Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard talks about prospects Dennis Cholowski and Michael Rasmussen. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
Detroit — Dennis Cholowski returned to his junior hockey team Tuesday, but not without giving the Red Wings a lot of hope for the future.
The defenseman, a 2016 first-round draft pick, was assigned to Prince George (WHL), where Cholowski should get plenty of opportunity to develop.
But after a sub-par season in college last year (St. Cloud State), which set off alarm bells with many fans and analysts, Cholowski calmed fears with an impressive prospects tournament earlier this month, and in training camp.
“He should take the experience he’s had here and have lots of confidence moving forward,” coach Jeff Blashill said.
Cholowski was drafted with the reputation of being a smooth skater, with the ability to be an offensive force from the blue line, and an intelligent player not prone to mistakes.
Cholowski showed those qualities through most of this month, while earning one assist in three preseason games.
But Blashill still sees an area that needs to be worked on.
“I would say the big step that he’s got to take is controlling the play,” Blashill said. “He’s got the ability to really control the play, have the puck on the stick a lot, make tons of plays. Not just kind of be out there and make good breakout passes. There’s nothing wrong with that.
“But he can be way more than that if he takes command and attacks the game a little bit.”
Cholowski left no doubt that was the message from coaches.
“They’ve just said to be more commanding on the ice and want the puck more, to have it on my stick and create plays,” Cholowski said. “Try not to be shy out there like every young player is.”
Cholowski earned confidence after playing so well against NHL competition.
“Confidence is building and now I’ll try to keep it going in the upward direction,” Cholowski said. “Just getting to meet all the guys, all the NHL players and be around NHL players and play against NHL players, it’s been a great experience.
“I had a real good summer of working out and getting bigger and stronger and that built my confidence. Then going into training camp, being able to play well and get some exhibition games, confidence is everything.
“Every young player wants to get into some games. I’ve been lucky enough to play in three. I’m real happy about it.”
The capacity for hockey at Little Caesars Arena is approximately 20,000, but 17,314 was the announced attendance for Saturday’s game against Boston, and 16,770 for Monday’s game against Pittsburgh.
The arena appeared to be about half-full for both games; Saturday's was the first at LCA.
That’s common in the NHL preseason, as teams rarely play a lineup even 50-75 percent regular-season quality — similar to spring training or NFL exhibitions.
Also, although many seats were empty at LCA in those two games, hundreds of fans were walking around the new arena, dining or eating at the many restaurants or bars, or enjoying the weather in the plaza outside.
The Red Wings were off Tuesday.
… Defenseman Dan Renouf, forward Zach Nastasiuk and goalie Matei Machovsky were assigned to Grand Rapids.
Combined with Cholowski’s move, the Red Wings now have 47 players in camp: 27 forwards, 15 defensemen and five goaltenders.
… Forward Martin Frk, who is battling to earn one of the final roster spots, has a dangerous right-handed shot, similar to former Red Wings forward Teemu Pulkkinen.
Frk needs to show his game is more varied than Pulkkinen, who was waived and is now on his fourth NHL team in Vegas.
“There have been other guys who’ve been dominant player in the American League that haven’t made it in the NHL, some in our organization that aren’t with us anymore,” Blashill said. “(Frk) has got to prove not only that he can be great at that level — but this level.
“Sometimes it transfers, sometimes it doesn’t.”