Detroit Red Wings continue to develop players patiently

By Chris Roberts
Photo: Detroit Red Wings goaltender Petr Mrazek filled in well with Jimmy Howard injured. (courtesy of Juan Salas/Icon Sportswire)

Photo: Detroit Red Wings goaltender Petr Mrazek filled in well with Jimmy Howard injured. (courtesy of Juan Salas/Icon Sportswire)

 

Though the 2014-15 Detroit Red Wings roster is the youngest on average in some time, it is a team that has received little contribution from first-year players. Instead, increased roles have been given to players like Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and Riley Sheahan. Relative health has also limited the amount of games available for young prospects in Grand Rapids, but a few have made notable contributions.

Petr Mrazek, G, 22

After appearing in a total of 11 NHL games over the past two seasons, 2010 fifth-round pick Petr Mrazek has been given an extended look in Detroit this season. Because of an injury to backup Jonas Gustavsson, Mrazek has been Jimmy Howard’s goaltending partner for much of the season. Appearing in 19 games, Mrazek owns a record of 13-4-1-1 as well as a goals against average of 2.42 and a save percentage of .914. His numbers are not as strong as Howard’s, but he has put in some fine performances for the Red Wings, and has been fortunate enough to receive strong offensive support during his starts. He has given up 11 goals in his last five starts.

Teemu Pulkkinen, RW, 23

As evidenced by his work in Grand Rapids this season and last, Teemu Pulkkinen is an NHL talent, and should be playing at that level right now; the problem is there is no real space in Detroit for him right now. Teemu Pulkkinen clearly has the AHL figured out. The 22-year-old is in just his second full season in the NHL’s top developmental league. Last year, with 31 goals, he proved he was amongst the league’s best offensive prospects. This year, he has been arguably the best player in the entire league.

Now leading the AHL in scoring, Pulkkinen has 48 points in 38 games for Grand Rapids, highlighted by a strong January in which he recorded 11 points in just seven games. He also took part in the AHL All-Star Game, scoring a goal and adding an assist. Pulkkinen has been playing alongside Andy Miele and Mitch Callahan for most of the season, so it’s no surprise those three are the team’s top three scorers.

Pulkkinen has, however, played in six games with the Red Wings this season, during which he scored his first career NHL goal. There is a strong chance he pushes somebody in Detroit out of a job sooner than later.

Xavier Ouellet, D, 21

Since his recall in November, Xavier Ouellet has played in 21 games for the Red Wings, his latest coming on January 29th, a game in which Ouellet was a -3 in 19:20 of ice time. He was, somewhat surprisingly, sent back to Grand Rapids following that game, but showed enough poise and confidence with the puck during his two-month stint to suggest he might become a solid top-four blueliner. He scored twice and added one assist this season.

Alexey Marchenko, D, 22

Marchenko was recalled to replace Ouellet in the lineup on January 31st, playing his second career NHL game. Regarded as more defensively-sound and polished than Ouellet, Marchenko was a +1 in 15:26 of ice time in his first NHL game, but will likely get an extended look in February that involves a highly-sheltered role.

2015 World Junior Tournament Update

The Detroit Red Wings scouts had to be amongst the happiest in the league during the World Junior Championships. The team had five prospects participating with four different countries, including American Dylan Larkin, who received a lot of attention for his offensive prowess, despite his team’s quarter-final finish.

Larkin finished 12th in tournament scoring, despite playing two less games than those ahead of him. He scored five goals in five games, while adding a pair of assists. He was the United States’ most productive forward by far, snatching away some of the praise that was expected to be reserved for Jack Eichel (2015).

On the Canadian gold-medal-winning squad, Red Wings undrafted free-agent signing Joe Hicketts played top-six minutes for most of the tournament, taking away minutes from first-round pick Samuel Morin (PHI). Despite his small stature, he played steady defensive hockey, and picked up three assists along the way – two in an 8-0 win over Denmark.

As seemingly always is the case, the Red Wings had a pair of prospects playing for Sweden: Axel Holmstrom and Christoffer Ehn. Holmstrom, a seventh-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, scored seven points for Sweden throughout the tournament. His lone goal came during a 3-2 win over Russia and he recorded an assist in the Swedes’ bronze medal loss to Slovakia. Ehn, meanwhile, collected just two assists in the tournament.

The Red Wings’ 2014 sixth-round selection, Julius Vahatalo, played five games for the offensively-challenged Finns, going pointless. His best and most involved game came in a 2-0 win over Germany, where he registered five shots and was +1.

Detroit Red Wings Prospect of the Month

dylan_larkin_michigan_1

Since not scoring a goal in his first three games of the season, University of Michigan forward Dylan Larkin has been one of the NCAA‘s best players this season and January was no different. In fact, since returning from the World Junior Championships, where he scored seven points in five games, Larkin hasn’t gone a game without finding the scoresheet. In six January contests Larkin recorded 14 points, and he now sits at 30 points through 22 games this season, which puts him behind only Zach Hyman (FLA) for the team lead.

Larkin’s top performance of the month came on January 16th against Ohio State, when he scored twice and added three assists against a surprisingly weak Ohio State team.

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