The Wings announced Tuesday the signing of forward Carter Mazur to a three-year entry-level contract beginning with the 2023-24 season. Mazur will report to the minor-league affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins on an amateur tryout for the remainder of this season.
The Mazur signing comes one day after the signing of defenseman William Wallinder to a similar three-year entry-level contract, also beginning in 2023-24. Wallinder will also report to Grand Rapids on an amateur tryout and finish out this season with the Griffins.
Having watched these prospects, and many others during last summer’s development camp, coach Derek Lalonde is excited to see the former draft picks take the next step in their careers.
“It’s very important for the organization and for the players, too,” Lalonde said. “Pro hockey is a lot different; no matter what they think they’re getting into, it’s going to be an experience. It’s just part of the process. I’ll be watching with curiosity, having seen these guys in development camp, and obviously having a connection with (University of) Denver (Mazur’s school) and (coach) David Carle and watching them closely. I feel familiar with the players, and I’ll be very curious, I’ll be tuning in …. especially where we are and we’re trying to build and grow as an organization.”
Mazur, 21, from Jackson, was a 2021 third-round draft pick (70th overall). Mazur recently completed his sophomore season at Denver, with a team-leading 22 goals, 15 assists and 37 points in 40 games.
Mazur (6-foot, 173-pounds) was named to the NCHC second all-star team after helping Denver to its second consecutive regular-season championship. Mazur was the conference’s rookie of the year in 2021-22.
Wallinder, 20, spent this past season playing for Rogle BK in the Swedish Hockey League. Wallinder (6-foot-4, 190-pounds) had seven goals and 19 assists for 26 points, in 50 games. The 26 points were tied for most by any skater age 22 or younger playing in Sweden’s top pro league.
Wallinder is a 2020 second-round draft pick (32nd overall) of the Wings.
Both players are likely, said Lalonde, to have similar obstacles transitioning into North American pro hockey.
“Obviously, the SHL is a pro league and you’re playing against men, but just less time and space and the forecheck is right on top of you immediately,” Lalonde said. “You just have to play a little more faster. (There) are different habits, your habits change, your attention to detail has to change, and it’s a natural process. Everyone has to go through it, and I’m excited those guys will get their feet wet right now.”
Forward Marco Kasper, the Wings’ first-round draft pick, is also expected to turn pro next week and arrive in Detroit next week, according to reports out of Sweden. Kasper already signed an entry-level contract in July. Kasper would also likely finish this season in Grand Rapids.
Playing for both the junior and senior teams for Rogle, Kasper, 18, combined for 12 goals and 20 assists (32 points) in 62 games.
Welcome back, Taro
The Wings recalled forward Taro Hirose from Grand Rapids under emergency conditions, replacing Alex Chiasson (day-to-day, lower-body injury).
Hirose, 26, had a team-leading 54 points (15 goals and team-leading 39 assists) in Grand Rapids.
“He’s been their best player, by far,” Lalonde said. “When we’ve had all these injuries and call-ups, there was a part of them (management) that wanted Taro to be the guy (recalled) because of his play. It came down to positionally, (Matt Luff being a bigger wing, and Austin Czarnik a center), so the timing is perfect.
“It’s warranted and it’s time and it’s great for him. I’m excited to see him. Hopefully, it gives us a spark.”
Hirose has played 57 games in the NHL since signing in 2019 as an undrafted free agent from Michigan State, with four goals and 16 assists (20 points).
“It’s always nice to get the call-up after a long season, and especially when you feel like you’ve earned it, which makes it that much better,” Hirose said.
The Wings organization has been pleased with the way Hirose has evolved into a veteran leader in Grand Rapids, giving younger prospects someone to emulate as they enter pro hockey.
“Having been there for a couple of years now, it’s just a natural step for me,” Hirose said. “It’s something I want to continue to get better at, and with some of the young players down there it’s easy to try and help them and show them the ropes a little bit.”
This obviously wasn’t the first time Hirose has been recalled to the NHL, but it never gets old.
“It’s the NHL, and you’re always excited, always a little nervous, no matter how many games you’ve played,” Hirose said. “I’m just looking to come in here and doing my job and helping the team.”
Lalonde confirmed forward Filip Zadina could miss the rest of the regular season (nine games, after Tuesday).
Zadina missed three months after suffering a lower-body injury while blocking a shot, returning to action on January 4. But, Zadina has had lingering issues lately, and missed the last eight games.
In total Zadina, 23, played 30 games with three goals and four assists (seven points), in another frustrating and disappointing season for the 2018 first-round draft pick (sixth overall).
“Of course, you’re sensitive to it, there’s pressure there and at the same time, you’re not helping your body out through injury, but it’s part of the process,” Lalonde said of Zadina’s injury-marred season. “I give him a lot of credit; he worked very hard to get back.
“I don’t think it’s anything serious; it’s just something underlying from that original injury and surgery, so it’s something they need to take care of, and it makes sense to potentially miss some time here.”