Detroit — Rarely does a recent Red Wings draft pick not get at least professional seasoning in the minor leagues in Grand Rapids.
It’s understandable, given the huge jump it is from junior or college hockey to the NHL. The talent gap is monstrous.
Moritz Seider spent an entire season in the American League (along with a COVID-impacted year in Europe). Simon Edvinsson spent nearly the entire last season in Grand Rapids, and Jonatan Berggren spent over a season with the Griffins, as did Joe Veleno and Filip Zadina after getting drafted.
Lucas Raymond did not. Raymond jumped directly into the NHL, as did Dylan Larkin, except for six playoff games in 2015 with the Griffins.
Where will Carter Mazur land in this case study?
If anything, the 21-year-old Mazur is playing well enough, it seems, to possibly land in the NHL after only a brief stint in Grand Rapids.
The Wings’ 2021 third-round draft pick (70th overall) from Jackson had a six-game introduction into pro hockey with the Griffins (three goals, three assists) after signing a pro contract in late March and leaving the University of Denver.
It was an impressive stretch of hockey, following up on what Mazur had accomplished in the powerful Denver hockey program, enough to attract the attention of general manager Steve Yzerman, during Yzerman’s end-of-season press conference.
“He had a real good year in Denver in his second year, won a national championship (with Denver) a year ago, had a good year this year and decided to turn pro,” Yzerman said. “He looks like a real good prospect. Is he ready to play (with the Red Wings) next year? Maybe. Maybe not.
“But he looks like a good prospect. He looks like an NHL player. He skates well, he’s got good hands, he knows where to go on the ice.”
All this was before Mazur was selected to Team USA at the recent men’s world championships, where Mazur further raised eyebrows.
In 10 games at the tournament, Mazur had one goal and three assists while playing regularly in the middle six forwards and not looking out of place against professionals from around the hockey-playing world. Mazur had an impressive plus-nine plus-minus rating, with six penalty minutes.
It also didn’t hurt for Mazur to play as well as he did in front of Wings coach Derek Lalonde, who was an assistant coach on the Team USA staff.
Or Yzerman, who was assistant GM for Team Canada.
After playing a meaningful role for Denver in its NCAA championship run as a freshman, Mazur had an outstanding sophomore season with 22 goals (ranked fifth in NCAA) and 37 points in 40 games.
Mazur showed an ability to play some of his best hockey in games, notably Denver’s championship run his freshman season, and able to lead in a variety of roles this past season.
Lalonde talked about the move of Mazur, and prospects such as William Wallinder and Amadeus Lombardi late in the regular season to Grand Rapids, and even how a brief AHL tutorial is beneficial for a young player.
“It’s very important for the organization and for the players, too,” said Lalonde, who coached at Denver earlier in his career and has a friendship with Pioneers coach David Carle. “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 Denver and David Carle and watching them closely.
“I feel familiar with the players, and I’ll be very curious … especially where we are and we’re trying to build and grow as an organization.”
What makes Mazur a possibility to make the Wings is the fact he already plays a gritty, edgy NHL-style game.
Despite only being 6-foot, 170 pounds, Mazur isn’t shy about getting into tough, inside scoring positions and finding scoring opportunities around the net. But Mazur also has a good enough shot, and also showed playmaking ability during the world championships, adding another layer to his game.
All of which makes Mazur an interesting player to monitor in September when the Wings begin training camp in Traverse City.
Yzerman, during his season-ending conference call, stopped short of saying Mazur is a candidate for a Wings’ roster spot out of the exhibition season. But Yzerman didn’t squelch the idea, either.
“He’s going to be on our team, and he’s going to be a real good player for us sooner than later,” Yzerman said. “Is it September, October? I’m not sure.”
▶ Position: Left wing
▶ Height/weight: 6-0/170
▶ Hometown: Jackson
▶ Drafted: Third round (No. 70 overall), 2021
▶ College (stats): Denver (81 games, 36 goals, 39 assists, 75 points)
▶ Minors (stats): Grand Rapids (six games, three goals, three assists, six points)
▶ 2023 world championships: 10 games, one goal, three assists, four points