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Hronek's journey

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
 
Defenseman Filip Hronek, the Wings' second-round pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, takes a shot during development camp in Traverse City. (Photo by Dan Mannes/Detroit Red Wings)

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - Filip Hronek is doing everything he can to set himself up for success.

The Red Wings took Hronek in the second round of this year's NHL Entry Draft, 53rd overall.

The defenseman from the Czech Republic came to development camp in July and decided to play in North America this season for the Ontario Hockey League's Saginaw Spirit.

The Wings announced Wednesday that Hronek will also be among those participating in the NHL Prospect Tournament, which takes place in Traverse City from Sept. 16-20.

Hronek got a chance to measure himself against some of the Wings' other top prospects in July and said through an interpreter, "It's nice to compete and try to play good against other players."

Now those prospects will be his teammates as Hronek will get to play against seven other NHL teams' top young players in the annual prospect tournament.

Jiri Fischer, the Wings' director of player development, is a fellow Czech Republic native who watched Hronek before the Wings selected him in the draft.

"He did really well at one of the earlier tournaments that led to world juniors," Fischer said. "He was one of the best defensemen on the Czech team, being undrafted. We were able to draft him in the second round. He is very mobile, he really has to work on his strength, he's going to have to put on quite a bit of weight which will hopefully come with strength and power. It kind of goes hand in hand.

"I expect him to be very mobile, hard to play against with the way he takes space away with his skating, the way he uses the angles on the ice."

Playing in Saginaw will give Hronek an opportunity to practice speaking English, work on gaining weight and develop as a hockey player.

Grand Rapids Griffins coach Todd Nelson, who ran the development camp, talked about the challenge of getting the message across to someone who doesn't speak English that well.

"You have to be patient," Nelson said. "He's going to learn the language over time. The challenges we have is obviously communication aspects. In these situations, we've had them before, there's always someone there who can interpret so he gets the right idea. But it's tough. You come over here, you don't know the language and we're doing drills so he has to basically see what goes on then he has to do it."

At development camp, Hronek was in the early stages of making adjustments.

"The difference is huge," Hronek said through interpreter and goaltender Matej Machovsky, who was also in camp. "They've got smaller rinks here, fast play and a lot of body movement on the boards. So that's a little different."

Fischer said the smaller rink does take some getting used to for European players who have not experienced it.

"The boards snuck up on him a couple times and he ran out of space and tripped," Fischer said. "Another learning experience. I'm excited when players get to experience new things."

Hronek, who turns 19 Nov. 2, is just 6-foot, 163 pounds.

"He's leaving this camp knowing his strength will need to significantly improve to play the style he likes to play, which is aggressive with his feet and aggressive in battles, generating turnovers and stopping the offense of the opposition and making really good outlet passes," Fischer said at the end of development camp.

Nelson came away impressed by what he saw from Hronek.

"I thought Hronek was certainly a player who improved through the course of the week and stood out as the camp went on," Nelson said. "He has a nice skills set. He skates real well. The skating test he seemed like he walked through it. It's a fact the lighter players smoked the skating test. So he's a good skater, he has a good skills set. I liked his moxie, his hockey sense out there."

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