Filip Zadina took a pass from Michael Rasmussen and scored 16 seconds into overtime in Saturday’s scrimmage.
It was a fitting end to the Detroit Red Wings’ five-day development camp at the Belfor Training Center inside Little Caesars Arena.
The team’s two most-recent top draft picks, players who have generated much excitement within the organization and among the fanbase and are vital to the rebuilding efforts, collaborating on the winning goal.
It’s a scene the Red Wings hope will be repeated numerous times over many years – perhaps even in 2018-19.
Zadina, Rasmussen and Givani Smith, the club’s second pick in 2016 who’s expected to begin his pro career with the Grand Rapids Griffins in the fall, formed the top line for Team Howe, which defeated Team Lindsay 7-6.
“(Smith) played really well and did exactly what we need him to do at the pro level on that line,” Shawn Horcoff, Red Wings director of player development, said. “It’s fun watching skill. You can tell these guys have a bright future. This is hopefully the start of many viewings like that.”
Horcoff isn’t bothered by the hype surrounding Zadina (No. 6 overall this year) and Rasmussen (No. 9 in 2017), the club’s highest selections since 1990.
“I think it’s great,” Horcoff said. “They’re good players. You should get excited. We’re excited. The fans should be excited. That doesn’t mean they’re going to go out right away as 18-year-olds and dominate the league. It’s the best league in the world for a reason. We just have make sure we’re directing them toward doing the right things and all that should take care of itself.”
The Red Wings plan on giving Rasmussen, a 6-6, 221-pound center who’ll transition to the pro ranks on the wing, and Zadina, a 6-foot, 196-pound right wing, a good opportunity to earn roster spots in training camp and the preseason.
“If I play my best and work harder than the other players here, I can make it,” Zadina said. “It’s going to be very hard for me because it’s a pretty good team. I would love to play there, but it’s going to be lots of work ahead of me.”
Zadina is in town for another week to work out on and off the ice.
“I just want to work on being faster on the ice and stronger, pretty simple things,” he said.
Said Horcoff: “He’s got an elite skill package. He was dancing out there. He’s got to put on some strength, but he’s got all the skills to be a heck of a player in the league.”
Zadina felt a sense of relief after scoring. He later scored a nifty goal in a shootout.
“I was kind of nervous,” Zadina said. “I had lots of opportunities to score but I haven’t scored, so then it finally came, and I was happy.”
Said Rasmussen: “If you can get him the puck with two or three feet in front of him, he’ll shoot it and he’ll have a good opportunity to score. He doesn’t need much room.”
Smith said the first thing he noticed about Zadina was his hard shot and quick release.
“Fans saw out there this afternoon how many goals he can score,” Smith said.
Zadina can get used to playing with Rasmussen.
“He’s my guy,” Zadina said. “Hopefully he’s going to make the first team because he’s an unbelievable player and he’s strong. He knows how to pass the puck, too.
“We are pretty good players, so we know how to move the puck and shoot the puck. So, it’s not that hard for us to have good chemistry.”
Smith, a 6-2, 206-pound physical winger, was a nice complement on that line and scored the tying goal by banging in the puck from the crease.
“Both of them are awesome,” Rasmussen said. “Fil’s obviously very skilled. He can shoot the puck really well and just gets himself in good spots to shoot. G’s just a big player and he gets down low and in front of the net. Definitely cool to play with both of those guys.”
Defenseman Dennis Cholowski, the team’s top pick in 2016, was on the ice most of the time against the Rasmussen line.
“Dennis, you can tell, is an elite skater,” Horcoff said. “He’s got a great first pass. I’ve told him many times before, it’s going to come down to defense for him. Can he defend against the best players in the game? I thought he did a good job tonight. I think he’s getting better in that area. Each year he’s improved more. Now, I’m looking forward to seeing him in camp.”
Cholowski will compete with Filip Hronek and Joe Hicketts for a spot on the Red Wings’ roster in the fall.
Jack Adams scored twice for Team Lindsay, which also got goals from Otto Kivenmaki, Taro Hirose, David Pope and Colt Conrad. In addition to Zadina and Smith, Team Howe also got goals from Rasmussen, Brady Gilmour, Mattias Elfstrom, Luke Morgan and Chase Pearson.