Red Wings Prospects Update
The best prospect thus far into the season has been Stefan Liv of HV 71 in the Swedish Elite League. He had a great season last year but this year he has been outstanding. He is third in the league with a .917 save percentage and a 2.31 GAA and he also leads the league with 3 shutouts.
But he has not only been great with the Elite team he has also played terrific with the national team in two tournaments, the first in the Czech Republic in the start of the year where he only played one game and allowed only one goal and was the first star of the game. But the second tournament, the Sweden Hockey Games showed to be his best international performance so far, he started as back up but after poor play by Andreas Hadelöv he was allowed to start the second game. At this point, his sensational play led the team to the victory in the whole tournament, and the Swedish commentators were touting him as the best goalie of the tournament, but sadly the award went to a Russian goalie. So far this season in 4 games with the national team he has a 1.5 GAA and .944 save percentage.
It is not only his great performances in the rink that has given him many great compliments here in Sweden, it is also his great sense of humour and self confidence. For every interview you hear and see him, you can’t help but like him more and more, and that is why he is one of the most popular players in the league.
Unfortunately last week he broke his collar bone and the doctors say that he will be out up to six weeks but. In a recent interview, Liv said that the doctors always say that it is worse than it really is and that he looks to be back in three to four weeks. This also hurts his chance of earning a spot as the third goalie in the 2002 Olympics for the Swedish national team because he will not be able to play the last tournament in Russia in late december this year, but I and many other hockey fans and journalists are holding out hope that he will be in Salt Lake next year.
Liv has also confirmed that he will play another season in Sweden before moving to Detroit for the 2003 season because Detroit will try to extend Dominik Haseks contract for another year or two. I believe that this is the right thing to do, because Stefan will get tons of ice time in Sweden, in the two World Championships and hopefully in Salt Lake too before moving to Detroit. Ice time for a prospect is one of the more important requirements.
What`s the deal with Zetterberg?
Henrik is having a terrible season offensively, he has only 2 goals and 12 assists in 26 games and that doasn`t sound like a future NHL star. He has been playing well in most of the games so far and he has increased his weight to around 187 pounds. This has helped him become stronger around the boards and in the physical parts of the game. His speed is very good now and with his great quickness he is a lethal offensive force both on the wing and as a center.
“Z” has been dominating games and is the best player in the league but unfortunately he has not had any luck what so ever with the production. The last four games he has missed about 10 clear scoring chances and that is because he is lacking confidence in his finishing abilities. He is getting about 25 to 30 minutes a game in is killing tons of penalties and is a very loyal team player that works all over the ice, but all that work has a price. But this is a very important time in his career, he has to overcome this hard time and get back and show that he is still one of the best players outside the NHL.
“Z” is still a hot contender for a spot on the national team that will play at the Olympics in Salt Lake City next year. After his phenomenal performance at the Sweden Hockey Games many journalists and hockey experts expects to see him at the Olympics.
Notes: The Detroit GM Ken Holland, was in Sweden during the Sweden Hockey Games and was impressed with the play of the prospects. Liv and Zetterberg stole the show but the Wings had another good player at the games, Russian defeseman Dmitri Bykov. He impressed me with his great positioning game and his willingness to play a very physical and agressive style, especially around the boards. He has a good size and is very strong. He is a very good skater and makes nice quick passes up to the forwards and is willing to join rushes but he is by no mean an offensive defenseman, he is a solid stay-at-home D-man that could join the Red Wings next season.
Another impressive prospect thus far has been the 19 year old Czech defenseman Miroslav Blatak, who has been playing very good with his team Zlin that is ranked second in the Czech league. Mirolsav has been producing well with his 3 goals and 4 assists in 20 games. He has also played with the poor U-20 Czech national team in two tournaments and was one of the better players on the team.