Red Wings prospect Marco Kasper sees dream come true before his eyes facing Maple Leafs

Detroit News

Toronto — When Marco Kasper dreamed about making his NHL debut, this was actually close to how he imagined it would be.

Since being drafted by the Red Wings in July, Kasper imagined he would be wearing the Wings’ jersey and facing an Original Six opponent like the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“Like a dream come true,” Kasper said after Sunday’s morning skate, after coach Derek Lalonde announced Kasper will be making his debut later that night. “Playing for the Red Wings and against the Maple Leafs, it can’t get better than this. It’s surreal to think about.

“I’m very excited. I’m just going to go out there and try and do my best. It’ll really be fun.”

Lalonde wasn’t thinking about easing Kasper, 18, into the lineup. Kasper was centering the second line with Andrew Copp and Lucas Raymond on the wings.

“I’m excited to give him the opportunity,” Lalonde said. “We’ll see how it goes. It might be a tall task, and possibly getting stuck against (John) Tavares or (Auston) Matthews but we’ll start that way and see how it goes.”

Kasper was recalled by the Red Wings after Thursday’s game and has been on the Wings’ road trip beginning Friday in Winnipeg.

Kasper has soaked whatever knowledge and advice he’s gleaned from coaches and teammates and feels he’s ready. Simply being around the team and learning about the NHL on a daily basis has been an immense help.

“For sure,” Kasper said. “Everybody’s been (helpful). Being on the trip with them and it’s been fun so far. I’m just going to go out there and do my best. I’ll just try to play my best game.

“I didn’t really know when (he’d be in the lineup). I was just focused on getting all the experience I could and how it is on a road trip (in the NHL). I was getting my work in the last couple of days and preparing for whenever the chance would come.”

Still, Kasper does take a moment sometimes to realize how this week has gone.

Just days ago he was still in Sweden wrapping up the season with his Rogle BK team, and now playing in the NHL by the end of the week.

“Being on the road trip with the Detroit Red Wings (and playing in the NHL), it’s been kind of surreal, but it’s so fun,” Kasper said.

Playing the Leafs was special in its own right. Kasper grew up watching players such as Matthews, Tavares, Mitch Marner (who was rested Sunday) and fellow Swede William Nylander.

“I even tried to model my game after them a little bit,” Kasper said. “Going out there and facing them, it’s exciting.”

Kasper said his father, Peter (a former pro player in Austria), flew from Austria to Detroit and was going to drive to Toronto and make it in time for the game.

“It’ll be pretty special for me and for him (Peter), too,” Kasper said.

Lalonde wanted to get Kasper into the lineup and get those invaluable experiences that are needed for any young player.

“As soon as he was ready,” Lalonde said. “He was dealing with a little upper-body injury coming off his playoffs (in Sweden) so he wasn’t fully 100% the other day (Friday in Winnipeg). This is an opportunity to get your feet wet and these experiences in the big picture of his development are huge.

“He’s a good two-center. We’ve only had a couple of skates, so it’s tough to get a read, but he has a good stick and he seems very receptive to anything we’ve talked about, learning-wise. We’ll monitor it, you don’t want to put him in a situation to fail, and I don’t know if going against Matthews for 22 minutes in his first NHL game is a recipe for success but we’ll see how it goes.”

Ice chips

Another top prospect, defenseman Simon Edvinsson, was back in the Wings’ lineup Sunday paired with Ben Chiarot, after Lalonde sat Edvinsson on Friday in Winnipeg. The Wings are keeping Edvinsson under the nine-game ceiling to not burn a year of Edvinsson’s entry-level contract, but also monitoring Edvinsson’s workload and opposing matchups.

Joe Veleno ended a 25-game point-less streak with a goal Friday.

“Hopefully it boosts him,” Lalonde said. “This is part of his development too. This is a grind, and it’s a grind this late in the season and sometimes for these young players it’s their first time through and they have to get beyond that threshold and learn how to compete throughout.

“He’s in that right now.”

… With all the talk about NHL debuts about the Wings these days, Lalonde had to laugh about his NHL coaching debut with Tampa. Lalonde stepped in for Jon Cooper behind the bench last season in Vegas, after finding out about 4 p.m. that Cooper had come down with COVID.

“We absolutely got murdered, got out-chanced 3-to-1, and we won,” Lalonde said. “They (Lightning players) gave me the game puck but I should have just given it right to (goaltender Andrei) Vasilevskiy. But that was my experience.”

Twitter: @tkulfan

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