Derek Lalonde: Detroit Red Wings went from flying colors to lacking pushback
Detroit Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde, April 14, 2023 in Detroit.
Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press
Carter Mazur left Detroit Red Wings head coach Derek Lalonde thinking he will fit right in with the club.
Lalonde, back in metro Detroit after serving as an assistant coach with the U.S. at the World Championship, talked up the 21-year-old forward, who was part of the American team that had a really good tournament until the final weekend.
“I was very happy with Carter,” Lalonde told the Free Press Wednesday. “He represented a lot of our young guys, where they elevated their game immediately. The thing I really like about Carter is, he already plays through bodies and a lot of times, we are having to teach young players that. So that is a huge credit to him.”
Lalonde described Mazur as “still very raw,” but that’s to be expected with a guy who spent the past two seasons playing college hockey, capped by two weeks in the American Hockey League this spring. The World Championship was his first experience playing for the men’s national team. Mazur had a goal and three assists in 10 games.
“There are still a lot of areas where he needs to grow his game, but I got a very good impression from him,” Lalonde said. “Carter represented our guys — no fear. He put his nose right into things. It was impressive to see.”
Mazur (6 feet, 175 pounds) played the past two seasons at the University of Denver. In 2021-22, he recorded 14 goals and 24 assists in 41 games, leading all Pioneers freshmen and finishing second in NCAA scoring for a freshman (trailing only Luke Hughes’ 39 points for Michigan). The Pioneers beat Hughes’ Wolverines in the Frozen Four, then took down Minnesota State for the national title.
In his second season, Mazur recorded 22 goals and 15 assists in 40 games, leading the Pioneers in goals, power-play goals (eight), and game-winning goals (six). On March 28 — his birthday — Mazur signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Wings and joined the Grand Rapids Griffins, with whom he posted three goals and three assists in six games.
Mazur will get an opportunity at camp in the fall to show if he is ready for the NHL, but the Wings will be happy whether he is with them or starts the season with the Griffins. The consensus is he has a promising future with the organization.
“He is really going to have to show us that he is ready to play and play a significant role for us at a high level,” Lalonde said. “We would have no problem starting him in Grand Rapids. But it will play itself out over the summer he has, what our free agency looks like. But he had a good tournament at Worlds.”
Carter was part of a team that featured multiple college players among its mix.
“Before the games, they would have the graphics of the players, and we’d see these other teams and every player from Europe looked like he was between 35 and 50,” Lalonde said. “And our guys looked like they were 16 years old. We’d laugh as a coaching staff, how are we going to pull this out?”
The U.S. won all seven of its games in the preliminary round, from beating co-host Finland in the first game to an overtime victory over Sweden that gave the Americans the top spot in Group A. Carter, drafted by Wings general manager Steve Yzerman at No. 70 in 2021, was among multiple Wings players at the tournament: Olli Määttä (Finland); Lucas Raymond and Jonatan Berggren (Sweden); Moritz Seider (Germany); Dominik Kubalik (Czechia) and Joe Veleno (Canada).
In the first game of the elimination round, the U.S. dispatched Czechia, 3-0. But the run ended with a stumble: Blowing a late lead to lose, 4-3, to Germany in the semifinal, and then blowing a lead again the next day to lose the consolation game, 4-3, to co-host Latvia.
“Obviously mixed emotions and a little sour taste in our mouths with the way it ended,” Lalonde said. “You look back on the whole tournament — we don’t lose a single in regulation and we lead both medal games in the third, and we come up empty-handed.
“But I was really proud of the group. When you saw the roster announced, it wasn’t the sexiest and most star-studded roster, but the group came together immediately. We wanted to have an identity of playing fast and be good in transition, and we did that. For the most part, we had a pretty good tournament for the group.”
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.
Feeling a draft?
What: 2023 NHL draft.
When/where: June 28-29; Nashville, Tennessee.
The Red Wings’ picks (with overall picks in parentheses): Round 1 — No. 9 (9), No. 17 (17); Round 2 — No. 8 (41), No. 9 (42), No. 10 (43); Round 3 — No. 9 (73); Round 4 — No. 22 (118); Round 5 — No. 9 (137); Round 6 — No. 9 (169); Round 7 — No. 9 (201).