Prospects among players most affected by Covid-19 changes
Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman: “Are some of our younger players ready? Ultimately, we don’t really know because we won’t have a normal preseason.”
The changes in the calendar due to the Covid-19 pandemic have thrown everyone in hockey for a loop. But one group seems to have been affected more than others: prospects.
Usually that group would be either just arriving at their team’s camp or playing in a development tournament – such as the one the Red Wings hold in Traverse City most years. The young players would be coming off a summer of intense group workouts and a lot of skating and scrimmages after a season that would not have ended until June.
But, of course, that is not the case in 2020.
In addition to the above schedule, Red Wings prospects would have also usually participated in the team’s development camp in June. But they have not played hockey since March and have been left mostly to individual workouts and possibly activity with a few other players at a time.
“Are some of our younger players ready? Ultimately, we don’t really know because we won’t have a normal preseason, we won’t have had an opportunity to really assess them,” Detroit general manager Steve Yzerman said on the Red Wings’ website. “Decisions will be made over a short period of time, so I think it makes it a little bit more difficult to know what to expect from our team starting off.”
The NHL and American Hockey League seasons are not expected to begin until the first part of December at the earliest, and training camps are tentatively scheduled to open on Nov. 17. Under the normal schedule, Saturday, Sept. 12, would have been the first day of Red Wings training camp in Traverse City. Then the NHL’s regular season would get under way in early October.
The Wings have already loaned several player/prospects to European clubs: Filip Zadina (HK Ocelari Trinec) and Filip Hronek (Mountfield HK) are in the Czech Republic; Gustav Lindstrom (Almtuna), Filip Larsson (Almtuna) and Mathias Brome (Orebro HK) are in Sweden, and Moritz Seider (Mannheim) is in Germany.
Yzerman also talked about the chances to make the Red Wings 2020-21 roster of the prospects who spent time with Grand Rapids of the AHL this past season.
“We had Gustav Lindstrom come up and play some games for us and do quite well,” Yzerman said. "Obviously, Moritz Seider, who is 19, played his first year of pro hockey, and we’re pleased with the season he had. Givani Smith, who saw time last year; Michael Rasmussen, who had a lot of injuries, missed a lot of time last year; Dennis Cholowski was down there. We haven’t seen them since March, so curious to see once we get playing where they’re at. All these guys aren’t far off.
“Joe Veleno, as a junior-age player, did really well and finished strong. Unfortunately, the season ended prior to them getting into any playoff action, which we were really looking forward to seeing. They were all really excelling as the year went on. I mentioned those names just because they’re the closest. Potentially some of those, say one or two or more, could push for a spot on our team.”
Per usual, players will only get a Red Wings roster spot if they are going to be playing on a regular basis.
“We want them playing regular, and if they’re not going to play regular, I’d prefer them playing in the American League or back in junior or in their European leagues,” Yzerman said. “When they’re ready to play a regular shift and contribute in the NHL, that’s when we’ll bring them up.”
Yzerman also said that the Red Wings and the six other teams that did not participate in the NHL’s restart have asked the league and the NHL Players Association if they can begin team activities earlier than the scheduled Nov. 17 date because those teams will have gone more than eight months without playing a game under the current schedule.