The Red Wings have a habit of allowing their players to progress at a steady, controlled pace. Unlike other NHL clubs, they can afford this luxury with the depth they possess on their 23-man roster.
Cory Emmerton has been provided this extra time to develop and it appears both parties will benefit from this patient approach.
Selected 41st overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Detroit was pleased to see that he had slipped through the first round, picking him up with one of the their two, second-round selections. In fact, Red Wings general manager, Ken Holland, traded down because the St.Thomas, ON, native had yet to be chosen and the belief was the he would still be available early in the next round.
Blessed with exceptional on-ice vision, playmaking ability and stick skills, the Red Wings envision Emmerton to be a future top-six forward when he eventually makes the jump to the big leagues.
However, when first selected by the Wings, assistant GM, Jim Nill, felt his biggest weakness was his size, believing the six-foot one-inch, 177 pound centerman needed to bulk up to endure the rigors of professional hockey.
It appears that the message has gotten to Emmerton as he came into this years prospect camp more man than boy, having packing on 15lbs of muscle.
"I've been very impressed," Nill said. "He's come back here and I think he's a totally refocused guy. He's in great condition. "He looks like a man now. After coming to all these camps and playing junior, you can see the steps.
"He's taken it to the next level."
Detroit’s brass has high expectations for the slick forward who has drawn comparisons to the Florida Panthers Cory Stillman.
With his junior career firmly behind him, Emmerton will suit up with the Wings AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, for the upcoming 2008-09 season. And from all accounts it appears that he’s prepared to make his breaks instead of waiting for them.
"I talked to Ken Holland and he said, 'It's up to you how fast you get yourself to the next level,'" Emmerton said. "He talked about how everyone has something that separates themselves from everyone else.
"As long as you do what you need to do, they'll play whoever they need to. They want to win.
"Look at Darren Helm. He worked hard in Grand Rapids his first year, got called up, stayed and won a Stanley Cup. It's what you make of your opportunity."
There will certainly be plenty of that with the offensively-starved Griffins.
With the current CBA capping teams on what they can spend, churning out quality players through the draft is essential for remaining in the hunt for Lord Stanley’s Cup. Considering that Holland has to resign Conn Smythe Trophy winner Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Jiri Hudler by next summer – not to mention his desire to get Marian Hossa under a long-term contract – the emergence of Emmerton would prove to be indispensable in keeping the core of the 2008 Stanley Cup champions together without sacrificing the skill level the Wings have displayed over the past two decades.
Only time will tell if Cory can embrace this opportunity and make the most of it. Lucky for him and the Red Wings, it’s something they have plenty of.