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Development of Wings' prospects affected by pandemic

Yzerman said true players will find a way to emerge

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji / DetroitRedWings.com

While the NHL announced its plan to finish the season and crown a winner, other leagues canceled the rest of their regular season and the playoffs, including the American Hockey League.

It was certainly a blow for the Red Wings, who had several top prospects looking forward to a long playoff run with the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Detroit's 2015 first-round pick, forward Evgeny Svechnikov, 2016 first-round pick, defenseman Dennis Cholowski, 2017 first-round pick, forward Michael Rasmussen, 2018 first-round pick, forward Joe Veleno, and 2019 first-round pick, defenseman Moritz Seider, were all looking forward to playing big roles on the team.

Forward Filip Zadina was injured when he was with the Wings so he wouldn't have been eligible had the Griffins been in the playoffs.

"Everybody wanted to finish the season and our younger players, we were hoping they were in a good playoff race in Grand Rapids," Yzerman said. "They weren't in at the time but we thought they would benefit from the stretch drive. We thought getting into the playoffs would be a great thing for them. For everybody, not playing isn't a good thing. I don't see any positive in not playing as far as your development in your career at any stage. But there's nothing we can do about it and we'll work our way around it and we'll figure out through the offseason here how we best prepare for coming out of this."

The Griffins were third in the Central Division with 65 points, behind the Milwaukee Admirals (90 points) and Iowa Wild (82 points) as of March 12.

There is some thought that the AHL may not be able to resume play if fans are not allowed in buildings, so that is a future consideration as well.

"That's certainly a possibility that the AHL won't play. I wouldn't say that's definitive yet," Yzerman said. "But that is certainly possible. We'll figure out what we do at that point if they didn't play. I think it's premature to say they're not going to play right now but it is a possibility, and then we have to figure out as a league where do all our prospects go. If that does happen, we'll figure something out."

There is still a lot that remains unknown but Yzerman is certain of one thing -- a pandemic will not stop the true players from reaching their potential.

"I think motivated athletes, motivated hockey players, are going to find a way to train," Yzerman said. "They're going to find a way, once rinks open up, they'll figure out a way to get back on the ice. Shawn Horcoff (director of player development and assistant director of player personnel) and Dan Cleary (assistant director of player development), they're limited to their contact with the players but have stayed in contact with them from Day 1 of the pause and will continue to do so to give them guidance and help out any way they can, get resources for them, whether it's equipment or instruction to train with.

"The young guys that are motivated will figure out a way to get it done. Part of it we'll learn who really wants to be a hockey player and guys that want to train will figure it out, guys that want to improve are going to figure it out. We're going to provide the resources to do that. The ones that truly don't are going to find a way and they got as good a reason as they're ever going to have of not being able to train right now. A lot of the onus is on the kids' motivation."

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