Wings prospects Turgeon, Holmstrom wait for healthy shot

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News
Dominic Turgeon

Traverse City – The sprints were brutal.

Players in their teens and early 20s at the Red Wings development camp endured them Saturday morning and then fell to the ice, prone.

They stayed there for a good while, huffing and puffing, sweat coursing through their hockey pants and pouring off their faces. One Gatorade canister was within reach, and they managed, with some effort, to slide it across the ice toward each other.

Exhaustion prevented them from getting up to retrieve another one.

Jiri Fischer, the Wings’ director of player development, who had been watching through the Plexiglas, approached the ice, lifted a large metal handle and swung open a door in the boards. He shot a mischievous look over his left shoulder at two players in civilian clothes standing nearby.

“Holmer, Dom, you next?” Fischer said, flashing a wry smile.

For emphasis, he added, “You ready?”

They were not, and Fischer knew it. But a supervisor’s sarcasm is the price Dominic Turgeon and Axel Holmstrom had to pay for being injured and unable to participate.

Hockey is like that, and Turgeon and Holmstrom both smiled.

Two guys who seem primed for the next step in their careers, probably playing for the Griffins, the Wings’ AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids, are mostly sidelined for the camp, healing.

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Turgeon hurt a shoulder and Holmstrom a knee, and it cost them both the opportunity to participate in the playoffs last spring.

Turgeon is doing some skating on his own, and Holmstrom has begun lifting some light weights.

A second-round pick, 63rd overall, by the Red Wings in 2014, Turgeon is valued as a strong defensive player who may develop into a prime penalty killer, and who also has some offensive ability.

The son of the brilliant scorer Pierre Turgeon, who was lauded throughout his career for a fine 200-foot game that featured strong defense, Turgeon encouraged hope there is more offense to his game last season when he scored 36 goals and assisted on 34 for 70 points in 72 games for the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League, a Canadian junior league.

It was considerable improvement from the 18 goals and 25 assists in 67 games the previous season.

Asked if his game compares to his father’s, Turgeon cited his dad’s huge offensive performance and demurred.

“Well, he was obviously an awesome offensive talent for sure, and he put up some big numbers,” he said.

Indeed.

Pierre Turgeon, who wore the number 77 in a 19-season career with the Sabres, Islanders, Canadiens, Blues, Stars and Avalanche, scored 515 goals and assisted on 812 for 1,327 points in 1,294 games.

His son, who wears number 78, is willing to acknowledge that they play a similar style. But the lofty offensive accomplishments that might well land Pierre in the Hockey Hall of Fame someday are daunting.

“In some ways, I guess our two-way game can be similar at times,” he said.

The 20-year-old, 6-2, 196-pound center from Pointe-Claire, Quebec, obviously learned a lot about hockey from his father at a young age.

“He taught me a lot of the little technical parts of the game for sure,” Turgeon said. “So that taught me a lot growing up.”

And there is more hockey in the family. Turgeon’s uncle, Sylvain, played 12 seasons with the Whalers, Devils, Canadiens and Senators, scoring 269 goals and assisting on 226 for 495 points in 669 games.

Axel Holmstrom

When a player knocked his feet from under him last season, Turgeon tried to tough it out. But when the discomfort persisted, the Winterhawks and Red Wings determined surgery was in order, and it was done in Detroit in the spring with the hope he would be ready for training camp in September.

“It’s going good, and I’m feeling comfortable. But I’ve just got to keep up on my stuff day by day,” he said. “Right now, I’m on a good pace. But I guess we’ll just have to see, when the time comes.”

It is an important offseason for Turgeon, and he hopes to get “bigger, faster and stronger.”

“I’ll work as hard as I can. That’s all I can do.

“I’m on the ice skating recently, now, so it’s coming around.

“Right now, no contact. But I’m getting really close here.”

Holmstrom is called “Homer” by some of his teammates and coaches. Apparently the Red Wings did not retire Tomas Holmstrom’s nickname.

Because his injury is to one of his wheels, his activities are more constrained than Turgeon’s. A surgically repaired ACL, means the recovery is long.

“I messed up my knee in the playoffs in Sweden in the semifinal in Game 6,” Holmstrom said, the frustration of missing the opportunity to play essential games with Skelleftea AIK of the Swedish Hockey League still evident.

Playing in the playoff finals is a dream for any young Swedish boy, playing hockey.

“So, I missed the final, and I could not come over and play in May. But that’s how it is,” said Holmstrom.

“When I found out it was an ACL, I was angry, sad.

“But at some time you have to move on, and I figure maybe I can come back with better physical force and be a better hockey player when I come back,” he said. “That’s my goal.

“It’s a long rehab, probably four to six months. But it’s been going real well. The knee is strong and it’s healing real fast. Of course, it’s not nice to be at the development camp and not be able to go on the ice. But that’s how it is.

“It’s a part of hockey, unfortunately.”

Drafted in 2014 in the seventh round, 196th overall, Holmstrom could be one of those late-round, Red Wings’ success stories.

The perception two years ago was that he lacked strength and a good skating technique. But he has demonstrated some speed and considerable energy, and he is arguably the best performer of the Wings half-dozen or so prospects playing in Europe.

The 6-0, 194-pound forward, who recently turned 20, said he is confident in his offense and determined to play better defensively and physically.

“I can still improve the overall game,” he said.

“I had the offense my entire career, and it’s been going well. But I struggled on the defense, and just trying to get my physical game one step higher than where it is and improve my defense.

“I think I did a little better last season. But one more step next season and I can improve on it and get better and better every year.”

Recently, Holmstrom began work with light weights. He hopes to be skating in two months, “maybe a month,” he offered, with hope.

But the interruption may affect the decision on where he plays, this season.

Destined, perhaps, for Grand Rapids, like Turgeon, playing in the Swedish league remains a possibility, too.

“No decision taken,” he said. “Maybe talk about it this week. We will see.

“Either way, it’s a choice between two good decisions. My team back in Sweden has gone to the finals six years in a row and it’s still a real good team. And, if I come over, this organization is awesome.

“Either way, it feels good. It’s going to be a good season and I look forward to it.”