American Hockey League

Yzerman pleased with what he’s seeing in Grand Rapids

DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings have 14 games remaining and two non-emergency recalls at their disposal.

As much as they would like a brief look at a couple of their top prospects on the NHL stage, they also don’t want to jeopardize the Grand Rapids Griffins’ AHL playoff hopes.

General manager Steve Yzerman, who spoke last week at the trade deadline, said they’ll continue evaluating on a day-to-day basis whether to promote anyone.

“There are valid reasons for just leaving them where they are and letting them do their thing, so we take it all into account and if there comes a time we have to make a decision, we will,” Yzerman said at the trade deadline. “But right now, all those kids are going really well. They’re playing a lot of minutes in significant roles. And they’re in a dogfight to make the playoffs. We want that team to make the playoffs. There’s a lot of value for everyone there in playing in the playoffs.”

The Griffins are among four teams competing for the final two postseason spots in the Central Division, clubs that are separated by only two points.

The Red Wings have five of their own first-round picks playing in Grand Rapids. Two of them, defenseman Moritz Seider and center Joe Veleno, haven’t appeared in an NHL game.

Seider, the 6-3, 209-pound puck-moving, right-shooting defenseman the Red Wings selected sixth overall in 2019, has two goals and 18 assists, with a minus-5 rating, in 46 games. He was impressive for Germany in the World Junior Championships and had been logging a lot of minutes for the Griffins. He has missed the past four games with an injury.

“We’re really pleased with his development,” Yzerman said. “At the start of the season, I thought he would average 17 minutes, 18 minutes maybe. I looked at the ice time recently, he’s been 25, even 27 minutes a game. An 18-year-old D-man in that league, it’s tough. He’s playing in all situations and he’s touching the puck.

“We watched him play a lot last year on the men’s team in Germany (Adler Mannheim) and he didn’t get a lot of (power play) time. Here in GR, he’s getting on there and he’s handling the puck and you see his play along the blueline and the offensive part of his game coming and being able to log those big minutes is great experience for him.”

Veleno also received a confidence boost by playing well in the World Juniors for Canada. He was drafted 30th in 2018, one of the three picks Detroit received from Vegas for Tomas Tatar. Veleno has 11 goals and 11 assists, with a minus-26 rating, in 51 games.

“Joe Veleno has had a real good year,” Yzerman said. “His numbers aren’t great, but he’s played in all situations. I think the coaching staff there has done a really good job being patient with him, allowing him to play a significant role. I think he’s really thrived.

“I had a chance to watch him at the World Juniors and I thought he did really well as a 19-year-old, one of the older guys. He really took charge and asserted himself well. It’s been a really challenging year for him, but I think he’s really embraced it. He’s developing as a hockey player.”

Center Michael Rasmussen missed nearly two months during the middle of the season due to a back injury. He has seven goals and 14 assists, with a minus-6 rating, in 22 games.

“He had a good start to the season, missed some time with a back injury, got back in just before Christmas and he’s playing regular and just kind of grinding it out,” Yzerman said.

Rasmussen (6-6, 230) spent his rookie season in 2018-19 with the Red Wings, picking up eight goals and 10 assists in 62 games. The club’s top pick in 2017 (No. 9 overall) was not able to play in the AHL because he still had junior eligibility.

“I’m really pleased with how they’re all doing,” Yzerman said. “They’re helping our team down there. They’re playing important roles and they’ve kind of embraced it. They’re not sitting there as three first-round picks with a sense of entitlement. They’re working hard and doing the things necessary to become good NHLers.”

Right wing Evgeny Svechnikov (drafted 19th in 2015) has had a rough go following a strong AHL debut in 2016-17 (20 goals, 31 assists in 74 games). He missed all of last season due to an ACL surgery. He has been playing better lately and has 11 goals and 13 assists in 48 games.

Defenseman Dennis Cholowski (drafted 20th in 2016) has been up and down multiple times. The Red Wings like his offensive skills but he has struggled defensively and needs to be more assertive with and without the puck.

More: Will Moritz Seider get a look from Red Wings this season?

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