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Notes: Cholowski, Hirose happy to make Wings roster

Rasmussen, Veleno will work on playing center in Grand Rapids; Seider needs game experience

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT -- When the Detroit Red Wings sent 11 players to the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins Sunday, Dennis Cholowski's name was not among them.

Cholowski, 21, made the team last year following a strong prospect tournament, training camp and preseason.

But as the season wore on, mistakes began to pile up and the Wings decided it was best for Cholowski's development for him to go down to Grand Rapids and work on the defensive side of the game.

Cholowski did that and continued that work while remaining in metro Detroit for another summer.

As a result, Cholowski has once again made the Red Wings.

"I think he did a good job of being good at what he's good at and that's moving the puck, good on the power play -- we'd prefer a left shot on that unit, if possible -- and he had a good number of opportunities to be with that unit and he did a good job," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "I also think the things that we've talked about him getting better at, No. 1, recognizing danger and not giving up lots of chances, I think he's done a good job of that. No. 2, I guess ending more plays, whether it's ending plays on your gap on the rushes against or ending more plays in the D-zone off the cycle, I thought he's done a better job of that. So those areas result in you see him using his attributes more.

"But it's an everyday league, he's got to keep doing a good job of that. I think the fact that I don't think he gave up a whole bunch of chances is a real positive, where last year, as the year went along, he ended up giving up lots of chances. You just can't out-chance your mistakes in this league."

Blashill has said for every player, it's about earning the coaches' trust.

"The trust factor, that was the biggest thing," Cholowski said after Monday's practice at the BELFOR Training Center. "Being able to put me out in different situations, whether it be the last few minutes of a game, or PK, being able to trust me to be physical and be able to get the puck away from the front of my net. I thought I did a pretty good job of that in preseason and here I am."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: "Play my game, work hard and see what happens."Dennis Cholowski after today's practice:

Because most of the Wings' offensive defensemen are right-handed shots, it helps that Cholowski is a left-handed shot.

"Basically, the whole unit is lefty, you'd like to have that top guy -- as the half-wall guy gets it on that side, he's looking at lefty (Dylan) Larkin, lefty (Anthony) Mantha, and lefty Cholowski up top, so it's way more of a threat. If you don't have that lefty on top, their strong side forward can take away Larkin, so he becomes way less of a threat. So that's why, having another lefty that's a threat to one-time a puck on the top of the power play makes Larkin way more dangerous."

Another thing working in Cholowski's favor is that except for Jonathan Ericsson, the defensive corps is not as banged up as it was at the start of last season.

Danny DeKeyser, Mike Green, Trevor Daley and Patrik Nemeth are all ready to go.

"The young guys got thrown to the wolves last year and it's way easier if you can be put in situations for you to be successful," Blashill said. "I think when you have more of your D corps in totality healthy, then you can do that and you can manage guys' games a little bit. Certainly he's one of them. I also think it's a year of maturation, it's another summer of working extremely hard. He's gotten way bigger and stronger over the last number of summers.

"I think he's been willing to listen and learn and understand the things we're talking about and it doesn't happen overnight but it's happened slowly and I think he's a better player today than he was a year ago."

HIROSE EARNS A SPOT: When the Red Wings signed forward Taro Hirose as a free agent last March, they didn't know quite what to expect.

Hirose played in 10 games with the Wings and had a goal and six assists. So the thought was with that performance, Hirose would have an edge coming into training camp this fall.

That proved to be the case as Hirose, 23, played in seven preseason games and recorded one goal and four assists, leading the Wings with five points.

"I think it's been a really long month," Hirose said. "I'm just excited to be on the roster, to be there and play in the games. I'm gonna kind of take it day by day and not look much ahead."

Hirose was also one of the leaders on the team that helped Detroit earn only its second NHL Prospect Tournament championship.

"I think it went pretty well. I was able to show what I could do," Hirose said of preseason and the prospect tournament. "There's obviously some areas in my defensive game that I want to work on. We saw that in the preseason but that's why it's there, to sort of get into the flow of things and build chemistry with your linemates and things like that. Overall good but definitely lots to work on."

Hirose spelled out some of the things he plans to work on in his defensive game.

"Just being hard in the right areas," he said. "Winning puck battles down low if I have to be down low. Things like being in the right lanes in the shot lanes. Picking up sticks and protecting the scoring areas in the defensive zone. Then obviously not turning the puck over. Sometimes I get a little too confident in myself and try to make something out of nothing. Just making the simple play a lot of the times is something I can work on."

Many players who are new to the NHL find that there are things that worked for them in lower levels of hockey that do not work in the best league in the world.

"Especially now, you don't have a lot of leeway to do too much," Hirose said. "Obviously you try to make a play whenever you can. Yeah, for sure, it's the NHL. These are the best players in the world. You can definitely get away with stuff in college that you won't get away with here. In that way, it's a learning process for me."

Blashill said one area of improvement with Hirose has stood out to him.

"His shot for sure," Blashill said. "It hasn't resulted in goals but it's a way harder shot than it was and I know he worked hard at it this summer. It's a way harder shot for sure, without a shadow of a doubt. So he's got more of a shot threat. I think that's given him confidence to shoot it more. Has he gotten bigger and quicker or stronger and quicker? Maybe a little bit. I don't know. It's hard for me to say because it's been all exhibition games now. So let's see. For sure his shot is a tangible thing he's gotten better at."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Coach Blashill wraps up today's practice at Little Caesars Arena.

During Monday's practice, Hirose skated on a line with Andreas Athanasiou and Luke Glendening.

"With Double-A's speed, I think he can create a lot of chances," Hirose said. "Glenny's so good defensively and sort of a workhorse for the line. That'll be really good for us. We were able to play together a little bit at the end of last season. Hopefully, some of that chemistry's still there. That'd be good for all of us."

Hirose was also on the second power-play unit along with Filip Hronek, Green, Valtteri Filppula and Adam Erne.

RASMUSSEN, VELENO AND SEIDER: It was not much of a surprise that Michael Rasmussen and Joe Veleno were assigned to Grand Rapids Sunday.

Blashill had made it clear that both players would have had to beat out Detroit centers Larkin, Filppula, Frans Nielsen, Glendening, Jacob de la Rose and Christoffer Ehn to make the team.

"Ras (Rasmussen) had a better camp as he went along, started slow and had a good camp late," Blashill said. "But he's trying to learn how to be a center iceman. He didn't get to do that much last year and there's a reason for it. It's hard to do it, it's hard to learn on the fly in the National Hockey League. So he gets to start down there and learn how to be a center iceman in the American League and then hopefully -- any of those guys -- hopefully they go down, they play unreal and they're knocking on the door. I've sent lots of players down that ended up up, whether it was the National Hockey League or in the American Hockey League. When they end up back up, they're better players for it."

Rasmussen had four goals in seven exhibition games.

Veleno led the way in the prospect tournament with seven goals and an assist, but slowed a bit offensively during the preseason, with three assists in six exhibition games.

"It's a process with Joe, every young player wants to make the team," Blashill said. "I think Joe knows it's a marathon, not a sprint and he's done a way better job of being a two-way player and that's what he's going to have to continue to do, so go and keep playing well."

As for Moritz Seider, the Wings' first-round pick, sixth overall, in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, he showed well during the prospect tournament, training camp and preseason.

"I just think it's honestly game experience," Blashill said. "I don't think he needs a lot of direction, to be dead honest with you. I think he will figure it out because he's so, so hockey smart, what he can get away with, what he can't get away with. There was times where he'd have an opportunity to make a play on a breakout, he'd almost let the forechecker come to him because when you're playing against maybe all your own age, you can spin off him and now you've sucked somebody in. But those are situations he'll learn he's got to move the puck quicker.

"He shows lots of signs of lots of smart things. He's going to be a really, really good player and let's make sure we let it run its course."

TESTING, TESTING: There is a lot of physical testing that goes on during camp but the Wings are taking it to a new level this year now that the preseason is over.

During Monday's 80-minute practice, each player had his own water/Gatorade bottle so that the team could measure the fluid intake compared with the amount of sweat lost.

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Practice day! The games start countin��� Saturday. #LGRW

"I think Thursday, Lisa's (McDowell, team dietitian) gonna look at all the results," Hirose said. "We're gonna have a team meeting about each specific guy and what's going on. I think it'll be sort of exciting to see what the results are and if I'm drinking the right amount of fluid for my sweat loss."

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