Hronek Takes Promising Steps At Worlds
The Detroit Red Wings came home from the IIHF world hockey championship without a gold medal - unless you count the gold won by Wings hopeful Oliwer Kaski with Finland - but they come hope filled with hope at the promise shown during the tournament by Filip Hronek.
Hronek came home empty-handed in terms of a medal. The Czech Republic lost to Russia in the bronze-medal game. But he was named the top defenseman of the tournament after leading all rearguards in scoring with 3-8-11 totals in 10 games.
The Wings would like to see Hronek turn that dominant experience into a similar role on their back end during the 2019-20 NHL season but recognize that when it comes to young defenseman, the learning curve tends to be long and steep.
“I’ve said this a lot here lately and I think it’s important to say it, though,” said Wings coach Jeff Blashill, who coached Team USA at the worlds in Slovakia. “As this league’s gotten younger, everyone says the league’s younger, the league’s younger, it’s about younger players. I agree with that to some level but I think if you really look at the defensemen in the league, they’re not super young.
“Certainly not the defensemen on winning teams are super young. Young defensemen have a hard time. It’s a hard league to be a young defenseman. It takes longer for a defenseman to become an elite type player than it does for a young forward. It’s just a fact. Go look around the league. I would say probably the same thing in net for the most part, but certainly with defensemen.
“It’s a process to get to be a top-pair type D. It doesn’t happen overnight.”
Blashill sees similarities between Hronek’s style and a prominent veteran NHL defender.
“I recruited Mark Giordano to Ferris State years ago,” Blashill explained. “He was committed to Ferris State, he was supposed to come. I ended up going to coach at Miami, he ended up going to play major junior.
“He’s a great comparable for me. Not super fast, not super big, but smart, can add offense, five-on-five and on the power play, and he’s hard to play against. That to me is a real comparable for Filip Hronek.
“I want him to become Mark Giordano. Now Mark Giordano, it took him 12 years to become Mark Giordano. I’m hoping Fil does that quicker. But that’s the reality of it. What steps can he take? Keep creating without giving as much up. That’s what players do.”
Wings forwards Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi did come home with silver medals after their Canadian team lost the gold-medal game to the Finns.
Sunday’s Memorial Cup final was also a heart-breaker for Wings prospect Jared McIsaac and the host Halifax Mooseheads. They lost the title game 4-2 to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies - the same team that beat Halifax in the QMJHL final.
Five Red Wings selections from the 2017 NHL entry draft are poised to go back into the draft pool if they are still left unsigned as of June 1.
Right-winger Lane Zablocki (79th overall), center Zach Gallant (83rd), defenseman Cole Fraser (131st), defenseman Reilly Webb (164th) and center Brady Gilmour (193rd) all remain unsigned.
Gallant finished the season with the ECHL Toledo Walleye after playing for the OHL’s Peterborough Petes, where he was captain of the team and a teammate of Fraser’s. Gilmour and Webb also spent the 2018-19 season in the OHL with the Saginaw Spirit.
Zablocki finished the season in Tier II junior with the BCHL’s Vernon Lakers after spending time with five different WHL clubs between 2016-19 - the Kelowna Rockets, Victoria Royals, Lethbridge Hurricanes, Red Deer Rebels and Regina Pats.
No other NHL team has more than three unsigned players remaining from their 2017 NHL entry draft class.
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