The Red Wings prospects faced off in three games against prospects from the Blue Jackets, Stars, and Maple Leafs. The Red Wings have several European prospects who have already started the season and did not play in the tournament.
Likewise, the NCAA players are with their teams and were not at the tournament. There were several free agent invitees, who were mostly new names there to fill out the roster. Yet a couple of those free agent skaters made positive impressions. Most of us tuned in for the high draft picks, and future Red Wings show their pre-training camp form.
In an unscientific viewing, here are some general impressions. When looking at prospects, trying to discover one or two NHL-caliber skills is all you can hope to see.
For most players, consistency is what differentiates great juniors and minor leaguers from regular NHLers and stars. This observation is only from a three-game sample. If the player is not mentioned, then you understand the degree of impression that they made. We will divide this review into Impressive, Potential, and Disappointing showings.
The group of impressive Red Wings contributors
Dominated play from the back end. The major skill that differentiates strong defensemen is handling and moving the puck with poise while under intense pressure. His skating stride is pure and smooth. He knows how to use his reach to deflect passes and smother attacks. He has it. Yet, he needs to move his feet more in the defensive zone. He is too often chasing the play after taking unnecessary chances.
A goal against was scored as he dropped to one knee and turned away in a low-effort attempt to block a shot. He must also use his strength and reach along the boards with more authority. Consistency is vital as sometimes he appears less engaged than you want to see. He would benefit from a year in the AHL with Grand Rapids, but the potential is a first-pairing blue liner.
Scoring five goals in the tournament is impressive. None were incredibly eye-opening, but he was in the right place at the right time, and that is a critical skill. Also, he was quick to fight against a less-than-enthusiastic Dallas Star. He is big, tough, and solid. As one of the free agency invitees, he may have earned a contract somewhere. He could be a better skating Givani Smith-type player.
Comfortable and slick with the puck. He frequently dominated play in the open ice and in front of the net. The perfect saucer pass to Cross Hanas for the breakaway goal against the Leafs was beautiful (but likely offsides).
His reach is like no forward I have seen before, so he is a challenge to scout. He is also hard to play against, as he drew a penalty when a player had no idea how to stop him and grabbed on. I suspect he will need a year in the AHL to improve his board work and defensive play. Once skeptical, I now believe he will be an NHL force.
As advertised. Smart and in position. He was also effective along the boards and even gave out a big hit. Unlike his blue line teammates, Johansson showed great instincts for when to jump in the play and when to hold back.
He anticipated and broke up attacking plays at a high level. He spent much of the games covering his defensive partners’ reckless pinches and out-of-position play. He is an NHL-caliber defenseman right now.
So fun to watch. I am not sure if he will ever make the NHL. He needs to stay healthy first. But he makes good things happen in the offensive zone. He is confident, creative, and has great quickness. I hope he gets a chance.
One of my favorite Red Wings forwards in the tournament. He was a threat as a passer and shooter. He has confidence, flair, and vision. The quality breakaway goal showed that he has a nice finishing touch. He has a great chance at making an NHL career in 2 or 3 years.
He did not play in the second game (against the Stars), which showed. He was in control and tough. He also made a couple of nice shot blocks. I would project him as a solid fourth or fifth defenseman on a playoff team. He is a year or two away, but he will be in the NHL.