Krupa: 6 Wings prospects especially impressive

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News
Defenseman Dennis Cholowski surveys the ice while skating during the Red Wings development camp in Traverse City this week.

Traverse City — It is a quick look, a glimpse at young guys striving to build NHL careers.

Education is far more the point at development camps. But some evaluations can be made after a busy, grueling five-day session for the Red Wings prospects.

Amid the orientation and instruction of young players, the skills training, the drills, the heart rate tests and, especially, the scrimmages, some looked more advanced than others.

Six were particularly impressive.

Development scrimmaging or not, a hat trick always draws attention. Dylan Sadowy’s empty-net goal Friday brought his tally to three. Then, Sadowy opened the scoring in the second scrimmage Sunday, adding an assist and scoring on his shootout attempt.

Acquired from the Sharks for a third-round pick next year, Sadowy’s reputation was of a player willing to provide sandpaper and deliver fists. But the 6-1, 195-pound 20-year-old from the Toronto area has a whip of a wrist shot he uses to place a puck precisely, often up near the cross bar.

He clearly has “some touch around the net,” as Todd Nelson, the Griffins’ coach said.

It is a handy attribute in an era when tall goalies constantly play on their knees to eliminate anything low, and it likely will be on display in Grand Rapids, this year.

“They brought me in to do that, and the first game you want to show that I can go to the net and get a couple of goals,” Sadowy said.

“We’ll see how things go down the road.”

Dennis Cholowski

Dennis Cholowski was a bit of a sleeper at the NHL Entry Draft two weeks ago when the Wings took him with the 20th pick in the first round. But the 18-year-old made a big, early impression.

Cholowski skates with his head permanently upright, a position that allows him to survey the state of play. His stick impressively never leaves the ice surface, and his strong, one-handed grip provides a wide range of brisk motion.

At a time when rules against interference, holding and the like have limited defensive tactics, stick checks are paramount in the NHL. Cholowski’s stick is permanently cocked, awaiting the trigger of defensive opportunity.

His pinches were well-timed, quick and effective. When they brought him to the edge of the crease, his hands produced a sharply elevated shot.

At one point Sunday, Cholowski gained the blue line, pirouetted and, when he could not shake a defender, immediately performed another one that created the space to deliver a backhand pass, tape-to-tape.

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“You know, he looked sweet from day one, from the first skills session,” said Nelson, who was interim coach of the Oilers for half the 2014-15 season.

“He passes the puck like a pro, right now.

“We got a really good indication in the scrimmages of what he is able to do and seeing how he can control the play and makes simple plays.

“That was my first time watching him play, and I was pretty impressed.”

Tyler Bertuzzi

Tyler Bertuzzi, the senior man at camp, gave strong evidence of a career advancing, perhaps significantly.

The teenager playing juniors who was primarily rough and tough is now a 21-year-old man displaying skating and scoring aptitude, leadership skills and poise.

Despite a large group of forwards stocked by the Red Wings, including three new free agents and the re-signing of Darren Helm, Bertuzzi might be capable of forcing the issue over the next two seasons.

Even though he missed the arduous skating drill Saturday and the Sunday scrimmage because, Nelson said, of tightness in his groin, Bertuzzi impressed.

Julius Vahatalo

Drafted in 2014 in the sixth round, 166th overall, Julius Vahatalo showed signs of being the sort of late-round success story that helped stock the Red Wings roster beginning in the 1990s.

The 6-5, 198-pound center must return to Finland, where he is under contract with the TPS team and is also finishing a six-month stint in the army mandatory for all men.

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Vahatalo’s two goals Sunday and general appearance through the week suggest the Wings may face a critical decision when his draft rights expire after the season, Jiri Fischer, director of player development, said.

“Just nice to play today,” he said. “It’s easier to get two goals when you have good teammates around you. It’s good for confidence.”

Vili Saarijarvi

Vili Saarijarvi is only 5-10 and 165 pounds, but in possession of the puck the 19-year-old defenseman looked dominant. He garnered some assists and scored in the shootout.

The 2015 third-round pick is in the mold of a puck moving defenseman that was the Red Wings greatest need coming into this off-season.

After a year of turmoil with Flint in juniors last season, Saarijarvi made a late stop in Grand Rapids. But he is likely to play another full year of juniors in Mississauga.

“I’m really excited,” Saarijarvi said of the Steelheads. “It’s good group of guys and a very skilled team.”

Evgeny Svechnikov

A sixth player was not quite as impressive as he might have been, but Evgeny Svechnikov is clearly an imposing presence with considerable skill.

Opponents react immediately when the 19-year-old first-round selection in 2015 possesses the puck, but playing four-on-four and three-on-three with mostly strangers was hardly Svechnikov’s best venue.

Moving from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League to the far more combative AHL this season will provide a good indication of his battle readiness.

Twitter @greggkrupa