Red Wings high on draft pick Red Savage’s potential: ‘He knows how to play’

Detroit News

Detroit — Red Savage, the Red Wings’ fourth-round draft pick this summer, has a good knowledge of the organization’s front office.

His dad, Brian, was a longtime NHL player and built relationships with many former Wings players. Being part of the Plymouth Township-based U.S. National Team Development Program, Wings scouts have been around the rink monitoring Savage quite a bit the last couple years.

Savage also played for Belle Tire and Compuware coming up the junior ranks and he remembers some epic battles with Little Caesars teams coached by Kris Draper, with son Kienan (a good friend of Savage’s) on the roster.

Savage couldn’t help but smile a bit thinking back to those games.

“My team always had a lot of really good battles against their team,” Savage said after being drafted by the Wings last month. “It got pretty heated quite often — a lot of fights, a lot of chirping back and forth between our coaches and Mr. Draper.

“We’re good friends with the Drapers and a lot of people connected to the Red Wings. Just having my dad play and be recognizable, it’s something that kind of benefits you throughout your whole life.”

It’s that familiarity with pro hockey, and Draper’s knowledge of how far Savage has come along as young player, that made the Wings eager to draft the Miami of Ohio-bound center.

Savage was the 114th player selected overall, which surprised many evaluators who felt he would go a round or two earlier.

The 5-foot-11, 181-pound two-way center has been captain of Team USA national squads, has leadership skills, and plays the type of responsible game that is so vital in today’s NHL.

Given Savage’s progress in recent years, and his expected development playing NCAA hockey, the Wings are excited about his potential.

“He just knows how to play,” said Draper, the Wings’ director of amateur scouting. “He’s in good spots for his (defense). He’s actually really good in the circle to take faceoffs.

“He kind of plays a fearless type game, and he showed throughout this year when he got a little bit of an opportunity that he could produce some offense.”

Draper mentioned how Savage played a sound and smart game even as a 14- or 15-year old. He didn’t concentrate on offense but rather did what was necessary for the team to win.

How much offense Savage can produce has always been a question for scouts. In 46 games with NTDP last season, Savage was nearly a point-per-game player (18 goals and 24 assists).

Still, it’s an area the Wings want Savage to focus on at Miami.

“He knows how to play without the puck. He’s obviously very intelligent in his own end. He knows how to play in the defensive zone,” Draper said. “The one thing that we’re going to want him to work on is obviously his offensive side of the game, to score goals, challenge himself to put up numbers.”

Savage, whose brother Ryan also plays at Miami (Ohio), kept his eyes open watching his dad, who played 12 years in the NHL despite being an eighth-round draft pick.

There were certain qualities Brian Savage passed on to Red that were “nonnegotiable,” such as work ethic on the ice.

“It’s something I go into every game (thinking about),” Savage said. “The biggest thing I focus on is trying to affect the game, whether or not I get on the scoresheet. I can win faceoffs and kill penalties and provide offense.

“The biggest things he’s taught me about becoming a good hockey player are the things you do away from the rink. It’s the preparations and putting yourself in the best spot to thrive. He’s really taught me a lot of great lessons about getting there.”

Draper feels Savage will benefit from having seen his dad’s dedication to the game.

“Red grew up in NHL dressing rooms and in hockey environments and Red knows what a pro is,” Draper said. “He has insight and has seen the sacrifices his dad made throughout his career, and that’s how Red is wired as well.”

Red Savage file

► Pick: No. 114 overall (Round 4)

► Position: Left wing/center

► Height/weight: 5-foot-11, 181 pounds

► Last season: USNTDP, 46 games, 18 goals, 24 assists

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

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