Detroit — There had been many congratulatory texts and phone calls from people all over, but when Marco Kasper arrived Sunday in Detroit for the start of development camp, there were several that really stood out.
Kasper was drafted in the first round Thursday by the Red Wings. On Sunday when camp began, someone Kasper didn’t expect phoned him.
“Dylan Larkin called me,” Kasper said after Monday’s camp session. “That was real cool.”
And it wasn’t just Larkin.
“Lucas Raymond and Michael Rasmussen texted me,” Kasper said.
For any young player joining an NHL organization, it can be a little overwhelming. There usually aren’t a lot of players you’re familiar with.
So for a captain like Larkin, and young players like Raymond and Rasmussen, to reach out and welcome the newest first-round pick, it meant a lot.
“It’s a good feeling they cared and texted me,” Kasper said.
It was a whirlwind weekend for Kasper, as the draft was Thursday and Friday in Montreal, and Kasper was in Detroit two days later.
But Kasper is enjoying the pace, and taking in all the information he can get this week.
“It’s been great coming here, getting drafted by such a good organization,” Kasper said. “It’s been great being on the ice and been a lot of fun.”
Kasper is returning to play for Rogle in the Swedish Hockey League, where he’s played for the last two years.
A native of Austria, Kasper made the decision to learn Swedish before beginning his junior career there.
“Because I wanted to fit in,” Kasper said of his decision to learn the Swedish language. “I was going to school right away and I just talked to the guys in the locker room, and they helped me a lot. School helped.”
Kasper feels playing in the SHL will help him at this point, before he arrives in the NHL in the next year or two.
“It’s a really structed league,” Kasper said of the SHL. “A little bigger ice, and they’re real good players in that league. It’s hard to play because of the structure.”
Defenseman Donovan Sebrango is unique among the players in this week’s camp.
Sebrango, 20, a 2020 third-round pick of the Wings, already has played two seasons in Grand Rapids, played 96 AHL games. When the pandemic hit, Sebrango had the option to play in the AHL and he’s taken advantage, making himself a legitimate NHL prospect.
“I’ve said it before, I came out on top of a bad situation going on in the world,” Sebrango said. “I was able to benefit from it, and I’m grateful for that. It’s still an unfortunate time going around in the world, but I was lucky enough to come to Grand Rapids.”
Because of his age, Sebrango feels he still fits nicely into this kind of camp.
“After a few minutes of being around the same age group, you kind of go back to the feeling you’re back in junior,” Sebrango said. “I feel like a veteran here, but I still feel like I’m pretty young. They’re the same age, you get a sense of bonding a little quicker.”
Dream come true
For Jackson native forward Carter Mazur, getting to put on a Wings jersey and taking part in this camp is a thrill.
Mazur, the Wings 2021 third-round pick, grew up a Red Wings fan and attended games.
“This is pretty special to me,” Mazur said. “Especially being from Michigan and growing up a Red Wings fan and finally to be a part of it, it’s difficult to put into words.”
Being around the Red Wings’ locker rooms, facilities, getting a taste of NHL life, gives any young player like Mazur extra motivation to reach the NHL level.
“You’re playing against the best players in the world right now (at this camp), playing against kids who were drafted before or after you, and seeing them every day does give you fuel to where you want to be,” Mazur said.
Mazur, as a freshman, was a key contributor for Denver in its march to an NCAA championship. Mazur had 14 goals and 38 points in 41 games, and got better as the season went on.
“My game grew a lot,” Mazur said. “I feel like I grew physically and mentally and especially studying and going to school with hockey, that kind of added a lot to my mental game and it had a real good impact.”
Mazur refined a gritty game that complemented his offensive work, getting opponents off their games. It’s been a part of his game since a youth, when he would occasionally play a level two years up.
“Playing two years up, you kind have to, you might as well, playing against bigger people, trying to get under their skin,” Mazur said. “I feel like it’s more fun for me getting under people’s skin and having them come after me, drawing penalties, stuff like that. That’s something fun in hockey, I enjoy that.”