Red Wings coach Blashill: Svechnikov, other young prospects better off in minors for now

MONTREAL—When the Detroit Red Wings needed possible reinforcement, they went with an older farm player rather than a top prospect.

Ben Street, a veteran of all of 29 NHL games, was called up Tuesday to have available for the evening game against the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre. Before the game, coach Jeff Blashill explained why Street, who at 30 is well past development age, got the nod over Evgeny Svechnikov, the Wings’ first-round pick from 2015.

“The one thing with the younger prospects is, this is a situation where a guy may or may not play,” Blashill said. “And you sure don’t want a guy’s first NHL game and potentially fly parents in and then they don’t play. So that’s one thing we are very cognizant of.

“Two, probably just as importantly, with younger prospects, and I have been in this situation, lots of times they are way better off just continuing to focus on playing down there and developing rather than the roller coaster ride of up and down and up and down. So that is something we stay very cognizant of.”

Blashill added that Street is “somebody who I know can step in and do a good job if called upon. He won’t be fazed by the moment.” When Frans Nielsen was able to play, Street was re-assigned to Grand Rapids.

Svechnikov, on the other hand, is in his first year of pro hockey. He has shown growth in the second half, stepping up into a bigger role and taking over some of the minutes vacated when Anthony Mantha joined the Wings after starting the season with Grand Rapids, contributing 17 goals among 40 points in 62 games. With two two-point games over the past 10 days, Svechnikov, 20, has helped put the Griffins first in their division. While the Wings are all but mathematically eliminated from the NHL playoffs, the Griffins are headed for the AHL version.

“We think success in Grand Rapids and a potentially long playoff run is a huge part of development,” Blashill said. “That has been a process that we have gone about for the last five, six years. Keeping those guys in a position where they are having success is a really important thing and hopefully they can continue to finish this regular season strong and go on a long playoff run. That is a huge thing for development.”

The Wings got a good look at prospect Tyler Bertuzzi this season. With less than three weeks to go, should the Wings need further reinforcements, likely candidates to be called up include forwards Matt Lorito and Eric Tangradi, and defenseman Joe Hicketts (the Wings already have two callups on defense in their lineup in Nick Jensen and Robbie Russo).

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(c)2017 Detroit Free Press

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