On the shores of beautiful Lake Michigan in Traverse City, the future stars of the Detroit Red Wings are aligning for a week of hockey (and a little fun.)
Center Ice Arena is hosting the 2012 Red Wings Prospect Camp, and Wednesday was the halfway point of the week. With fans and management alike looking for big things from many of the players, I present to you my midweek insights of what we have learned about some of the touted prospect in the Detroit system.
Widely considered to be the premier prospect for the Red Wings, Brendan Smith is a prime example of Detroit's system of letting players over-ripen in the lower levels. This marks Smith's sixth prospect camp, and by this point, we have learned that he is just about ready to play full-time with the big guys at the Joe come September.
As we already know, Smith is a physical defenseman who can drop the gloves when necessary. During camp, it looks like Brendan Smith will be a leader for the younger players, as well as keep working on his offensive production, an aspect that the Red Wings love to see out of him.
Detroit Free Press writer George Sipple put it best when he said that Thomas McCollum has to show improvement.
Even though prospect camp is not a high pressure environment, fans and observers should keep an eye on McCollum this week.
McCollum has been dwelling in Grand Rapids for the last four seasons, and has not exactly matured at the rate that the Red Wings want him to. As he enters the final year of his contract, McCollum needs to carry his awesome play that we saw at the end of last year into the 2012-2013 season. Taking into consideration that he has only played 15 NHL minutes and managed to get scored on three times, we can only hope that improvement is the case for Thomas McCollum.
Despite this somewhat odd photo from draft day, Riley Sheahan looks to be developing into a consistent big-bodied center. If college is any prediction of success in the professional world, Sheahan can put up about 20 points per season.
If he can successfully jump from college to the AHL and then eventually the big leagues remains to be seen, but he has the favor of Coach Babcock on his side given his size and ability.
Going beyond this week, Sheahan needs to add some size to his 6'2'', 202 pound frame to make him a better player going forward.
It is pretty safe to consider Petr Mrazek the Red Wings' goaltender of the future. This coming year, he will find himself in the AHL, and is expected to give Jake Patterson and the aforementioned Thomas McCollum a serious run for their money (and jobs.)
That run starts this week at prospect camp.
Even though he has a long way to go before he heads to The D, Mrazek shows some serious potential. He made the IIHF World Juniors All-Star team last season as well as backstopping the Ottawa 67's to an OHL final four appearance.
My personal prediction is that Mrazek will start the first game of next year for Grand Rapids.
For anyone who studies hockey prospects and visits YouTube, it is no secret that Tomas Jurco has some downright filthy stuff in his arsenal.
His numbers with the St. John's Sea Dogs of the QMJHL are eye-popping, and he looks like he is only getting better. With 68 points in 48 regular season games, plus another 29 in 16 playoff games, Jurco looks like he has a real possibility of developing into an NHL stud if he beefs up a little and keeps working with the same ethic that he showed in St. John's.
By the looks of things, he didn't leave his bag of tricks in St. John's, as he scored the lone shoot-out goal for his team in a scrimmage on July 10.
Entering the Red Wings in the draft class of 2012 is Martin Frk, a speedy and sizable scoring winger who the Red Wings think had first round potential.
At 6 feet and 200 pounds, Frk impressed with the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL.
What is odd about Frk (being picked by Detroit) is the fact that he has had the dubious distinction of being the most penalized player in whatever league he is in not once, not twice, not three times, but a whopping four times, according to Eliteprospects.com
The Red Wings are not a team known for racking up the PIMs, so this week, Frk should focus on keeping his game under control.
Okay, so maybe he is not a Red Wings prospect, but Michael Babcock III, son of coach Mike Babcock is taking part in camp.
A high school player for Central Catholic, Babcock is focusing his efforts on becoming a college player one day. While his dad says that he has a ways to go before developing the skill set of a future NHL'er, it is still pretty neat to get such an opportunity as a youngster.
And who knows, maybe Coach Babcock has Mike III scouting the players for him too.