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St. James on Axel Holmstrom

Axel Holmstrom had something of a throwaway season in the SHL as he recovered from and then reaggravated an ACL injury, but Holmstrom's hit his stride since he joined the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins a month ago, and the "power center" earned a positive review from the Free Press's Helene St. James:

The Wings’ seventh-round pick from the 2014 NHL entry draft scored in his second Calder Cup playoff game to help the Grand Rapids Griffins take a 2-0 lead on the Milwaukee Admirals in the first-round, best-of-5 series. Game 3 is Wednesday at Milwaukee.

“He’s got great vision and his puck skills are excellent,” Griffins coach Todd Nelson told the Free Press. “He does have to work on his skating ability.”

That latter phrase seems to go with the name Holmstrom; former Wings forward Tomas Holmstrom (no relation) endured endless good-natured – and some less so – ribbing for his poor skating, but he found a way to stick around for 1000-plus NHL games, gain prominence for his net-front play, and win four Stanley Cups.

Axel Holmstrom, 6 feet and 198 pounds, plays a similarly greasy game, going to the net and into corners. He has looked at home in the playoffs on a line with Evgeny Svechnikov, Detroit’s first-round pick from 2015, and Kyle Criscuolo. Sunday saw Holmstrom score when he was in position in the low slot to finish a pass from Svechnikov. The plan is for Holmstrom, who signed a three-year entry-level deal in 2015, to spend next season with Grand Rapids.

St. James continues, and Holmstrom isn't going to plant his butt in front of opposing goalies, but he does go to the net and he scores goals in the slot. He's an intriguing prospect who's made his way onto the Griffins' playoff roster thanks to his late-season play.

He's ready to play in the AHL full-time, and I think he's going to take some time to adjust to playing on a 200'x85' rink instead of a 200'x100' sheet of ice, but once he gets used to having less time and space to make plays, his pro experience in Sweden should ease his transition to North American pro hockey.

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Two Wings-related ‘Thoughts’

Among Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman's "30 Thoughts":

19. It is very rare that players reach out to me to promote their coaches, but one did last week. He texted on behalf of AHL Grand Rapids coach Todd Nelson, who was in Edmonton before Todd McLellan. The Griffins are up 2–0 on Milwaukee in the first round of the playoffs. Anthony Mantha took big strides under Nelson. He felt Nelson deserved more “buzz” around his name.


25. Watching the closing of Joe Louis Arena, seeing the outpouring of emotion for Yzerman... you couldn’t help but wonder if he’s thought about returning someday to the Red Wings. He wasn’t going there. “I’m the general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning,” he replied.

Two thoughts of my own: Nelson is a consummate pro, and the Griffins are only going to have him for so long before he returns to the NHL as a full-time head coach. Nelson really teaches the Griffins to "play the right way" and he's added some snarl to the players' repertoires, which is impressive;

And I'm going to repeat my take on Yzerman as many times as necessary: I do not believe that Steve Yzerman will even consider leaving the Tampa Bay Lightning until he wins a Stanley Cup with the franchise. Until that time, there is zero chance that he "bolts the Bolts" for Detroit, and even after the Lightning win their Cup, I believe that Yzerman knows that he's in a situation in Tampa Bay where the media won't micro-analyze every move. I don't think he'd be all that comfortable in Detroit.

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The old penalty box mind f…I mean mind game

The Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner reports that Grand Rapids Griffins PA announcer and radio host Eric Zane found himself in the middle of an exchange between Evgeny Svechnikov and Milwaukee Admirals player Trevor Murphy during Sunday's game.

Murphy dropped his gloves during a scrum with Svechnikov at the end of the 2nd period, and Svechnikov kept his gloves on, which apparently irked Murphy:

"So they're in the box and dude (Murphy) gets in there and he was like, 'I thought you said you wanted to fight!'" Zane said during his Monday radio show on WBBL-FM (107.3).

Zane continued:

"Evgeny doesn't say a word. Then out of the blue, like three minutes later, Evgeny goes, 'Do you want to go? Do you want to go?' And the guy goes, 'Are you asking me if you want to fight me?' He was confused and was like, 'good thing you can play hockey because I can't understand you.'"

Griffins winger Eric Tangradi, who was being interviewed at the time, laughed.

"The impressive thing ... is that he's only 20 and actually speaks English really well," Tangradi said.

The veteran then added tongue-in-cheek, "the advantage for those guys who speak broken English is that they can pretend to not hear what they don't want to hear and hear what they're not supposed to hear."

Wallner continues with a link to the interview, and I can tell you that Svechnikov's English is pretty damn good, so he was probably screwing with Murphy.

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Khan updates Abdelkader, Tatar and Sproul’s injury statuses

MLive's Ansar Khan penned a Locker Room Clean-Out Day story about Jimmy Howard's reinvention as a more patient goaltender during the 2016-17 season, and that part of his article is more than worth your time, but Khan also issues a more pressing news update:

Holland said Justin Abdelkader will not require arthroscopic surgery on his knee after an MRI revealed only a bruise and not a tear. Holland wasn't sure if Abdelkader will join Team USA for the World Championship, but he has been cleared to play.

Tomas Tatar and Ryan Sproul both need four-to-six months of rehab following surgery. It remains to be seen if they'll be ready for the start of training camp in mid-September.

Tatar had a torn labrum, an issue he's had for some time. Sproul had ACL reconstruction surgery after getting injured March 4 in Edmonton.

"The found his ACL was torn 90 percent, hanging by a thread basically," Holland said.

Again, Khan continues...

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Ken Holland On The Players In Grand Rapids

from Peter J. Wallner of Mlive,

So, who's ready for the NHL? Who's not quite there? This season, forward Andreas Athanasiou and defensemen Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul made the Red Wings out of camp, while in-season call ups Anthony Mantha and Nick Jensen stuck and became regulars.

Overall, 13 Griffins played with the Red Wings this season.

"There are two ways I look at it," Holland told MLive. "How many will make Detroit (for the opener in October) and how many will play games in Detroit next season?

"Realistically, two or three can make our team out of camp, but I'm hoping five, six, seven of these players at some point in time next year can either get an opportunity to get their feet wet and play some NHL games as they go along with their development. Or, 20, 30, 40 games in, they'll do what Anthony Mantha and Nick Jensen have done. There's an injury and they come up, get an opportunity, grab a job and never come back."

Defenseman Robbie Russo and center Tomas Nosek received extended late-season time with the Red Wings and are strong candidates to make the team to start next season. Tyler Bertuzzi, off to another strong start in the postseason, is another consideration.


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St. James: Holland getting back to his scouting roots this spring

The vast majority of the Red Wings' front office, coach and director of player development took in Sunday's game between the Grand Rapids Griffins and Milwaukee Admirals, and it's "that time of year" for the Wings' braintrust as the Under-18 World Championship just concluded, the AHL, ECHL, OHL, QMJHL and WHL playoffs are all underway, and the World Championship will begin in Paris and Cologne next Friday.

The Free Press's Helene St. James reports that Red Wings GM Ken Holland is doing his best to scout as much hockey as possible prior to the draft this June:

Today saw him travel to Toronto to catch the OHL playoff game between Mississauga and Peterborough. Next up is a trip to Kelowna, British Columbia, to see the Rockets take on the Seattle Thunderbirds in the Western Hockey League semifinals.

“I’m focused on the draft,” Holland told the Free Press this afternoon. “Got to see the kids. (I) was at under-18 worlds, got to see a lot of good games there.”

Holland spent last week in Slovakia taking in the U18 world championship -- the Wings had eight scouts there all together, Holland said. He returned in time to catch the Wings’ top farm team, the Grand Rapids Griffins, win both weekend games to take a 2-0 lead on Milwaukee in the AHL playoffs. Several Wings prospects are off to good starts in the Calder Cup race, including Tyler Bertuzzi (two goals), Evgeny Svechnikov (goal, assist), Tomas Nosek (goal, assist) and Axel Holmstrom (goal).

St. James also has an update on Justin Abdelkader, reporting that Abdelkader won't have surgery on his troublesome knee for the present moment.

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Prospect news: Sambrook scores a goal in Otters’ playoff loss

Of prospect-related note:

In OHL playoff action, Jordan Sambrook scored a goal on 3 shots, finishing at +1 in the Erie Otters' 6-3 loss to the Owen Sound Attack. Erie and Owen Sound are tied 1-1 in their Conference Final series. You can watch highlights of the game here;

And Vili Saarijarvi finished at +2 with 5 shots in the Mississuaga Steelheads' 2-1 double overtime victory over Peterborough. Mississauga leads its Conference Final series 2 games to none. You can watch the 2OT winner on Twitter.

Update: The Grand Rapids Griffins posted a video in which Tyler Bertuzzi discusses Game 2 between the Griffins and Milwaukee Admirals:

Continue Reading »

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Howe Foundation promoting Colleen Howe for a Hockey Hall of Fame ‘builder’s’ spot

Gordie Howe's family has embarked upon a unique endeavor, attempting to lobby the hockey community to induct Colleen Howe into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a "builder."

As the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa notes, Colleen Howe was instrumental in (literally) building the roots of amateur hockey in Southeastern Michigan, and for that reason, the Howe Foundation believes that Colleen should break one of the few gender barriers remaining in hockey:

Some think Howe should be the first woman “builder” in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The category honors, “Coaching, managerial or executive ability, or ability in another significant off-ice role, sportsmanship, character and contributions to his or her organization or organizations and to the game of hockey in general.” So far, there are no “hers.” Of the 102 inducted “builders,” all are men.

Nominations for the 2017 class, from members of the Selection Committee, were due April 15. Supporters are working on her behalf.

“Since Dad died, the Howe family is focused on continuing the legacy of our parents,” Mark Howe said, including furthering the work of The Howe Foundation, which his mother founded, and securing a home for his father’s memorabilia. “Someone is using our name to solicit some people, because you have to be nominated for the Hall of Fame. I guess what we’ve done is to put the ball in someone else’s corner and let them take it from there. I’ve never promoted myself or my parents. That’s not the way we were brought up.”

Krupa continues, telling the tale of Gordie Howe's Hockeyland in St. Clair Shores...

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Report from ‘Red Wings Prospects’: Wings in the running for a Swedish free agent forward

Red Wings prospects on Twitter reports some intriguing news:

Ejdsell's a 21-year-old in Farjestads BK's system, standing 6'5" and 214 pounds, and he led the Swedish Allsvenskan (the Swedish AAA minor league) with 25 goals, 32 assists and 57 points registered over the course of 50 games played.

Here's a rough translation of Ejdsell's interview with NWT.se's Kim Frandsen:

Continue Reading »

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University of Michigan officially names Mel Pearson head coach

From the University of Michigan's Athletic website:

Pearson Selected to Lead Michigan Ice Hockey Program

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Mel Pearson has been named the University of Michigan's head coach of ice hockey, as announced today (Monday, April 24) by Warde Manuel, the Donald R. Shepherd Director of Athletics. Pearson, who becomes the ninth head coach in program history, returns to Ann Arbor after previously serving 23 seasons as an assistant coach for the Wolverines.

A press conference will be held today at 2 p.m. in the Junge Family Champions Center to formally introduce Pearson. BTN will carry the press conference live, and it will be streamed on http://MGoBlue.com


"I am very honored and proud for this opportunity to be the next head coach at Michigan," said Pearson. "I am looking forward to continuing to build upon the rich and successful tradition of Michigan hockey.

"I would like to thank President Schlissel, Warde Manuel and my long-time mentor and friend Red Berenson for entrusting me with this opportunity," added Pearson. "I spent 23 years here and thoroughly enjoyed my time in Ann Arbor. I am excited to be back and am looking forward to meeting the team and getting ready for next season.

"Lastly, I would like to thank the former players, alumni and fans that have reached out to me with encouragement," concluded Pearson.


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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.


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