Former Nebraska-Omaha player and a 2013 fourth-round draft pick talks about what he needs to do in order to make the NHL team. Ted Kulfan
Detroit — At least David Pope’s teammates at this Red Wings’ development camp have been kind.
Nobody has really brought up the fact Pope, at age 23, is kind of old.
For this camp anyway.
“No dad jokes going around,” said Pope after Friday’s practice. “Yet.”
Pope, a 2013 fourth-round draft pick, spent the last four years at Nebraska-Omaha, where he’s gotten physically stronger and developed his skills — to the point where he has a realistic shot of being on the roster in the next year or two.
Pope (6-foot-3, 198-pounds) had 20 goals and 21 assists (41 points) in 35 games last season and realistically will start in Grand Rapids next season.
But because of his age, experience and maturity, and a great one-timer, there’s the chance Pope could ascend to the NHL.
“I definitely think so,” said Pope, of whether there’s an opportunity for him in the organization. “I’ve gotten a lot better over the last couple years. The opportunity is there for me. I have to have a good summer and fall.”
Some young players rather go the junior hockey route and play more than 70 games, while others prefer the college route with half the games but more practice time.
For Pope, going to Nebraska-Omaha was the best option.
“It’s less games and more practices, and an emphasis on the gym,” Pope said. “Being a tall, skinny kid, four years ago I don’t know if you saw me, but I was a very skinny, I needed time to spend in the gym and bulk up a little bit and get a little more strength.”
Prospects such as Michael Rasmussen and Filip Zadina, both first-round selections, are going to be given every opportunity to make the Opening Night roster, given their potential.
It doesn’t leave many opportunities on the roster, but Pope is optimistic — though realistic.
Age and a bit more experience, said Pope, is helpful but doesn’t necessarily mean he has any sort of edge.
“I spent the time in school, obviously, I’m older than a lot of guys here, (but) I don’t know if I’m ahead (of anybody),” Pope said. “I just have to play better than they do.
“At the end of the day, it’s who plays better. It doesn’t matter how old they are. They want the best players who will help them win and eventually get them back into the playoffs and the Stanley Cup.”
When the Red Wings showed interest goaltender Patrik Rybar after last month’s world championships, he didn’t hesitate.
Rybar, 24, who is one of the older players in camp, signed a one-year contract believing it was the right time to try pro hockey in North America.
“I chose to be in Detroit and I’m happy to be here,” said Rybar, whose English is a work in progress. “It’s a big experience for me.”
Rybar, from the Czech Republic, was 23-13 with a 1.73 goals-against average and .931 save percentage last season in the Czech pro league.
He talked with Jiri Fischer, a fellow Czech and a Red Wings’ director of player evaluation, about joining the Wings.
“He told me about Detroit and the organization, and this team, and told me everything was good,” Rybar said. “It was one (reason) why I chose this city and this team.”
Rybar would also like to duplicate the success of fellow Czech goalie Dominik Hasek in Detroit, Hasek winning two Stanley Cups with the Wings.
“He was so good,” Rybar said. “Best goalie in the world. I liked (watching) him. I want to be like him here.”