The Wings won their first game of the tournament by beating the Columbus Blue Jackets by a score of 6-4! The Jackets have won the tournament for the past two years, and they have a roster this year that’s built to win again. With names like Sonny Milano, Nick Moutrey, Dillon Heatherington, and Zach Werenski, I think the Wings lineup could be considered the underdog. However, no one told them that.
Tyler Bertuzzi, Robbie Russo, and Zach Nastasiuk are all wearing an “A” on their jerseys. Remember, no one but the Red Wings captain wears a “C”, so the prospects may only wear an “A”. Additionally, each of the Wings had a small rectangle patch on the left side of their chest that says “PETE” in white letters on black background. This is in honor of Pete Correia who passed away a couple weeks ago from Cancer. You probably don’t recognize his name, but you’ll know about his legacy. Pete was a founding member of Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City, and was instrumental in getting the Red Wings to bring their Training Camp to TC, as well as getting this very Prospect Tournament started. You can read more about him here,and I think it’s very kind of the Wings to honor his memory. Pete played hockey at MSU and loved the game through and through and this is a great way to remember him.
Now, let’s get down to the who and how of the Wings win.
Tyler Bertuzzi - Kyle Criscuolo - Evgeny Svechnikov
Dylan Sadowy - Dominic Turgeon - Zach Nastasiuk
Givani Smith - MIke Borkowski - Mathew Santos
Luke Coleman - Jeff De Wit - Justin Brazeau
Joe Hicketts - Robbie Russo
Dan Renouf - Filip Hronek
Dylan Coghlan - Jordan Sambrook
The Wings kicked off their first game of the tournament by scoring a goal 43 seconds after the first puck drop when Tyler Bertuzzi assisted on Kyle Criscuolo’s goal. Thirteen seconds later the Jackets struck back with a goal from Kole Sherwood, and 13 seconds after that, the Wings took the lead back thanks to Mike Borkowski. It was exciting for sure, but pace like that can’t last. At 12:55 Sonny Milano tied scored to tie the game at 2-2, and about three minutes later the Blue Jackets took their first lead of the game thanks to Justin Scott. Mike Borkowski scored his second goal of the night just under a minute later however, and after the first period, the score was a 3-3 tie. Both teams looking dangerous, but Columbus perhaps doing so more consistently. The Wings power play was very dangerous, but Columbus looked a little better at even strength.
Evgeny Svechnikov scored the lone goal in the 2nd period to give the Wings their lead back, and overall the period was much less eventful than the first. Dylan Sadowy and Tyler Bertuzzi both scored for the Wings in the 3rd period, and the Jackets scored a meaningless goal with 16 seconds left in the game to make the score look more respectable.
Kyle Criscuolo played at Harvard and was signed to a Griffins contract back in March. Coach Todd Nelson put him front and center (literally) in this first game, flanked by Tyler Bertuzzi and Evgeny Svechnikov. That’s a line we very well could see in Grand Rapids this coming season, and so far Criscuolo has been very good. He scored 1 goal and 2 assist in the Wings 6-4 win, and he stood out in a good way for most of the game. If these first-ish impressions are accurate, it looks like the Griffins (and Wings) did a great thing be bringing him into the organization.
Dominic Turgeon is eligible to return to the Portland Winterhawks (WHL) for his overage season this year, but he’s playing like he really wants to be a Griffin instead. Dom centered the second line, as well as being being a crucial player on the penalty kill. Dom’s always been described as a “defensive center” who needs to increase his offensive production. He did just that last year in Portland and he looks like a well rounded, smart center who’s effective both offensively and defensively. Those are pretty good qualities to have in a centerman.
Tyler Bertuzzi had moments where he drew all the attention to himself, being a pain in the ointment, being scrappy, and scoring a gorgeous goal (courtesy of Kyle Kriscuolo’s set up) from his knees. Then other times he wasn’t really that impressive at all. Overall, he had a pretty good game and that top line of he, Criscuolo and Svechnikov was excellent.
Evgeny Svechnikov looked really good at times, and at other times not so good. At even strength he looked like he was perhaps trying to go too fast or do too much, and lost the puck several times when he shouldn’t have. On the power play, when there was more space, he looked incredibly dangerous. I think this is part of the adjustment he’s going to have to make as he moves from the QMJHL to the AHL this season. I also think he’s a player who’s going to have ups and downs in games and that’s part of who he is. He fades away for a while, then sees an opportunity and jumps on it and seemingly comes out of nowhere, then sort of fades into the background again. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with this, as long as he knows and/or learns how to use this to his advantage. Opposing players may let down their guard and forget about him temporarily, giving him the change he needs to surprise them.
Joe Hicketts did what Joe Hicketts does. He played smart, defended excellently, was good on the power play, hit bigger players and crushed them into the boards, and along with Robbie Russo, was the anchor and go-to man on the back end.
Robbie Russo was paired with Joe Hicketts, as I just mentioned, and this is a pairing we could very well see in Grand Rapids this season. Russo was great for the Griffins last year and had a fantastically productive year. He’s smart, a good skater, moves the puck very well, and has a quiet was of just being darn good.
The Wings practice from 9:30-10:15 am, then play the Chicago Blackhawks at 4:00 pm. The Hawks lost on Friday to the St. Louis Blues 3-2, and in this tournament a single loss can make a huge difference. You can bet they’ll be gunning for a win against the Wings.
With the Wings streaming all the tournament games this year, I encourage everyone to let them know how much you appreciate it. The feedback they receive (or don’t receive) could influence their coverage next year, so if you love having access to the games, I encourage you to let them know. Even a thank you tweet can go a long way.