TRAVERSE CITY -- After an exciting day one, newly-appointed head coach Jeff Blashill and his group of Red Wings hit the ice for another day filled with on-ice drills, and scrimmage in front of a packed Centre Ice Arena. The point of focus was clear today - Moving, and controlling the puck quickly and efficiently.
The Red Wings are stocked with a slew of exciting young talent such as players like Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Evgeny Svechnikov, Robbie Russo, and the list goes on. While a personal standout player of mine today was that of Svechnikov, the player that I think is best described as a Bull Shark for the puck, there was a lot of media hype around the top prospects in Larkin, and Mantha.
It's clear to me that Larkin wants to compete before anything else. He made the move from college to pro with hopes of becoming an impact player for the Detroit Red Wings. Larkin has those abilities to be that player, and you can see it every time he is on the ice. Whether it's a skating, breakout, or passing drill, he's more often than not the top-performing player out of the young guys.
"I'm here to work hard, and compete," said the 19-year-old centerman from Waterford, Michigan. After experiencing his first taste of NHL camp, Larkin had nothing but high praise for Jeff Blashill, and the veteran core that the Red Wings possess. With the recent injury of Darren Helm, and the unknown status of Pavel Datsyuk's return - It looks like Dylan Larkin is set to take the stage at the NHL level come October.
After a highly-criticized rookie campaign, it's clear that Anthony Mantha has a new state of mind with the way he's playing. When I say it's clear, it's because you can see it on his face. He's having more fun than I have ever seen him have. Currently skating on a line with Andreas Athanasiou, and Tyler Beruzzi - It's tough to find Mantha at a time where he doesn't have a big smile on his face.
Going into last year, Mantha was expected to make the Red Wings right off the bat before a leg injury sidelined him, and put a halt on his rookie debut. Now that he has recovered, and has spent time in the AHL, perception has changed. for the former first round pick.
My takeaway on Mantha - He looks great. He's skating his ass off every time he's on the ice, and showing that he can be a guy you can count on to hustle on the breakout. My only criticism is that he might find himself gripping the stick a bit too tightly sometimes, and have issues with controlling or shooting the puck.
"The one thing about [Mantha] is, a player like him, he's gotta score. Obviously, that's a confidence thing, and I saw it last year in Grand Rapids," said head coach Jeff Blashill. Blashill then went on to talk about how he saw a similarity with Mantha and Jurco, and how they struggled at the beginning of their career, but with practice and development, they became dominant players at each level they competed at. This is an extremely smart analysis by Blashill, in my opinion. Mantha has the tools, he's a great prospect, he just needs confidence in himself. The only different is that Jurco never had the expectations that Mantha did coming into his rookie season. I look forward to watching Mantha find success this season. It seems like he has his swagger back.