The Beginning; A Simple Seed | DRW Training Camp

Jenae - Guest Writer
Guest Writer: Jenae Anderson

Traverse City is a special place to me – the scenery, social hot spots and atmospheric coffee shops add to its charm. One building however, that holds specific charm for myself – Centre Ice Arena.

Centre Ice hosts the Detroit Red Wings hockey club for a number of special events during the month of September. This year I’ve had the pleasure of attending Traverse City (TC) Detroit Red Wings Development Camp, Prospect Tournament and the Detroit Red Wings Training Camp. These events give me the unique opportunity to watch players from the beginning and through their individual development. From Development Camp to Training Camp, these players are put through strenuous drills and off ice workouts to test physical and mental ability. Involved players come directly from the Detroit Red Wings (National Hockey League), Grand Rapids Griffins (American Hockey League), colleges around the area as well as leagues and teams around the world. These weekends are where I get the privilege of spending 15+ hours in a hockey rink watching some of the most talented players from around the world gain experience with every year. Every year, I find I appreciate the discipline it takes to become an outstanding hockey player – no one exhibits that quite like the unsung heroes of TC’s Training Camp.

Red Wings Training Camp is divided into three groups; Delvecchio, Howe and Lindsey. Team Delvecchio includes the gents from the Red Wings, some of their star prospects like forward Tyler Bertuzzi and Dennis Cholowski and even some veteran Griffins such as Ben Street. Team Howe showcases the talents and skills of most of our Grand Rapids Griffin’s boys such as forward Evgeny Svechnikov, recent Detroit acquisition Vili Saarijarvi and some Prospect Tournament stand-outs including forward Luke Esposito. Team Lindsey is mostly focused around prospects that were involved in the Prospect Tournament as well as other minor hockey leagues such as forward Jordan Sambrook and Oliver Castleman.

What team do you root for when all the teams are made of your favorite hockey team? Well, a simple answer is “all of the teams.” While rooting for all teams, however, there are two teams in specific that I can’t help but highlight. There is something extra special about watching teams Howe and Lindsay. The bleachers aren’t as full as if it were all signed Red Wings scrimmaging and the folks in the surround seats ask who in the world some these guys are. I chime in and offer my two cents about the guys who have proven time again that they are worth their weight (and that’s a lot) in gold (or Calder Cups, if you prefer). I was honored to watch the Grand Rapids Griffins in the 2016-17 regular season and honored once more, to witness this incredible team win the Calder Cup in 2017 in a packed house of over 10,000 fans at the Van Andel Arena. The guys participating in the TC Training Camp from this team and other minor leagues have worked hard for their spot and deserve recognition.

The purpose of this website is to do just that. We aim to bring recognition and highlight deserving players. These kids from 17 years old and up are eventually going to be the new faces of hockey. Players like Evgeny Svechnikov become as talented as Sergei Federov and guys like Dominik Shine and Dylan McIlrath win the Stanley Cup. The stars we watched as kids started as kids themselves in arenas much like Centre Ice. Before we were able to witness the finesse of Russian skaters like Federov, Konstantinov and Larionov or the dual play of Yzerman and Zetterberg, Red Wing scouts recognized the potential at tournaments and camps like this.

The passion and dedication that drives these young guys are what makes me love watching, talking, writing and fan-girling hockey. They are worth the time.

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DRW Prospect Tournament | Top Prospects

Just like every year, the Detroit Red Wings Prospect Tournament ended far sooner than I wanted it to. Only being there a few days still allows ample time to see the stand-out players. After about fifteen hours alternating between Centre Ice Arena’s West and David’s rinks, I have selected my top three prospects (amended from five).

Stick tap please…

Geno the Machino (Evgeny Svechnikov)

I can’t claim ownership of that nickname, but it works. Ever since I first saw Evgeny Svechnikov take the ice with the Grand Rapids Griffins, his distinct style captured my attention. Perhaps its my nostalgic side, but there’s something akin to the Russian five in how he plays – not solely because he too, is Russian.

Svechnikov
Detroit Red Wings prospect, Svechnikov, during warmups at the 2017 DRW Prospect Tournament

The Calder Cup champ has improved, in my opinion, over the summer. His passes were crisper and it even seems as though he’s gotten faster. The Wings are in a developmental stage of the organization, and they could definitely use his youthful legs and puck handling. He’s worth a good look.

 

DomTurg
Dominic Turgeon practices with teammate, Svechnikov, at 2017 DRW Prospect Tournament

Turg (Dominic Turgeon)

 

This young center was definitely the center of my attention. Having 18 points to his name during the 16-17 regular season and 2 additional points during the Griffs’ Calder Cup run, Dom has proven his worth. There’s nothing fancy about this kid based on the “McDavid” standards – just a step below superhero – but his vision, footwork and leadership capabilities at such a young age are promising. He had a keen sense of puck placement every shift and did a great job battling along the boards.

 

The Golden Boy – Vili Saarijarvi

The Red Wings’ new golden boy did not disappoint. With a build and style much like the Griffin’s Joe Hicketts, Vili is among the exceptions to the “bigger is better” philosophy when it comes to defense. Being a nuisance to his opponents in the corners and silencing nay-sayers with his speed, young Saarijarvi has a very promising career. Speed isn’t everything however, and there is room to improve. Landing a spot with the Griffs for the 17-18 season will surely develop his existing defensive skills to the pro caliber.

My favorite thing about this kid, is envisioning he and Hicketts being pint-sized best buds.

Saarijarvi
Saarijarvi (D) warms up during 2017 DRW Prospect Tournament

Though the Wings did not place in this year’s tournament, the young talent coming up through the minors gives me hope for future seasons. Detroit fans are learning that development takes time. As a fan, I understand the frustration. The demands of the game are changing, and through events like the Prospect Tournament, teams are able to meet those demands with a new generation of hockey player.

 

 

 

DRW Prospect 2017

It is almost my favorite time of year! Though I try not to wish for the summer to disappear to make way for the inevitable blanket of snow that is soon to follow, I can’t help but get excited for the arrival of fall. Its Prospect season! Centre Ice Arena will once again host the youngsters who hope to be donning the winged wheel officially as a part of the NHL.

A display of talent and poise, the Prospect Tournament is where I, as a more AHL-focused writer, get the unique opportunity to see fresh legs from around the world, prove their worth under the scrupulous eyes of scouts and suits from the NHL. I’ll be watching five young men currently holding roster spots and assessing their growth and potential. Who those young men are will be revealed during the tenure of the tournament but to say I am thrilled would be grossly underestimating my elation.

The roster is released, the schedule is set and all that is left to do is to make it Traverse City and reacquaint myself with the familiar smell of the ice.  I couldn’t imagine any better way to say “farewell” to the summer than spending 14 consecutive hours watching hockey.

ProspectRoster2017

Barwis Methods | The Heart of the Matter

The fitness world is perpetually inundated with fads and performance-enhancing gear; the “get-fit quick” scheme is ever alive and well. Though some of these approaches have merit, however that may be, there is little room in professional conditioning for taking chances on fads — especially with professional athletes. Built on a foundation of an advanced understanding of the human body, and with the help of renown performance technology, Barwis Methods has developed a system within which its professionals, and the general population alike, can train safely and effectively.

From this outsider’s observation, it is obvious that Mike Barwis (founder of Barwis Methods) had his heart set on something much more than being “a gym” — evident as soon as you walk into the Plymouth, Michigan facility. Upon entering, one cannot escape the bevy of motivational quotes, photos, and scriptures adorning almost every wall in the building. Designed to inspire, each word was clearly chosen to remind every patron that their life and abilities are a gift. It was interesting that, beyond the thumping music pumping through the building’s PA system, there was a prevalent underlying peace.

The core focus of improving not only performance, but the overall quality of each person’s life, has been readily adopted by each trainer and staff member. Even at a quick glance into the great room of the facility, it became increasingly obvious that the trainers’ passion for health and fitness overflowed into their treatment of the individuals. Nutrition plans, injury recovery / prevention, strength training, and a host of other programs are individually crafted based on each need represented. Using the finest resources available like ECP (External Counterpulsation) Therapy from Renew as well as Halo Sport, respectively used for recovery and neurological stimulation, Barwis Methods trainers keep the health of their clients at the heart of every program.

With an impressive resume in health and fitness — former University of Michigan Director of Strength and Conditioning, current Mets Senior Advisor of Strength and Conditioning, and a trainer to a few of our very own Detroit Red Wings in addition to dozens of other professionals — Mike has built himself a fitness kingdom without the pomp and circumstance of most facilities. Unlike others, Barwis Methods is run with a specific, individualized process, and those there are not concerned with a free slice of pizza more than their actual workout. Barwis is one of the few places I can safely assert that is a center for the people.

The Barwis Methods apparent attitude towards life — every day is a privilege — continues to inspire individuals to reach their personal goals, whether it’s a better game or to literally take their first independent steps through its First Step Foundation. Barwis Methods’ Plymouth facility is just a glimpse at the rewards reaped from what dedication to health both physically and spiritually can look like. With a growing reach across the United States and beyond, Barwis will continue to spread the good vibes and bring new life to a culture laden with quick-fix fitness promises and the status-quo of ineffective products.

 

OHL Lake Erie Otters | Erie Insurance Arena

When watching a sport, not many people venture too far beyond their momentary reaction to the game to think of the back-story of the athletes. Very few actually consider the development or sacrifice involved with their chosen sport. Grueling travel, training hours and time away from family play a large role in any sport, especially junior hockey. Host cities have gone through great lengths in recent years to provide these young athletes with facilities that meet their needs and a fan base to fill the stands, like Erie, Pennsylvania.

Amid the streets where homes seem trapped in time and industrial buildings are long-abandon, lies the Erie Insurance Arena – a stunning portrayal of OHL splendor. Sprawling 218,000 square feet, this is where the OHL’s Lake Erie Otters call home and where some of the brightest stars in the NHL made their names like McDavid and Red Wing’s prospect, Jordan Sambrook.

JordanSambrook
Jordan Sambrook – Detroit Red Wings Development Camp 2017 – Center Ice Arena, Traverse City, MI

The 42+ million dollar renovations of the Erie Insurance Arena were a long-term investment into the development of the future of the OHL and by extension – the NHL. From the center ice vantage point, the enormity of the facility is overwhelming. Boasting luxury suites, newly painted locker rooms, and an extended concourse, the arena does a commendable job of keeping the fans engaged and the players inspired.

Under-rated and all too often not given the credit it deserves, junior and minor league hockey lays the foundation for the skill-set and development for the future generations of hockey. Arenas like Erie, are doing their part in giving the players a place to establish their athletic reputations and to give back to the players that have given so much.

Development Camp 2017

The weeks leading up to Development Camp have been eventful to say the very least. Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City will be hosting the slew of young-blood coming down the pipes! I will be keeping tabs on these boys from the 7th to the 9th with great anticipation and excitement.

Holland and his fellow big-wigs have taken a lot of flack in recent weeks and I look forward to seeing a few redeeming figures on the ice to justify his actions. The position of GM is one not generally smiled upon by franchise fan bases so I hope that the fans, myself included, will have reignited faith in their management after Development Camp. I am confident that there will be a few diamonds in the rough.

Courtesy of the Detroit Red Wings, below is the roster for this year’s development! Stay tuned for photos and player performance reviews!

Player Position 2016-17 Team Acquired
Jack Adams RW Fargo (USHL) 2017 6th Rd. (162nd overall)
Christoffer Ehn C Frolunda (SHL) 2014 4th Rd. (106th overall)
Mattias Elfstrom LW Malmo (Swe-Jr.) 2016 7th Rd. (197th overall)
Zach Gallant C Peterborough (OHL) 2017 3rd Rd. (83rd overall)
Brady Gilmour C Saginaw (OHL) 2017 7th Rd. (193rd overall)
Chase Pearson C Maine (HE) 2015 5th Rd. (140th overall)
David Pope LW Omaha (NCHC) 2013 4th Rd. (109th overall)
Michael Rasmussen C Tri-City (WHL) 2017 1st Rd. (9th overall)
Dylan Sadowy LW Grand Rapids (AHL) Trade with San Jose, 5/26/16
Givani Smith RW Guelph (OHL) 2016 2nd Rd. (46th overall)
Lane Zablocki C Regina/Red Deer (WHL) 2017 3rd Rd. (79th overall)
Oliver Castleman RW Niagara (OHL) Camp Invitee
Luke Esposito C Harvard (ECAC) Signed by Griffins, 4/12/17
Isaac Johnson C Des Moines (USHL) Camp Invitee
Sean Josling C Sarnia (OHL) Camp Invitee
Luke Kutkevicius C Hamilton (OHL) Camp Invitee
Tommy Marchin LW Brown (ECAC) Camp Invitee
Michael Pastujov LW U.S. National U18 Team Camp Invitee
Dominik Shine RW Northern Michigan (WCHA) Signed by Griffins, 3/14/17
Graham Slaggert C U.S. National U18 Team Camp Invitee
Brett Supinski C Union (ECAC) Camp Invitee

DEFENSEMEN (18)

Player Position 2016-17 Team Acquired
Dennis Cholowski D St. Cloud State (NCHC) 2016 1st Rd. (20th overall)
Cole Fraser D Peterborough (OHL) 2017 5th Rd. (131st overall)
Patrick Holway D Maine (HE) 2015 6th Rd. (170th overall)
Filip Hronek D Saginaw (OHL) 2016 2nd Rd. (53rd overall)
Kasper Kotkansalo D Sioux Falls (USHL) 2017 3rd Rd. (71st overall)
Gustav Lindstrom D Almtuna (Swe-2) 2017 2nd Rd. (38th overall)
Alfons Malmstrom D Orebro (Swe-Jr.) 2016 4th Rd. (107th overall)
Vili Saarijarvi D Mississauga (OHL) 2015 3rd Rd. (73rd overall)
Jordan Sambrook D Erie (OHL) 2016 5th Rd. (137th overall)
Malte Setkov D Malmo (Swe-Jr.) 2017 4th Rd. (100th overall)
Libor Sulak D Orli Znojmo (EBEL) Signed Free Agent, 5/24/17
Reilly Webb D Hamilton (OHL) 2017 6th Rd. (164th overall)
Tomas Dvorak D Karlovy Vary (Czech) Camp Invitee
Mitch Eliot D Michigan State (B10) Camp Invitee
Evan Fiala D Spokane/Saskatoon (WHL) Camp Invitee
Adam Larkin D Yale (ECAC) Camp Invitee
Patrick McCarron D Cornell (ECAC) Signed by Griffins, 3/28/17
Alex Peters D Flint (OHL) Camp Invitee

GOALTENDERS (6)

Player Position 2016-17 Team Acquired
Filip Larsson G Djurgarden (Swe-Jr.) 2016 6th Rd. (167th overall)
Matej Machovsky G Plzen (Czech) Signed Free Agent, 5/2/17
Keith Petruzzelli G Muskegon (USHL) 2017 3rd Rd. (88th overall)
Chase Perry G RPI (ECAC) 2014 5th Rd. (136th overall)
Joren van Pottelberghe G Davos (NLA) 2015 4th Rd. (110th overall)
Chicago Blackhawks G Thu. 7:30 p.m.
Kaden Fulcher G Hamilton (OHL) Camp Invitee

Nose Goes | Las Vegas Nabs Tomas Nosek

Nosek
Tomas Nosek warms up prior to Game 6 of Calder Cup Finals

The NHL Expansion Draft had the hockey world up in arms. As all eyes focused on the fate of Petr Mrazek, who was exposed instead of veteran goaltender, Jimmy Howard, Vegas set their sits on Red Wings Prospect, Tomas Nosek.

Still reveling in the aftermath of a Calder Cup victory with the Grand Rapids Griffins, Detroit’s primary AHL affiliate, Nosek was summoned to pack his bags and head out west. Nosek netted 10 playoff goals and 12 assists during the Griffins’ Calder Cup run, adding to his already glimmering report card for the season – so its no surprise that he caught the infant Las Vegas Gold Nights’ eye.

Getting his start in his home country of the Czech Republic, Nosek immediately had the attention of the Red Wings scouting staff who constantly patrol the European leagues for new talent. Nosek’s smooth skating, humble disposition and ability to find the back of the net quickly elevated him to the status of crowd favorite during his tenure with Grand Rapids.

The AHL is an ever-shifting league and unfortunately, fans are accustomed to seeing their favorites move on. Though fans want nothing more than to see players achieve their ultimate dream, playing in the NHL, the process of watching one go to a non-affiliate team is a tough pill to swallow. Nosek has proven to be a valuable and skilled player.

As the Expansion Draft drama ends and the official NHL Draft begins, Detroit is at a crossroads flanked by impatient fans and bad contracts. The loss of Nosek has only increased tensions between the fan base and Detroit upper management. Maintaining a strangle hold on the organization, the ever present salary cap paired with expensive existing players was not relieved with the expansion, but remains the same. In short, we lost a solid winger and gained nothing.

For now however, I say farewell to Nosek. Putting aside the drama of organized sports and expansion drafts, I will fondly remember watching you play. Take care, friend. I think I speak for all of Grand Rapids when I say, you will be missed but we wish you every success.

Quest for the Calder | Finishing Touches

Frk_Calder
Frk holds the Calder Cup at Rosa Parks Circle

By now, the confetti has settled and the great halls of the Van Andel Arena have fallen silent; void of the hockey fans that graced them only a few days ago. The echos of the crowd chants and whistles have faded into summer. For now, the famous “Freezer on Fulton” will be transformed night after night for concerts and events, but in the hearts of Grand Rapids’ hockey fans, no amount of pop stars and hair-band legends can compare to what took place Tuesday, June 13, 2017.

The road to the Calder Cup is stained with blood, sweat and even a few tears. For some, it may be the only chance they get in their professional careers to win a national championship and to have such an honor placed upon them. For others, it is only a taste of what is to come as their careers go to new heights and their quests lead them to Lord Stanely’s cup. As the final horn sounded Tuesday night, there was a mixture of exhilaration and sadness within me. As I stood there sharing that special moment in my hometown’s history with 11,000 fellow fans, I realized that this would be the last time I would see some of the boys inside the walls of the Van Andel.

I am filled with immense pride to have watched so many young men grow into outstanding athletes and leaders, but that same pride leaves a bitter after-taste. There may come a day very soon, where the ability to watch the smooth skating of Tomas Nosek or the rough and tumble play of MVP Tyler Bertuzzi will disappear from Grand Rapids. We as fans have had the distinct privileged watching these fine players become who they are suppose to be.

The Griffins, like any team hoping to have their chance to hoist the Calder, surmounted incredible obstacles. Overcoming injuries and call-ups during the regular season, Grand Rapids proved to be a team not solely based on one man’s ability. Throughout the playoffs, with the help of their now legendary coach, Todd Nelson, they learned that sweeping a series doesn’t make you untouchable, that arrogance will be the demise of any man and what it means to truly become a team on and off the ice.

Following Tuesday’s win was Friday’s community celebration. Filling Rosa Parks Circle to capacity with thousands of fans baking in their jerseys in the hot summer sun to show their love and support for their Griffins. It was an emotional gathering as we laughed, cried and relived the glory with our fellow citizens and team. We said “hello” to the Calder and “goodbye” to hockey season in one breath – until October that is.

As I sit, reliving every moment, I am overwhelmed. Only here, is there a day officially dedicated as “Griffins Day” and only here are the radio broadcasters, commentators and mascots just as much of the team as the players themselves. The celebration will continue until the battle begins once again with the start of a new hockey season, and then we will defend our title. The Calder is home at last in Hockeytown West and if next season is anything like this one, it’ll stay here.

Quest for the Calder | Fan Edition

Quest for the Calder – A Friendly Reminder to the Fans

I starred blankly at the TV screen from my perch on the couch at the downtown Grand Rapids Peppino’s. There’s no way the team I just watched get destroyed by Syracuse was the same one I saw the night before. Crestfallen and dismayed, I left Peppino’s with my rally towel now feeling like an anvil in my hand.

The feelings that linger even now are shared by many, but none more so than the team itself. The Grand Rapids Griffins’ shocking loss to Syracuse Saturday night has unfortunately overshadowed their beautiful performance Friday night.

What happened is no longer relevant as we march forward in the quest for the Calder Cup. Maintaining uncanny composure, Coach Nelson has responded to the prying media and disheartened fan base that games like this happen and the best thing a team can do is learn and move on. At first glance, such a reminder may seem like a carbon-copy excuse for poor performance however, sometimes the most simple solution is the best solution.

All of this is to say, that yes, its disappointing to have such a loss following our boys back to Grand Rapids but, we as fans have a duty to forget and recover just as much as we expect our players to. Let us not forget that Syracuse comes to our house next and we are not going relinquish our home-victory streak as they did. The cup belongs in Hockeytown West – lets be fans worth of it.

Calder Cup Finals | GR vs da ‘Cuse

Anyone who was under the assumption that this would be an easy series is likely second guessing their assumptions – as well they should. Grand Rapids and Syracuse faced off at the Van twice so far this weekend and each game bore markedly different atmospheres. Game 1, held on Friday, packed a healthy crowd of 8,857. Game 2, a remarkable 10,834 die-hard Griffins fans swarmed the Van Andel – amplifying the Hockeytown West craze. Grand Rapids was crawling with festival goers and hockey fans, making it next to impossible to find a parking spot. Its a small price to pay in light of history being made. Here’s a little break down of said history…

Game 1 – Peeve, Play and Player of the game.

Peeve – Defensive breakdown. Allowing a short handed goal is bad enough – but to allow one in the finals is a concern. Allowing Syracuse to simply walk through our defense was a little upsetting to say the least.

Play – The Captain strikes again. Taking an assist mid-way through the 2nd period from Bertuzzi and Campbell, the ever-patient Paetsch was ready and waiting at the top of the right circle. An effortless wrist shot tied the game and recharged the waning Griffins.

Player – The Man. The Machine. His name is Bert. Earning two assists game one, Bert is making his presence known and no doubt, catching the eye of the big wigs in Detroit. Bertuzzi was everywhere, throwing his body into every shot and masterfully controlling the puck. For more, check out my guest writer’s player review The Man. The Machine. The MVP.

Game 2 – Peeve, Play and Player of the Game

Peeve – Dump and chase is my nemesis and all too familiar to Detroit fans. Not only does this style of play exhaust the players, but in game two, it made it impossible for the Griffins to get to the puck. Syracuse has proven to have exquisite board play and speed – whenever the puck was dumped, the Crunch got their first almost every time.

Play – It goes without saying – Tangradi to Street in the double overtime winner. Using his enormity, Tangradi carried the puck into the Syracuse zone with Street tailing him at center. In a bam-bam play, Tangradi flicked a backhand pass to Street who hammered it home to end the almost 5 period game. The deafening volume of the crowd likely paled in comparison to the relief felt by the Griffins.

Player – His name is Ben. Street had two goals and an assist in game two – including the game winner. Bumping up to 6 post season goals, Street’s on-ice authority is unquestionable. His speed is uncanny as is his ability to be ever-present in critical moments such as double overtime.

Game two was frustrating to say the least. Likely more so for Syracuse, who immediately evacuated the playing surface after overtime ended. They out-skated and out-played the Griffins the entire game and after delivering 55 shots on goal only to lose is disappointing. They will be in search of retribution upon their return home.

Heading back to Syracuse will put the Griffins at a disadvantage and they will need to clean up their play prior to faceoff on Wednesday. They know this better than any of us and I have no doubt that they’ll meet the challenge head on. Until Wednesday, we all can breathe.