Filip Hronek won’t stop working and helping Wings win
Said Detroit coach Jeff Blashill about Filip Hronek: “When he got sent down, he didn’t pout. He went down and got better.”
Filip Hronek has come a long way in just a year.
Because of a rash of injuries to Detroit defensemen, the 22-year-old Hronek found himself on the Wings’ opening-night roster last season just a little over two years after Detroit took him in the second round (53rd overall) of the 2016 NHL draft.
As expected, Hronek’s youth and inexperience showed when he had to play top-four defenseman minutes early in the 2018-19 season. So, when the Red Wings’ veteran defensemen returned from their injuries, He was returned to Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League, where he had played late in 2016-17 and all of the 2017-18 campaign.
But he did not sulk or feel sorry for himself. He went about the business of getting better.
“I wasn’t disappointed, but of course I wanted to stay” in Detroit, Hronek told the Detroit News. “But when I got back (to Grand Rapids), I was trying to get better every game.”
And that’s exactly what he did. By midseason he was back in the NHL to stay.
“It’s a testament to him that, when he got sent down, he didn’t pout,” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said. “He went down and got better.”
And by the end of last season – after five goals and 23 points in 46 games to be named Rookie Red Wing rookie of the year – Hronek was looked at as one of the foundation blocks of the organization’s rebuild.
He has continued his rise this season. Although he missed Thursday night’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings with a lower-body injury, he leads the Wings in ice time (22:33), is fourth in scoring (four goals and 10 points, first among defensemen), has three power-play goals and plays on both specialty teams.
That came after he was named the best defenseman at the World Championship last May as he played for the Czech Republic.
“He’s been thrust into, probably, too much ice time because of the injury to DK (Dan DeKeyser), but we don’t have lots of guys that are ahead of him," Blashill said. "So he has to bite off tons of minutes, hard minutes. But he’s doing a good job with it.
“Would I like to have him maybe backed off a bit (ice time)? Yes, probably, at his age. But he’s also pretty mentally tough.”
And grating on his opponents.
Despite being only 6-feet tall and 183 pounds, Hronek does not back down against larger opponents.
“That’s the way he has to play, and he’s willing to play like that,” Dylan Larkin said. “It’s great to see a young player come into our lineup and make an impact in all facets of the game.
“He battles every night.”
Hronek welcomes the extra minutes.
“It helps my confidence,” he said. “Playing a lot, playing in all situations, for me, it gets me easier into the game. It’s nice having the coaches’ trust, that I can play a lot.
“I’m just trying to keep playing and get better.”
Blashill said Hronek reminds him of Calgary Flames defenseman Mark Giordano, who won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman last season.
“Somebody that defends well, is hard, isn’t super big or fast, but is able to defend well, and put up a lot of numbers and runs a good power play,” Blashill said. “Mark’s had an excellent career, and he’s only gotten better as the years have gone by.
“Fil looks like a guy who could build into a top-four defenseman. Can he become Mark Giordano? I don’t know that. But nobody thought Mark Giordano was going to be Mark Giordano 10 years ago."
What about Hronek’s future? “I like where he’s at,” said Blashill. “The future is real bright with him.”