The Detroit Red Wings had just finished up their prospect camp in Traverse City, Michigan, and the frustration of striking out in free agency was nowhere to be found.
Instead, the optimism of youth was everywhere. There was Anthony Mantha, the big, talented winger making another strong impression on coaches and management following a season in juniors in which he scored 81 goals in 81 regular-season and playoff games.
The message to him from the Red Wings is that he has an opportunity in training camp to make the team, unusual for a club that rarely skips a step in the developmental cycle.
“Every player wants to rush the process,” Mantha said when we chatted after the camp. “It would be a lie telling you I want to play in [AHL] Grand Rapids next year. For sure, I want to start in Detroit.”
And then there was 22-year-old Russian defenseman Alexey Marchenko, absent from the ice but continuing to progress from the ankle injury that ended his AHL season. Detroit was unable to add a right-handed-shot defenseman in free agency, with Dan Boyle and Matt Niskanen picking the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals, respectively, over Detroit.
Unless general manager Ken Holland pulls off a trade, which doesn't happen often during his summers, Marchenko has a chance to take advantage of the lack of right-handed shots in the Detroit defensive corps.