Red Wings Close Tournament with Loss to ColumbusSeptember 11, 2018
One more time, Red Wings fans had to watch the Columbus Blue Jackets skate away with the Matthew Wuest Memorial Cup. The NHL Prospect Tournament finished in a disappointing 7-3 loss for the Detroit prospects. Despite strong moments, the Red Wings couldn’t rally to overcome the talent-stacked roster of Columbus. The loss was crushing for the tired team however, it wasn’t a total loss. There were a few standout players that put forth a tremendous effort throughout camp, especially tonight.
Givani Smith is More Than an Enforcer
Smith has established himself as a bit of an enforcer for the Red Wings. Though not a legitimate position, it’s one that is understood among players. You mess with his guys, he’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again – typically by force. Tonight, Smith demonstrated an incredible sense of self-control as well as ability. Formerly, very clunky and almost clumsy on the ice, he has increased his skating ability tenfold. Smith was credited with two of the three goals. Givani was physical, resourceful and incredibly effective. Considering his hot temper and lax qualities last season, Smith has clearly been putting in a lot of work in the last season.
Fulcher Foundationally Strong
Yes, the Red Wings lost however, Fulcher still had some incredible saves. He’s very young, only 19, but is showing a lot of great foundational pieces. He is capable of remaining calm and coming up big, shutting down Kole Sherwood on a breakaway at one point. Many have said that Patrik Rybar should have started, perhaps they’re right, however, Fulcher will need the challenges of high-level competition to develop more. This one game should not be used as the final resolution on Fulcher. I spoke with Grand Rapids Head Goaltending Development Coach, Brian Mahoney-Wilson this morning, and he is confident in Fulcher’s developmental ability. Excited is not a word we use to describe goalies for Detroit, but Mahoney-Wilson is just so. Kaden Fulcher has raw talent and is teachable. Going forward, he’ll be a wall in the net.
Vili Threw Punches… Sort Of
Yes, you read that right. Why is this something to be noteworthy? Saarijarvi has put on weight and has gotten visibly stronger physically. For a defenseman his size, 5’10” and 183lbs, he needs to have a physical game to back him up. Which it was made very clear tonight, he’s working on it. Filip Zadina took a hit at center ice in the offensive zone and went down hard. Immediately, Saarijarvi took off after Blue Jacket, Justin Wade. Throwing punches and eventually taking Wade down as Vili himself was falling to the ice, he was relentless in avenging his teammate.
It wasn’t a full-blown fight and certainly wasn’t anything to make highlight reels, however, the fact that the team is already so quick to react and come to the aid of each other is a good sign. Unlike some players, I’m not worried about Vili. He’s controlled and can skate circles around most guys, it’s just refreshing to see him confident in his physical game as well.
Columbus Played Better
Unfortunately for the Red Wings, the harsh reality is that Columbus played better. They were undefeated throughout the tournament,
which says a lot about their team chemistry and selections. It’s been thrown around that their success is due to their roster being comprised of a lot of free agents or semi-pros. The point of a tournament like this is to show that the prospects are up to the pro level, so what better way than to play guys with pro and semi-pro experience? Is it fair? Probably not, but if they want to play in the NHL, they have to consistently be better than the guy that’s played one year and the guy that’s played 10. Columbus came out with intensity and maintained it. It paid off.
Read more about what the future of Columbus looks like here
Onward to Training Camp
Worn out as they are, the Red Wings prospects will head right into training camp on Friday. It will likely be the most tiring week they’ve had in a long while, but these are the days that will provide them with learning experiences that will last through their careers.