Almquist makes most of chances
Rookie defenseman doesn't take time with Wings for granted
|Rookie defenseman Adam Almquist doesn't shy away from the physical aspects of the game, but he will benefit from gaining size and strength. (Photo by Dave Reginek)|
DETROIT – Adam Almquist has the necessary skills to turn a game around quickly, which he showcased in the Red Wings’ preseason opening win, potting two power-play goals on slap shots from the point.
The rookie defenseman, who was Detroit’s seventh-round draft, the second-from-last amateur player chosen in 2009, has definitely continued to receive rave reviews since training camp began this month.
“You come to this camp and I see his name up in this dressing room. I sure never planned on that,” coach Mike Babcock said. “That’s the great thing about life is you actually get to make an impression and you get to choose each and every day and he’s done that. He’s come to camp and he’s got his name up in the dressing room.”
Almquist isn’t sure how long his name will remain above a locker stall at Joe Louis Arena, however, while the rest of his minor-league teammates were sent to Grand Rapids this week, it’s a good sign that the Swedish defenseman was back practicing with the big club on Tuesday.
“You just take it day by day and work hard and see what happens,” said Almquist, who, barring an injury to any of the Wings’ regular blue-liners, will be re-assigned to the Griffins by Monday, the deadline for NHL teams to submit their 23-man rosters.
There are 29 players still in camp with the Wings, including eight defensemen, which makes conducting drills easier with an even number of bodies. The same thing happened in the Wings’ abbreviated training camp last January when they called up Brian Lashoff as the eighth defenseman.
Early-season injuries necessitated Lashoff’s return to the Wings’ lineup in the first week of the 2013 season. He played well enough to earn more ice time and eventually played 31 games with the Wings.
Whether that same acceleration to the NHL can occur to Almquist, time will tell.
“We haven’t talked too much about it, but he’s a guy that came up last year and knows what’s going on,” Almquist said, referring to Lashoff. “He’s a guy I can go to and ask for advice and how to act in the NHL. He’s a nice guy to give me some help.
“It would be really fun to start here, but I don’t know what’s going to happen. Just take it day by day.”
Although on the small side, Almquist (5-foot-11, 174-pounds) does intrigue the Wings’ coaching staff. While he must fill out and add strength, those attributes will come with time. What the Wings like in Almquist is that he’s a fundamental sound puck-moving defenseman who makes good decisions in the defensive end of the ice.
“He’s talented. He moves the puck. He’s an undersized guy, but his skill set and hockey sense are so good that he might be able to play,” Babcock said. “He’s got to have a huge winter and a great summer next summer and see what happens. It looks to me his mind and athleticism are NHL (ready), but his body is small.”
Almquist, 22, has had success at every level, having played on championship teams with HV71 in the Swedish Elite League and last spring with the Griffins in the AHL. He also led the SEL with a plus-20 rating during the 2010-11 season.
But Almquist isn’t taking anything for granted this week.
“I was just going in and try to do the best I can and play as good as possible,” he said. “I think I’ve played alright so far. This is a nice bonus to still be here with these guys.”