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It's a make-or-break season for Oslund

by Michelle Crechiolo / Detroit Red Wings
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DETROIT – In more than one respect, the upcoming season is make-or-break for Red Wings’ prospect Nick Oslund.

He not only has one last chance to lead St. Cloud State to the NCAA’s Frozen Four, but he also has just one year left to prove his worth to the Wings before they must decide whether or not to sign him.

“We’re looking to get back to that same position,” Oslund said of his team’s loss in March’s West Regional final to fellow prospect Brendan Smith’s Wisconsin Badgers. “We have a good group of guys coming back, a huge core of our team from last year, so we’re looking to get back to that same spot and hopefully into the Frozen Four.”

For now, that’s Oslund’s main focus. He plans on worrying about his future with the Wings after he finishes his upcoming senior year.

“We kind of had that sour taste in our mouth at school about the Frozen Four, we thought we could have been there for sure,” said Oslund, in Detroit for this week’s development camp. “We lost to Wisconsin, that is a team we were back-and-forth with all year. So we know we were right there, and that’s been our focus at school, and I think that’s pretty much what I’ve been focused on as well.”

Oslund’s decision to finish his college career is reminiscent of former St. Cloud State player Ryan Malone, who spent four successful seasons in Minnesota before heading to the pros. NHL teams cannot sign NCAA players until they opt to leave college or graduate, and the Wings’ staff is content to let Oslund utilize his full five years of development.

The 6-foot-3, 215 pound forward plays a physical game, and his size has impressed Wings’ assistant general manager Jim Nill.

“He’s a big, strong power forward,” Nill said. “He’s another one of those guys we don’t have a lot of in our system, so it’s nice when you get those big, strong guys that can help play the other part of the game for us.”

However, four summers at the Wings’ annual development camp has made Oslund realize that his skating ability still needs work before he truly develops into an NHL-caliber player.

“Getting better at foot-speed,” Oslund said when asked what he’s been told he needs to work on. “Just work on my quickness, continue to be physical. Just keep doing what I’m doing, and like I said, just improve my quickness.”

He plans to improve that aspect of his game during the upcoming season. And by next August, Oslund hopes to tell the Wings’ staff his all-around play helped his team win an NCAA title.

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