of Minnesota, he’s playing with poise and determination, utilizing his skating and anticipation to make up for what he lacks in size…
Richard Nedomlel: And what a difference a year can make for the big guys, too. Nedomlel is coming into his contract year while playing for Moose Jaw in the WHL, and my goodness, to go from from the raw McKee-like prospect he was last year to develop into this big, mobile, very physical and relatively skilled defender who could keep up with all the skill drills and fire off some sneaky shots, the fellow Team Zetterberg member blew my doors off and earned the “Best Prospect of the Day” award for showing all sorts of mental maturity and physical development over the course of a single season. Night and day, my friends, night and day.
Thomas McCollum #38: McCollum told me that he’s starting to back into his net a bit so that he doesn’t get caught challenging too much, and given that he’s easily 6’2” and over 210 rock-solid pounds, that’s not such a bad idea for a goalie who’s been known to over-challenge and over-commit to the first shot. McCollum’s glove and blocker hand don’t lean on his thigh rises as much, he’s a little more mobile in his stance, not sitting on his haunches nearly as much, and while he did get a bit down on himself after letting up some squeakers, it’s very evident that he’s become more poised, confident and relaxed, that he’s starting to internalize all the lessons Jim Bedard’s taught him, I was really, really impressed by his “new” self.
Parker Millner #29: It was hard to get a read on the Boston College sophomore. Millner has an excellent glove hand, a great blocker and really knows how to “sandwich” the two together to stop shots and hold them, his toes are extremely fast and he pops up and down very quickly, but he’s also got a five hole a mile wide and can get caught transitioning from the butterfly or trying to keep his hands a little too high.
In terms of my interviews, I spoke to Andreas Athanasiou…
And Thomas McCollum spoke to me for 5 minutes, and then the Free Press’s George Sipple for another 5. I learned the hard way that I was tossing McCollum softballs, which I do because I like the guy, and I want you to listen to this interview and let me know whether you’d prefer that I stick with what I know or whether I should ask some harder questions.
Also of note from the development camp:
• The Wings’ Twitter account posted four photos from the afternoon session, and of all the photos, this one is the most important, because Wings GM Ken Holland was speaking to Tomas Jurco and I was within earshot. Holland, Jim Nill and Ryan Martin spent a good bit of time explaining to Jurco that the transfer agreement which has yet to be hammered out between the NHL and Slovakia will not prevent the team from signing him, and they wanted to reassure him that he’ll be turning pro with the Grand Rapids Griffins this fall;
• The Red Wings are making it official:
Nicklas Lidstrom has left the ice, but he’s not leaving the Red Wings.
Red Wings assistant GM Jim Nill confirmed Sunday that Lidstrom will remain with the organization as a scout, most likely in Europe.
“We haven’t really sat down [and determined] to what extent, but he’ll be in the organization and do everything he can to help us out,” Nill said during a session of the Red Wings prospects camp. “We might bring him back here. It depends on the situation. His terms. We wanted to keep him in the organization.”
Lidstrom retired in May after spending all 20 of his NHL seasons with Red Wings, winning four Stanley Cups and seven Norris trophies.
“Any chance I can have to come back to Traverse City, it’s like a vacation,” Smith said with a big grin Sunday on the first full day of the prospects camp. “The biggest thing I like about coming back is I can be a leader. I can show some of the guys what’s to be expected. I can be a guy they can look up to and see that you have to be competitive at all times, including the development camps. Maybe the biggest thing I can show is how hard it is to make the NHL. It’s taken me six of these things to get my first full season. Things like this just help people get an idea of what’s going on.”
Pujtting on a jersey with the famed winged wheel on the front was another attraction for Smith.
“I haven’t been on the ice in a while,” said Smith, 23 . “Getting back out there and lacing up the skates, it’s always exciting for me. It might be a cliché, but whenever I put on the Red Wings gear, I get so much excitement and momentum. I get excited doing that. I love being on the ice with the boys, even it’s not the main camp. Everybody is still working very hard at it.”
That’s it for me for now. I rather desperately need to lay down and maybe stay down.
Update: the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan is confirming that the Wings have hired Lidstrom as a scout:
Nicklas Lidstrom isn’t going to be entirely out of hockey.
Lidstrom retired after 20 Hall of Fame-bound seasons playing with the Red Wings, but he has decided to continue to remain in hockey as a scout.
Lidstrom will remain near his native Sweden, monitoring present Red Wings draft picks.
He joins Jiri Fischer, Chris Chelios, Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby as past Red Wings players currently in the Wings’ front office.
• The Oakland Press’s Pat Caputo suggests that the Wings are owed a bit of benfit of doubt despite losing out on Ryan Suter and Zach Parise…
The Red Wings moves this offseason have been underwhelming. In retrospect, the rash of injuries the Red Wings suffered after the trade deadline would have made it wise for general manager Ken Holland to add more depth at the trade deadline. His one move near the deadline, trading for defenseman Kyle Quincey, didn’t pan out. Quincey did not play well for the Red Wings to close the regular season nor during the playoffs.
But it is too early to dismiss this offseason, and certainly Holland as a general manager. His track record is one of the best in professional sports. And it’s too early to dismiss the Red Wings as a hockey team. They still have as good a shot as any team in the Western Conference to reach the Stanley Cup finals this coming season.
Getting Suter and Parise wasn’t going to make the organization. If anything, landing just one of the two would have created a false sense of where the Red Wings actually stand.
Conversely, not landing them isn’t going to break the Red Wings.
This is still not a bad hockey team, and it remains a great organization.
If there is one team in this town that has earned trust, it’s the Red Wings.
Reports of their demise just because they didn’t sign Zach Parise and/or Ryan Suter have been greatly exaggerated.
• The Left Wing Lock’s Sarah Lindenau posted a photo gallery from the afternoon skate;
• And DetroitRedWings.com’s Rick Bouwness penned an article about Landon Ferraro:
Ferraro is currently taking part in his fourth Red Wings’ summer camp, giving him senior status amongst participating forwards. The former Western Hockey League star – with Red Deer and Everett – has come a long way since his first camp at which he was brimming with nerves as he sought to make a good first impression upon Wings’ management.
“The biggest thing is my comfort level,” Ferraro said on Sunday when asked about the difference between his 2009 development camp experience and now. “I remember when I was here at 17 I was just so excited that my hands were shaking. I was anxious to prove that I belonged here. Now I’m much more comfortable. I know everyone. If I don’t understand a drill or something I know the coaches well enough to ask them to ask about it.”
Detroit’s top pick – second round, 32nd overall – in the 2009 NHL draft, Ferraro’s professional career officially began last season when he produced nine goals and 11 assists in 56 games in Grand Rapids. While he was unable to replicate the lofty scoring totals he put up in the WHL – he scored 37 goals in his draft year with the Rebels – Ferraro was nonetheless pleased with his rookie season with the Griffins.
“I think I got better as I went along,” says the Trail, British Columbia, native of his freshman AHL campaign. “It was tough at the start of the year, making the adjustment from junior, but right around Christmas I felt like I took a big step forward and was a lot more confident with the puck. I started to get points more consistently and I was happy with how I finished before getting hurt at the end of the season.”
Now healthy and looking to build upon the progress he made in the second half of 2011-12, Ferraro sees this week’s proceedings in Traverse City as a good opportunity to continue his development and an ideal spot at which to kick-off his pursuit of a successful sophomore season in the pros.
“My goal for this camp is the same as the last two years really – to show that I’m improving and to make sure I’m taking something out of every on-ice session and (off-ice) workout. I want to take advantage of this week the best I can and continue to develop my game.”
Update #1.5: Where did the semin rumor that Sport-Express was quoting came from the “North American media” originate? A similar place that doesn’t cite its sources: the Fourth Period.
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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.