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Top 25 Under 25: Dennis Cholowski finds himself comfortably tucked into the top-10

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A question mark in the 2016 draft is turning into an exclamation point.

NHL: Preseason-Pittsburgh Penguins at Detroit Red Wings Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Coming in at number 9 on our Top 25 Under 25 list of 2018 is the exciting 2016 first round draft pick, Dennis Cholowski. Circumstances around his selection in 2016 has made him a somewhat polarizing choice (but muh Chychrun!), but this defenseman has slowly been proving the naysayers wrong, which is why he has landed himself inside our list’s top ten, as voted by the readers.

The Vitals

Position: Defenseman
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 200 lbs
Shoots: Left
Born: 2/15/98 (20 years old)
Birthplace: Langley, BC
Drafted: 2016, 1st Round, 20th Overall

Back in 2016 the Red Wings held 16th pick and Datsyuk’s contract , but no Datsyuk, since he left the NHL to finish his career in Russia. Ken Holland made a move to unload Datsyuk’s contract that was controversial unanimously praised as a deft move. This, along with giving the Coyotes their 16th overall, landed Detroit with the 20th overall. The Coyotes used the 16th to select the highly touted defenseman, Jakob Chychrun, while Detroit took on Cholowski four picks later. Cholowski was widely regarded as a project by brains around the league, and more than a few scouts and executives were slightly confused by Detroit’s reach on the pick. Now, two years later, it looks like Detroit was wise to put their faith in Cholowski. Time will tell who will become the better player, Cholowski or Chychrun, but Dennis Cholowski is developing into a better player than many projected.

After he was drafted, Cholowski had a somewhat underwhelming freshman season with the St. Cloud State Huskies (1-11-12, 36 GP). I actually had the privilege to watch him play a few times when he was with St. Cloud, and to me he looked like a fundamentally sound and rangy player who relied on strong positioning, but the offensive end of NCAA hockey wasn’t coming through for him. He left St. Cloud for the WHL’s Prince George Cougar’s, but was traded half way through the season to the Portland Winterhawks. Cholowski’s time in the WHL was much more impressive than his NCAA stint, resulting in 14 goals and 66 points in 69 games between the two squads. He additionally tallied another 7 points in 12 WHL playoff games.

Cholowski has a great mind for the game, strong vision, excellent positioning, and a lanky build that gives him strong reach for a 6’1” defenseman. But what is perhaps most impressive to me about Dennis Cholowski came to light in a recent article by Max Bultman at the Athletic (paywall, alas) highlighting the defenseman’s summer training regimen at aspirations to make the Wings’ roster. He has good things to say about Cholowski’s atittude:

There may be some folks who wonder if his personality has enough edge, especially because the Red Wings have been coaching him to be more assertive with the puck, but for me, I love it when guys have this kind of attitude. Maybe it is just because I can relate a little bit to his experience as a 20 year-old athlete (although me and my teammates played a lot more than “an afterthought” worth of Super Smash Bros during our NCAA D3 careers,) but I love reading athletes with this attitude. He isn’t letting anything get in his way, and for that I am confident he will develop into a solid defenseman for the Red Wings.

For now, Cholowski realizes and appreciates he has an uphill battle to make the Wings’ opening roster, but that isn’t slowing him down any. He is training in Metro Detroit despite the odds of him starting his pro career with the Griffins looking likely; he would have to put in quite the performance to surpass both Joe Hicketts and Filip Hronek, who both spent last season in the AHL. This wouldn’t be the worst result, though; Cholowski would get heavier minutes in GR than Detroit, and be in an environment where he would be more trusted to develop his assertiveness and offensive poise to complement his excellent positioning, vision, and reach. At any rate, I think all Wings fans should be optimistic about Cholowski’s future wherever he lands this season.

Poll

Cholowski at #9- Yay or Nay?

This poll is closed

  • 72%
    Yay
    (553 votes)
  • 18%
    Nay- in the sense that he should be closer to #1
    (141 votes)
  • 8%
    Nay- in the sense that he should be further toward #25
    (65 votes)
759 votes total Vote Now

Previous Top 25 Under 25 Posts

10. Joe Veleno
11. Joe Hicketts
12. David Pope
13. Martin Frk
14. Jonattan Berggren
15. Givani Smith
16. Vili Saarijarvi
17. Keith Petruzelli
18. Dominic Turgeon
19. Gustav Lindstrom
20. Jared McIsaac
21. Filip Larsson
22. Christoffer Ehn
23. Alec Regula
24. Axel Holmstrom
25. Jack Adams