The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/29/12 at 06:16 AM ET
Looking at the Red Wings’ summer development camp in the rearview mirror, I find it somewhat ironic that news regarding the surprisingly large Jake De Haas’s trade to the BCHL’s Penticton Vees popped up on Friday, and that the Free Press’s George Sipple profiled Andreas Athanasiou today, because the pair of prospects almost prompted a delayed reaction in terms of the impressions the pair left upon me.
De Haas was, depending on whose stats you read, supposedly either 6 feet tall or 6’1” and around 185-190 pounds, and while I’m not going to suggest that Hockey’s Future’s 6’3,” 197-lb stat is quite accurate, nor would I suggest that the Vees’ 6’3,” 200-pound stat is spot on, De Haas ended up standing 6’2” and looked like he weighed a good 190-195 pounds, and was anything but the classic, “Smallish, project puck-moving defensemen” I think many Wings fans had assumed the team drafted 170th overall.
De Haas is in fact a very big large young man, and while he’s going to need the year ahead in British Columbia and at least a couple of years at Clarkson University to flesh out his game and physical form, I think back and remember how poised he was with the puck and how sharply he moved said puck while skating it up the ice. I’d compare his skill level to that of Ben Marshall, who just completed his first year with the University of Minnesota, except that Marshall’s grown from somewhere in the 5’8” to 5’9” and 155-pound range to a sturdy 5’10” and 175, and Marshall might be a bit more mobile, but not by much.
Athanasiou didn’t look as big or as strong as De Haas, but what strikes me thinking back is his ability to score goals and generate scoring chances on the rush, using his tremendous foot speed and really his very strong core and lower body—which aren’t exactly areas that freshly-drafted prospects shine in—to slither through bigger, more poised and more polished players and score because he could lean into bigger players and slither right past ‘em. Sipple took note of what might be a good comparison in terms of both build (Athanasiou is under six feet tall and still very skinny but gangly nonetheless) and at least his present skill set:
“He can fly,” said assistant general manager Jim Nill. “He’s got Darren Helm-type of speed. He was projected as a first-round pick coming in, and at times he showed that. We know there’s something there.”
Athanasiou, 17, doubled his goals output in his second season with London of the Ontario Hockey League. After 11 goals and 11 assists in 57 games in 2010-11, he had 22 goals for 37 points in 63 games last season.
“I had 22 goals, but I was averaging 5 or 10 minutes a game,” Athanasiou said. “That’s not bad for the 5 or 10 minutes of ice. Just because of the deep team that we had, I didn’t get much ice time.”
Athanasiou—a healthy scratch for some of London’s playoff games—impressed scouts at the 2011 Ivan Hlinka tournament, where he helped the Ontario under-17 team win gold with two goals and three assists in five games. He said it was an adjustment playing on a top line in that tournament to being in and out of the lineup with the Knights. He had to learn to make the most of his playing time.
“Sometimes I’d be on the first line, and then the next game I’d be in the stands,” Athanasiou said. “It wasn’t so much my play as the amount of players we had on the team. We had to take turns.”
While Brendan Smith looked like what he was at times—a man among boys—and the more mature veteran prospect campers (Mitchell Callahan, Brian Lashoff, Willie Coetzee, Landon Ferraro, Tom McCollum, etc.) led the charge, I remember that Athanasiou took one of Tomas Storm’s more technical drills and amped up the level of difficulty on his own, just as Mike McKee ate up Pete Renzetti and Aaron Downey’s off-ice drills to the point that the pair had to make things harder for McKee to get interested.
At one point, Storm had lined up several sticks set up between pairs of car tires, and he wanted the players to essentially skip over the stick, hopping with whichever was their dominant leg and then the other while sliding a puck under said sticks and between said tires and regaining it after their little skip-jump. Some of the players had a little difficulty with the drill, but most got through it tolerably, and some were downright elegant in their ability to push the puck forward, skip, hop and land with the puck continuing as if it didn’t need but the slightest touch, if not a little slowing down. Athanasiou decided that the drill was too easy for him, so he literally hopped over the sticks with his skates together, landed with those skates together—which is usually a recipe for falling to the left, right, or worse, forward—and instead of doing a face plant, he elegantly pushed the puck forward and let his skating stride resume naturally.
Sometimes players make bigger impressions after the fact, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Regardless of whether the Red Wings are out of the Shane Doan sweepstakes or whether Ken Holland does indeed believe that the Wings have some chance in hell of landing a player whose oddball agent, Terry Bross, may or may not have asked for a 4-year, $30 million deal for a 35-year-old (that would be $7.5 million per season for four years against the cap, even if Doan retired a year into that contract)...
We know that the team currently has 16 forwards under contract, and with Ken Holland scheduled to meet with Tomas Holmstrom this week, the team may or may not have a 17th forward trying out for the team come training camp. If the team does indeed choose to sign a free agent, then we’re talking about 18.
Gustav Nyquist and Damien Brunner can be sent to Grand Rapids without clearing waivers, but even if Nyquist and Brunner don’t impress, that leaves the Wings with 14 forwards—again, assuming that Patrick Eaves is healthy, and given that the Wings don’t have anything new to tell us about him, I’m guessing they won’t know how he’s doing until at least the middle of August—and more realistically, given Nyquist’s performance during the last quarter of the 2011-2012 season, and the team’s desire to let Brunner shine, we’re probably talking about 15 minimum.
With a 23-man roster limit, that would suggest that jobs are on the line, and in an ESPN “Insider-only” rumor, Victoria Matiash suggests that Cory Emmerton’s the player most likely to lose his spot:
Forward Cory Emmerton appears to be the early odd-man out for the Detroit Red Wings. Assuming RFA Justin Abdelkader is re-signed, and rookies Gustav Nyquist and Damien Brunner make the squad, Ansar Khan suggests Emmerton shouldn’t have his heart set on competing regularly for the Red Wings this coming campaign.
“... Being a center gave Emmerton an advantage over other fourth-line players last season. He ended up playing 71 games. This year, they have Abdelkader penciled in as their fourth-line center. Emmerton will be competing for not only for a spot in the lineup, but also on the roster ...”
The 24-year-old Emmerton has two years (cap hit: $533,000) remaining on his contract in Detroit.
One never knows, especially when injuries are factored into the mix, but the odds do appear to be stacked against Emmerton and Mursak given Drew Miller’s 14-goal, 25-point 11-12 season, the fact that Patrick Eaves is more established than Mursak and given that Mikael Samuelsson and Jordin Tootoo aren’t exactly chopped liver.
That being said, I would imagine that the Wings won’t subtract from the mix unless absolutely necessary, and will parlay the “losers” off via trades prior to the start of the 12-13 season. Let’s hope it starts in October…
Regarding possible additions to come, I just don’t believe that the Wings have the leverage to trade for a defenseman worth trading for to begin with unless they’re willing to create a hole in the forward ranks for the sake of upgrading the team’s defense—I’m not buying the “Filppula for X’ rumors for a second given that we’d be talking about giving up a 65-point scorer for a 50-point-producer at best—and one of the few certainties regarding Ken Holland & Company’s master plan is that Holland has repeatedly stated that he’d like to add another defenseman.
So, as Paul noted, it’s worth taking a gander at NHL.com’s John Kreiser’s top 30 remaining unrestricted free agents list as it pertains to defensemen as he adds a few unfamiliar names to the “watch list”:
Player 2011-2012 team stats
Brett Clark Tampa Bay 82 GP 2-13-15: Points dropped from 31 to 15; minus-26 rating was also a big drop from 2010-11. But he blocked 199 shots and even at 35 is still useful as bottom-pair defenseman.
Carlo Colaiacovo St. Louis 64 GP 2-17-19: Solid second-pair defenseman who can move puck well but has had injury problems
Matt Gilroy Ottawa 67 GP 3-17-20 2009: Hobey Baker winner has nice offensive skills but has yet to turn them into a regular berth on an NHL blue line
Jaroslav Spacek Carolina 46 GP 5-10-15: Big blueliner still possess a big shot, and is reliable defensively - plus-64 last seven seasons
Pavel Kubina Philadelphia 69 GP 3-12-15: Not the offensive force he was when he was younger, but still has size and a big shot
Michal Rozsival Phoenix 54 GP 1-12-13: Hampered by injuries last two seasons and no longer a big offensive force, but solid in his own zone
Scott Hannan Calgary 78 GP 2-10-12: Never a big offensive force, but OK in own zone and can still play 20 minutes a night
Steve Eminger N.Y. Rangers 42 GP 2-3-5: 2002 first-rounder was effective third-pair defender before injuries hit
Kurtis Foster Minnesota 51 GP 4-10-14: Big shot but has never matched offensive numbers he put up with Tampa Bay in ‘09-10
Milan Jurcina N.Y. Islanders 65 GP 3-8-11: Big guy with a big shot but coming off career-worst minus-34 season with Isles
I’d also add Cam Barker to the mix as the 6’3,” 225-pound 26-year-old hasn’t equaled his 40-points-in-68-games production from the 2008-2009 season in three subsequent and mostly injury-filled years playing with Chicago, Minnesota and then Edmonton. I must admit, however, that as the Sports Forecaster’s assessment of Barker’s talents suggests, he’s a bigger and slower version of Carlo Colaiacovo without the resume:
Assets: Possesses a hard, accurate shot from the point, which is especially effective on the power play. Has good size, so he can play a physical brand of hockey.
Flaws: Must improve his decision-making and defensive-zone coverage in order to become a valuable blueliner. Is an average skater for a defenseman. Needs more game-to-game consistency.
Career Potential: Inconsistent defenseman with all-around talent.
That’s it for me…I got into Grand Marais around 9 PM and left the campfire at 3:30. It’s 5:16 AM and I need to finally lay down and go to bed. See you sometime on Sunday afternoon.
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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.