Friday night was the Red and White Prospects Scrimmage and we finally got to see the prospects in simulated game action. Granted, scrimmage isn't the same as an actual game, but it was great to get a look at the guys in action. Team Lidstrom won 7-1 and was by far the better team. They played 2 30 minute periods with the first being all even strength and every penalty would be a penalty shot. The second period started off with Team Lidstrom on the power play for 4 minutes, followed by Team Yzerman on the power play for 4 minutes. At the end of the 60 minutes they did a sudden death shootout with every player and goalie participating.
Team Lidstrom (White)
Team Yzerman (White)
Mike Babcock Jr.
- Andreas Athanasiou is speedy, and he creates opportunities for himself by using his speed, unfortunately he hasn't yet learned to completely control his speed and get the maximum results from his incredible skating ability. His skills were more noticeable in the skill drills and skating drills, but during the scrimmage it was more noticeable that he still needs to learn how to put all the skills together and learn to control them. There were a couple times during the scrimmage where he came into the zone, or towards the net with too much speed and ended up either losing the puck, or crashing into the boards because of it. He has decently skilled hands as well, but he still has to work on learning to use them to their full potential, and do so consistently. This is his second development camp and I can see the progress he's made between last year and now. He has an impressive skill set but he still needs to finish developing them and learning how to use them. Athanasiou grew 2 inches and gained about 10 pounds last season and I can tell because he's able to be stronger on the puck, but he still has work to do in order to pull all his skills together and get more out of his game.
- Ryan Sproul played a pretty solid defensive game, not void of mistakes of course, but he was responsible on defense and jumped up into the play, looking comfortable jumping up into the rush, shooting the puck, and he looked excellent on the point during the power play and solid on the penalty kill as well. He's an offensive defenseman who handles the puck very well and has good hockey sense.
- This is Jake Paterson's second development camp and he's going to play his third and final year in the OHL the with the Saginaw Spirit. Paterson was impressive during goalie drills with Jim Bedard, but it wasn't until the scrimmage that I got a really good chance to watch him actually play and see how he reacts in game speed situations. I already got glimpses of his quick reflexes and movement style during the practices, and he didn't disappoint during the scrimmage. He tracks the puck very well, and he waits shooters out before dropping. Sometimes it looks like he's not going to drop, but he's just waiting the shooter out, almost like he's lulling them into thinking he's not going to drop, then at the last moment he drops and stops the puck. His motions are very deliberate and he has confidence. He's very comfortable handling the puck, both when he's stopping or blocking it, and when going outside the crease to retrieve it. He's also quick about making rebound saves and there were a couple times where he made the initial stop, the puck bounced out of or off his glove but he immediately reached out and grabbed it. There was no delay, he didn't have to think or process anything, he just instinctively went after the rebound and did so surprisingly quickly and efficiently. He's quick, smooth, has great reflexes, reads players and tracks the puck well, and he's persistent about stopping the puck, even if it's not the first time.
- Upon first glance, Zach Nastasiuk has a pretty quiet game. He did score the first goal of the scrimmage and centered a line between Anthony Mantha and Martin Frk. It would be easy to be underwhelmed with his quiet performance, but considering he was centering such a highly skilled player in Frk, and a player who likes to have and shoot the puck, in Mantha, he did a satisfactory job of setting up plays, getting the puck to his wingers, and driving play to the net. It was a quietly solid first performance for the Wings 2013 2nd round draft pick.
- Anthony Mantha didn't impress me a lot in the skill drills or the skating drills; however his skill set and talent were much more visible during the game simulation. Mantha is definitely a scoring oriented player, he likes to have the puck and he likes to shoot the puck. He has very nice hands, a hard, accurate shot, and a quick release to go with it.
- Martin Frk is in incredibly talented, skilled player. He has a wicked hard shot, and he's sneaky good. He's been absolutely gassed at camp this week after playing 90 hockey games this year (13 at the World Juniors for the Czech Republic), as well as a long playoff run with the Halifax Mooseheads on their way to winning the Memorial Cup. Camp has been intense for all the players and Frk said in his interviews that after skating in practices he's been exhausted and worn out. Despite not being able to give full effort in the scrimmage, he still stood out as one of the better players. He's physically much stronger than he was last year, and he rocked Tyler Bertuzzi with a hit to hard it sent Bertuzzi's helmet flying up to the Mezzanine seating in the upper level of the rink, and his glove went nearly as high. He's got a rocket of a shot, he's accurate, and he's also sneaky.
- Alexi Marchenko didn't look like he was used to playing on this size ice at all. His timing was a little off and he looks like he has decent speed but because his timing wasn't in sync, I wasn't able to get a good feel for his skill set. This is the first time Alexi has played in North America so it's not surprising that he looks like he's not adjusted yet. At the end of the scrimmage they did a sudden death shoot out with all the skaters and goalies participating. Marchenko won the competition, scoring the only shoot out goal in the second round.
- Tyler Bertuzzi started the first half of the scrimmage running around, playing undisciplined, and getting his ass handed to him. Bertuzzi has hockey skills, but before his potential can be realized, he's going to have to develop them, and change the way he mentally approaches the game. He's so accustomed to being the tough guy on the ice that it's like he's been more focused on that aspect of his game, than the skill portion. In the first period he didn't play smart or skilled, he was out on the ice trying to agitate, and hit people instead of playing hockey. He ended up getting knocked on his ass several times, pushed around, and he tried to hit Marty Frk in the corner and Frk cleaned his clock. Bertuzzi's helmet and glove went flying, Bertuzzi was a little stunned, went off the ice, and was off for the rest of the period. In the second period Bertuzz came out and actually played hockey. He was making smart plays, getting the puck, and also took a beating physically. He has a lot of work to do in order to be ready for even the AHL level, but he has the capacity to do it. I think being drafted so recently, much higher than he or anyone else ever expected, and suddenly finding himself at development camp, surrounded by bigger, more skilled (in most cases much more skilled) players, has been very good for young BerTwozzi. He's been consistently outmatched, out-skilled, and sometimes tossed around like a rag doll, but his eyes have been opened to how much work he has to do; it gives him goals to set and reach. The training, education, drills, and team philosophy that Bertuzzi has been exposed to at camp are a good start in helping him grow and shape into a much more complete player. I wouldn't say he was good in the scrimmage, and parts of it he was awful, but keeping the full context of his situation in mind, I'm not concerned about him, and I look forward to seeing what kind of progress he makes in the next year.