Detroit — Few Red Wings prospects appreciated this summer’s Red Wings development camp like Cross Hanas did.
Because of the pandemic, the Wings canceled the camp the past two years. So, Hanas, a 2020 second-round draft pick, actually met many of his fellow prospects in the Wings’ organizations for the first time during July’s camp.
It was nice to put an actual face to a name.
“You’re drafted with these guys, but you haven’t met them yet,” Hanas said during the camp. “You’re all in the same situation, trying to make the team and what (staff members) were saying in our meeting is that we’re all pretty much future teammates. So, build some relationships and you’ll have them for a long time.”
That “team” feeling will be in full force this week when the Wings participate in the Prospects Tournament at Traverse City’s Centre Ice Arena. The five-team tournament (Detroit, Toronto, Columbus, St. Louis, Toronto) actually begins Thursday, but the Wings don’t begin playing until facing Columbus at 3 p.m. Friday.
Hanas will be one of the forwards the Wings look to for offense in a lineup that looks deep on defense, but somewhat unproven up front.
A good tournament, plus showing progress during the main training camp and possibly some Wings exhibition games, could set up Hanas, 20, in Grand Rapids to begin his pro career. If there’s no room on the Griffins’ roster, or the organization sees benefit for Hanas to play more junior hockey, then being sent to Portland (WHL) for a fifth junior year is the alternative.
Hanas has a plan in his mind for where he wants to be in October.
“I’m going to work toward playing in the AHL,” Hanas siad. “If they (the Wings) end up not wanting me there then I’ll get sent back to Portland for my 20-year-old year. (But) I’m determined to play in the AHL next year for Grand Rapids. I’m ready for that next step coming into pro hockey.”
Hanas took a major step in his development last season in Portland.
A 6-foot-1, 171-pound winger, Hanas posted his best season statistically, with 26 goals and 60 assists (86 points) in 63 games. Hanas was a plus-31 in the plus-minus rating, along with 73 penalty minutes, showing an aggressive side to his game.
The entire season was a huge step forward, after a subpar COVID-marred season the year before.
“Being 19 in the WHL is a big step, and they rely on you a lot,” Hanas said. “So I got to be first power play, play on the (penalty kill). They trusted me defensively because I’ve been working on that. Playing PK this year was one of the first times I was doing that, so I grew a lot there.
“(Just) being out there and playing with confidence, knowing you’re going to get ice time and knowing I can do stuff out there to produce for our team and win.”
The defensive end of the rink, specifically the improvement on that side of the puck, was another Hanas development. Scouts always felt the offensive potential was there, but the defensive side was where Hanas lagged.
In his fourth year of junior hockey, playing a responsible, productive brand of two-way hockey became reality for Hanas, who believes using his hockey sense and vision helped him become a more complete player.
“(Where) I’ve grown over the past few years is my two-way side of hockey,” Hanas said. “Always becoming more responsible in my (defensive) zone and knowing what do to without the puck.”
Hanas credits playing for the Portland Winterhawks organization, one of the Western Hockey League’s most successful and consistent programs, with his personal development. Landing in Grand Rapids would be the next, natural step in Hanas’ career.
“I come from a great organization where they stress that (becoming a professional) a lot and they teach us that there,” Hanas said. “The goal for me is to make the Red Wings roster before my entry level deal is up (2025). I just kind of stay focused on growing my game and developing my game the way they want me to.
“I’m just putting the work in and putting the time in for whatever it takes to make that roster someday.”
2022 NHL Prospect Tournament
► Who: Prospects from the Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs, Columbus Blue Jackets, St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars.
► When: Thursday-Monday
► Where: Centre Ice Arena, Traverse City
► Schedule: Red Wings play 3 p.m. Friday (vs. Columbus), 6 p.m. Saturday (vs. Dallas), 11 a.m. Monday (vs. Toronto)
► Streaming: All Wings games from the tournament will be carried live on DetroitRedWings.com and on the Red Wings social-media platforms (Facebook, Youtube).