Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Impressions from the first day of the Red Wings’ training camp ‘17








Substitute Niklas Kronwall for Sproul (Kronwall did not skate today) and Andreas Athanasiou for Parenteau (hopefully), and you may have the Red Wings' presumptive lines for the start of the regular season, and Wings coach Jeff Blashill is just fine with you knowing that.

This is a different kind of training camp, one in which the Red Wings are icing one "NHL team" (save Ben Street, Dennis Cholowski and Luke Witkowski) and two teams' worth of mostly AHL players and prospects. According to coach Blashill, the goal is to maximize practice time for his NHL team ahead of a busy exhibition season, and judging by his first-day comments to the media, he was satisfied with the equation.

It may seem a little strange to those of you us who are used to the tried-and-true formula of mixing top prospects with NHL'ers to see who "falls off a cliff" performance-wise and who might impress with the big boys, this sort of team-building throws that concept out the window, and that's a little unique.

In any case, the three teams are experiencing similar schedules over the course of training camp, and that means that they'll be exposed to the same learning processes and within-team competitions, as well as a pair of scrimmages ahead of Monday's Red vs. White game.

It still feels strange to see the Wings' players stratified right out of the gate, and how the team decides to determine which of its prospects are ready for exhibition games is something of a mystery.

In terms of drills which the teams participated in, practices were separated into even-strength and special-teams instruction, separated by a video session, and the two goaltenders, Mrazek and Howard in Team Delvecchio's case--and Team Delvecchio was the team I used for examples here--warmed up with the goaltending coaches prior to the "first practice."

The basic structure of the drills involved either retrieval of dump-ins or 5-on-5 play.

First, the forwards and defensemen set up together for a classic "2-on-0" to get the goaltenders warmed up, but the play soon began based upon a coach's "dump-out" pass, and the forwards had to peel off and skate back to the blueline and then reverse flow back toward the net. In the last iteration of the drill, two forwards would skate in on the last man in line, as it were, who stood in front of the net to tip shots.

Then the Wings spent a significant amount of time working on the kind of 5-man breakout you see in warm-ups before games, where a dumped-in puck is retrieved by one defenseman and "wheeled" up the boards, or reversed behind the net and slid up to the forwards, who skate out to center ice and then reverse and skate in on the defensemen who started the drill.

The third drill involved a full-ice push up through center ice and into the far offensive zone, with a sort of pivot in which one forward would fold into the offensive breakout at the near blueline, and another forward would fold in at the far blueline, yielding a 3-on-2 drill (which was a little confusing).

Things got back to basics in the fourth drill, which was a full-ice 1-on-1 battle drill, in which a forward had to push a defenseman all the way down the ice, with a coach's whistle determining when the battle drill would exit one zone and enter the next.

The fifth drill involved a breakout in which the a defender (D1) would skate the puck up ice to two forwards (F1 and F2), who would skate up against a second defenseman (D2).

Image courtesy of Michelle Crandall

We received hints of the power play practice during the sixth and seventh drills, in which 3-on-2 and 2-on-1 drills emphasized defending odd-man rushes.

The eighth and ninth drills involved line changes, and full-ice 3-on-2's and 5-on-5 play up and down the ice, with defensemen folding into what were full-ice breakouts and battles for the puck;

And after a video session at 10:35 AM, the Wings switched rinks and worked on special teams play.

The first and second drills emphasized breakouts of four-man units and down-low play of power play forwards, respectively, and "my end of the ice" involved the penalty-killers, but MLive's Ansar Khan Tweeted that the Wings' power play units looked like this:

PP1: Abdelkader (net-front), Nyquist, Zetterberg, Tatar, Sproul (subbing for Kronwall on defense); PP2: Bertuzzi (net-front) with Mantha, Helm and Parteneau, with Daley on defense.

The trios got to work during the third drill, in which PK units (Nielsen-Larkin, Ericsson-Jensen as PK1; Witkowski and Streeet with DeKeyser and Ouellet as PK2) played 5-vs-4 hockey, using the benches to change...

And after a jersey change, coach Doug Houda had the Wings' defense work on dump-retrieve-and-zone-exit play, with two defenders and a "down low" forward engaging in retrievals of a straight dump-in in which a defenseman lugged the puck out, a forward coming back to take the dumpp-in, a backhanded reverse of the dump-in, and a d-to-d breakout.

Finally, a second set of PK'ers (Glendening and Helm with Ericsson and Jensen as PK1 and Abdelkader and Bertuzzi with Ouellet and Cholowski as PK2) worked against the power play units, and the Wings' PP units tended to get the upper hand.

Team Howe and Team Lindsay conducted a scrimmage before engaging in the regular-strength practices, and I wasn't able to see as much of them as the media availabilities for Team Delvecchio concided with scrimmage play.

However, keeping in mind that there are 70 players participating in training camp, here are my player impressions, done a little quickly today:

A. Team Delvecchio:


Justin Abdelkader #8: Every player on the team looked a little bit bulkier or a little bit trimmer, and Abdelkader was the latter of the group. Abdelkader was skating well, with no complications evident from last year's nagging knee issue. I believe that it's skating that is what gets Abdelkader to the front of the net to stay, and he's got to get his butt up and down the ice with purpose this season.

Tyler Bertuzzi #59: Bertuzzi blended in somewhat, but that's not a bad thing. To some extent, Bertuzzi isn't an effective practice player because he can't hit-to-hurt or pester his opponents, and while Bertuzzi looked very good on the fourth line and very good as a penalty-killer from time to time, he wasn't in his element. He still gave no quarter physically and kept up skill-wise.

Luke Glendening #41: I might say the same for Luke Glendening, and that's not a damning critique. Glendening needs to play in games and stir up trouble to be effective, and it's something he didn't do enough this past season. He'll have to pick up the instigator's role with some gusto during the 2017-18 campaign.

Darren Helm #43: Helm looked speedy and solid, and healthy, which is rare for Darren Helm. He skated hard and seemed to be more at ease with himself and his role. Hopefully there aren't any contractual jitters this season.

Dylan Larkin #71: If it's possible to suggest that there is more focus to Larkin's game, that's what I saw on Friday--a player that's paying more attention, whether it's attention to detail or attention to the level of intensity needed to compete. Larkin didn't float for an intstant.

Anthony Mantha #8: He might be bigger, and that's impressive given that Mantha could be pushing 220 pounds. Mantha continues to mature physically, and at just under 23 years of age, you want a player to be able to pack on a few more pounds of strength. Here's hoping he didn't have to eat eight meals a day to do it.

Frans Nielsen #51: Nielsen's comfort level has increased, and that's absolutely huge for a player who has to be comfortable to play at his highest level. Nielsen didn't stand out on Friday, but he's a player that's supposed to blend in stealthily.

Gustav Nyquist #14: Nyquist made some pretty passes and Nyquist also looked a little bigger, which wouldn't hurt the 5'11," 184-pound winger one bit. Nyquist continues to display elite scoring skills.

Image courtesy of Michelle Crandall

P-A Parenteau #90**: For a 15-goal-scorer, Parenteau looked to be a passing machine, someone who can keep up in play with effective skating and can really rifle pucks to teammates, especially on the fly. I don't know how much of a chance he has of making a capped-out team, but he'll give the Wings depth during the exhibition season--a grueling set of 8 games in 12 nights.

Riley Sheahan #15: Another "bigger" player, the 6'3," 226-pound Sheahan has to maximize his strength to play a more effective checking game.

Ben Street #11: Street remains what he is at 5'11," 200 pounds and 30 years old--a speedy and effective minor league player who can substitute capably as a 4th or 3rd-line NHL player for stints of time.

Tomas Tatar #21: Tatar wasn't exactly his feisty self on Friday, but sometimes guys start a little slower. Tatar remains essential to the Red Wings' attack after signing that big contract.

Luke Witkowski #28: Witkowski was one of my bigger surprises on Day 1 because he could keep up with the "A Team." The 6'2," 217-pound career minor leaguer looked sharp and steady among the big bucks. I'll watch him closely as camp continues.

Henrik Zetterberg #40: There isn't anybody else as good because there isn't anybody else as determined. Zetterberg's every-day work ethic and every-day hustle are elite, and that's why he's the best player on the team.


Dennis Cholowski #53: Dennis also kept up with the big bucks steadily and seamlessly, displaying poise and aplomb while skating alongside a largely NHL-veteran team. He was a very pleasant surprise to see skating along with the NHL'ers as if he belonged.

Trevor Daley #83: Daley is smooth. That's the one word that came to mind again and again during my note-taking, the fact that Daley so smoothly skates up the ice and transports the puck on his stick with speed and maneuverability to spare. At 33, there may be some concerns about his "wheels coming off" at some time in the future, but those concerns are for another day.

Image courtesy of Michelle Crandall

Danny DeKeyser #65: DeKeyser looked noticeably thicker in the body and skinnier in the face, which I think is a good sign. DeKeyser said that he'd spent the summer working on his core and upper-body strength, and that's what the Wings need him to do to become a capable second-pair defenseman.

Jonathan Ericsson #52: Ericsson looked unhampered by his healed wrist and unimpeded by his slightly blocky hip socket. It's early, of course, but Ericsson looked solid.

Mike Green #25: Green will always be an adventure defensively, but he didn't get beaten a whole lot on Friday. He remains the Wings' best puck-moving defender.

Nick Jensen #3: Jensen was intense. It looked like Jensen had backed up his claims that he would not come into training camp assuming he had a job nailed down, and would instead come out and try to prove himself worthy of a roster spot again.

Niklas Kronwall #55: Kronwall didn't skate the first day, and the coach didn't have a reason as to why Kronwall didn't skate. That's a bit concerning. Hopefully he had a cold.

Xavier Ouellet #61: Ouellet looked half-a-step faster out there, and I hope it wasn't first-day viewing on my part, because Ouellet needed to add half-a-step to his stride to more effectively battle for the puck.

Ryan Sproul #62: Sproul was fine, looking like his surgically-repaired knee was not a concern, but he didn't have to take any contact today, either.


Jimmy Howard #35: Howard was the more polished of the two goaltenders. The 6'1," 218-pound netminder looks active on his feet and crisp and sharp in the crease.

Petr Mrazek #34: Mrazek looked good, but Mrazek also gave up some very beautiful goals against. Petr has made the change from a one-piece catch glove to a two-piece glove with a separate glove and cuff, and it appears to have helped his catching hand.

B. Team Howe:


David Booth #17**: At 6' and 212 pounds, Booth brings a big, speedy body to the table. Whether he's going to make the Red Wings or not, and whether he's willing to play in the AHL should he not make the Red Wings (or not), I do not know, but the 32-year-old made a positive first impression with his size, speed and physicality.

Colin Campbell #45*: Colin Campbell is a tin can man, a physical 6'1," 207-pound Grand Rapids Griffins forward who mashes, bangs and grinds. I saw the regular Campbell on Friday.

Corey Elkins #92*: Elkins is a bit of a puzzle as a 32-year-old coming back from the Finnish SM-Liiiga, but the Grand Rapids Griffins-contracted forward looked skilled and steady on Friday.

Turner Elson #57: I saw less of Elson, a 6," 195-pound scorer from San Antonio of the AHL, but he and Elkins intrigue me because the Griffins brought in a pair of would-be scorers, and Elson hasn't been able to match his Major Junior numbers in the AHL at 25 years of age.

Luke Esposito #58: Esposito played the way he did during the prospect tournament--very very good. The 5'10," 183-pound graduate of Harvard is a puck-lugging machine.

Matt Ford #79: I screwed up last year and suggested that the 32-year-old Ford was an enforcer, not a scorer, but the scoring forward does bring a whole bunch of grit to the mix. He's a grumpy dude, and the Griffins benefit from his fourth-line scoring presence.

Martin Frk #42: Frk appears determined to win a spot in the lineup, or at least that is my hope. At 23 going on 24, this would be a good year for Frk to make a push to prove he's more than a one-dimensional AHL goal-scorer.

Image courtesy of Michelle Crandall

Axel Holmstrom #49: Holmstrom looked strong and sound among the AHL'ers, and the 6'1," 219-pound Swede should have no problems turning pro with the Griffins this season.

Matt Lorito #22: Does Matt Lorito have more to offer than offense in a pinch? That, I'm not quite sure of, but the 5'9," 171-pound winger coming off his second pro season certainly punches above his weight.

Dylan Sadowy #44: Again, Sadowy looks prepared to vanquish the demon that was his difficult first pro season. He's more physically and mentally prepared for the pro grind.

Dominik Shine #56: Shine could be a Lorito-like diamond in the rough. The 5'11," 175-pound graduate of Northern Michigan is a goal-scorer and playmaker with poise to spare.

Evgeny Svechnikov #77: I'm still of the belief that Svechnikov is best-served with another half to full season in the AHL to truly come into the NHL completely confident in his scoring abilities. Svechnikov has the strength and skating to make the NHL right now, but the Wings have the luxury of bringing him along a wee bit slowly.

Eric Tangradi #26: Tangradi got dinged in the knee during the scrimmage, but he was walking around on one crutch and an ice bag after the game, so it appeared that his injury was not catastrophic. That's good, because he was in a lot of pain when he went down.

Dominic Turgeon #23: Dominic Turgeon grinds. Dominic Turgeon grinds. Dominic Turgeon digs, works, and out-competes his way to wins for pucks in traffic, down low, in front of the net, in the faceoff circle, everywhere.


Joe Hicketts #2: Hicketts looked a little calmer and a little less hurried this time around. At 5'8" and 180 pounds, he's never going to be mistaken for a giant, but Hicketts plays with a big heart and a bigger brain than he is given credit for.

Filip Hronek #24: Hronek looked completely comfortable with his teammates, and Hronek looked fairly good on the rush and even in his own defensive zone.

Brian Lashoff #32: My gut tells me that Lashoff will be named the Griffins' next captain. The 6'3," 214-pound defenseman may not have the skating stride to make the NHL, but at the AHL level, he's a mobile defender and veteran leader at 27.

Pat McCarron #54*: McCarron didn't show up as much as I would have liked, but he's a 6'3" stay-at-home defenseman...

Dylan McIlrath #4*: Like big Dylan McIlrath, who just isn't able to lay the physical hammer down during training camp. McIlrath is a mean fellow, and the Griffins' defensive corps benefit from that.

Dan Renouf #20: Renouf looked a little slower, and like Hicketts, that isn't a bad thing. The gambling defenseman needed to add a little patience to his game, and the 6'2," 205-pound defenseman seemed slower in all the right areas of his game on Friday.

Robbie Russo #18: Russo just wasn't very visible on Friday, and that's not necessarily a bad thing if you're trying to keep it simple and low-risk. That's what the 6," 191-pound defenseman does.

Vili Saarijarvi #29: Saarijarvi did an excellent job keeping up with the AHL'ers while looking poised and unhurried. He wasn't stand-out stellar, but the turning-pro defenseman looked very comfortable with the pros at all of 20 years of age.


Jared Coreau #35: Coreau led in a squeaker or two, but he looked to be a little less leaky, which is what Coreau needs to be to make the NHL. The 6'5," 231-pound netminder is still bringing the disparate parts of his game together.

Matej Machovsky #68: Machovsky was quiet, and quiet is fine when you're turning-pro-again among some stiff competition. The 24-year-old Czech netminder looked fine...

Tom McCollum #38: While McCollum, generally a master of the net down low, looked scrambly, like he'd been with two organizations while trying to earn some playing time last year--which is his story to a tee. He needs to get back to Grand Rapids and get settled down.

* = Grand Rapids Griffins contract; ** = try-out.

Team Lindsay:


Mike Borkowski #81*: The Grand Rapids Griffins winger is attempting to earn a full-time AHL spot against some long odds, as the 5'11," 186-pound player bounced in and out of the lineup throughout the 2016-17 season. Is Borkowski an AHL'er or ECHL'er? It's up to him to answer.

Austen Brassard #85**: Austen Brssard, a 6'2," 187-pound pro try-out from Utah of the ECHL, is contracted to the Toledo Walleye for the upcoming season per EliteProspects, and the big 24-year-old forward has bounced around for a while now and needs to land in one spot to see whether he can post point-per-game totals in the ECHL.

Oliver Castleman #70**: Castleman, a try-out from the Niagara IceDogs, is trying to buck the trend at 5'10" and 180 pounds of speedy forward. Methinks he'll head backto the OHL when he's done with camp.

Connor Crisp #84**: Crisp, a pro try-out from the Canadiens' system, is a massive 6'3," 220-pound winger who hammered several of his teammates as he displayed no hesitation in making a hard-hitting impression.

Zach Gallant #64: The 2017 draft pick is a 6'2," 18-pound Peterborough Petes center, and Gallant has actually gotten better as the tournament went on and camp started. He looks steady out there.

Brady Gilmour #67: Gilmour is a different sort, a 5'10," 170-pound center from Saginaw who is pesky and pester-y. I've liked his moxie.

Isaac Johnson #75**: Johnson is the mean one, the 6'2," 174-pound USHL forward who drops the gloves...

Sean Josling #76**: And Josling punches above his 5'10," 186-pound weight, displaying some good defensive chops.

Luke Kutkevicius #78**: Kutkevicius had a really good first day of camp. The Windsor Spitfires forward and 6'1," 162-pound try-out stood out among the "kids" today as a steady, speedy performer.

Zach Nastasiuk #37: Nastasiuk, a 6'2," 204-pound center, has to decide this year whether he's an ECHL scorer or an AHL checker. At 22, it's time to make the jump.

Michael Rasmussen #27: Rasmussen's intimidation factor was at a 0 on a scale of 1 to 10. Rasmussen looked as if he belonged among the pro try-outs and Griffins and Walleye teammates, but the 6'6," 221-pound center is still a little too focused on defense.

Givani Smith #48: Smith held off the crashing and the banging a bit, and the 6'2," 206-pound Guelph Storm winger needs to show a little more of that crashing and banging to make a good impression.

Lane Zablocki #46: Zablocki is just a solid player, and the 6,' 190-pound Red Deer Rebels forward doesn't stand out because he's doing his grinding job.


Marcus Crawford #73**: Crawford is one of two unique try-outs on the Wings' blueline, a 20-year-old who stands at 5'11" and 192 undrafted pounds. He played with the Saginaw Spirit this past season and may be a "thank-you" to ownership.

Simon Denis #86**: Denis comes to the Wings as a pro try-out with a contract in Toledo, and the 5'10" defenseman posted 55 points in 75 games with Toledo this past season.

Evan Fiala #87**: Even in limited viewing, I like what I see from Fiala, a 6'4," 201-pound defenseman from Saskatoon of the WHL who puts up a lot of penalty minutes. He's a massive body who hits hard.

Cole Fraser #74: Fraser, a snarly 2017 draft pick, didn't skate on Friday.

Jordan Sambrook #63: Jordan Sambrook did skate on Friday, and the 6'2," 187-pound defenseman from Erie of the OHL looked OK out there, not out of place but not quite up to pace.

Libor Sulak #47: The more I see of Sulak the more I want him to go to Finland for the season and sort out his game. Sulak is still a young 23 years old, and the 6'2," 207-pound defenseman out of the Austrian league just isn't quite ready for AHL duty.

Kevin Tansey #82*: Tansey, 6'4" and 225 pounds, was brought in on a pro try-out as a 31-points-in-44-games ECHL season earned him a contract with the Griffins. He'll probably end up in Toledo, where he'll score points.

Reilly Webb #50: The Wings want Webb to be Fiala in two years. At 6'3" and 201 pounds, the Hamilton Bulldogs defenseman has a lot of growing "up" and "out" to do, but there's raw potential in Webb for sure.


Corbin Boes #36**: Boes is enjoying the professional part of his try-out with the Wings, soaking in more expertise as he works with the Wings' goalie coaches and goaltenders. The 6'3," 225-pound Boes will go back to Dalhousie College...

Kaden Fulcher #60**: And Kaden Fulcher, a 6'2," 187-pound netminder, will go back to the Hamilton Bulldogs when camp is over, though not for a lack of trying.

Pat Nagle #80*: Just about to turn 30, the 6'2," 181-pound Rochester, Michigan native will head to the Toledo Walleye to battle it out for the starter's spot with Matej Machovsky after three steady seasons with the Fort Wayne Komets.

And finally...As you may know by now, I'm trying to raise funds to defer the cost of this trip, and I'm still $700 short of my goal. If you're willing to lend a hand to a guy who's just trying to break even, you can head over to http://www.paypal.me/TheMalikReport to send a donation. Any denomination is appreciated...and as always, thank you for your time, your readership and your support.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink



What an awesome report! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this. I can’t wait to read tomorrow’s report.

Posted by Ilovekermit on 09/15/17 at 09:18 PM ET

bigfrog's avatar

Great reporting George. Maybe there is some hope for this team. smile

Posted by bigfrog on 09/15/17 at 11:29 PM ET

SnarkinLarkin's avatar

I’m looking forward to reading about the scrimmages. Hopefully there will be some video out there too?

As for audio, I’m most interested in what the coaches have to say about what they see out there, not so much from the players because they are almost always filled with copy and paste platitudes.

Posted by SnarkinLarkin on 09/16/17 at 04:40 PM ET


Whatever happened to tengoaltender Paterson? And why isn’t Potteblerghe or the 2017 drafted goalie in camp?

Posted by beantownredwings on 09/16/17 at 05:17 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Paterson signed with Milwaukee and Von Pottelberghe is playing in Switzerland.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 09/16/17 at 05:20 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

I’m expecting there to be more video from the Red vs. White game on Monday. No scrimmage on Sunday, they’ll be doing laps instead (seriously, it’s a skating test).

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 09/16/17 at 09:34 PM ET

Add a Comment

Please limit embedded image or media size to 575 pixels wide.

Add your own avatar by joining Kukla's Korner, or logging in and uploading one in your member control panel.

Captchas bug you? Join KK or log in and you won't have to bother.


Notify me of follow-up comments?


Most Recent Blog Posts

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.