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Wings' prospect Pyett wins Canada roster spot

by Matthew O'Day / Detroit Red Wings
Red Wings prospect Logan Pyett was named to Canada’s 2008 World Junior Championship team, which was announced Thursday morning by coach Craig Hartsburg.

Pyett, a defenseman and captain for the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League has plenty of international experience already under his belt. He played in the Canada/Russia Super Series in August as well as the ADT Championship in November, and that should help him as he is called on to anchor a defensive corps that includes 2007 first-round picks Thomas Hickey (Los Angeles - fourth overall) and Karl Alzner (Washington – fifth overall) when the World Junior Championships begin in the Czech Republic on December 26.

Regina defenseman Logan Pyett was the Red Wings' seventh-round pick in 2006.
“He's got good hockey sense, good hands," said KEn Holland, the Wings' exeuctive vice president and general manager. "He’s not tall – he’s 5-foot-10 – but he’s 200-pounds. Certainly, we’re thrilled with the player we got – where we got him in the draft – and certainly a player that looks like he can be a pro.”

A seventh-round pick of the Wings in 2006 (212th overall), Pyett has made a name for himself as an offensive defenseman, and will be asked to be a scoring threat from the blue line, a role to which he is accustomed. In the 2006-07 season, he was the third leading scorer on the Pats with 62 points (14 G, 48 A) – twice that of Nick Ross, the team’s second highest scoring defenseman (31 points).

According to Holland, Pyett is most closely comparable to Derek Meech, a young defenseman currently on the Red Wings’ roster. Similarly sized, “Meech was a good junior defenseman, played with Canada’s national junior team, he spent three years in the (AHL), and we think Derek is going to eventually turn out to be an NHL regular defenseman.”

Pyett will be joined by Red Wings forward prospect Joakim Andersson, who will skate for Sweden. Both Holland and vice president Steve Yzerman will be on hand for the tournament, and they will be watching their entrants closely.

“No. 1, you see if they can play regularly," Holland said. "You’re talking about the best kids in the world – really it’s a 19-year-old tournament. How does he stack up against his peers? Ultimately at that level, if you’re a really good player, you project down the road.

“Every level you go up, if you’ve got any flaws in your game, eventually some level is going to find those flaws. The World Junior level of competition is another level above the regular juniors. Every time a player takes a step up and he can continue to do at that level what he did the level before, you get more and more optimistic.”

Unfortunately, the Red Wings’ two other Canadian tryouts -- forward Cory Emmerton and defenseman Brendan Smith -- were not able to crack the final roster.

Emmerton, a forward with the Ontario Hockey League’s Brampton Battalion, had his push to make Canada’s team cut short late Wednesday when he learned that he had contracted mononucleosis just prior to camp. Worse still, 2008 was Emmerton’s last year of eligibility for the tournament.

On Emmerton, Holland commented, “He’s got a lot of skill. He had a great year (last season), played for Canada in the Super Series in August, and as the series went along, he played better and better. We were really hoping that making the World Junior team would be a jumpstart to a great second half. Obviously, we want him to get healthy and get back and have a strong finish to his junior year.”

Smith, a defenseman currently with the University of Wisconsin, was among many highly regarded blue liners who found themselves the victims of Canada’s deep defensive talent pool. Detroit’s first round selection in 2007 (27th overall) is joined by fellow first-rounders Keaton Ellerby (Florida – 10th overall) and Ty Wishart (San Jose – 16th overall in 2006) as players who were surprised to be sent home.

However, Smith, 18, will have a second shot to make Team Canada for the 2009 World Juniors.

“To go from Junior B to being one of the last cuts on Canada’s Junior team is a big step," Holland said. "The biggest thing with Brendan is he’s got to get physically stronger. By all reports he had a real good camp. We’re hoping he can make that team next year.”

In 2007, the Wings had two forward prospects in the tournament. Jan Mursak skated for Slovenia, while Darren Helm won the gold medal with Canada.

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