Red Deer Rebels forward Lane Zablocki beamed about his time in Detroit.
The gritty winger, sporting a Tigers ball cap on Thursday at practice in Red Deer, said his time in the Motor City taught him a variety of lessons about the NHL game.
Skating alongside Red Wings stalwart Henrik Zetterberg, in particular, was a huge highlight, he said. The Swedish centerman has played his entire 12-year career in Detroit, and has been the captain for the last four seasons.
“Just watching him … every time he touches the puck everyone’s eyes are on him. (Watching) those kind of guys, is just a big eye opener for me.” Zablocki said.
Zablocki, 19, was drafted in the third round, 79th overall by the Detroit this summer.
The six-foot, 182-pound winger said beyond the physical difference, he got more comfortable as camp went on and hopes he can carry that strength to the WHL this season.
“Seeing those guys out there, they’re not taller. They’re a lot stronger, but they’re not huge,” Zablocki said.
“They’re smart, they just make the right play all the time and they are quick with their decisions. It shows that you don’t have to be a real big guy out there to make an impact.”
For the time being, the Wetaskawin native will try to make his impact felt on the ice at the Centrium when the Rebels open the season at home against the Edmonton Oil Kings on Saturday.
Zablocki said he hopes to apply what he learned with the Red Wings, including getting stronger and making faster plays, to his games this season.
More than 64 games with the Regina Pats and Rebels last year, Zablocki had 28 goals and 54 points last year. In 18 career playoff games between Regina and Red Deer, he also has 15 goals.
“I think I’m going to be the same player as last year,” said Zablocki. “Just better in little areas. Making better decisions out there and more discipline. Little things that can make me a better player and better teammate.
“It feels like training camp just started. Now that I’m back, I think everyone in the room is ready to start playing some games and I’m really looking forward to it.”