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Red Wings prospects well represented at WJC camp

by Mike G. Morreale / NHL.com

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- Centers Dylan Larkin and Axel Holmstrom are representing different countries during the United States National Junior Development Camp, but they might one day be teammates with the Detroit Red Wings.

U.S. National Junior Team center Larkin, a first-round pick (No. 15) in the 2014 NHL Draft, and Sweden's Holmstrom, a seventh-round pick (No. 196) in 2014, are two of six Detroit prospects at camp this week. Center Dominic Turgeon (2014, No. 63) joins Larkin for the United States and Christoffer Ehn (2014, No. 106) joins Holmstrom for Sweden. Forward Julius Vahatalo (2014, No. 166) and defenseman Vili Saarijarvi (2015, No. 73) represent Finland.

"The credit goes to our amateur scouts; they've done a tremendous job drafting players we feel all have the potential to be NHL players one day," Red Wings assistant general manager Ryan Martin said.

Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman Chris Chelios, who is serving as an associate coach for the U.S. team, is also the Red Wings adviser to hockey operations.

"The Red Wings have a history of finding guys late in the draft," Chelios said. "Unfortunately with Detroit, we haven't had the luxury of having top picks, but they always find them in the late rounds."

Despite the busy on- and off-ice schedule this week, Larkin and Holmstrom have gotten to know each other during the evaluation camp that includes scrimmages and games at Lake Placid Olympic Center's 1980 Herb Brooks Arena.

"While in the cafeteria, Axel and I decided to have a faceoff competition on the ice, and I won 3-2," Larkin said. "It's really good to see all the Detroit prospects at camp. Some of them are going to be a big part of the team, so it's good to see them in the summer."

Larkin (6-foot-1, 192 pounds), who signed an entry-level contract with the Red Wings in May, is eyeing a possible roster spot this season.

Considered by many to be Detroit's top prospect, Larkin played at the University of Michigan last season and was named Big Ten freshman of the year, first team All-Big Ten and to the All-Big Ten rookie team. He closed out the season with Grand Rapids in the American Hockey League playoffs.

In the AHL playoffs, Larkin was coached by Jeff Blashill, who was named coach of the Red Wings in June.

"He's a great coach; he's really easy to talk to when outside the rink and at the rink he's really serious," Larkin said. "He has a real good switch and he knows his players, he knows how they're feeling and he cares about them. I think when it's like that it's much easier to play for him and really listen to him and buy into what he's saying."

Larkin scored 15 goals and had 47 points with the Wolverines last season and finished second among freshmen in NCAA Division 1 behind Jack Eichel (71 points at Boston University; drafted No. 2 by the Buffalo Sabres in June).

He led the United States with five goals, seven points and a plus-7 rating in five games at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship. He won a bronze medal as the second-youngest member of his country at the 2015 IIHF World Championship.

"I went out, played and worked hard and things just starting clicking for me," Larkin said. "I gained some confidence in college and internationally and now I'm just trying to carry that into this camp."

Holmstrom (6-1, 198), who signed his entry-level contract with Detroit in June, was Sweden's junior player of the year last season. He'll spend another year with Skelleftea of the Swedish Hockey League before a decision is made on the 2016-17 season.

"Our expectation is he'll be in Grand Rapids or Detroit [in 2016-17]," Martin said. "That's why we decided to sign him this year."

Holmstrom is happy to have a chance to play against fellow Red Wings prospects.

"It's nice to have these development camps in the summer; you get to know all the guys and how they are on the ice and you get to talk to them, and I have a good relationship with Dylan," Holmstrom said. "I'll spend one more year in Sweden and then go over and battle for a spot. There are so many good prospects in Detroit, it's going to be a hard battle for everyone, and that's a good thing. That's why you play hockey; to compete."

Holmstrom, who is not related to to former Detroit left wing Tomas Holmstrom, played 44 games for Skelleftea in 2014-15 and had 10 goals and 20 points. He had seven goals and 18 points in 15 playoff games, setting a record for playoff points by a junior player. He also represented Sweden at the 2015 WJC.

Turgeon (6-2, 190), who signed an entry-level contract with Detroit in May, is coming off his best season with Portland in the Western Hockey League; he scored 18 goals with 43 points in 67 regular-season games. He then had eight goals and nine points in 17 playoff games.

"It's great to see the amount of Red Wings prospects competing for spots at these camps," Turgeon said. "It just shows Detroit has done a lot of work in recruiting, and you can see all the other players having great tournaments too."

Turgeon will return to Portland in 2015-16; he's expected to play a big role.

"Our organization was in agreement that Dominic was one of the most improved players at development camp," Martin said. "He's obviously put in the time in the weight room. He's always on the right side of the puck, and has good defensive instincts. We're looking for him to take on more of a leadership role and earn a top-six spot in Portland this year."

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