The Malik Report
by George Malik on 09/21/12 at 12:59 PM ET
This woudl usually be part of an "afternoon report," but with the news regarding the latest Red Wings' European player movement and the Grand Rapids Griffins' training camp receiving their own entries, this is a stand-alone:
As the Plymouth Whalers open their season tonight and offer Wings fans the opportunity to watch an OHL powerhouse, the vast majority of Wings prospects have begun playing in Europe, Major Junior hockey or the USHL and the Grand Rapids Griffins are all of ten days from opening training camp, Hockey's Future's Adam Schnepp looks at eleven Red Wings prospects who should make significant impacts at the minor pro, Major Junior, NCAA and European levels of hockey during this upcoming season:
Top Pro Prospect: Brendan Smith, D, Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL)
Forget the window, the sliding glass door of opportunity is wide open for Smith in 2012-13. Detroit has lost three of its top-six defensemen over the past two seasons, clearing the way for new, younger blood to be added to the lineup. Smith has paid his dues in the AHL over the past two seasons and is ready for NHL action. The question that remains is whether he is ready for a full season in the NHL, as Smith has played only 14 NHL games thus far. The lockout will force him back to Grand Rapids to open the year, but how well he adapts to the NHL will be a central storyline of the 2012-13 season for the Red Wings.
Offensive Breakout: Gustav Nyquist, LW, Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL)
Nyquist tallied seven points in 18 regular season NHL games in 2011-12, all the while displaying good chemistry with Detroit's top-line talent. It appears that Nyquist will get more ice time than the 10:35 he played per game in 2011-12, and with more ice time, the sky is the limit for his offensive production. He has great hockey sense, is adept at puck protection, and his shot is underrated. If he spends time on a line again with Pavel Datsyuk in 2012-13 his offensive output could explode.
Bounce Back: Thomas McCollum, G, Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL)
This may be less a prediction of a bounce back season than a proclamation that McCollum must have one to avoid having his window of opportunity close. McCollum has not been able to stick in the AHL for a full season over the past three years, due in large part to a goals allowed average that has consistently been over three and a save percentage that has yet to be over .900. He will face fierce competition this season from rising star Petr Mrazek, who dazzled at the 2012 World Junior Championships. McCollum must show improvement in 2012-13 or he may never live up to his status as a first round draft pick.
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