Separating the Men from the Boys
2006 Training Camp Phase II wrap-up...
By Jason Kasiorek
As the second phase of training camp winds down, the battle for NHL jobs and contracts has become heated, with several candidates stepping to the forefront. Here are some observations and a handicapping of the players in camp looking for jobs at the various levels of the organization.
There are essentially eleven forwards in the running for the last 3 or 4 slots on the Wings roster. Joey MacDonald and Brett Ledba are also hopeful of earning a spot on the 23-man roster and are listed here as well.
LW Jiri Hudler - The talk of camp - for the wrong reasons - Visa problems led to missed time and possibly a missed opportunity. Really needs a strong pre-season to nail down a spot. Probably wouldn't clear waivers, so if he can't make it here, he will get a chance somewhere else. Played well once he arrived in camp.
RW Darryl Bootland - Has not looked out of place playing with Maltby and Draper during camp. Coach Babcock says he needs a great pre-season to earn a job. May be able to sneak through waivers to GR.
RW Josh Langfeld - Looked very good in camp, and may force Detroit to keep him on the roster - over a prospect. Defensively responsible and not afraid to battle along the boards or in the corners.
C Matt Hussey - Has fit in very well on a line with Robert Lang, using his size and speed to generate scoring chances, a dark horse, but still in contention.
C Valtteri Filppula - Filppula has made a strong case for staying in the NHL, and has shown the skills to play an everyday role. His ability to be sent to the AHL without waivers likely means he will have to wait awhile to prove the potential. Has spent a lot of after practice time on the ice getting pointers from Babcock.
D/LW Brad Norton - Has showed some surprising mobility (Not that he is a great skater, just not as bad as has been written) playing with Pavel Datysuk, and has done little to show he doesn't belong there. The wings may keep him for his versatility playing forward and defense gives him an edge. He needs to show he can keep up in the new NHL and play a physical, responsible game during the preseason.
LW Matt Ellis - The forgotten man in this group, Ellis has stood out with his hustle and work ethic, and if the team was not so deep he might stick. His skating has improved, and he has even shown some timely offense.
C Boyd Devereaux - The most noticeable of the tryouts once main camp started, Boyd should be able to turn a strong pre-season into a contract with someone, even if it's not Detroit.
LW Tomas Kopecky - Hasn't done anything to stand out thus far, the exhibition games will be big for Kopecky who like Hudler probably wouldn't clear waivers.
C Krys Kolanos - For the most part has been invisible during camp. He needs to step it up and show the skills that got him to the NHL in the first place. Will probably start the season in the AHL if he makes it through waivers.
RW Jason Podollan - A big skilled forward, Jason would probably be a good candidate for the AHL if there weren't already so many veterans already under contract. Really has not stood out from the pack.
Also projected to make the roster:
G Joey MacDonald - Looked solid in the early going, back looks good, as long as he doesn't self destruct in the pre-season he may finally find an NHL spot as the third stringer in Detroit.
D Brett Lebda - Has played well enough for Coach Babcock to declare he will start the season in Detroit. The numbers game however, and his ability to be sent down without passing through waivers may see him in GR to start the season.
Grand Rapids Bound
These players are likely to be assigned to camp in Grand Rapids, either to play for the Griffins or for re-assignment to Toledo (ECHL).
D Dan Smith - Decent and unspectacular, he will be the anchor of the GR defense.
D Derek Meech - Played well in the scrimmages, and was able to laugh at himself when he fell down during a shootout attempt. This is a key year for Meech, and he should have plenty of opportunity to show what he can do in GR.
D Jonathan Ericsson - An early favorite of Babcock, Ericsson played both forward and defense, and has had some shining moments. He is very mobile, and handles the puck fairly well, but hasn't been consistent in his own end.
D Kyle Quincey - Had a great tourney, and has played very solid, but unspectacular in camp. His development should be aided by the pre-season games he is likely to see; though there are too many ahead of him to claim a job in Detroit.
G Jimmy Howard - Howard has been mediocre, both during the prospects tournament, and so far in camp, he is the goalie of the future, but has made it clear he needs another year of seasoning. A late injury has taken him off the ice, and may cost him some pre-season starts.
G Stefan Liv - A huge question mark heading into the preseason, Liv has been very inconsistent so far. After getting shelled in his only appearance in the prospect tournament, he seemed to settle down a little bit in camp.
G Logan Koopmans - Toledo Bound to finish out the last season of his contract, has not shown much.
LW Ryan Oulahen - Injured early in the prospects tournament, Ryan has not had an opportunity to showcase his development yet.
C Eric Himelfarb - lots of speed and hustle but not much else that stands out.
C Evan McGrath - McGrath did not wow with offensive numbers, but did not look out of place as he gets ready for his first pro season.
RW Ryan Keller - Keller blazed through the prospects tourney, playing well enough to earn another contract with the Griffins, and then came up lame shortly after. Ryan also took quite a few penalties mostly hooking and holding, and it remains to be seen whether he can keep up with the pace at the main camp.
RW Brendan Brooks - Showed off some speed and feistiness in camp, but will be assigned to Grand Rapids.
As expected, none of the junior tryouts played well enough to garner a contract from the wings. It remains to be seen whether any of them will be invited to AHL camp in Grand Rapids. Dominic Vicari remains on the roster, but is scheduled to return to Toledo (ECHL) after camp. How they fared:
RW Jamie Tardif - The former OHL sniper really has not stood out enough to earn a contract, He has not played poorly, just not well enough to force Detroit to sign him.
RW Tyler Donati - Much like his bother, did not seem able to build on a strong tournament showing once camp started.
RW David Jarram - Jarram protected his smaller teammates when needed, but did not make much of an impact once main camp started.
C Justin Donati - Had a couple of good games in the tournament, was not very noticeable once everyone else arrived.
C Reid Jorgenson - Injured early in the tourney, Jorgenson was unable to build on last years strong camp to secure a contract.
LW Kevin Undershute - Relatively invisible, Kevin showed little that would indicate pro potential.
RW Andrew Martin - Martin was in camp as part of the agreement with Toledo (ECHL), who recently signed him to a 1 yr. deal. Did not make much of an impact, and was released from camp.
G Dominic Vicari - Like Martin, Vicari is in camp for Toledo, but has played well so far. With the injury to Howard, he has earned an extended look in camp.