The 2014 Red Wings Development Camp wrapped today, and I'm truly sad to see it end. If you ever have the chance to attend, you won't regret it. The perspective and up close interactions with the staff, coaches, players, and volunteers who make the camp possible are a fantastic experience and can sometimes change the way you think about the Red Wings, their future, and the organization.
The final scrimmage came after four days of fast paced, intense drills, practices, workouts, and off ice instruction and I could see some fatigue from the players. Tyler Bertuzzi was the only player absent from scrimmage, and he missed the previous day's practice as well; presumably from the leg injury he sustained during the Memorial Cup. The scrimmage consisted of 2 25 minute periods, followed by a shoot out. The red team (Team Yzerman) won by a score of 4-1 and controlled much of the game. Outside of the top line of Nosek, Athanasiou, and Nastasiuk, the white team (team Lidstrom) just couldn't match the depth of the red team. Defenseman Mike McKee scored first for the red team as Anthony Mantha made a great pass from the left side of goaltender Lucas Pressini and Mike McKee snuck in to put the puck into the open net. Jake Paterson came in for the white team and Jared Coreau for the red team and the 2nd period was underway. Not to be outdone by McKee, the other half of my favorite defense pairing put the red team up 2-0 when James deHaas took the puck off the boards, made a few nifty moves and fired it in top shelf on Jake Paterson. The red team then went up 3-0 when deHaas carried the puck into the zone and dropped it to Hodgson who put another in top shelf past Paterson. Blake Clarke finally put the white team on the board when he tipped in a Trevor Hamilton shot form the point on Paterson and it was 3-1 red team. Shortly after that, Clarke took a puck to the face and was on the ice for a minute, he went off on his own power to be checked out and he didn't return. With a little over two minutes left, the white team pulled Paterson for the extra skater and Julius Vahatalo set up Hapmus Gustafsson who put the red team up 4-1 with an empty net goal. Alex Globke finished off the scoring when he tipped in a Joe Hicketts point shot and the red team won 5-1. The obligatory shoot out was a goaltender duel between Jake Paterson and Jared Coreau, with 21 players shooting and Kyle Baun was the only player to actually score.
As has been the case for the entire camp, McKee and deHaas were the best defensemen on the ice. Anthony Mantha, who is clearly fatigued from the Memorial Cup, was good for most of the camp, but the final scrimmage was his time to shine. It's become clear to me that he's a much better player when he has the puck. He skates better, is more engaged, and dominant with the puck, without it he does a lot of stalking around the outside and waiting to get the puck, he's not a bad player without the puck by any means, but there's a very noticeable difference between when he has the puck and when he doesn't. I still don't think he's going to steal anyone's job in training camp this year, but we may see him a few games in the Winged Wheel. There's a lot of skill and tallent there, but he's still young and just turning pro. Jared Coreau was great and is clearly putting the disastrous rookie season behind him.
As I was live tweeting highlights from the game, my phone decided to "assist" me via auto correct, so that I could focus on the game more. Andreas Athanasiou deked a few too many times in the shootout and didn't get the shot of. Josh Howard
requested demanded the following tweet be shared so everyone could point and laugh. It may be my most fitting typo so far.
Athanasiou DeJesus himself out of the puck— Michelle (@Slapshotg0al) July 8, 2014
We'll have more on specific players coming over the next couple of weeks, but overall the Wings draftees performed well and I've seen growth and improvement in all of them since last camp. The Wings/Griffins/Walleye may also have found a few free agent gems from the camp invitees. This was the best crop of invitees I've seen at camp so far and there were some scouts in the building for the last few days of camp.
The players were great to talk with, the Wings personnel were friendly and accommodating, and the entire experience was, as always, fantastic. The dedication the Wings have to developing players into both great players and great people gives me more confidence in the organization and our future.