Buried inside Little Caesars Arena is an extra sheet of ice for the players to use when the main rink is being used
Detroit — Defenseman Dennis Cholowski isn’t going to be on the Red Wings when the regular season begins Oct. 5.
But that doesn’t mean the 2016 first-round draft pick hasn’t made an impression in this first week of practices and scrimmages.
In fact, it would be fair to say Cholowski has been the most impressive of any of the young players in camp — and probably the one who has been consistently recognized by coach Jeff Blashill.
After a sub-par college season at St. Cloud State (Minnesota), Cholowski soaked up knowledge at the Red Wings’ development camp in July and has come back stronger while playing with more confidence.
Cholowski was arguably the Red Wings’ best defenseman during the prospects camp earlier this month in Traverse City,
“I would say Dennis Cholowski had a great prospects tournament,” Blashill said. “He went back under pressure and was able to make pop passes to the middle of the ice and allow his team to break out.
‘He did a good job of skating and gapping.”
Cholowski is now 6-foot-1, 195-pounds, having put on almost 20 pounds since being drafted.
“Last season wasn’t the best year,” said Cholowski, who only had 12 points (1 goal) and was a minus-9 at St. Cloud State. “I have a little bit to prove for sure. I tried to bounce back at the prospects tournament, and I think I did pretty well. I have to keep it rolling at main camp.
“I’ve had to go through quite a bit of adversity in my career so far. I’ve learned to deal with it and just bounce back.”
Cholowski left St. Cloud State and signed an entry-level contract with the Red Wings last spring. He’ll likely play junior hockey this season with Prince George in the Western Hockey League.
Getting an opportunity to spend most of last spring’s playoff run in Grand Rapids with the Griffins was a good baptism to pro hockey.
“Great experience,” Cholowski said. “Just getting to practice with the team, being around the guys, seeing what the pro lifestyle is like. The playoff run was a lot of fun to be around. I definitely learned a lot.”
Cholowski has watched defenseman Trevor Daley and Mike Green during training camp, two players who play similar styles to the young defenseman.
“Steady and smooth,” said Cholowski, of the way Daley and Green play. “You just try to soak everything up you can. They’ve been in the league so long.
“I’m a rookie, so I’m going to ask them questions whenever I can.”
Blashill has paired center Dylan Larkin and wing Anthony Mantha since the start of camp, hoping to find some offensive spark on the line, along with veteran Justin Abdelkader.
“I hope it can be a real good offensive line,” Blashill said. “Larks has the ability to be a real good two-way center. But I hope it can be a real good offensive line. We’ll see if we can create some chemistry.”
Blashill kept Abdelkader at home Tuesday and P.A. Parenteau, in camp in a pro tryout, was on the line with Larkin and Abdelkader.
Parenteau has been a steady offensive producer in his NHL career.
“He’s somebody who has scored throughout his career,” Blashill said. “I’ve talked a ton of coaches who’ve had him, a ton of them, and they all liked him as a person and player. They all said he has the ability to score.
“Let’s see how he does and where his game is exactly at.”
Michael Rasmussen, the Red Wings’ first-round draft pick in June, was in the lineup Tuesday in Boston. Rasmussen is likely headed back to junior hockey later this week.
…Another young defenseman who has steadily improved is Libor Sulak, an undrafted free agent signed after the world championships.
“He struggled a bit at the prospects tournament and the one thing you’ve got to be careful with is the big ice, and guys who played on big sheets in Europe and don’t know the language, it’s a hard thing,” said Blashill of the adjustment to the smaller ice surface. “He’s got better and better as the camp went along. He looks like a guy who has the ability, with coaching, as he continues to become a real good player.”
Red Wings at Penguins
Faceoff: 7 Wednesday, PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh
Outlook: The Red Wings play the second of three consecutive exhibition games on the road. The two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins aren’t likely to show their entire lineup.