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Nicastro, Tvrdon sign entry-level deals

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Marek Tvrdon

DETROIT – Amidst all of the craziness that is the free agency frenzy, the Red Wings locked up two of their drafted prospects this week.

Former Boston University defenseman Max Nicastro and Vancouver Giants forward Marek Tvrdon have been signed to two- and three-year entry-level contracts, respectively.

A very competitive defenseman, Nicastro produced 11 goals and 22 assists in 102 collegiate games at BU where he was named to the Hockey East all-rookie team in 2010.

Nicastro, now 22, played midget hockey in Los Angeles and hone his skating skills while playing the inline version.

“He’s a California kid who learned to skate by playing roller hockey,” Red Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill said. “These kids can’t get to rinks, and that’s how the Mullen brothers, Joey and Brian, learned to skate, and that worked out well."

Joe Mullen is a Hockey Hall of Famer, who grew up in New York City and later played 16 NHL seasons. His brother Brian enjoyed an 11-season career.

Nicastro is projected to be a fifth or sixth defenseman at the NHL level, mainly because he’s a mobile, big body (6-foot-2, 210-pounds), who is learning to play with a bit of an edge.

Nicastro, who was the Wings’ third-round draft pick in 2008, will play next season for the Red Wings’ minor-league affiliate in Grand Rapids.

“Max has great size and he’s a very good skater,” Nill said. “He’s an average puck-mover, but he can skate and he can play physical.”

Tvrdon, a 19-year-old Slovakian, has spent the last two seasons in the Western Hockey League, where he scored 31 goals with 43 assists last year with the Giants. He was the Wings' fourth-round pick in 2011.

Another big body (6-foot-2, 212-pound) and excellent skater, Tvrdon will play one more season in Vancouver.

“He’s a big, strong, power forward-type of player with a real heavy body and good offensive skills,” Nill said. “He’s got to work on his quickness, but that’s coming. The real big thing is that he’s got a real big, heavy body.”

Both Nicastro and Tvrdon have the potential to reach the NHL, however, their futures will come down to commitment.

“It all depends on how they’re going to work to get here,” Nill said.

BRYAN RUFENACH DAY: Organizers for the Red Wings’ development camp, which begins later this week in Traverse City, are planning to honor a fallen team prospect and to raise money for a memorial fund in his name.

Prior to the 7 p.m. intra-squad scrimmage on Tuesday, July 10, the Wings will hold a benefit for Bryan Rufenach, who suddenly died last month in Switzerland. The event, which will go from 4-6 p.m., will feature live music and several former players, coaches and front off personnel will be on hand to sign autographs.

Cost for the event, which includes a ticket to the intra-squad game at Centre I.C.E. Arena, is $5. Portions of all proceeds will go to the Bryan Rufenach Memorial Fund.

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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