TRAVERSE CITY — Jakub Vrana showed off that wicked shot of his, which is what the Detroit Red Wings have come to expect of him.
Among the fresher revelations as training camp comes to a close is just how entertaining it will be to watch Elmer Soderblom try to earn a spot in the lineup. Another Swede, Jonathan Berggren has benefited from one of the regular’s being on the sidelines. Yet another Swede has tough lessons to learn, but nothing that the organization isn’t prepared to deal with from a teenager.
As the Wings wrap up five days in Traverse City and head home to Little Caesars Arena to begin their exhibition season, here are top observations from their time Up North:
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New head coach Derek Lalonde has emphasized that nothing should be read into who is playing with whom so far, but reigning NHL rookie of the year Moritz Seider and veteran Ben Chiarot sure have looked like they complement one another well. Chiarot showed in Sunday’s scrimmage that he’s not going to let up just because his opponents were teammates: He hit Michael Rasmussen into the bench, and then turned around and crushed Filip Zadina.
“That’s a tone setter,” Lalonde said.
Seider plays a game that is equal parts skill and physicality, and paired with Chiarot, the two have the potential to be a fearsome duo.
Dominik Kubalik, like Chiarot a newcomer who has looked really good in camp, smiled when asked about 6-foot-8 prospect Elmer Soderblom.
“He’s huge,” Kubalik said. “When I saw him the first time, he’s a big kid. And he skates pretty well, he’s got a good shot, good hands. It’s exciting to watch him. I like him so far.”
It’s one thing to see Soderblom from the stands, another to see him at ice level. He towers over even taller players like 6-6 Michael Rasmussen and Sebastian Cossa. Soderblom, 21, dates to Steve Yzerman’s first draft as general manager of the Wings, selected in the sixth round, at No. 159. As much as rebuilding teams need their top picks to thrive, they need to hit on some of their later-round picks, too. Soderblom will get lots of looks in exhibition season, and his odds of earning a job are tied to whether he can help their power play with his big, net-front presence.
The emphasis in camp has been on being good defensively as a team, but it helps put opponents on their heels when they have to be wary of offensive threats like Vrana and Kubalik. The Wings know Vrana only needs one shot to change a game, but Kubalik looks like another guy who can finally give the Wings the scoring depth they’ve lacked for years. The 27-year-old scored 30 goals with Chicago in 2019-20, but has been in the mid-teens the past two seasons. He’s fast, hard on the forecheck and has a shooter’s mentality. He should fit in well with the top nine and power play group.
Simon Edvinsson, the Wings’ prize pick from 2021, mostly was noticeable Sunday for his turnovers. It bears remembering he’s 19, and adjusting to playing on a smaller ice sheet than what he was used to in the SHL.
“That’s’ something he has to manage, something we have to work on with him,” Lalonde said. “I think we understand it’s a process with him. Unfortunately for him, a lot of turnovers ended up back at it, and caused him to defend on his shifts, where obviously we’d like him to be playing north. That didn’t surprise me with him.”
The Wings plan to play Edvinsson in at least five exhibition games, and if he’s still struggling with turnovers, there’s no harm in starting the season with the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Tyler Bertuzzi hasn’t practiced since an undisclosed injury flared up Thursday, which created an opening on his line with Dylan Larkin and Lucas Raymond. The beneficiary was Jonatan Berggren, a second-round pick (No. 33) from 2018. His development was slowed by injuries a few years ago, but he had a good first year in North American topping 20 goals last season with the Griffins. He has had a good camp, and playing with Larkin and Raymond was a nice reward.
Contact Helene St. James at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her latest book, On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.