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Healthy Tvrdon off to hot start in Toledo

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Marek Tvrdon produced 27 points in 29 games for the Kelowna Rockets last season. He has seven points in eight games so far for Toledo this season. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT – For Red Wings prospect Marek Tvrdon, the past few years has felt like he’s been swimming upstream.

Two years ago, Tvrdon, who was the Wings’ fourth-round draft pick in 2011, had the scare of his life when his left arm swelled to twice its size before a junior game in Vancouver. Doctors located an isolated blood clot in a single vein that required the removal of a rib.

“Finally, everything is gone so I can work hard and get back in shape,” Tvrdon said.

On Tuesday, Tvrdon was at Joe Louis Arena practicing with the Red Wings’ ECHL affiliate Toledo Walleye.

Doctors never determined a cause for the clot, but Tvrdon received a clean bill of health as he attempts to get his playing career back on track.

“It’s tough because I want to play in G.R.,” Tvrdon said. “I want to do everything right, but I have to start playing more, more ice time, so that’s why I’m probably in Toledo. I try my best to get back there.”

First-year Toledo coach Derek Lalonde likes what he’s seen from Tvrdon in the Walleye’s first eight games. The Walleye (6-2-0) are on a four-game winning streak, and Tvrdon has points in three of those games, including a four-point performance in a 5-0 win over Evansville last Saturday.

“It’s not easy being on a Red Wings contract and being through Detroit’s camp, going through Grand Rapids camp and then getting that message that you’re going to start in Toledo,” Lalonde said. “But he’s been great. He’s been focused, he’s come to us with some attention to detail, he’s worked on the things that he needs to work on.

“I don’t have a body of work previously to judge him on, and he’s been very good for us. It was very exciting to have some of the Red Wings’ management come to our game Sunday afternoon when we beat Cincinnati, and comment on how far he has come. I think it’s a credit to what we’re trying to do in Toledo to develop players, but it’s also a credit to Marek.”

Tvrdon was part of an impressive draft class for the Red Wings, along with Tomas Jurco, Xavier Ouellet, Ryan Sproul, Mattias Backman and Alexy Marchenko. Four of those prospects made their NHL debuts with Detroit last season.

The season after he was drafted by the Wings, Tvrdon led all Western Hockey League rookies in scoring with 31 goals and 74 points in 60 games with the Vancouver Giants. But the following fall, doctors found the blood clot.

Now, Tvrdon is refocused on reaching his career goal – getting to the NHL. While guys like Jurco are inspirations, the best example for Tvrdon is rookie forward Andrej Nestrasil, who took a similar path from Toledo to the NHL.

“They’ve told me that I can do the same thing that he did, so I try to do my best to follow him,” said Tvrdon, who has two goals and seven points with a plus-4 rating.

Lalonde fully believes that the 21-year-old Tvrdon has the skill set and determination to blaze his own trail to the NHL.

“I was talking to Mike (Babcock) the other day and he was asking about guys and Marek was a guy that we talked about,” Lalonde said. “Nesty probably wasn’t too far off where he was at this point of his career, too. Guys develop at different times, you never know, which is why it’s such a unique sport.”

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