When the music stopped on Friday, Chase Pearson had no chair. At least, no chair with the Detroit Red Wings.
The former University of Maine standout was the first player from the prime prospect group to assigned to the Grand Rapids farm team. Chase Pearson came into the training camp with a chance to be the Red Wings’ fourth-line center. However, it was clear early in training camp that trade acquisition Mitchell Stephens was the better player. Stephens had previously played for the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
Teammates and coach Jeff Blashill had some fun early in training camp talking about Pearson having “good lettuce in his bucket.” Translation: He has nice head of flowing hair.
The group still in camp includes prize rookies Moritz Seider, Lucas Raymond, Joe Veleno and Jonatan Berggren. Seider is considered a lock to make the team on defense and forwards Raymond, Veleno and Berggren are on the bubble
Veteran defensemen Brian Lashoff and Ryan Murphy were also sent to Grand Rapids and Adam Brubacher was released from his tryout contract. The Red Wings, with 35 players still in training camp, must get down to 23 before their season opener against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Detroit team has one exhibition game left against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday.
Veterans join Chase Pearson on the Cut List
For the rookies still left in training camp, it’s an anxious time as they wonder whether they will be in Detroit or Grand Rapids.
“I just try go out and play my I try to leave the distractions out of my head,” Veleno said. “I just kind of focus on: Play the game of hockey and have fun with it. And work as hard as you can and see what kind of outcome happens.”
Veleno has played better as the training camp has continued. He posted a goal and an assist Thursday against the Penguins. He has five points in the preseason games. Raymond has six points, but has been shut out in his past two games.
“It’s definitely tough,” Veleno said. “It’s not easy, especially during the preseason. You want to make the best impression.”
Veleno helped his chances by add some muscle in the offseason. He’s playing with more confidence acquired from his increased strength. “Using my size to my advantage is a big part of my game now,” Veleno said. “It’s definitely a huge advantage being more physical and finishing my hits.”
He says, “I’m really confident going into the battles, being hungry for the puck, knowing I have the strength.”
Veleno said he used to be more timid battling in the corner against bigger guys.
Blashill said Veleno has had a good training camp. “I thought this year,” Blashill said. “He turned his body into a man’s pro body.”
Said Blashill: “Is he stronger in battles? 100 percent. Does he win more pucks? Yes. Does he have a little more jump in his stride? Yes.”
But Blashill provided no hints about which way he’s leaning on Veleno. He says simply it’s not about making the team. It’s about whether Veleno can make the Red Wings better. “Way better,” Blashill said.