Regardless of your confidence level heading into the season, it’s finally time for Detroit Red Wings hockey. The 2017-18 campaign kicks off this week with the annual NHL Prospect Tournament, which is hosted by the Red Wings in Traverse City.
Before training camp opens, Detroit’s top prospects will compete against seven other teams’ best youngsters in the annual showcase. The tournament will give each organization’s management team a chance to see how their prospects stack up against their peers. In addition, it will give fans an early look at players who could don the Winged Wheel at some point down the road.
In this week’s edition of The Grind Line, The Hockey Writers’ Red Wings coverage team picks out one prospect they’re excited to track during the tournament. Which players are you going to follow closely?
Tony Wolak: Matej Machovsky
While there are many options to consider when choosing an intriguing prospect from Detroit’s roster, there’s one under-the-radar player who I’ll be monitoring more closely than the others. After playing the last four years in the Czech Republic, goaltender Matej Machovsky signed with the Red Wings this offseason and will make his transition to the North American game this season. This year’s tournament will be his first real game action with the club.
Considering the other goalies on the roster are free agent invites, it appears Machovsky is set to start most of Detroit’s games in the tournament. This will be great experience for the young goalie before he heads to training camp with rest of the Red Wings organization. He’ll likely compete with Jared Coreau and Tom McCollum for playing time in the AHL this year, but a strong performance in the prospects tournament and solid camp could have Red Wings brass reconsidering the organizational depth chart.
Being deep at goalie is a luxury. It gives you the ability to improve your roster elsewhere if need be. In addition, teams that have goalie depth do not necessarily need to commit to one netminder as the face of the franchise. If Machovsky can develop into an NHL goalie, the Red Wings can reassess their plans for Jimmy Howard, Petr Mrazek, and Coreau with another option to consider.
John Curran: Michael Rasmussen
In my opinion, one player definitely stands out above the rest: Michael Rasmussen. Detroit ruffled a lot of feathers when they made Rasmussen the team’s highest drafted player in over twenty years at the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. The Red Wings are in desperate need of some depth at the center position and the six-foot-six Rasmussen could play a huge role in helping the team address that need. Initially I was not a fan of the Wings taking Rasmussen at ninth overall last June but as time goes on I’m extremely intrigued in watching the young center develop.
I’m also keeping a keen eye on the group of young blue-liners appearing in this year’s tournament as well. Filip Hronek, Vili Saarijarvi, and Jordan Sambrook are all defensemen that I’ve been following since they were drafted by Detroit. I believe all three players are going to be a big part of the team’s defense sooner rather than later.
Griffin Schroeder: Dennis Cholowski
While the tournament brings in names that have pretty much established themselves as up-and-coming Red Wing defense prospects who will play in the AHL like Filip Hronek and Vili Saarijarvi, Cholowski is one to watch for me based on his attempt to accelerate his development.
After just one year at St. Cloud State under head coach Bob Motzko, the bench boss for USA’s 2017 Gold Medal World Junior team, he decided to sign his entry-level contract much like Dylan Larkin did after one season at the University of Michigan.
A standout for the Chilliwack Chiefs of the BCHL scoring 12 goals and 40 points in his 2015-16 draft year, he scored just one goal and 12 points in 36 games for the Huskies this past season. Half of his points came on the power play, carrying over from his Chief days when 38% of his scoring came on the man advantage. He will be headed to Prince George to further his development in the WHL, and will play the most games (72), he’s ever played in a single season.
It will be interesting to see Cholowski’s performance this tournament and beyond after his preparation over a summer where he gained more muscle in an effort to give the Wings early returns on their investment in him. While he won’t arrive as quickly as Jakob Chychrun did, it will be important for the 19-year old to turn in a solid outing this coming season to further his development in the organization.