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Red Wings' Tatar an emerging talent in second season

by Paul Harris

DETROIT -- Mike Babcock is tougher on forward Tomas Tatar than he is on any other player.

That's because the Detroit Red Wings coach thinks Tatar, who's 24 and in his second full NHL season, has so much potential.

"As long as he keeps working on his details and is committed to doing it all the time, he's going to get there," Babcock said. "That's the biggest challenge for a young player. What allowed you to be good last year isn't good enough this year and the years to come. You got to keep getting better if you want to be the best. That's what guys like [Pavel] Datsyuk and [Henrik] Zetterberg have done. So for our young players, they have great examples."

Tatar, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound left wing, is doing pretty well in 2014-15.

He leads Detroit with 23 goals and has 39 points in 52 games. He is on pace to become the first Red Wings player to reach 30 goals since 2008-09, when Marian Hossa (40) and Johan Franzen (34) each surpassed that mark.

Tatar has two goals and four assists in his past three games going into the game Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN1, TVA Sports).

Tatar said he understands why Babcock pushes him.

"He is really hard on me, but I think he means this in a good way," said Tatar, who is from Ilava, Slovakia. "He's just trying to help me out since I got here. I appreciate it, but sometimes it's really hard. That's just the way he coaches me. I guess he doesn't know any other way to work with me, so I appreciate it."

Tatar has a buoyant personality and is almost perpetually in a good mood, no matter the circumstances. So Babcock knows Tatar won't get down on himself when he comes under harsh criticism.

"He's a fun guy to be around, a fun guy to be around in practice," forward Stephen Weiss said before expounding on Tatar's abilities.

"He's a very dangerous scorer. He's got a real good shot and a lot of energy. … He practices hard and he works at it. Turned into quite the star," Weiss said.

Earlier in the season, Tatar thrived on a line centered by Riley Sheahan.

"He's so tenacious, and obviously he's extremely skilled," Sheahan said. "You put those two things together with an incredible work ethic, it makes a pretty impressive player."

Tomas Tatar's personality and on-ice success have made him an emerging star for the Detroit Red Wings. (Photo: Getty Images)

Tatar plays on a line centered by Datsyuk, with Darren Helm on right wing.

Tatar has 22 goals in his past 43 games after scoring one in the first nine.

"[Tatar] had a slow start point-wise, but it was just a matter of time," said Gustav Nyquist, who played right wing on the line with Tatar and Sheahan. "When you're creating as many chances as [Tatar] does he's going to score eventually.

"He's going to be a good player for a long time. He loves scoring goals and he's going to keep producing offense for us."

Tatar reached 20 goals for the first time in the NHL when he had two goals and an assist in a 5-2 win against the Nashville Predators on Jan. 17.

"I'm not really thinking about it (20 goals) right now, but obviously I'm happy I did it and hopefully I'll keep scoring and help the team pick up wins," Tatar said after that game.

He had 19 goals in 73 games last season, his first full NHL campaign. Tatar was a healthy scratch in eight of the first nine games.

"I felt way more confident heading into this season than I did before," he said. "The reason was I kind of established myself here and I knew if I played the same that won't change. Last year I didn't know what to expect and I started the year in the stands and it was kind of hard for me. But I went through it and I think it made me even [better]. Now I'm ready to stay here."

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