TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – Alexey Marchenko could have stayed in Russia with his wife, but the Red Wings prospect felt it was necessary to attend the organization’s five-day development camp even if he couldn’t work on-ice with the other 43 campers.
“It was very important to come just because I needed to come and work out with the guys,” said Marchenko, who is recovering from a broken right ankle. “Right now I’m coming back from the surgery and I need to work out to know what I can do, what I can’t do. It’s step by step.”
The 22-year-old Marchenko was injured in a February game against Milwaukee when he went feet-first into the boards. An MRI revealed a fractured bone and a day later he had surgery in Grand Rapids where doctors inserted stabilizing screws into his ankle.
The Red Wings didn’t expect Marchenko to attend the camp for former draft picks, free agents and invited college and junior players, but they were impressed by his desire to come to his second development camp in northern Michigan.
“I know Alexey really wants to skate,” said Grand Rapids coach Jeff Blashill, who ran the on-ice practices. “He’s probably the one that’s pushed this harder than anybody. We really want him to be ready for the fall and whatever it takes for him to be ready, I think, part of that is being cautious during this time of year so that he can get back here. He’s going to come back to the U.S. in early August and start training really heavy but he wanted to get on the ice before he headed back to Russia so good for him.”
Marchenko made his NHL debut with the Red Wings in Dallas last January. Though he only played in the one game, it was still a fantastic learning experience for the youngster who played in the AHL All-Star Game last year.
“It was great to be called up. It was great to be up with the guys,” he said. “It was a good experience to be with the team to see how they work out, how they prepare for the games. I just followed Niklas Kronwall, he was like, ‘Come on, let’s go to the gym’ and we worked out after the game. Just to see what you have to do in the game, you go back to G.R. and you know what you have to work on.”
Now he has to work on getting back into the game.
Marchenko had the stabilizing screws remove last week. He skated on his own for three days, testing the ankle for approximately 20 minutes each day, while occasionally moving to the bench to talk with Griffins trainer John Bernal.
While he was disappointed that he couldn’t participate in the on-ice drills, Marchenko was satisfied with how the off-ice training went.
“This time I was more on my own program,” he said. “The reason to be here was just to feel my ankle. I didn’t take part on the practices so I was just working with the trainers and the strength coach to build power. Working with the trainers has really helped me strength my ankle, so it feels better.”
Marchenko will head back to Russia this week before heading back to the United States where he will work out next month with Octagon Sports in Minneapolis before he reports to the Red Wings training camp in September.
FINAL IMPRESSIONS: Development camp came to a conclusion Tuesday with Team Yzerman’s 5-1 intra-squad scrimmage victory over Team Lidstrom before a packed crowd at Centre Ice Arena.
Red Wings draftees Mike McKee and James de Haas, and camp invitees Hayden Hodgson, Hampus Gustafsson, and Alex Globke paced the Team Yzerman win. Colgate junior Blake Clarke scored the lone goal for Team Lidstrom.
“If the players take one thing away from this camp take away the level of work ethic and the daily attention to detail that the Detroit Red Wings organization demands,” Blashill said. “Hopefully, if they can walk away with that knowledge it will help them a lot and prepare them become Red Wings in the future, so in the near future, some in the not-so future.”
The camp had different mean for the two young stars, both expected to be NHL stars, though one sooner than the other.
“It gave me a look into what it means to be a pro,” said Larkin, who will be a freshman at the University of Michigan in the fall. “It wasn’t just about being on the ice, but what it takes to be a pro off of the ice, working out, we had a cooking class, we had a social media presentation. All of it ties back into being a professional, representing your team and yourself.”
As a second-year pro, Mantha understands that the organization has typically taken patient approach to developing its young prospects but he knows his time will come.
“This year was more about a leadership role because I knew what was happening,” Mantha said. “I knew what I was coming here for.”
Mantha expects to fight for a spot on the Red Wings’ roster at training camp. He knows it won’t be easy, but he plans to work hard for the opportunity.
“It would be a lie if I told you I want to play in Grand Rapids next year,” Mantha said. “First, I want to start in Detroit but I need to get ready. I have to bring my A-game to main camp and we’ll see from there.”
PASSIONATE: Ken Holland liked what he saw as dozens of prospects skated Sunday morning at Centre Ice Arena.
The Red Wings’ general manager was amazed by their passion. But he wasn’t talking about the players on the ice. Nope, the GM gave kudos to fans like Perry and Jeanette Nusnell, who were camped outside for some 30 hours to purchase tickets to the Red Wings training camp in September.
“They’re the only hobby I’ve really got,” said Perry, whose favorite Red Wings is Johan Franzen. “Coming over here is important to me because you can get up close and personal with the players, and actually you get to talk to some of them sometimes.”
Lifelong Red Wings fans, who make it to Joe Louis Arena 3-5 times each season, the Nusnells, of Elmira, which is about 12 miles west of Gaylord, where first in line outside the northern Michigan arena Sunday morning before 7.
“We wanted to be here that early to get the seats that I want,” said Perry, 57. “We’ve been doing this since 2000. At first it was my dad and I, and then he passed away and then my wife stepped in to become my hockey partner.”
Heavy rains rolled through the Grand Traverse region overnight but didn’t dampen spirits of those looking to get their hands on tickets.
“It wasn’t too bad,” Perry said. “We had our umbrellas and tarps.”
EXPECTED PROSPECTORS: The Red Wings will return to northern Michigan in two months for the NHL Prospects Tournament, held from Sept. 12-16. The 16th annual tournament is the oldest of its kind in the league.
The Red Wings will begin the defense of their 2013 championship on Sept. 12 in an eight-team field that includes the Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues.
Detroit’s lineup will feature former draft picks and signed free agents Marchenko, Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, Tyler Bertuzzi, Zach Nastasiuk, Dominic Turgeon, Marc McNulty, Richard Nedomlel, Jake Paterson, Tomas Nosek and Scott Czarnowczan. Expected to round out the Red Wings’ tournament roster are undrafted junior and graduated college players – forwards Blake Clarke, Hayden Hodgson, Darby Llewellyn, Brandon Robinson, and defensemen Kevin Clare, Joe Hicketts and Logan Schmidt, and goalie Andrew D'Aostini – who participated in this week’s development camp.
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