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On the Wings of Tomorrow

Saginaw Spirit's Gilmour and Webb enjoy proximity to Wings, Larsson leading Denver into Frozen Four and more in the April prospect report

by Bob Duff @asktheduffer / Special to

For most prospects, the NHL is a faraway dream, both figuratively and literally.

Not so for Brady Gilmour and Reilly Webb. Playing for the Ontario Hockey League's Saginaw Spirit, these two Detroit Red Wings draft picks realize that their NHL destiny is just a straight 100-mile jaunt along northbound I-75.

"It's a good motivation for us," admitted defenseman Webb, selected 162nd overall by Detroit in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. "It's pretty exciting to see how close they are to us."

Saginaw became Webb's OHL home following a trade from the Hamilton Bulldogs early in the 2017-18 OHL season, but it's been center Gilmour's locale since 2015. And he's kept a much closer eye on the nearby Red Wings since 2017, when he was drafted 193rd overall by Detroit.

"It definitely is cool," Gilmour said of belonging to a nearby NHL club. "Almost everyone around Saginaw is a Wings fan."

The close proximity not only enables Gilmour and Webb to dream big, it allows them to know for a fact that the Wings are keeping close tabs on their progress.

The short trek up the highway makes it easy for director of player development Shawn Horcoff and player development assistant Dan Cleary to journey to Saginaw and check in on two pieces of the club's future. "

They're always watching and that's pretty good incentive for us to keep getting better," Webb said.

"Talking to Horcs and Clears, having them watch all the time, it's pretty cool being just down the road," added Gilmour.

The two prospects were able to travel to Little Caesars Arena last fall to take in an NHL preseason game and assess what they envision one day being their future hockey home.

"Obviously, that's my goal," Webb said. "Hopefully I can someday. That would be cool. I'm just trying to work every day to get better and stuff will take care of itself.

"The new arena is really nice. It's awesome."

There are other ties within the Spirit that help to provide a Red Wings feel for Webb and Gilmour. The Spirit ownership group includes former Wings goalie Chris Osgood and Detroit senior vice president Jimmy Devellano.

"Jimmy D, he's been great to me," Gilmour said. "Ever since he's been part of the Spirit he's been awesome to me, one of the nicest guys I've ever met.

"He's got a lot of good stories. He's pretty fun to listen to."

In his fourth OHL campaign, Gilmour, 19, posted a career-high 24 assists. He dished out six helpers in the first round of the OHL playoffs as the Spirit swept the Sarnia Sting.

"I would definitely think of myself as a playmaker first," the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Gilmour said. "I'm someone who sees the ice pretty well and kind of thinks the game well."

This season, he's sought to improve his net-front work.

"I think my game's grown mostly trying to get to the inside areas more," Gilmour said. "I talked to Horcoff and Cleary a lot last year and one of the main things they told me at main camp this year was try and get to the dirty areas more.

"I think I have been doing that, trying to go to the net a little more. I think it's paid off."

For Webb, 19, a 6-foot-4, 200-pound stay-at-home defenseman, the objective this season was to get more involved in the offense, and he succeeded at that objective.

Webb collected 1-14-15 numbers in 62 games. He'd produced a combined one goal and four assists through his first 86 OHL games.

"I'd say my puck touches, getting more touches with the puck, getting up in the rush more," Webb said, identifying areas where he's recognized improvement. "That and working on my defensive game, I think it's working so far.

"I feel better than ever right now."

For a prospect seeking to get noticed, there's no better time than the postseason and both Webb and Gilmour are aware of the opportunity that a long playoff run presents to them.

"This is definitely the most important time of the year," Gilmour said. "As it goes on, there's less teams and a lot of eyes stay on you, so there's definitely an advantage to staying in the playoffs."

As the Spirit, first-place finishers in the OHL's West Division, begin second-round play against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, both players realize that their time to shine is upon them.

"It's exciting times right now in Saginaw," Webb said. "We're turning into a pretty good team. I'm excited to keep going and see what we can do."

GALLANT TO TOLEDO: Despite getting a pair of goals from center Zach Gallant (83rd, 2017), the Peterborough Petes fell, 4-2, to the Oshawa Generals in Game 5 of their OHL Eastern Conference quarterfinal series and were eliminated.

The captain of the Petes, Gallant scored a power-play goal to make it 1-0 and netted a shorthanded marker to tie it at 2-2. Peterborough defenseman Cole Fraser (131st, 2017) collected one assist in the five-game series.

Gallant wasn't done playing for long, though. He signed an amateur tryout contract with the Toledo Walleye, Detroit's ECHL affiliate, on April 2.

Tweet from @ToledoWalleye: 🚨 PLAYER ANNOUNCEMENT 🚨We've signed forward Zach Gallant from @PetesOHLhockey to an amateur tryout agreement ������

In a related move, Toledo forward Dylan Sadowy was promoted to the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins.

REGULA ADVANCES: Defenseman Alec Regula (67th, 2018) collected a goal and an assist as the the London Knights swept the Windsor Spitfires in their OHL Western Conference quarterfinal.

Regula tallied the winning marker for the Knights in their 4-3 Game 1 victory over Windsor. He drew the primary assist on Adam Boqvist's third goal on the night in Game 3. That tied the score at 3-3 as London rallied for a 6-3 win.

Tweet from @GoLondonKnights: 🚨🚨 THE BOYS ARE ROLLING 🚨🚨@AlecRegula gets the Knights another powerplay goal and we're leading 4-1!

The Knights are facing the Guelph Storm in the Western Conference semifinals.

VELENO SHINES: Picking up right where he left off the regular season, center Joe Veleno (30th, 2018) paced the Drummondville Voltigeurs with 5-4-9 totals as they dropped the Gatineau Olympiques in five games in their QMJHL Western Conference opening-round series.

Veleno collected points in four of the five games and accounted for multiple points in three games. He recorded a hat trick in Game 1 and potted a pair of game-winning goals.

Veleno finished fourth in QMJHL scoring during the regular season with 42-62-104 numbers from 59 games.

Tweet from @Voltigeurs_DRU: F��licitations �� Joseph Veleno nomm�� sur la premi��re ��quipe d�����toiles de la @LHJMQ

The Voltigeurs are facing the Sherbrooke Phoenix in Round 2.

McISAAC MOVES ON: It proved to be tougher work than was expected, but defenseman Jared McIsaac (36th, 2018) and the Halifax Mooseheads persevered to rally and defeat the eighth-seeded Quebec Remparts in a seven-game QMJHL Eastern Conference opening-round set.

Quebec took the first two games of the series, and after Halifax charged back to win the next two, the Remparts were 4-2 winners to put the Mooseheads on the brink of elimination.

In that loss, McIsaac was assessed a match penalty for checking to the head and suspended for Game 6 of the series.

Minus McIsaac, the Mooseheads stayed alive via a 6-1 rout. With him back in the lineup, they took a 3-1 decision in Game 7 and advanced to face the Moncton Wildcats in second-round action.

The No. 1-ranked team in the CHL entering postseason play, the Mooseheads are already guaranteed a spot in the 2019 Memorial Cup as the host team.

FROZEN FOUR: The perfection of Filip Larsson (167th, 2016) earned the Denver Pioneers yet another trip to the NCAA Frozen Four.

The freshman netminder opened the NCAA Tournament with a pair of shutouts -- 2-0 over Ohio State and 3-0 over American International -- to move eight-time national champions Denver into the Frozen Four for the fifth time since 2003.

In that span, the Pioneers have won three NCAA titles. They've also appeared in 12 straight NCAA Tournaments, the longest active streak of any school.

Larsson, a finalist for NCHC goaltender of the year, owns a .936 save percentage.

Tweet from @Dwakiji: #RedWings prospect Filip Larsson a finalist for NCHC goaltender of the year.

Moving to the North American ice surface for the first time last season with the USHL's Tri-City Storm, the 20-year-old Swede didn't find the change required much in the way of adjustment to his game.

"I think it's a little overrated maybe," Larsson said of the difference between the wider 200x100 European ice surface and the 200x85 NHL-size rink. "I think it honestly took me two games last year to get used to it.

"Going to small from big ice is easier than going from small to bigger ice. It wasn't a huge thing for to get used to. For sure it helps to get me ready. I'm getting closer to being in Detroit's organization. It helps me to get over here."

Quinnipiac, the team of goaltender Keith Petruzzelli (88th, 2017) was eliminated from the second round of the NCAA Tournament after a 3-1 loss to defending champions Minnesota-Duluth.

Denver will face Massachusetts in the semifinals.

The Frozen Four is slated for April 11-13 at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

Tweet from @NCAAIceHockey: 🚨 GAME TIMES ANNOUNCED 🚨📅 Thursday, April 11@FriarsHockey 🆚 (2) @UMDMensHockey/@QU_MIH ��� 5:00 p.m. ET📺 ESPN2@DU_Hockey 🆚 (4) @UMassHockey ��� 8:30 p.m. ET📺 ESPN2#FrozenFour

The one-and-done format of the NCAA Tournament is similar to playoff systems Larsson is accustomed to from participating in European and IIHF tourneys.

"It's almost the same thing," Larsson said. "I think back home when I play in Sweden, I'm used it being one game. "I think it's going to be fun. I think it's going to be huge games."

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