TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar are NHL-ready players looking to make an impact with the Red Wings this season.
However, with 17 forwards in training camp this week, there are no guarantees that either will be on the roster when the Red Wings open the season against Buffalo on Oct. 2.
“They don't give you the jobs you got to earn them,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said Friday. “This here isn't where you do that. Exhibition is where you do that. We got enough exhibition games that I'll make sure everyone gets an opportunity.”
The exhibition season starts Monday when the Red Wings will travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins.
Nyquist and Tatar both know the deal and understand the situation moving forward, despite the fact that both guys basically owned the American Hockey League last season. Nyquist was the league’s leading scorer prior to his call up to Detroit, and Tatar was named the postseason MVP in the Calder Cup playoffs.
“I finished the AHL best I can, I won the Cup and I got the MVP, which was really nice to have an award like that,” Tatar said. “I was there four years, I produced a lot, I think that league would just slow me down from now on, that's why I got to think next step and for me that's NHL. I hope it would be Detroit. I love it here, I love the fans.”
For Tatar to land back in Grand Rapids, he’d first have to clear waivers, which is unlikely to happen for a player of his caliber. Nyquist, however, doesn’t have to clear waivers to start the season with the Griffins. Though, obviously, Nyquist would prefer to begin in Detroit.
Unfortunately, and to no fault of their own, Nyquist and Tatar could become victims of the situation. The Wings will only carry 14 forwards on their roster, and with the return of Daniel Cleary on Thursday, the waters got a lot murkier for some players.
“We have a lot of forwards right now. A few of us won’t be here obviously because we have too many,” Nyquist said. “Camp’s a great opportunity to show what they can do. We’re two days in, but there’s not much time to show what you have. You have to be ready at the start and also play good in the exhibition games.”
Nyquist and Tatar played on the same team in an intra-squad scrimmage loss on Friday. Nyquist skated on Team Lindsay’s top line with Cleary and center Joakim Andersson. Tatar was matched with Todd Bertuzzi and center Riley Sheahan.
“We played a little bit together last year, me, Cleary and Andy on the third line,” Nyquist said.
Playing with guys that he spent time with in Detroit last season makes thinking about playing in Grand Rapids difficult, Nyquist said.
“You try not to think about it too much. If you do that you just stress yourself even more,” he said. “I can only go out and do my best, play the game that I play and show them that I want to be up here.
“There’s too little time to be dwelling on that. You have to be ready to go here these few days at camp and then the exhibition games. That’s what everyone is doing, just trying to play their game and showing the staff they want to be here full time.”
As for Tatar, who is out of minor-league options, a trade isn’t out of the realm of possibility, though he truly believes that he’ll be on the Wings’ roster next month.
“I would expect to be traded if I won't make the team,” Tatar said. “You never know, it's a business. We have lots of forwards. If it happened it happened. If I'm going to make the team, I'm going to put my heart in and play for this team.”
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