Not many people are holding out hope for a dramatic rise to the top for the Detroit Red Wings. All hope is in the development of the team’s prospects. However, the process is slow, arduous and rarely yields quick results. Detroit has begun to lay the foundation for quality prospect development but beyond the guidelines and parameters set by the leadership, the rest is up to the athlete.
Taking a look at the resources the Red Wings have on hand by way of prospects, there are definitely standouts. On the flip side, however, there are those that the team could move on from – Dennis Cholowski being one of them. Highly praised when drafted in 2016, there has been little progress since his introduction to professional hockey.
I took a look at Cholowski’s overall development to assess his growth and potential trade value should Detroit decide to move on from him.
Cholowski’s Slow Start
Drafted in 2016, the same year as Filip Hronek, Cholowski has been a slow starter. Despite putting up points throughout juniors, and even a few at the NHL and American Hockey League levels, Cholowski has been lackadaisical when it comes to improving his offensive game.
Cholowski’s laid-back disposition seems to be a disadvantage for him as of now, as it doesn’t create a sense of urgency in the play. His slow zone entry, seemingly lazy turnovers and lack of push have continually resulted in goals from the opposition or draining puck races into the defensive territory.
After being sent back to Grand Rapids to learn how to better “mind the gaps,” as Jeff Blashill put it, Cholowski seems to have hit a plateau (from “Red Wings’ Mission is Moving Dennis Cholowski from Surviving to Thriving,” The Detroit News, 11/21/2019).
Another area that leadership has discussed with Cholowski this season that isn’t quite up to par yet, would be his mental capacity. It’s not to say he is not a smart hockey player, rather his ability to foster confidence amidst the development hasn’t progressed much (from ‘Dennis Cholowski overcomes demotion as Red Wings take big-picture approach,’ Detroit News, 04/22/2019)
The game is hard mentally, however, as a young player its imperative to quickly grow that thick skin, as it were. Though he is a knowledgeable skater, Cholowski seems to let mistakes linger and as a result, it affects his game. Jeff Blashill elaborated on his concerns, “Sometimes when you’re in the league and you’re young and you’ve made some mistakes and you’ve had a tough go, you’re just trying to survive.”
Similar to the idea behind trading defenseman Vili Saarijarvi, Cholowski could be moved for a more developed player to fill a vacant spot sooner. The long and short term idea behind dealing Cholowski would be to gain a few picks or even be used to deal for a goaltender. The defensive pool is fairly heavy as of now so moving Cholowski would make available much-needed space if no other player was sought in return immediately.
Under Yzerman, the main focus of the new Detroit seems to be heavily geared towards a stronger defensive core with a well-rounded offensive game. Though Cholowski’s style doesn’t fit this mold, there are other teams who would be open to a more “positional” player such as himself. Likely a team that has a more fluid timeline than Detroit currently has to work with.
In the long run, a change of scenery may be a good thing for both parties. The Red Wings would free up a spot for another pick while Cholowski would be given a fresh start.
A Win-Win Situation
A trade wouldn’t be the end for Cholowski. It’s an unspoken truth about draft picks, no matter what round they come from, that not all make it to their drafting club after their developmental period. The Red Wings’ don’t have the luxury of having a well-established NHL roster at the moment where they can afford more time on young prospects after their entry contracts expire.
In Cholowski’s case, though capable in his position, the inability to meet expectations is clogging the pipeline which makes a trade a reasonable idea. He’s young enough in his career to get the time he requires to grow outside of Detroit.
No player, especially a prospect that has had a taste of the NHL, wants to hear that they’re not what the team needs or wants. At the end of the day, however, its a business and pieces must be moved to make a team successful. Exploring a trade with Cholowski would allow the team the chance to utilize additional assets in the system and fine-tune the next batch of defensemen. It’s a win-win situation.
I am a Detroit Red Wings prospect journalist for Access Hockey MI covering the Grand Rapids Griffins and Toledo Walleye prospect development. Draft analyst for USHL hockey with the Muskegon Lumberjacks.