Traverse City — Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul are two young defensemen who’ve come to camp the past three seasons with the intent of making the Red Wings roster.
But crowded rosters on defense pushed both back to Grand Rapids.
This season one, or both, could make the final roster given both are out of minor league options. If they were sent back to the Griffins, they’d have to be exposed to waivers and another team could claim them.
Neither player is thinking too much about those types of situations. They’re intent on finally making the Red Wings.
“Every training camp I’ve come to I’ve thought I could make it,” Ouellet, 23, said. “I’ve always had that mindset. ... The decisions they had to make the last two years, with contracts and stuff, won’t affect me anymore.
“Now it’s about my game and how I play.”
Sproul signed a two-year contract Friday, the first year a two-way contact (in case he returns to Grand Rapids) and the second year a one-way NHL contract.
“It’s very important this year, I’ve said it before, they’re looking for guys to step up in this camp, and that’s my goal, to step up and make it hard for them to send me down,” Sproul said.
Ouellet appears, at the moment, to have a slight edge for the seventh and final spot — if the Red Wings decide to keep seven defensemen rather than eight.
Coach Jeff Blashill likes the sound defensive game Ouellet plays.
“When Ouellet is playing his best hockey he’s very good defensively and manages his game real well,” Blashill said. “He makes good outlet passes without trying to do too much. He doesn’t turn the puck over.
“We’re certainly a group on defense that can’t turn pucks over. We turned too many over last year.
“When he’s playing his best, he’s real good defensively managing his game.”
Sproul (6-foot-4, 210 pounds) has always been an intriguing prospect because of his size, speed and ability to create offense — while also being that precious right-handed shot the Red Wings have craved.
“His best attributes are his ability to skate and get up the ice, and his ability to shoot the puck,” Blashill said. “If those are your best attributes, you have to produce offense, (either) 5-on-5, and on the power play.
“Over time, he’s gotten better at his defensive play. The No. 1 thing is getting back as hard as you can for pucks so we can be out of our zone and we don’t have to defend.”
The Red Wings will conclude training camp with today’s annual Red and White scrimmage and play the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena in the first exhibition game.
For the scrimmage, Blashill has Dylan Larkin centering Andreas Athanasiou and Anthony Mantha on the Red team, along with Luke Glendening between Steve Ott and Drew Miller.
Jonathan Ericsson and Mike Green form the top defensive pairing, with Jimmy Howard in net.
For the White Team, Darren Helm centers Riley Sheahan and Gustav Nyquist on the top line, with Tomas Nosek centering Eric Tangradi and Mitch Callahan on the second line.
Danny DeKesyer and Brendan Smith is the top defensive pairing with Ouellet and Sproul as the second pair, with Jared Coreau is in net.