TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – Jerome Verrier came to northern Michigan last week with no expectations. He left hoping that his efforts may put him on the path to earning a player contract with the Red Wings.
A 6-foot right-handed shooting forward, who dealt with a bevy of injuries last season in the QMJHL, made a great impression at the Wings’ five-day development camp, especially in the two intrasquad scrimmages, at Centre Ice Arena.
Verrier scored the game-winning, overtime goal in Tuesday morning’s final scrimmage, lifting Team Lindsay to a 5-4 win over prospects on Team Howe. He scored three goals total in the two exhibition games – two of them game winners, including one in Saturday’s contest.
“I came here without expectation. I came here to show what I can do,” Verrier said.
The 21-year-old Verrier has been invited back to the Wings’ rookie team that will compete in the NHL Prospects Tournament in September. He’s also looking forward to participating in the club’s main camp a week later.
“Hopefully I can sign a contract with the Wings,” said Verrier, who despite missing more than 30 games last season, had 20 points in 31 games for the Quebec Remparts.
Verrier’s winning goal at 1:39 of the 3-on-3 extra session was set up by the Wings’ top-prospect Dylan Larkin, who jumped the passing lane and intercepted a clearing pass inside the blue line. Larkin got Team Lindsay on the board with a goal in the first half.
“I didn’t know much about him before,” Larkin said of Verrier, “but obviously he impressed me and I’m sure he impressed the big guys watching. I’m excited to see what he can do at the Prospects Tournament. I’m happy for him.”
The Wings’ coaches were impressed by Verrier who suffered a back injury, separated a shoulder, and sprained an ankle last season. He also had a concussion in the playoffs.
“It’s the first time I’ve watched him play,” Grand Rapids coach Todd Nelson said. “I thought he had good speed. He has a good skill set. He made plays under pressure. Anytime you see a player do that that’s a positve sign.”
Verrier was invited to development camp last summer, but he was recovering from foot surgery and regretfully had to decline the offer, though he did compete in the tournament and main camp last September.
The winning goal capped Team Lindsay’s comeback from a 4-2 deficit in the second half. The teams played two 25-minute halves before playing a five-minute overtime.
“We were working on the rush,” said Verrier, of his OT goal. “Tried to deke the defenseman. He played it well. I was just trying to put pressure on him and he tried to make a play a little bit too fast and Larks read it. He came in two on one with me close to the net. I tried to find the puck and put it as high as I could.”
Tied at 2-2 heading into the second, Team Howe built a two-goal lead on goals by camp invitee Bryce Gervais and another of the team’s top prospects, Anthony Mantha.
But Team Lindsay went on a scoring spree late in the game, scoring three goals in the last final 4:40 of the game. The comeback was started by Wings most recent first-round draft pick, Evgeny Svechnikov, who scored from the slot with 3:01 left in regulation.
Christoffer Ehn, a fourth-round pick a year ago, got the equalizer with six seconds left.
“We ended up with some pressure in the offensive zone and we had some shots,” Ehn said. “We weren’t getting the bounces, so I thought to stay close to the side of the net in case the puck got loose, and it did.”
LARKIN’S STATUS: Larkin had a great seven-month stretch playing at four different competitive levels, beginning at the University of Michigan last fall, and ending with the Calder Cup playoffs.
“He was one of the elite college freshmen that I’ve seen in a while, in terms of his production,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “He was over-shadowed a little bit by Jack Eichel, but his production was phenomenal.”
The Wings’ first-round draft selection from 2014, Larkin helped Team USA secure a bronze medal at the World Junior Championships in January. Following his collegiate season in Ann Arbor, he was invited to represent the U.S. at the World Championships. He also jumped into the American Hockey League playoffs, scoring three goals and five points for Grand Rapids in its third-round series against Utica.
“To go into the final four of the American League playoffs, there were lots of NHL-caliber guys on the ice,” Blashill said. “He didn’t just look good as a young player in maybe what his potential is gonna be. I thought his impact was really good. So, it was a great year for him, but now, what’s next?”
The Wings will head to training camp in September with at least 15 forwards who have NHL game experience. But Larkin will be given every opportunity to make a similar impact on the NHL roster this fall.
“He’s close,” Blashill admitted. “What does that mean come camp? We’ll see. Everybody takes different journeys to get to the NHL. Howe quickly those journeys are depends on the player and the work they put in this summer.”
PROSPECTS TOURNAMENT: In a little more than two months, the Red Wings will host the 17th annual NHL Prospects Tournament at Centre Ice Arena. The eight-team tourney will also feature young prospects from Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues.
Base on the coaching staff’s evaluations from this week’s development camp, players have been invited to play for the Wings in the tournament, which runs from Sept. 11-15.
Here is the list of players currently on the Wings’ 23-man roster for the tourney:
Team prospects – Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, Joe Hicketts, Tyler Bertuzzi, Zach Nastasiuk, Dominic Turgeon, Jake Paterson, Evgeny Svechnikov, Vili Saarijarvi, Chase Pearson, and Adam Marsh.
Camp invitees – Nick Betz, Jerome Verrier, Connor McGlynn, Evan Polei, Jarett Meyer, and Jalen Chatfield.
Forward David Johnstone, defensemen Ty Stanton and Justin Lemcke, and goalies Matt Mancina and Connor Ingram were not at development camp, but have been added to the Wings’ prospects tournament roster.
Jiri Fischer, the Red Wings’ director of player development, anticipates inviting one more defenseman to the tourney.
TUESDAY’S SCRIMMAGE SCORING SUMMARY
Team Howe 22 0— 4
Team Lindsay221— 5
3:28 Team Howe, Sheldon Dries (unassisted)
10:24 Team Lindsay, Dylan Larkin (unassisted)
13:06 Team Lindsay, Chase Pearson (Adam Lidstrom, Adam Marsh)
14:35 Team Howe, James DeHaas, (Anthony Mantha, Marc McNulty)
9:54Team Howe, Bryce Gervais (Evan Polei)
15:42 Team Howe, Mantha (Tyler Bertuzzi)
16:59 Team Lindsay, Evgeny Svechnikov (Larkin, Axel Holmstrom)
24:54 Team Lindsay, Christoffer Ehn (Chase Pearson)
1:39 Team Lindsay, Jerome Verrier (Larkin)
SHOTS ON GOAL
Team Howe 8110 — 19
Team Lindsay1118 1 — 30
Joren van Pottelberghe, Lindsay6-8
Jake Paterson, Lindsay9-11
Tomas Kral, Howe9-11
Chase Perry, Howe16-19