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Notes: Dylan Sadowy takes Cole Fraser under his wing

Forward is also looking for a big year personally after getting AHL experience

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

TRAVERSE CITY, MICH. - Grand Rapids Griffins coach Todd Nelson and his staff do a lot of coaching and teaching but it isn't coming just from them.

The older players are often the ones showing the younger players how things are done, both on and off the ice.

That was definitely the case for defenseman Cole Fraser, the Red Wings' fifth-round pick, 131st overall, in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.

"At development camp I was pretty close with (Dylan) Sadowy and he said, 'Why don't you move down, we can live together and we can train with Joe in Bloomfield Hills,'" Fraser said. "So I moved down, lived in Berkley and Sadowy and I worked out every day for the month of August and he kind of helped me.

"I put on some weight, I got my cardio up and I feel really good coming into this camp. I think the majority of it was just kind of get to see what it's like to work out as a pro, a bit of an experience but at the same time, I think it really helped with my development."

Sadowy said he knew Fraser a little bit from playing against him in the Ontario Hockey League and got to know him better during development camp.

"He got told by a couple of the Detroit staff to come down so he ended up living with me for about three weeks, he lived with me and trained with some of the other guys down there," Sadowy said. "It's good for him, young guy getting used to the big boys in town. Just a good experience for him."

At 21, Sadowy is three years older than Fraser and has been in the organization a little longer since getting traded from the San Jose Sharks on May 26, 2016.

Nelson smiled when hearing about Sadowy and Fraser.

"He's taken a leadership role," Nelson said. "I think he's taken a leadership role in this tournament, as well as guys like Svech (Evgeny Svechnikov) and Turge (Dominic Turgeon) and those guys. They've been here before and they know what to expect. We had a lot of guys work out in Detroit. A lot of guys have improved, they've gotten stronger and quicker.

"I think that's great for a guy like Dylan to take a guy like Fras under his wing. These younger players are starting to learn at an earlier point in their career how to train properly, how to take care of themselves. It's really good on Dylan and it's good on Fras to make that commitment."

Fraser said he feels like he's already a different player from the one the Wings drafted in June.

"I've kind of been brought into the pro routine, having to work out every day and skate every day kind of throughout the summer," Fraser said. "Normally guys don't really do that, especially going in through junior hockey. A lot of the guys like to have a little bit of a break but there's no breaks now. You got to keep moving forward. If you want that pro contract, you've got to do the things that are necessary. If that means moving away from home and not seeing your family for very long, that's what you've got to do. That's what kind of pushed me to move away and go do that."

It wasn't just Sadowy that Fraser was learning from in Detroit.

"I know my skating got a little better over the summer, too," Fraser said. "I've been skating with some of the NHL guys like Cam Fowler and Geno (Svechnikov). Sads was there, Vili (Saarijarvi), a bunch of the guys. I got to skate with a bunch of the NHL guys from Detroit as well. It definitely got me up to game speed and I kind of learned what it was like to have to keep up with some pro guys so it was obviously a learning curve, but at the same time, I really enjoyed it."

SADOWY LOOKING FOR BIG YEAR: Sadowy had proven he could score at the junior hockey level, recording 42 goals and 32 assists in 65 games with the Saginaw Spirit in 2014-15 and a combined 45 goals and 25 assists in 64 games with the Spirit and Barrie Colts in 2015-16.

So it was somewhat of a rude awakening when he turned pro with the Griffins last season and scored four goals and two assists in 38 games.

"I think he learned that it's not going to be easy. It happens to a lot of young players," Nelson said. "They come and they think that, I had a good junior career and all of a sudden in the American League, I'm going to step right in and contribute. What they come to find out is it's a very difficult league to play in. I think he had a good understanding of all that when the season ended, he knows what he has to do. He put in a good summer. It looks like he gained a step. This is a very big year for him and he understands that. But I think he's learned how to be a pro. That's normal with any first-year player."

Sadowy acknowledged that going from junior hockey to the American League is a major challenge.

"The jump to the AHL, it's a totally different hockey game from what I was used to in the OHL so it took a little getting used to but now I got one year under my belt and get back at it again here in a couple weeks," Sadowy said. "You learn every shift counts, every battle counts. You just got to get pucks in, pucks out and just work hard."

Sadowy is looking to get things going on the right foot with a strong prospects tournament in Traverse City.

"Prove myself. Last year wasn't the year I wanted," Sadowy said. "For sure, we won the Calder Cup, which is the biggest achievement you can get at this level. But just come to this camp, try and be a leader here and have a little fun with it."

HRONEK FINDING HIS WAY: Defenseman Filip Hronek likely wasn't too thrilled with the Wings' 6-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in the opening game of the prospects tournament.

Although Hronek tied Turgeon for the team lead in shots with five, he finished the game minus-4.

"Last night, the score obviously didn't work out for us but both Fil and Vili (Saarijarvi) I think were trying to carry the team on their back last night, probably trying to do too much," Nelson said. "Fil played two games in the playoffs for us last year, he played some regular-season games and he just kept the game simple and the offensive instincts came out from the offensive zone. I had a talk with him today, him and Vili, just keep it simple out there. I thought last night all our defensemen for that matter were holding onto the puck too long. But that just comes with maturity.

"I think everybody was amped up to try to really showcase their abilities. When you have the general manager coming in saying now you guys are going to be evaluated. Sometimes kids put too much pressure on themselves. The defensemen, you have to let the game come to you a few times, you can't force it. It's like putting gas on a fire. That's what Fil's learning. Fil's come so far. I like the way that he played for us last year in Grand Rapids. He's most likely playing for us this year. There's a lot of teaching and learning that has to go into it but the way that he's responded, he's gradually getting better every time he hits the ice."

Hronek, the Wings' second-round pick in the 2016 draft, 53rd overall, had 14 goals and 47 assists with the Saginaw Spirit last season.

He joined the Griffins for 10 regular-season games, recording a goal and an assist, and played in two playoff games when Brian Lashoff was injured.

With the Czech Republic Under-20 team, Hronek had two goals and five assists in 10 games.

Nelson said learning to be an everyday player in the AHL is no small task and said Svechnikov struggled the first few months as a Griffin.

"I see Fil trending the same way as Svechnikov, if not more advanced starting, but he's come a long way since last year at this time," Nelson said.

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