Helm excited about changing of the guard on Red Wings roster

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Darren Helm (43) stops and turns with the puck as Dennis Cholowski (21) defends against his advances.

Traverse City – This was the Red Wings' annual intrasquad scrimmage, and the statistics are mostly meaningless.

But for Darren Helm, who scored both goals for the White team in a 4-2 loss, he’ll remember it for a while, thank you very much.

“It’s always fun scoring,” said Helm, who is more of a defensive forward. “I don’t get a chance to do it a lot, so I’m going to take it.”

Helm, 31, once was among the younger players on the Wings, a fresh face in a room full of legends nearing the end of their careers.

Not anymore. These days, Helm is one of the grizzled veterans, and it feels “a little bit different” to him.

“In my first six or seven years I was the young guy on the team and now there isn’t a whole lot of guys older than me,” Helm said. “But it’s kind of the way the game is moving, with younger guys. I guess that’s with any team that’s going through changes.

More: Wings' Zadina scores in high-intensity taste of NHL during scrimmage

“There is change happening here and guys are excited about it.”

Helm noticed a different type of enthusiasm and edge in Sunday’s scrimmage. There are jobs to be won, spots in the lineup to be finalized, ice time to be determined – and the pace and competitiveness Sunday reflected that.

“It was a good scrimmage,” Helm said. ”The first two practices set the tone for what we were going to expect out here today. Guys know there’s opportunity and it showed today that guys are playing and want it. It was fun.”

There’s been plenty of talk and optimism regarding Wings prospects Michael Rasmussen, Filip Zadina and Evgeny Svechnikov -- first-rounders who attract most of the headlines.

Helm has seen the young players up close, faced them in scrimmages and drills, and is optimistic about the future.

“We have a lot of good young talent coming up,” Helm said. “They’re playing for jobs. It’s been good practices, a good camp so far, and it’s fun to see what they can do.”

Mission accomplished

Coach Jeff Blashill wanted to establish a high level of competitiveness around this training camp and exhibition season.

Sunday’s scrimmage was an indication that his message was received.

“The scrimmage was competitive, as competitive a Red-White game as I’ve seen,” Blashill said. “Not much space. It was closer to a real game than just a scrimmage. Our compete level was very good, it was a really high pace."

What was a slightly different from years past was a bit more hitting, and prolonged one-on-one battles.

“Not nastiness, but as much as you’re going to see,” Blashill said. “That’s good, because we talked about this camp being ultra-competitive.”

Blashill and his staff are looking for players to make a difference in these sort of scrimmages.

“You’re judging them on good plays versus bad plays,” Blashill said. “How many good plays do you make versus how many negative plays do you make. That’s what it comes down to. Are you on the positive side of that every time you’re on the ice?

“We just went through every player and the guys we gave high grades to are the ones that had a bigger impact on the game in a positive fashion.”

Dirty jobs

Svechnikov had a goal, batting in a rebound of Rasmussen’s shot in the slot.

“No matter what kind of goal it is, it’s in the net,” said Svechnikov, who is competing for a roster spot. “If it’s at the net, or a shot, or rebound, I’ll take it.”

Said Blashill: “One of the things he can do is play to his strengths, be strong on the puck in the offensive zone, and make plays in the O-zone, and go to the net and score those dirty-type goals.”

Jokinen's role

Veteran forward Jussi Jokinen, 35, in camp on a professional tryout, is a longshot to make the roster but does have the offensive savvy to make a run.

“When we brought him in our message was if some of our young players play great, and they’re ready, there will not be room (on the roster),” Blashill said. “If they don’t play great and they’re not ready, and if you have a great camp, then you have a chance to make the team.

“He’s been a real good player for a long time. I’m glad he’s at this camp and depending on how everything shakes out, that he’s here rather than someplace else.”

Ice chips

The Red Wings haven’t yet worked on power plays or penalty kills – they won’t until Tuesday – so penalties Sunday resulted in a penalty shot. Also, the last five minutes of each of the two 25-minute halves were 3-on-3 hockey.

... Blashill felt forward Joe Veleno, a 2018 first-round pick, had his best day since the prospects tournament last week.


Twitter @tkulfan