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Character addition

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
Kyle Criscuolo was the first two-time captain of Harvard's hockey team in 92 years. (Photo by Getty Images)

TRAVERSE CITY, MICH. -- Just because the Red Wings have put more emphasis on getting bigger doesn't mean they don't appreciate fast, skilled, smaller players.

In July's development camp at Centre Ice in Traverse City, Kyle Criscuolo was one of just three players listed under 6-feet. The other two were Vili Saarijarvi and Joe Hicketts.

But at 5-foot-9, 175 pounds, Criscuolo stood tall when he played for Harvard University, becoming the first two-time captain in 92 years.

Criscuolo's teammates also voted to give him the coveted Ralph "Cooney" Weiland Award for "devotion to the game" and "aggressive and spirited play and by selfless contribution to the total team effort" every season he was there.

At Harvard, Criscuolo might have been overshadowed by flashy linemate and co-captain Jimmy Vesey, but the Wings took notice.

That led to Criscuolo signing with the Wings' AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, after his college career concluded.

"(Assistant general manager) Ryan Martin saw me play last year," Criscuolo said. "He came and talked to me. I actually went and played a few games there at the end of last season and decided it was the best option for me."

However, it wasn't Criscuolo's only option.

"I had one other option I was considering," Criscuolo said. "That was in Wilkes-Barre. It would have been a little closer to home for me. I would have been East Division, I'm from New Jersey. But at the end of the day I thought this was a better choice for me."

Criscuolo played in four games. He did not record a point but was plus-2 in those games.

His brief time in Grand Rapids at the end of the season convinced Criscuolo that he made the right decision.

"When I was out there I played a few games and I stayed there for two or three weeks," Criscuolo said. "It was a good experience. I like the city a lot. I think just the organization itself, they develop players and that was a good fit for me."

Although Criscuolo is a New Jersey native, his hometown of Southampton is closer to Philadelphia so he grew up a Flyers fan.

"Growing up, I liked a lot of guys on the Flyers," Criscuolo said. "But here I think my comparables would be someone like (Darren) Helm or (Luke) Glendening, some of the smaller guys that are gritty. Just around the NHL, guys like Brendan Gallagher or Tyler Johnson, those smaller guys."

In 34 games with Harvard his senior year, Criscuolo had 19 goals, 13 assists and was plus-10. His seven power-play goals led the team.

Criscuolo described his style of play: "Someone that can use his speed but will go to the front of the net, can play in all three zones. Definitely don't shy away from the big guys and can definitely play fast and play a lot in the D zone as well."

Of course, when you're a Harvard graduate with a degree in psychology with a minor in economics, you could certainly find a job outside of hockey.

But Criscuolo wants to keep playing and when he's done playing, he wants to stay in the game.

"That's actually definitely what I want to do, be in the front office, something like that," Criscuolo said. "That's definitely something that I've thought about and that's the direction I want to go, so try to position myself the best I can."

Criscuolo was asked to evaluate the talent at the development camp.

"There's a lot of skilled guys out here, for sure," Criscuolo said. "Younger guys are definitely very impressive. I think it's definitely a good camp, a good group of kids and I think Detroit definitely goes after some character kids. Off the ice, everybody's been great and really friendly and outgoing and good to me so it's been nice."

As it was his first development camp, Criscuolo tried to soak up everything he could.

"I think just learning from (general manager) Ken Holland's speech and listening to what they want and learning from the other coaches and sort of understanding what it is they're looking for and what they want from me specifically," Criscuolo said. "But just being around all the coaches and everybody, it's definitely been a good experience."

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