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Sheahan enrolls in new classroom

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Riley Sheahan became the fourth Red Wings' prospect to make his NHL debut when he played in Saturday's season finale against the Chicago Blackhawks. (Photo by Dave Reginek)
DETROIT – It didn’t take long for Riley Sheahan to get his name on an NHL score sheet Saturday afternoon.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t the column he hoped to enter first.

Sheahan, who left the University of Notre Dame last month and signed a three-year entry-level contract to become a Red Wings prospect on Thursday, drew the game’s first penalty in the season finale against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The 20-year-old center and the Wings’ first-round draft pick in 2010, was just relieved that the bad guys didn’t score while he served a four-minute minor for high-sticking Chicago forward Jimmy Hayes.

“It was the slowest four minutes of my life, but the guys did a great job killing it off,” said Sheahan, who totaled three shots on nine shifts. “(In college) when you high-stick someone, you hit them in the cage and don’t really get a penalty for it. The guys did a good job keeping me focused and told me nice work before the penalty.”

A month ago, Sheahan was in the middle of a college semester, studying French, criminology and guitar. But making his NHL debut before a nationally televised audience with his parents in the stands was “much better than being in class.”

Sheahan was the fourth Wings’ prospect to make his league debut this season, joining defenseman Brendan Smith and centers Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Andersson. But unlike the other rookies, Sheahan never went to training camp or played a preseason game with the guys who played with Saturday afternoon.

“To look around and see all the big name players, and realizing who you’re talking to, it’s hard not to think about what they’ve accomplished,” Sheahan said. “You’ve just got to stay focused, and try not to be star-struck. At the same time, it’s a lot of fun.”

Nervous or not, Sheahan took his first shift with 17:34 left in the first period, lining up against Michael Frolik on a face-off to the left of Jimmy Howard.

But 63-seconds later, Sheahan battled Hayes for the puck in front of the Blackhawks bench before high-sticking the Hawks’ 6-foot-6 forward in the face that drew blood and earned the Wings’ rookie his first double minor.

Sheahan, a 6-foot-2, 202-pound native of St. Catherines, Ontario, had a good scoring chance when he swatted a puck out of the air near the crease that stayed out of the net when he hit Corey Crawford’s mask.

In all, Sheahan logged just over six-minutes of ice-time while collecting three shots on goal with one hit and a blocked shot.

“I didn’t play him much, but you know a big kill for us when he took his first penalty,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “You might as well get on-board, he had a chance to score and put it off the goalie’s head. But I thought he was a big body down low who could hang onto the puck and made good decisions with the puck. The big thing for us is we don’t have a lot of big bodies in our organization, so seeing him was pleasant.”

The Wings signed Sheahan to an amateur tryout last month and assigned the big center to Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League where he had a goal and an assist in seven games.

So what was the highlight of the day for Sheahan? Despite the Wings losing 3-2 in a shootout, it was the thrill of watching two of the league’s best player-makers. “Just seeing (Pavel) Datsyuk and (Patrick) Kane,” Sheahan said, “do those shootout moves at the end.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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