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World Juniors

Red Wings prospects making noise at Summer Showcase

Seven players on track for NHL success attending World Junior Championship evaluation camp

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

PLYMOUTH, Mich. -- The future of the Detroit Red Wings is developing this week at USA Hockey Arena, about 26 miles east of Little Caesar's Arena in Detroit.

The Red Wings have an NHL-high seven prospects taking part in the World Junior Summer Showcase this week.

The event has players from the United States, Canada, Sweden and Finland practicing and playing games in the first step toward making their country's team for the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship, to be played Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Buffalo.

After missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in 26 seasons, seeing its prospects so highly regarded bodes well for Detroit's future.

 

[RELATED: NHL Network World Junior Summer Showcase schedule]

 

"This is supposed to be best on best of all these countries," Red Wings assistant general manager Ryan Martin said, "so to be recognized as one of the elite under-20 players in Sweden, Finland, Canada or the United States, and to be part of this event is a great compliment for these players and a real positive thing for our organization.

"It's certainly a positive thing … I know our scouts are really excited. Certainly, the management team is really excited as well."

It's a giant step after the 2016 Summer Showcase, when the Red Wings had one prospect at the camp, Finland defenseman Vili Saarijarvi.

Part of that jump comes from having 11 picks at the 2017 NHL Draft. Four players from that group, Canada forward Michael Rasmussen (No. 9), Sweden defenseman Gustav Lindstrom (No. 38), Finland defenseman Kasper Kotkansalo (No. 71) and U.S. goalie Keith Petruzzelli (No. 88) are on their respective country's roster.

Video: Rasmussen reacts to being chosen 9th overall

Also at the Summer Showcase are defenseman Dennis Cholowski and forward Givani Smith with Canada, and Sweden goalie Filip Larsson.

Rasmussen was a late addition for Canada. He had 55 points (32 goals, 23 assists) with Tri-City of the Western Hockey League last season, limited to 50 games because of an injury to his left wrist on Feb. 1. He said he was medically cleared about two weeks ago and played his first game since then Tuesday, with one shot on goal for Canada Red in an 8-2 loss to USA White. 

"It looks like he's healthy," Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. "And it's important that he's going to be healthy going into training camp."

Rasmussen, 18, said he plans to use the Summer Showcase as a springboard directly to the NHL.

"I'm taking the approach that I'm going to take someone's job and I'm going to take a spot on the team," he said. "I want to play in the NHL as fast as I can and I want to help the team win."

Rasmussen is one of three Red Wings prospects with Canada, along with 2016 draft picks Cholowski (No. 20) and Smith (No. 46).

Cholowski, 19, agreed to terms on an entry-level contract April 5 and spent time with Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League on its way to the Calder Cup last season. He could start this season in the AHL or with Prince George in the Western Hockey League. He had 12 points (one goal, 11 assists) in 36 games as a freshman at St. Cloud State University last season.

"The fact that he made the cut this year to get to this camp is really good for him, especially considering he has turned pro," Martin said. "It will be really good to see him play against this level of competition."

Video: Red Wings draft D Dennis Cholowski No. 20

Cholowski had an assist for Canada Red on Tuesday.

Smith also saw time with Grand Rapids, where his roommate was Cholowski, who he called one of his best friends now. He's looking forward to them being part of the foundation of the Red Wings in the near future.

"They drafted me and Cholowski and Rasmussen for a reason," said Smith, 19, who had 44 points (26 goals, 18 assists) in 64 games with Guelph of the Ontario Hockey League last season. "Bring what you got and help grow the future of the Red Wings. I'm going to try my best to be part of the Red Wings."

Kotkansalo has managed to stand out among a group of defensemen with Finland that includes three players picked in the first round of the 2017 draft (link to https://www.nhl.com/news/finland-confident-ahead-of-iihf-world-junior-championship/c-290549072). He scored a goal against USA White on Saturday and had an assist against USA Blue on Sunday.

"The goal was icing on the cake," Martin said. "What I thought stood out was his compete level and his defensive game. He closed on people really quickly, he was aggressive in the [defensive] zone, got pucks out, really good first pass."

The Red Wings believe building through the draft is the best way to return to prominence and having seven players at the Summer Showcase validates what they've done so far.

"It always starts at the draft table," Holland said. "It's got to happen at the draft. Trades and free agency also are important but for the most part they're the finishing pieces. … We had a fabulous [postseason] run and right now we're trying to draft young players that we hope are going to be important parts of the team down the road."

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