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On the Wings of Tomorrow

Gallant overcomes injury to pursue dream, Lindstrom takes impressive strides and more in the January prospect report

by Bob Duff / Special to

Life isn't all bouquets and smooth sailing. Fate has a way of putting roadblocks in the path to success, and it's those who can navigate these bumps along the way and come out the other side a stronger person who will ultimately succeed.

You could say that life has given Zach Gallant a chance to earn a PhD in this philosophy.

For the fourth year in a row, the Peterborough Petes center who was selected 83rd overall by the Detroit Red Wings in the 2017 NHL entry draft was required to overcome a serious injury in order to continue to pursue his dream.

Gallant, 19, returned to the Petes' lineup Jan. 3 following a 12-week layoff due to a high ankle sprain that necessitated surgery. He scored a goal as the Petes fell 6-5 in a shootout to the Mississauga Steelheads

"It was good," Gallant said. "It's been awhile since I've been in the lineup, so to get back and be playing again is just really exciting."

Returning from training camp with the Wings in the fall, Gallant was honored to be named captain of the Petes, an organization that's long had ties to the Red Wings. Scotty Bowman coached the Petes, and Steve Yzerman and Mickey Redmond are among the many Petes alumni.

Within a week, Gallant was on the shelf. In the first minute of an Oct. 11 game against the Erie Otters, he crashed feet first into the boards and had to be helped from the ice.

"It was basically almost like a full summer off for me because I was off for three months," Gallant said. "Especially at first, just getting past surgery and not being able to walk for six weeks, it was definitely tough, but I was doing the best I could with my physio and was in the gym as much as I could."

"Doing both of those things has definitely increased the healing process and helped me get back in the lineup early. It was pretty unfortunate the way things happened, especially being off for so long, but it was definitely a process and I'm a lot stronger for it."

The ankle surgery was the latest misfortune in a series of maladies he's been forced to overcome while playing in the Ontario Hockey League. He suffered a broken foot as a rookie with the Petes in 2015-16. In his draft year, a stick in the eye cost Gallant significant time, and last season, a concussion and a knee injury combined to put him on the shelf.

"I've probably been off a month every season since I've been playing in the OHL," Gallant said.

Instead of pouting or feeling sorry for himself, Gallant has sought to utilize these detours en route to his goal of a career in hockey as positive learning lessons.

"You have to deal with setbacks in everything in life," Gallant said. "I've dealt with injuries, a lot of flukey injuries that have occurred to me over the course of my career, but I'm still confident in my game and they've helped me grow as a person.

"It was definitely my goal to have a big season. I still hope I can do that. We're going to have a good chance to make a run here in the second half. I'm really excited."

Back in action, Gallant is ready to again be the kind of player he needs to be in order to help the Petes win and to continue to progress up hockey's ladder.

"With my game, for me to be successful I've got to be hard to play against and move my feet," he explained. "As long as I'm in the play and not focusing on putting up points, but playing hard, moving my feet, and shooting pucks, I'll be fine and we'll be good as a team."

The time away from the game has only served to remind Gallant how passionate he is about being on the ice.

"I missed it a ton," the 6-2, 192-pound forward said. "You don't really realize how much you love doing something until it's taken away from you. To be back and playing again is awesome."

World Junior
For just the second time in five years, Red Wings prospects came away empty-handed when the medals were presented at the World Junior Championship in Vancouver.

Right-winger Filip Zadina (sixth overall, 2018) and the Czech Republic were eliminated in the quarterfinals by Team USA, and center Joe Veleno (30th, 2018) and defenseman Jared McIsaac (36th, 2018) of Canada also fell in the quarterfinal stage at the hands of Finland. Defenseman Malte Setkov (100th, 2017) and Denmark didn't qualify for the medal round, but Setkov shared the scoring lead for the Danes with a goal and an assist.

Last year, goaltender Filip Larsson (167th, 2016) and Sweden earned a silver medal. No Wings prospect won a medal at the 2017 tournament, but defenseman Vili Saarijarvi (73rd, 2015) won gold with Finland in 2016, beating Evgeni Svechnikov (19th, 2015) and Russia in the final. Defenseman Joe Hicketts (free agent, 2014) and Canada won the gold medal in 2015.

That's Lindstrom With An N
The last time the Wings had a Swedish defenseman who moved into such a prominent role with his club team this quickly, he turned out to be okay.

Well, actually, he won seven Norris Trophies. But let's not get carried away and starting comparing Gustav Lindstrom to Nicklas Lidstrom. Other than the similar-sounding names, they're not the same player. Lindstrom (38th, 2017), in fact, draws parallels with himself and a couple of current NHL defenseman.

"I should compare myself to some right-handed defenders in the NHL I would maybe say (Tampa Bay's) Anton Stralman or Kevin Shattenkirk (of the New York Rangers)," Lindstrom said.

Regardless, there can be no mistaking that Lindstrom, 20, is taking impressive strides. In his first season with Frolunda HC, who currently top the Swedish Hockey League standings, he is skating in the top defensive pairing.

He's collected 3-3-6 numbers in 29 games, and has stepped up his offense of late. Lindstrom has a goal and an assist in Frolunda's last two games and is averaging 18:46 of ice time per game.

Frolunda shows a history of producing top NHL defensemen. It's where Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, the first player chosen in the 2018 NHL entry draft, played last season. Two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson of the San Jose Sharks and John Klingberg of the Dallas Stars also came to the NHL from Frolunda.

The club has also rewarded Detroit. Frolunda's alumni include former Wings Daniel Alfredsson, Mikael Samuelsson and Joakim Andersson and current Detroit forward Christoffer Ehn.

"Frolunda is a big club in Sweden," Lindstrom said. "They have improved a lot of players. They practice hard, it's long days on the rink, with hard training, on ice and off ice. That's a good place to be."

World Junior A Challenge
Right-winger Ryan O'Reilly (98th, 2018) collected two goals and two assists in six games as the United States won the gold medal at the World Junior A Challenge in Bonnyville, Alta.

The Southlake, Texas-born O'Reilly, who plays for the USHL's Fargo Force, collected two points in Team USA's 4-2 win over the Czech Republic, clinching the win with an empty-net goal. O'Reilly also scored in a 4-3 preliminary-round loss to Russia.

The United States avenged that setback, beating the Russians 2-0 in the gold-medal game.

Soaring Seth
Seth Barton (81st, 2018) is off to an impressive start with UMass-Lowell. The youngest player on the RiverHawks' roster, freshman Barton, 19, is second among defensemen in scoring with 2-5-7 totals in 17 games.

"I think I've always had that hockey IQ that lets me be creative in the offensive zone," Barton said.

Barton scored in two of UMass-Lowell's last four games, and fellow Wings prospects were victims on both occasions. Barton tallied in a 5-3 win over the Boston Terriers and Detroit draftee defenseman Kasper Kotkansalo (71st, 2017). He also scored the RiverHawks' lone goal in a 4-1 loss to the No. 7 Denver Pioneers, beating Larsson in the process.

On the flip side of his game, Barton has recorded 12 of his 19 shot blocks in his last nine games.

Always a skilled puck mover, Barton recognizes that developing an all-around defensive game is his ticket to bigger and better things in the game.

"I think to start off, I was more an offensive guy," Barton said. "Then as you're going up higher, you've got to work on the defensive things in your own zone. The defensive part of the game is huge right now for me to progress so that's what I'll be working on."

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