Red Wings prospect Dylan Sadowy on his rookie season with the Grand Rapids Griffins. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
Traverse City — The adjustment from junior to professional hockey can be a difficult one.
Instead of playing against teenagers essentially your own age, a youngster can be looking at men competing for their livelihood in the pros.
There is the potential for a lot of learning experiences, and Grand Rapids Griffins forward Dylan Sadowy experienced it firsthand.
“For sure coming out of the OHL and going into the AHL, it’s a big step,” Sadowy said.
Red Wings fans exploded on social media with their excitement and expectations for Sadowy when the Red Wings acquired him in May 2016 in a trade with San Jose for a third-round draft pick.
Sadowy was coming off 42- and 45-goal seasons in the OHL, and his ability to get to the net and score tough goals were intriguing.
But getting to the dirty areas in the AHL proved much more difficult.
In 38 games with the Griffins, Sadowy scored four goals, with two assists. He was sent down to Toledo for six games (one goal, three assists), and was a healthy scratch throughout Grand Rapids’ run to a Calder Cup championship.
“It’s a big step,” Sadowy said of turning pro. “It’s the same step coming out of major junior and going to the OHL. It’s something you’re not prepared for, and it takes a while to get adjusted to, but after a couple of games you get used to it and get the hang of it and you learn from all the older guys.”
Sadowy has the size (6-foot-2, 205 pounds), but needs to work on his speed and conditioning to succeed at the pro level.
“Keep working hard,” Sadowy said of his goal. “I talked with the coaching staff and other people and what I have to do is get faster on the ice and just give it 110 percent every single shift.
“You can always work on your conditioning (too). You are never too conditioned. It’s a long season and you want to be in good condition.”
The inability to crack the lineup in Grand Rapids was disappointing, but Sadowy doesn’t regard it as a complete setback to his ultimate goal of reaching the NHL.
“You obviously want to get to the National Hockey League as fast as you can, and the AHL is a stepping stone,” Sadowy said. “I got one year under my belt and now you go back next year and see how things go and see how camp goes and we’ll take step by step.”
Sadowy does not view the season as a complete disappointment.
Rather, going through the playoff run, learning so much, and getting adjusted to pro hockey are things from which Sadowy can learn.
“It’s not disappointing,” Sadowy said. “I was there all year, it was a long year, and we won the Calder Cup, something I may not experience again in my lifetime. To be part of that team, it was huge. It may never come again.”
At 21, Sadowy is a bit older than the average participant in this development camp. Sadowy wants to pass along whatever he’s learned thus far in this pro experiences, or previous items he learned at this Red Wings’ camp.
“I want to be a little bit of a leader here,” Sadowy said. “I want to take that step show the guys what it takes to plays at that next level. That’s where I want to get and hope that will as well.”
Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill on the importance of development camp. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
Coach Jeff Blashill addressed the players participating in the development camp before Sunday’s scrimmage.
Blashill’s message was essentially the same one delivered by general manager Ken Holland, and various other front-office personnel or staff coaches.
Reaching the NHL isn’t going to be easy, and remember you’re representing the Red Wings.
“What separates people in terms of success, the two most important things are inner drive and perseverance,” Blashill said. “These guys are going to get knocked down. The guys that get back (up) are the ones that end up playing for us in the NHL.
“You have to continue to just get back up, and the second part is just, things are that are important to be a Red Wing. We have a motto here saying, ‘Earn this.’ Make sure you’re earning the winged wheel.
“There are a lot of organizations in the NHL that have history, but very few have the history of success that our organization has. It means a lot to be at a Red Wings camp.”
Defenseman Reilly Webb was sixth-round draft pick last month out of Hamilton (OHL), where Webb only played 12 games.
Webb (6-foot-3, 201-pounds) had shoulder surgery and missed the last five months of the season — after dislocating his shoulder twice earlier in his junior career.
“It feels 100 percent now, can’t be better,” Webb said. “It was a big setback for me. I’ve worked hard in the gym and it’s definitely getting better. I can’t be more thankful. It’s feeling good.”
Webb was a highly-regarded prospect entering junior hockey, but the shoulder problems scared off many teams.
Webb is more of a defensive defenseman who can add size and a physical nature to the blue line. Some scouts felt the Red Wings made a shrewd pick getting Webb where they did.
Webb simply wants to stay healthy this season and have a good final season in Hamilton.
“It’s a pretty cool feeling being out there (on the ice),” Webb said. “I love playing hockey and being healthy again. It’s pretty special.”