Frans Nielsen discusses the impact of new Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
Traverse City — There are jobs and ice time to be earned on the Red Wings this training camp and exhibition season.
Coach Jeff Blashill made that perfectly clear, while players took physicals Thursday morning and everyone anticipated the first day on the ice Friday.
“There’s no doubt I have one line that I know I’ll play together,” said Blashill, noting Dylan Larkin centering Tyler Bertuzzi and Anthony Mantha. “I know Double-A (Andreas Athanasiou) will be high up in the lineup. Other than that, it’s wide open up front in terms of finding ways to make your way and be an impact player.
“And on defense, there’s definitely spots open as well, and we’ll have a bunch of guys who are vying for those spots.
“It’s competitive, and that’s how I want it and Steve (Yzerman, the Wings’ general manager) wants it, and that’s how the league is.”
Blashill split the roster into three training camp teams, two of which are evenly split among NHL veterans and players competing for roster spots (the third team is mainly a minor-league roster).
Team Delvecchio consists of forwards Bertuzzi, Jacob de la Rose, Turner Elson, Adam Erne, Ryan Kuffner, Larkin, Mantha, Frans Nielsen, Matt Puempel, Givani Smith, Joe Veleno and Filip Zadina, defensemen Danny DeKeyser, Jonathan Ericsson, Joe Hicketts, Filip Hronek, Oliwer Kaski, Brian Lashoff, Dylan McIlrath and Vili Saarijarvi, and goaltenders Jimmy Howard and Calvin Pickard.
Team Howe is made up of forwards Justin Abdelkader, Athanasiou, Christoffer Ehn, Valtteri Filppula, Luke Glendening, Darren Helm, Taro Hirose, Chase Pearson, David Pope, Michael Rasmussen, Evgeny Svechnikov, Chris Terry and Dominic Turgeon, defensemen Madison Bowey, Dennis Cholowski, Trevor Daley, Mike Green, Gustav Lindstrom, Jared McIssac, Patrik Nemeth and Moritz Seider, and goaltenders Jonathan Bernier, Kaden Fulcher and Filip Larsson.
“When you get two teams, it does present some difficulties,” said Blashill, in terms of having young players such as Zadina, Veleno and Seider being paired with Wings’ veterans. “I want to have Seider with a defense partner who is a vet, and Zadina, when possible, and Veleno, but the problem is when you get to two teams, it shows how hard it is to beat certain guys out.
“The biggest thing is it’s literally two days, maybe three and my explanation to the players today is today is a start, it’s not where you finish, and their play will dictate where we finish.”
The Wings are hopeful players like Zadina, Veleno, and Seider, among many others, will make a serious push for a roster spot this month.
“I hope so, I hope those young guys push and make a reall strong statement that they’re ready to help our team win,” Blashill said. “That’s the biggest thing both myself and Steve (believe). It doesn’t make any sense to put guys on the team just to be on the team. We want guys who’ll help us win.
“If those guys are ready to make us a better hockey team, that’s awesome. Ultimately — we’ve said this a lot — our growth has to come from that group. It’s how quick are they ready to do it and how good are they going to be? Those are two questions we can’t answer, but it’s a chance they get to answer every time they play in exhibitions and throughout the (regular) season.”
Blashill said the only player held back right now because of injury is defenseman Alec Regula (Bloomfield Hills/Country Day), who suffered a concussion during the prospects tournament.
The Wings will have practices Friday and Saturday, then an intra-squad game Sunday, before ending training camp Monday at Centre Ice Arena with another practice.
They begin the nine-game exhibition schedule Tuesday at Little Caesars Arena, hosting Chicago.
Blashill wants to establish a tone this weekend in Traverse City.
"We're going to start here by making sure we have a great mentality and work ethic and competitiveness, that's number 1 thing we want to get out of Traverse City," Blashill said. "We know we're going to work and compete and training camp is hard, and we have to make sure when guys leave training camp they've put that time in."
There is more of an emphasis on practices and drills in training camp, rather than holding intra-squad scrimmages, as there had been in the past.
"Ken (Holland, former GM) liked them, with Steve it didn't matter as much, and this gives us the chance to get two good practices and play the red and white game," Blashill said. "We play nine exhibition games, I didn't think we needed more scrimmages. We're going to play small games and three-on-three in the second half of those practices, so this just gives us the chance to get more practice time."