Detroit – It’s far too early to make any bold predictions about new Red Wings forward Taro Hirose. The undrafted free agent out from Michigan State has played in just two NHL games.
But he has already made a nice impression on teammates and Detroit’s coaching staff.
Hirose earned an assist in both games, saw time on the power play, and didn’t look out of place on a line with veterans Thomas Vanek and Frans Nielsen.
“Poise, vision, it looks like he wants to make a play every time he has the puck,” coach Jeff Blashill told reporters after Thursday’s 5-2 loss in St. Louis. “We made a comment to him about spreading the zone and right away the next shift, he goes out and he spreads the zone.”
Hirose played just over 16 minutes in St. Louis (16:12), on 18 shifts, and registered his first two shots on net.
Blashill has compared Hirose’s style of play, somewhat, to former Red Wing Gustav Nyquist. Both are crafty players who aren’t particularly big or fast, but are capable of creating time and space for themselves.
Hirose has looked like that sort of player at the NHL level in this small sample size.
“He’s a smart player; playing with him is actually real easy,” Vanek said in St. Louis. “He’s had what, two games? The poise he has, it’s fun to play with a guy like that who thinks the game at a high level.
“You can tell right away he’s not afraid to make plays, cut to the middle, and hold on to pucks.
“(I’m) really impressed so far with him.”
Hirose was named one of 10 finalists for this year’s Hobey Baker Award, given to the country’s best college hockey player.
Hirose led the NCAA with 50 points (15 goals, 35 assists) at Michigan State and was also named Big Ten player of the year.
The three finalists for the award will be announced April 4. The winner will be named April 12 in Buffalo at the Frozen Four.
“So far, he’s done a real good job,” Blashill said.
Blashill said forward Jacob de la Rose, who left Tuesday's game in New York because of an accelerated heartbeat, has seen one specialist this week and will see another Wednesday. Having had a similar episode during the exhibition season while de la Rose was with Montreal, the Wings and de la Rose want to find the root cause for the issue.
... Defenseman Libor Sulak was recalled from Grand Rapids earlier in the week because of the rash of injuries on the Wings' defense. But Sulak fell ill before the Blues' game and didn't play. Sulak and defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (lower body) are expected to enter the lineup in one of the next two games – Saturday in Vegas or Monday in San Jose.
... Former Red Wing Tomas Nosek, lost in the expansion draft to Vegas before last season, continues to be a steady contributor on the Golden Knights. Nosek has 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) in 61 games this season, after being a key contributor on last season's run to the Stanley Cup Finals.
... The Wings Friday recalled forward Matt Puempel from Grand Rapids. Puempel, 26, had 50 points (24 goals, 26 assists) in 59 games for the Griffins. He was acquired in 2017 from the New York Rangers in exchange for Ryan Sproul.
Red Wings at Golden Knights
Faceoff: 10 p.m. Saturday, at T-Mobile Arena, Paradise, Nev.
TV/radio: FSD/97.1 FM
Outlook: The Golden Knights (42-27-5) have been on a terror since the trade deadline. The acquisition of RW Mark Stone from Ottawa (eight points in 11 games with Vegas) strengthened what was already a competitive lineup. ... The Wings won last year in Vegas. The Golden Knights have won the two games at Little Caesars Arena.