Wings rookie Hronek makes strong impression

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

No. 4 defenseman: Joe Hicketts -- By now, there is little doubt, Hicketts has heard enough about how he must strive to be like Torey Krug, the 5-9 Bruins defenseman from Royal Oak. At 5-8, Hicketts is all about trying. And that is a considerable weapons. Coaches describe Hicketts as a lion-hearted competitor who is all in, all the time. He may have been the biggest hitter on the Calder Cup-winning Griffins’ roster. Hicketts also moves the puck and his shot from the point is rated good-to-dangerous. His NHL success depends on his ability to compete against bigger bodies, playing at a quicker pace.

Detroit — Filip Hronek impressed the Red Wings organization during the summer’s development camp.

Hronek got the chance to do it Friday during an NHL exhibition game.

In almost 19 minutes of playing time, Hronek tied for a team-high with four shots on net and was credited with one hit and two blocked shots in Boston’s 2-1, overtime victory over the Red Wings.

“He got better as the game went along,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “It’s just a comfort thing.”

Hronek made a nice move at the blue line while the Red Wings were on a late third-period power play but his shot was stopped by goalie Anton Khudobin through traffic.

“If he scores, we’re all talking about that play,” Blashill said. “That shows a lot of offensive poise and the kind of things he’s going to need to do to get himself to the NHL level.”

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The Red Wings’ 2016 second-round draft choice from the Czech Republic, Hronek is a small (6-foot, 165-pounds), skilled offensive defenseman.

“He had a real ability to move the puck when I saw him this summer (development camp),” Blashill said. “He seemed to handle the forecheck and that’s the hardest thing in today’s game, how hard everyone is forechecking. You have to be able to manage the puck and he did a good job of it this summer.

“He has an edge to him as well. Ultimately he’ll have to be real good on the power play to be the type of NHL player we’d like him to be.”

Hronek, 18, is still learning the English language, and very limited in his vocabulary although he understands it fairly well.

He’ll play for Saginaw in the Ontario Hockey League after he leaves Red Wings camp next week, having played last season in men’s leagues in the Czech Republic.

Playing against a young, junior and minor-league lineup of Bruins Friday was a good, fair test for Hronek.

“Either way, from my standpoint, I’d like him to play against as good of players as possible, just to see how he handles the challenge,” Blashill said.

Injury update

Henrik Zetterberg (knee) and Niklas Kronwall (knee) both skated Friday and Blashill hopes both can begin practicing next week.

“Tuesday would be the first opportunity,” Blashill said. “I’m not saying they’re going to (but) we’ll evaluate it on Monday.”

Teemu Pulkkinen (shoulder) was going to be tested physically the next few days in practice and might be able to play more than one exhibition game next week.

“We’re going to push him hard physically and see if he can’t be ready sooner than we thought,” Blashill said.

Returning home

World Cup participants Tomas Tatar, Thomas Vanek and Frans Nielsen could begin practicing with the Red Wings Tuesday at the earliest after Thursday's conclusion of the tournament.

Alexey Marchenko will begin practicing Saturday with the Wings.

“I”d love to get them in two (exhibition) games but I don’t think it’s going to be feasible,” Blashill said.

Blashill doesn’t feel either Nielsen or Vanek, free-agent signings last summer, will be dramatically behind this training camp because of the high level of play they’ve been competing in at the World Cup.