What losing Dennis Cholowski in expansion draft means to Detroit Red Wings

Detroit Free Press

Dennis Cholowski’s potential as an NHL player won’t come with the Detroit Red Wings, as the Seattle Kraken chose the young defenseman in the expansion draft.

Drafted at No. 20 in 2016, Cholowski was billed as a gifted skater with an excellent shot and a knack for passing. But for all the chances and all the encouragement the Wings gave Cholowski, he failed to lock up a spot in the lineup on a team desperate for skilled blueliners. His allure, though, bested that of right-shot defenseman Troy Stecher, who also was on the list of players the Wings made available to the NHL’s 32nd team.

The choice was announced during Wednesday evening’s televised expansion draft show on ESPN2. It was an anticlimactic event, as name after name from the 30 teams from which the Kraken picked their roster was leaked on Twitter during the afternoon. The Kraken weren’t deterred from playing up the entertainment angle: It was an octopus named Licorice from the Seattle Aquarium that revealed Cholowski’s name.

Every team except 2017 expansion Vegas had to submit lists Saturday of protected and available players.

The Wings protected forwards Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, Jakub Vrana, Robby Fabbri, Adam Erne and Givani Smith; goaltender Thomas Greiss, and defensemen Filip Hronek, Gustav Lindstrom and newcomer Nick Leddy. (Players such as Filip Zadina and Joe Veleno were exempt.)

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Hronek was a lock to be protected, and there was room for Lindstrom, 22, and Cholowski, 23, until general manager Steve Yzerman traded for Leddy July 16. Lindstrom plays a safe, smart game, but he doesn’t have the offensive flash Cholowski possesses.

Cholowski appeared in 16 games this season, recording three points. In 13 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins, he produced three goals and seven assists. Cholowski had 10 goals and 27 points in 104 career games with the Wings.

Stecher had 11 points and a minus-13 rating in 44 games in his first season with the Wings. He’s signed through next season at a $1.7 million salary cap hit. With 2019 first-round pick Moritz Seider poised to join the lineup this fall, the Wings will have four right-shot defensemen in Seider, Hronek, Lindstrom and Stecher.

Cholowski’s lack of development has disappointed the Wings, but exposing him could backfire. He’s an NHL-caliber defenseman, and the Kraken clearly believe he can still emerge as such.

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail. 

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