Traverse City Record-Eagle

July 13, 2013

Young players revel in attention at Wings camp

By JAMES COOK jcook@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — After interviews wrapped up following the Detroit Red Wings Development camp scrimmage, Simon Denis leaned over to Jason Binkley.

“This is more media than we’ve seen in three years,” Denis said.

“That’s what it’s like in the show,” Binkley said.

The two Ferris State junior defensemen stepped in at the last minute to fill out Team Lidstrom in Friday’s scrimmage at Centre ICE. Their squad dominated on the scoreboard, defeating Team Yzerman 7-1 as the pair of Bulldogs blueliners played against the Red Wings’ top prospects for 60 minutes.

Grand Rapids Griffins coach Jeff Blashill called Ferris State to see if they had any players around who could fill in for some injured development camp players.

“There’s a lot of young talent here, and we’re just happy enough to get this opportunity,” Denis said. “It’s a really lucky opportunity. We’re really glad coach Blashill called us up to play this game. You get to see the opportunity of the NHL and a lot of guys who are going to be at that stage. It’s a tremendous honor.”

Blashill — who was an assistant coach at Ferris from 1999-2002 — needed the pair to replace injured blueliner Mitchell Wheaton and Darren Helm, who was held out of the game as he returns from a back injury that cost him all but one contest last season.

“They both came in and played well,” Blashill said. “They’re obviously both in really good shape. I thought some guys were getting really tired — and those two weren’t.”

“It’s definitely quite an experience that I don’t think Simon or I will either forget,” said Binkley, who even added a shootout goal to his night.

Since the two hadn’t participated in the camp earlier, Team Lidstrom coaches Tomas Holmstrom and Chris Chelios kept them together as a defense pairing. Not only have they been on the same team at Ferris for two seasons, but also were on the same United States Hockey League team before that.

“That was really nice, being able to play (alongside) Simon,” Binkley said. “We just know each other. We played together, even before college. We’re going on a four-year relationship now. I’m getting sick of him (laughs). It’s nice to play with someone who I know and who I can communicate with and who speaks the same language as I do, too. That’s always nice.”

Martin Frk, a 2012 second-round pick, scored two goals and assisted on another and 2013 first-round pick Anthony Mantha also scored twice and assisted once.

“Frk is really crafty, great with the puck, can skate, finisher,” Chelios said. “Mantha looks like a kid that got drafted really high.”

“Frk was really good,” Blashill said. “He’s a guy who knows how to find the net. He knows how to get open. On our power play stuff, you could tell he’s a guy who has really good instincts. I think he’s got a chance to be a really good player.”

But Denis and Binkley also helped the defense pitch a near-shutout, which isn’t easy in a game without a lot of physical play.

“They’re college kids that can skate,” Chelios said. “Both looked like really smart players and they held their own.”

One physical moment included Tyler Bertuzzi and Frk. The two collided in the corner — each claimed to be the one hitting the other — and Bertuzzi’s helmet flew up in the air even with the railing on the mezzanine level.

“I didn’t mean to,” Frk said. “I think I put my stick too high and I probably hit him with my stick in the eye or chin. I didn’t mean to. I felt bad after.”

Lidstrom went up early on Zach Nastasiuk’s goal 3:10 into the game. Frk and 2013 fourth-rounder David Pope made it 3-0, and then Ryan Sproul set up Frk for another to take a 4-0 advantage into the intermission.

The contest was set up with two 30-minute periods, with no time served in the box for penalties. Any penalty — and there was only one — resulted in the opposing team being awarded a penalty shot. The second period included each team getting one four-minute power play. The game was followed by a 19-round shootout, with each side scoring four times.

In the second period, Richard Nedomlel and Mantha added goals on Lidstrom’s power play, while the defense held Yzerman off the board during its four-minute advantage.

Yzerman finally got on the board with 5:50 left on Dane Walters’ goal assisted by Andreas Athanasiou and Marek Tvrdon. Walters is a camp invite from Western Michigan University.

Mantha scored off a Dean Chelios assist with 1.5 ticks left for the final 7-1 margin.

“It was kind of a lop-sided affair here,” Chris Chelios said. “Our team played pretty well. Those key guys were our first two picks (Frk and Mantha). I was pretty impressed by them.”

In the shootout, Lidstrom’s goals came from Frk, Ty Loney, Binkley and Nastasiuk, while Yzerman’s Michael Babcock, James DeHaas and Alexei Marchenko (twice) scored.