Red Wings sign Nicastro

The Detroit Red Wings have signed their third round pick (91st overall) in the 2008 Draft to a three-year entry-level contract. Former Boston University defenseman Max Nicastro is expected to join the Grand Rapids Griffins for the 2012-13 season following an eventful year for the Thousand Oaks, California native.

If the name rings a non-hockey bell, it’s likely because he was charged with rape in February. He was subsequently thrown off of the Terriers hockey club and eventually withdrawn from Boston University altogether. On June 1st, however, the charges were dropped when the Commonwealth of Massachusetts decided that they had insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that anything other than a consensual act took place. The complainant has maintained that she was sexually assaulted, and Nicastro has maintained that there was no criminal action on his part. With the legal system deciding to drop the case altogether, we’ll never know exactly what happened but no one should expect a professional sports club to punish a man if the State feels that no punishment is warranted.

We had heard rumors during this past season that the Griffins expected the Wings to sign Nicastro, assuming he was acquitted of his charges and was legally allowed to play (meaning, not in jail). It seemed unbelievable at the time, since pro sports teams — and in particular, the Red Wings — seem to distance themselves from those who may bring a “black eye” to the organization. Nicastro isn’t the first player with ties to the Red Wings to have some legal trouble before his debut in Detroit. Brendan Smith and Riley Sheahan both got into some “boys will be boys”-type trouble during their stints in college (though, to be fair, neither was accused of anything even remotely similar to rape), and Todd Bertuzzi’s legal troubles are on-going and in their ninth year. Former Wing Andreas Lilja was also accused of rape prior to his tenure with the club and similarly had his charges dropped due to lack of evidence.

Max Nicastro is a big (6’3, 215), stay-at-home defenseman who, according to assistant general manager Jim Nill, “is physical, can shoot the puck, and is a strong skater.” Sounds like a winning combination for a 22-year-old, and he’ll be able to develop at his own pace in Grand Rapids.

If my understanding of the rules are correct, the Wings didn’t have much choice but to sign Nicastro if they wanted him to play hockey anywhere next season. He was a collegiate player, meaning the Wings had until his senior year ended to sign him to a contract before losing his exclusive rights — and those didn’t expire until August of 2013. Since he was removed from BU’s hockey team, he was ineligible to play for Boston — or any other collegiate club, because the NCAA requires a year in between seasons if a player transfers from one school to another. He’s too old to join any of the junior league, and he couldn’t play for any professional club (including the Griffins or Walleye) since the Wings owned his exclusive professional rights, though he could be assigned to them if the contract belonged to the Wings.

Photo Credit: Andre Ringuette, Getty Images

Wings not on Schultz’s short list

On Monday morning, Anaheim Ducks draft pick Justin Schultz became an unrestricted free agent, thanks to a loophole in the CBA that allows players who went to college after playing minor juniors decide their own fate (for some reason). It had become clear he was not interested in joining the Ducks and that there would be plenty of interest from around the league for the player many describe as “the best player not yet in the NHL.”

Since he’d be signing an entry-level deal with any team that’s lucky enough to snag him, the money was to be no issue. He’ll receive the rookie maximum $925,000 (which includes a signing bonus of $92,500) — plus he’d be eligible for an additional $2.85M in performance bonuses, making his total cap hit $3.775M. That offer will be identical from every team that sends him one.

And nearly all thirty teams did. According to Bob McKenzie, 26 of the NHL’s 30 clubs made contact with his agent and offered him a deal. Schultz was in a unique position where he’d be able to choose the team of his liking based on geography and the promise of playing time in the NHL right away. Not bad for a kid who’s a week shy of his 22nd birthday.

The Red Wings had never made promises of playing time to free agents. But Justin Schultz isn’t your average free agent. The Wings are in a state of flux, with Nicklas Lidstrom hanging up his skates and Brad Stuart being traded to (and subsequently signed by) the San Jose Sharks, there are a few spots open on the blueline — whether or not Detroit can swing Ryan Suter. If ever there was a time to roll the dice and take a shot at a young stud, this is it. If you’re going to make promises once, why not now? And that’s exactly what General Manager Ken Holland did, stating, “We’re prepared to give him the opportunity to be on our team.”

On Wednesday evening, Justin Schultz narrowed his options down from 26 to just a few. Detroit was NOT on that list, according to The Detroit News’ Ted Kulfan.

No matter which team Schultz chooses, he won’t be able to sign a contract until July 1st, but it is expected that he’ll make his decision well before Sunday. The front-runners for the Canadian’s services have long been rumored to have been the Toronto Maple Leafs (Brian Burke originally drafted him), Vancouver Canucks (he’s from British Columbia), and Edmonton Oilers (perhaps he wants to be the stud D they’re lacking).

It looks like it’s Suter or bust…

Photo Credit: David Stluka/Icon SMI

Potential Bonus Draft Picks

Each year, after the NHL Draft, the Red Wings (and all the other teams in the league) invite a handful of undrafted free agents to their rookie and/or main training camps. It’s via this method that the Wings signed undrafted talent like Brian Lashoff, Willie Coetzee, Trevor Parkes, and Brent Raedeke. You shouldn’t expect this year to be any different, and there are a couple of guys that I’ve got my eye on who were on my list, but didn’t get selected over this past weekend’s seven rounds.

Denis Kamaev – F – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL)
Mock drafts had him as high as the second round, and some early mocks even had him going in the first. His biggest downfall is that he’s Russian, and if we learned anything in this year’s Draft, it was that NHL teams were terrified of their prospects jumping ship and chasing dollars in the KHL — despite the fact that most of the ones in question, including Kamaev, are doing their best to show dedication to staying in North America by coming to play in Canadian Junior leagues. He’s not a big guy, but he scored nearly a point-per-game in the Q.

Anton Slepyshev – F – Metallurg Novokuznetsk (KHL)
Building on the “Russian Factor” mentioned above, Slepyshev’s situation is compounded since he’s already playing in the KHL. He was Russia’s captain at the 2012 World Junior Championship and was ranked tenth among European skaters heading into the Draft, making him the highest ranked player not to be selected. But the KHL thing was clearly a turnoff for all thirty clubs. But there’s no harm in offering him an invitation to training camp, since those players don’t count against your salary cap, your reserve list, your 50-man contract limit, or anything else until they’re officially signed to an NHL contract.

Gustav Rydahl – F – Frolunda (Sweden)
Another big body (6-3, 198), Rydahl was the 36th ranked European skater available. Described as a fierce competitor, he’s a two-way guy that has excellent ice-vision, the kind of qualities that the Wings love in their forwards.

Matt Rupert – F – London Knights (OHL)
When the sixth round came around, the Maple Leafs had back-to-back picks (156 and 157). I thought for sure that Brian Burke would take a pair of twins, as he had in Vancouver several years ago. Instead, Burke selected one twin, Ryan, while the other went undrafted. Matt will get an invitation to Leafs training camp, it sounds like, but I’m sure he’s disappointed he wasn’t selected like his brother was. They’re teammates with Wings’ fourth round pick Andreas Athanasiou in London, and were relied upon very heavily during the Memorial Cup playoffs. They’re both excellent hockey players, so Burke may have been wise to select them both with those back-to-back selections. Maybe he’s not interested in following his brother to Toronto and will be looking for his own opportunity somewhere.
UPDATE: Will attend Maple Leafs camp.

Andrew Ryan – F – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
The Wings’ first pick, Martin Frk, is Ryan’s teammate in Halifax. And like Frk, Ryan missed a good chunk of this past season with an injury, which — I’m sure — played into his being passed up among NHL teams. He was ranked above a lot of kids that were selected in the late rounds, so someone’s going to invite him to camp, to be sure.

Kristoff Kontos – F – Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors (OHL)
If that name sounds familiar, it’s because his father — Chris Kontos — played for four different NHL clubs. The younger Kontos split last season between the Sudbury Wolves (where papa also played) and the Majors, but had his best offensive season in the OHL yet. He’s one of the older guys that was available in the Draft (having missed the cutoff for the 2011 Draft by a couple months).

Austin Czarnik – F – University of Miami
Don’t expect him to be signed, since he can’t do so without leaving school, but he’s a Detroiter and went undrafted, so he’ll be looking for somewhere to skate this summer.

Dane Fox – F – Erie Otters (OHL)
You may be able to scratch him off the list already. The 46th ranked North American skater was invited to Rangers camp.
UPDATE: Will attend Rangers camp.

Nathan Walker – F – Viktovice (Czech Republic)
How’s this for a story: Nathan Walker, who had a storybook Spengler Cup, was attempting to become the first Australian player to be drafted in NHL history. Unfortunately, he fell short, despite being ranked 25th among European skaters (he plays in the Czech Republic). Maybe teams were turned off by the fact that he doesn’t play against big-time talent, but here’s hoping he gets a chance with an NHL club.

Michael Houser – G – London Knights (OHL)
Another teammate of Andreas Athanasiou, Houser has been passed over in three separate NHL Drafts. We were hoping that someone would call his name over the weekend because he’s a Pittsburgh native and that would have been an awesome story to tell. The truth of the matter is that goaltenders are a little more easily available after the Draft than other position players, particularly when they’re 20. Someone will have him camp, you can bank on it.

Nikita Tryamkin – D – Yekateringburg (Russia)
The Wings took the tallest player drafted over the weekend (Rasmus Bodin) after Jim Nill said they were going to go bigger than usual. Tryamkin is playing for Datsyuk’s hometown in Russia (RED FLAG!), but he’s absolutely gigantic at 6-6, 220. He’s not afraid to drop the gloves, so maybe it’s a dynamic teams felt they could get without using a pick on it.

Max Iafrate – D – Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
With three picks in the seventh round, I thought for sure that the Washington Capitals would swoop in and take Al’s boy with one of them. Alas, they didn’t. And neither did anyone else somehow. The 70th ranked North American skater is from Livonia, and grew up playing for Belle Tire before hopping to the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers (he’s since been traded). He’s 6-2, 220… I simply don’t have any idea why he wasn’t picked.
UPDATE: Will attend Washington Capitals camp.

Cody Corbett – D – Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
An American kid with decent size (6-0, 210), his top quality is a great outlet pass. With the retirements of both Brian Rafalski and Nicklas Lidstrom, the Wings are going to be doing an awful lot of outlet passing in practice. Obviously, this guy won’t be taking over anytime soon, but when it’s time to restock, it’s time to restock.

Alex Gudbranson – D – Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
His brother Erik was drafted third overall in 2010, but he was no lock to hear his name called in Pittsburgh. He came into the Draft ranked 161st among North Americans, and despite excellent size (6-2, 206), he was passed over for seven rounds. Maybe he ends up in Florida camp along side big brother.

Photo Credits: Kamaev: Francis Vachon; Slepyshev: KHL; Rydahl: Okand; Rupert: London Community News; Ryan: Mike Dembeck; Kontos: OHL Images; Czarnik: Dave Arnold, USA Hockey; Fox: Aaron Bell, OHL Images; Walker: Blick.ch; Houser: Mathieu Belanger, Reuters; Tryamkin: Lelikus; Iafrate: OHL Images; Corbett: Amber Bracken, Edmonton Sun; Gudbranson: Simon Seguin-Bertrand, Ledroit

Red Wings Draft Recap

If Wheel of Fortune has taught us anything, it's that vowels are expensive and unnecessary.

It was an eventful weekend in Pittsburgh. Not necessarily for the Detroit Red Wings, but for the league as a whole, and for me personally. I love the Draft and spend far too many hours getting acquainted with as many guys as possible just in case they’re selected by the Red Wings. I had a list of 212 players (there were 211 picks this year) and familiarized myself with them, hoping that we’d nab a handful. When all was said and done, we took three players on that list: Martin Frk (my 19th ranked), Andreas Athanasiou (my 54), and Mike McKee (113).

MARTIN FRK (selected in the second round, 49th overall)
Halifax Mooseheads winger, 6-0, 198, must sign by June 2014, @frky91
In the end, this is an unbelievable pick for the Red Wings. Many mocks had him in the first round, and all of them had him going before #49. Despite a concussion that cost him most of the season, I was pretty sure he’d be off the board before Detroit got to their first selection, especially considering all of the devastating injuries sustained by so many of the top players available. That was not the case, and the hard-shooting winger was snatched up in what was likely a “value” pick. You simply weren’t going to get more of it at #49.

Frk (pronounced “Firk”) boasted arguably the hardest shot of any player available in the 2012 Draft, and he loves to work the power play. He shares a team with 2013’s top prospect Nate MacKinnon, so the Halifax Mooseheads might be a force in the QMJHL next season — particularly if Frk can remain healthy. If they do well, expect to hear more and more about the newest Future Red Wing since he will be relied upon in what will be his third season in Canadian Junior. He wears #91 because of his childhood hero, who you probably can name.

CLICK HERE TO READ RED WINGS CENTRAL’S ARTICLE (it’s awesome)

JAKE PATERSON (selected in the third round, 80th overall)
Saginaw Spirit goaltender, 6-0, 178, must sign by June 2014, @JakePaterson57
Paterson was the third ranked North American goaltender heading into the Draft, and was Chris Osgood’s first foray into scouting. Osgood presented the jersey to Paterson, who was excited to join the team he grew up rooting for. Ozzie, evidently, traveled to Saginaw to watch Paterson play on nearly a dozen occasions and was impressed with his composure, particularly in big games. While his numbers may not be terribly impressive, it’s important to note that the Canadian Junior leagues are unbelievably offense-happy.

He was selected because the Wings depth in goaltending is getting a little thin. After Jimmy Howard and Joey MacDonald, the team is going to let (at least) three goaltenders fight it out for playing time on the farm: Jordan Pearce, who is entering the final year on his contract but has played quite well in Grand Rapids; Thomas McCollum, who has had a really rough pro career since being drafted by the Wings in ’08; and Petr Mrazek, who is turning pro this season and should be an exciting prospect for Wings fans to keep an eye on. Beyond that, there was nobody… until Jake Paterson was selected.

CLICK HERE TO READ RED WINGS CENTRAL’S ARTICLE (it’s also awesome)

ANDREAS ATHANASIOU (selected in the fourth round, 110th overall)
London Knights winger, 6-0, 165, must sign by June 2014, @AndreasA86
Here’s your raised eyebrow pick of the day. Athanasiou was very clearly one of the fastest — if not the fastest — skater available in the Draft, and was — for a long time — considered to be a first round pick, maybe even a top 15 pick. He had what you might call an up-and-down season in London, and there were questions about his actual hockey ability outside of his world-class skating. He found himself a healthy scratch down the stretch and in the playoffs, despite scoring twenty goals on the season. With a number of players “graduating” from the Knights, his role should be expanded, and hopefully he’ll blossom into the player that the Red Wings need him to be.

At the moment, his hockey sense is lacking and the rest of his skill needs to catch up to his feet. One scout went so far as to say that if players were selected solely on their skating, he’d #1 or #2 this season… but that “his brain and hands need to catch up to his feet.” When all is said and done, finding a guy of this (raw) talent available in the hundreds is special. He’s a project, but he could be a gamble that pays off like crazy.

CLICK HERE TO READ RED WINGS CENTRAL’S ARTICLE (still awesome)

MIKE MCKEE (selected in the fifth round, 140th overall)
Lincoln Stars defenseman, 6-4, 230, must sign by August 2016, @mikemckee23
I’m very excited about the Wings’ fourth selection, Mike McKee. In my opinion, he’s the most likely player to eventually play on — and make an impact for — the Detroit Red Wings. He’s an absolute beast of a human being, already standing 6-4 and weighing 230 as a teenager. He’s committed to Western Michigan, where he’ll be playing next season, so the Wings have up to four years to sign him to a contract.

He’s not a big scorer, but he’s a bruising blueliner that is no stranger to the penalty box and projects to be a third pairing defenseman. If he can refine that size of his into something lethal while on patrol and learn to control his impulses while playing collegiate puck, he’ll be an interesting prospect in a few years. The Wings said they were going to draft bigger than usual, and they weren’t joking.

CLICK HERE TO READ RED WINGS CENTRAL’S ARTICLE (continuing to be awesome)

JAMES DE HAAS (selected in the sixth round, 170th overall)
Toronto Lakeshore Patriots defenseman, 6-2, 197, must sign by August 2017, @Jdehaas3
Another guy who’s a few years away from consideration is James de Haas. He is committed to Clarkson University (who have housed Red Wings draft picks Bryan Rufenach [may he rest in peace] and Julien Cayer — neither of whom were signed by the Wings before their exclusive rights expired), but won’t arrive in the collegiate ranks until 2013-14. As a result, the Wings have five years to sign him to a contract.

Though he’s currently playing in a lower tier Junior League than most of the players drafted, he was a first team All-Star within it. He’s a long way out, and there’s not a lot of information available about him (I certainly hadn’t heard of him prior) so keep your fingers crossed for another late-round gem.

CLICK HERE TO READ RED WINGS CENTRAL’S ARTICLE (I can’t believe how awesome they are)

RASMUS BODIN (selected in the seventh round, 200th overall)
HV-71 center, 6-6, 207, no signing deadline, @mrBoda10
A classic Red Wings pick with a quintessentially non-Red Wings twist. The Wings looked to Sweden for their last pick (NO WAY!), relying on super-scout Hakan Andersson to find some guy no one else in the world is familiar with. However, instead of finding an undersized and underdeveloped European stickhandler, like usual, he found King of the Scandanavian Titans. Homeboy was the tallest player selected in any of the seven rounds of the Draft, and he may very well get bigger.

Anderson secured a tryout from the Red Wings’ favorite SEL team, HV-71, and it looks like that’s where Bodin will be playing next season.

CLICK HERE TO READ RED WINGS CENTRAL’S ARTICLE (I bet you heard it was awesome)

DAMIEN BRUNNER
Zug forward, 5-11, 187, @damienbrunner
Though he wasn’t a draft pick, the Wings seemed to have secured a guy from Switzerland that Mike Babcock believes will be a top six forward on next season’s incarnation of the Red Wings. Brunner, who was sought after by as many as a dozen NHL teams, was the leading scorer in the Swiss League.

He was already turning heads and attracting attention from teams like the Lightning and Penguins, but the Wings braintrust was convinced at the most recent World Championships. Mike Babcock got a few glimpses of him and asked Holland to fly in and check him out. Though he can’t officially sign a contract until July 1st, it sounds as if Damien Brunner and the Detroit Red Wings have agreed in principal to terms and that he is no longer in contact with other teams. He will be in training camp and will try to earn a roster spot, but it’s beginning to sound like it won’t be a problem if Mike Babcock’s to be trusted (although… he said the same of Fabian Brunnstrom, Ville Leino, and so on).

Photo Credits: Halifax Mooseheads; Jamie Sabau, Getty Images; Saginaw Spirit; London Knights; Graig Abel, Getty Images North America; Toronto Lakeshore Patriots, Ostersunds IK; EV Zug

RIP Bryan Rufenach

Rest in Peace, Bryan Rufenach. 1989-2012

The Detroit Red Wings’ seventh round pick in 2007 has passed away. Bryan Rufenach, a defenseman who had been playing for the Toledo Walleye, died while traveling in Europe. No additional details were shared.

After four seasons at Clarkson University, the Red Wings opted not to sign him to an entry-level contract, instead hooking him onto the Griffins and Walleye, where he’s bounced back and forth.

He was 23-years-old, and our thoughts are with Bryan’s friends and family. May he rest in peace.

Update, Thursday June 7th:

According to various reports, the cause of death was electrocution. As more details became available, the story began to become more clear. While backpacking with a childhood friend, they were making a stop in Switzerland. They climbed aboard a railcar, and — according to some reports — climbed ATOP the railcar, where Rufenach came into contact with an electrified wire over the track. His friend attempted to resuscitate him, but it sounds like he may have been killed instantly.

Red Wings sign, call-up Riley Sheahan

After three years at Notre Dame, Riley Sheahan signed an with the last week. In a handful of games for the Wings’ top affiliate, he was able to score a goal and add an assist, and assistant general manager Jim Nill mentioned that the Wings were close to signing the 6-2, 210 pound center to an entry-level deal.

That came today. The club that they’ve signed their 2010 first round draft pick to a three-year deal and he’s already on the ice with the Red Wings, having been called up from Grand Rapids. in practice.

There’s no word if he’ll play tonight against New Jersey… or if he’ll see game action before the regular season ends this weekend. One would think that if they’re going to 浦汇 rest some bodies, he might get a taste of the NHL, much in the same way that Justin Abdelkader got to taste the end of the 2007-08 season. However, the Wings are still in a dogfight for home ice advantage.

Congratulations to Riley Sheahan. May this be the beginning of a wonderful professional career! You can follow Riley on Twitter at @rsheahan4.

In other Red Wings news, both Darren Helm and Patrick Eaves were on the ice for an optional skate this morning. Helm is slated to return to action when the playoffs begin, and it’s great to hear that Eaves is well enough to skate. He is not expected to return this season.

Photo Credit: Katie Greene, MLIVE

Griffins loading up

The American Hockey League provides some excellent opportunities for their NHL counterparts’ cupboard of prospects. Not only is it the top developmental league in the world — and provides the springboard for so many future NHLers — it allows for players to sign professional and amateur tryouts at the end exness怎么样 of the season (or at time during the season, really), giving players whose seasons have ended a place to play. Junior and collegiate players have a chance to impress the teams that drafted them (or another NHL club if they’re free agents) and they don’t have to count against the NHL club’s contract limit.

With a bunch of prospects’ seasons coming to an end in the last week or so, the Grand Rapids Griffins are loading up with Detroit Red Wings draft picks and prospects. The Griffins playoffs hopes are fading, unfortunately, and they may have the opportunity to try a bunch of different looks and give the Red Wings a chance to see a bit of the players they’ll have to sign in the coming years. A quick rundown of the players currently in residence in Grand Rapids:

RAMIS SADIKOV :: Goaltender
He’s not Red Wings property, but he was an invitee to camp this past summer. He got a long look and the Wings may be looking to sign the Erie Otters goaltender to shore up net depth in the coming years. With Pearce and Conklin in Detroit, the Griffins can use all the help they can get with netminders.

ADAM ALMQVIST :: Defenseman
Almqvist is already under contract with the Red Wings, having signed a three-year entry-level deal last summer. There’s talk that he’ll be in the American Hockey League next season, which is excellent considering the Griffins are very likely losing another top-flight blueline prospect in Brendan Smith. Almqvist’s season ended and the to the Griffins today.

RICHARD NEDOMLEL :: Defenseman
The Wings’ sixth round draft pick from 2011 doesn’t need to be signed to a contract until next summer, but when his season came to an end (Swift Current of the WHL), the Griffins swooped in and signed him to an amateur tryout. He’s 6-4, 202 and had a breakout season offensively in Canadian juniors.

RYAN SPROUL :: Defenseman
Sproul was over the weekend, but his contract won’t begin until he turns pro — likely in 2013-14. His OHL season ended and he’ll be able to maintain his junior eligibility by signing an ATO with the Griffins. He’s a second round pick from last June.

RILEY SHEAHAN :: Winger
Unlike junior players, collegiate players have to forego their amateur status to join an AHL club, even if they sign an amateur tryout. Sheahan has said that he’s withdrawn from Notre Dame following his junior season, meaning he will almost certainly be signed by the Red Wings this summer and join the Griffins on a permanent basis for next season. For now, he’ll get into game where he can.

ALAN QUINE :: Center
Another second round pick from 2011 has joined the Griffins on an ATO. Like Sproul, he won’t be eligible to play for the Griffins permanently for a few seasons — and the Wings would have to sign him to an offer first anyway — but Peterborough’s season is over and the Wings would rather have him play somewhere than start his summer vacation.

Some other notes:

XAVIER OUELLET, who signed over the weekend with Sproul, will not be joining the Griffins at this time. His junior club, the Blainville-Broisbrand Armada of the QMJHL, is still competing in the playoffs. If that changes, he’ll likely join the fellas listed above.

JULIEN CAYER, a Red Wings draft pick from 2008, has completed his senior season at Clarkson University. He needs to be signed by August or the Wings will no longer hold his rights. As of yet, he has not been invited to join the Griffins, meaning he has likely been told that he does not have a future with the Red Wings.

BROOKS MACEK, like Cayer, is a draft pick whose rights are set to expire this summer. His Calgary Hitmen (of the WHL) are still playing, so we’ll see what happens when/if they’re eliminated before the Griffins season ends.

TOMAS JURCO, the gem of the ’11 Draft for the Wings, has not been signed (and won’t need to be for another year), and is still playing in the QMJHL tournament. I’m sure the Wings would love for him to join the Griffins, as a fortunate birthday means that he’ll be able to play in the AHL next year instead of the year after like most of his Draft classmates.

MAREK TVERDON, of the Vancouver Giants, is still playing and likely won’t be joining his 2011 Draft classmates in Grand Rapids unless that changes.

CALLE JARNKROK and TEEMU PULKKINEN, the two blue chip prospects playing in Europe, are both engaged in playoffs in their respective leagues. The Wings would love to get a look at each of them, but they’re in a different boat than the rest of the players mentioned: guys drafted from Europe don’t have signing deadlines, so they could pull an Axelsson and never come over unless they’re promised NHL time… or they could pull a Filppula and come over to be groomed by the Griffins.

NICK JENSEN and BENJAMIN MARSHALL are not eligible for ATOs, as they’re competing in collegiate hockey.

And thanks to our good friend @Kyle_Kujawa of the Grand Rapids Griffins who pointed out that we were incorrect to list PHILLIPE HUDON just above as a collegian. He while suffering from severe obsessive compulsive disorder. He’s joined the Victoriaville Tigres of the QMJHL, meaning he cannot return to college hockey. He’s participating in the Q playoffs, as well, so he likely won’t be added to the Griffins — but we thank Kyle for the head’s up!

Red Wings sign Sproul & Ouellet

Sproul & Ouellet

On Sunday morning, the Red Wings announced the signing of a pair of defensemen drafted this past June. Ryan Sproul, of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL, and Xavier Ouellet, of the Montreal Juniors of the QMJHL, have signed three-year entry-level deals. The team had until June of 2013 to get them under contract or lose their exclusive negotiating rights.

Thanks to a bogus Canadian Hockey League rule, players are ineligible to play in the American Hockey League until they’ve played four seasons of junior hockey or they turn twenty (by December 31st of the current season). Neither Sproul nor Ouellet are eligible to play for the Griffins 外汇交易入门 until 2013-14 at the earliest. The twenty-year-old rule does not apply to the National Hockey League — if either player is able to make the Red Wings, he may be kept. However, he can’t be assigned to the Griffins until ’13-14; they would have to be returned to their junior clubs.

As a result, their three-year deals won’t take effect until a season in which they may turn pro. Like Petr Mrazek’s deal, these two deals will “slide.” Therefore, these two won’t count against the Red Wings’ 50 contract limit until they become professional hockey players.

Per club policy, financial details were not disclosed, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before CapGeek gets a hold of the numbers. We’ll pass them along — and add them to the Chart — when they’re verified.

From the Detroit Red Wings official press release:

Detroit, MI…The Detroit Red Wings today announced that defensemen Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul have both been signed to three-year entry-level contracts. In accordance with club policy, additional terms of these deals will not be disclosed.

Ouellet, 18, has skated with the Montreal Juniors/Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) franchise for the past two seasons where he has recorded 103 points (29G-74) and a rating of +43 in 130 career appearances. Selected by Detroit in the second round (48th overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Ouellet was a member of Team Orr at the 2011 CHL Home Hardware Top Prospects Game, played at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre.

Montreal’s first choice (14th overall) at the 2009 QMJHL Entry Draft, Ouellet was named to the QMJHL All-Rookie Team in 2009-10 and represented his home province of Quebec at the 2010 World U-17 Hockey Challenge in Ontario. Currently competing in the President’s Cup Playoffs with Blainville-Boisbriand, Ouellet finished third amongst all QMJHL defensemen with 60 points (21G-39A) in 63 appearances during the 2011-12 regular season.

Detroit’s third selection (second round, 55th overall) at last summer’s NHL Entry Draft, Sproul, 19, has spent the last two seasons with the Ontario Hockey League’s Sault Ste.Marie Greyhounds where he has amassed 37G-50A-87P-89PIM in 122 games played.  The 6’4”, 185-lb. blue-liner was chosen by Sault Ste. Marie in the sixth round (108th overall) of the 2009 OHL Priority Selection Draft after enjoying a standout season with Vaughn Kings of the Greater Toronto Hockey League in 2008-09.

A native of Mississauga, ON, Sproul was a member of the Ontario Hockey’s League’s Second All-Rookie Team in 2010-11 and was named the Greyhounds’ Top Defenseman in 2011-12 after finishing tied for third amongst all OHL rearguards with 54 points (23G-31A) in 61 games.

Photo Credits: Sproul — Andre Ringuette, NHLI via Getty Images; Ouellet — Getty Images

You should be excited about Gustav Nyquist

Dapper.

The Wings’ late round draft record is no secret. They unearth gems like Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Tomas Holmstrom in the sixth, seventh, and tenth rounds — respectively. We’re reminded of that fact every few days, particularly when we’re stuck watching an opponent’s feed on Center Ice.

In June of 2008, fresh off of their fourth Stanley Cup victory in 11 seasons, the Red Wings found themselves in a familiar position at the draft: they’d be picking dead last in every round except for the second — where they wouldn’t pick at all, having dealt that selection away to the Kings in a package that brought Brad Stuart to Hockeytown.

Ken Holland and Jim Nill always say that if you can find two players in each draft that will eventually contribute to your program, it was a success. Most years, that isn’t a problem. 2008 was a different beast.

Their first and third round picks from that draft are a little disappointing. First rounder Thomas McCollum has failed to to make a decent impression on the Wings — or even the Griffins, for that matter. Third rounder Max Nicastro has been removed from Boston University and its hockey team among allegations that he’s guilty of sexual assault on campus.

Fifth rounder Julien Cayer has completed his senior season at Clarkson University and must be signed by August 15th or the Wings risk losing his rights. With the 50-man contract limit what is, and the Wings’ available slots, it’s unlikely that Cayer has a future with the Red Wings — though he’ll likely be signed to the Griffins/Walleye without the Wings’ “involvement.” Sixth rounder Stephen Johnston is no longer Red Wings property, as the team declined to sign him after two years. Seventh rounder Jesper Samuelsson is a European player whose rights will never expire, but he doesn’t seem inclined to come to the States and toil in the minors.

That leaves the fourth round pick. The 121st pick of the weekend. The Wings looked to Sweden, as they often have, and selected an undersized forward playing for Malmo’s junior team who was not selected at all the first time he was eligible for NHL selection. He was committed to come to the United States and play collegiate hockey — something he knew he wanted to do all along — for the Maine Black Bears, meaning the Wings had four years to make a decision regarding signing him instead of the usual two: a perk for an unknown quantity. His name: Gustav Nyquist.

After nearly scoring a point-per-game in his freshman year, he absolutely tore the roof off of the collegiate game. He was a back-to-back Hobey Baker finalist in his sophomore and junior years, and it was clear that there was nothing left for him to accomplish — individually, anyway — at that level. He signed an amateur tryout with the Griffins to finish off the 2010-11 season. He scored immediately and — after two years of constant prospect ranking chart-climbing — we got a better look at a kid that was as exciting a prospect as the Red Wings have had in recent memory.

No disrespect to guys like Cory Emmerton, Mattias Ritola, or Jan Mursak — but “Goose” had a touch of mystique to go with his pedigree. Guys like Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader — who had cups of coffee with the Red Wings during playoff runs or as call-ups — were a little more of a “known quantity” than Nyquist: they’re grinders, they’re hard-working bottom half of the lineup kind of players. Nyquist, like Zetterberg and Datsyuk before him, was built to be a top line player. The only unknown about that is the “when.”

This year was Nyquist’s first professional season. Forgoing his final year of collegiate eligibility, he signed an entry-level deal with the Wings and he knew he’d likely have to spend some time with the Griffins, because that’s how the Red Wings roll.

Coming into training camp, there were a few guys vying for the final two spots on the NHL roster. Cory Emmerton, who could not be sent to Grand Rapids without first being waived, seemed like a shoo-in. Jan Mursak, who was also out of options, was the de-facto “last man in.” A handful of tryouts, including Fabian Brunnstrom, made things interesting — as did recently-signed talented veteran Chris Conner.

And Nyquist. Who was given Brendan Shanahan’s old #14 (as Derek Meech weeps), instead of some bullshit number assignment like 52, 63, or 48. As trivial as it sounds, the Wings seem to “groom” their legit prospects for the show by giving them numbers like 2 (Smith) or 28 (Jurco) or 21 (Tatar).

When Mursak was injured, the competition for that final roster spot got interesting. Gustav Nyquist, who blew the doors off of the pre-season, became the fan-favorite of many of us. At one point, I proclaimed that he was one of the twelve best forwards in the organization right then. If the best players truly made the team at the end of September, he would simply have to be a Red Wing. But that’s not always how things work. The safe thing to do would be to sign one of the tryouts — it would end up being Brunnstrom — and allowing Nyquist to grow his game in Grand Rapids. Fair or not, it was probably for the best — Nyquist would get big minutes on the farm and would get acquainted with the speed and size of the pro game.

All he did with his first season in the American Hockey League was be named to the Western Conference All-Star Team, break the Griffins’ franchise scoring record for rookies, and usurp several players on the depth chart — including Tomas Tatar and Chris Conner, both of whom have played very well in various stints with the Wings. The first forward called up from the Griffins this season occurred on Halloween. It was Nyquist.

With the injury situation what it always seems to be, Nyquist has been able to play a few games Detroit. You hate to get too excited about a young man when they’re only in the lineup for a handful of games, but there’s something about this kid. So far, having played in 11 games — most with severely depleted lineups — Nyquist has seven assists. Five of those assists have come in the last six games. He’s fxcm playing on a line with Todd Bertuzzi and Pavel Datsyuk. He’s playing more minutes than some of the more established players in the lineup — even though he’s not getting a sniff of the power play. If he kept up the pace he’s on for a full season, he’d hit the 50-point mark and would have 47 right now: that’s more than everyone on the Red Wings except for Franzen, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and Filppula.

And it’s not just the score sheet. He’s making things happen — and several times a game. It doesn’t look out of place at all in this league. The last time I can remember someone adjusting so well to the NHL game in his first dozen contests was Valtteri Filppula. And he had a full season of AHL hockey under his belt.

Goose is a winner everywhere he goes. Three years in Maine proved he was one of the better players in college hockey. Less than a full season in the AHL proved he was capable of quickly adapting to professional hockey: he’s still the Griffins’ leading scoring, despite playing ten fewer games than most; he’s also tenth in AHL scoring, having played fewer games than everyone above him — hold for Keith Aucoin. Less than a dozen games in the NHL proved he’s going to be a legit player for this team — and soon.

Don’t be surprised if Gustav Nyquist never plays another game in Grand Rapids.

When Helm and Franzen are well enough to play, the Red Wings are going to have a decision to make regarding the roster and which twelve forwards play in the playoffs. Perhaps it’ll be a chance to rectify an error made in October — and Goose will be on the big club for good.

Sheahan leaves Notre Dame, joins Griffins

The Red Wings first round draft pick in 2010 (21st overall) has left the Fighting Irish and will join the Grand Rapids Griffins on an amateur try-out contract. Three seasons of collegiate hockey is usually what the Wings expect out of their draft picks, and Sheahan has proven to be no different. In joining the AHL, even on an ATO, he is foregoing his final year of college eligibility.

While he hasn’t yet been signed by the Detroit Red Wings (and, thus, not counting against the 50-man contract limit), it’s pretty clear that he will be this summer. It’s an exciting time for our good friend 二元期权 — I was lucky enough to be immediately following his selection in Los Angeles, and . While he never tipped his hand regarding the team’s plans for him, many of us were expecting him to join the professional ranks this summer.

Sheahan’s a big two-way center (he’s listed at 6-2, 210 lbs) and grew up in St. Catharine’s, Ontario — just on the Canadian side of the border near Buffalo. He didn’t produce a ton of points in the CCHA, and the Wings will likely ask him to continue to be responsible defensively and potentially make an impact physically.

Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett, Getty Images North America