(Editor’s Note: This is another installment of Detroit Hockey Now updates on some of the Detroit Red Wings’ top prospects)
Detroit Red Wings draft pick Dylan James and the team’s director of player development Dan Cleary have differing views on how his freshman season at North Dakota played out.
James said the season went “pretty well.” He wished he could have had a better start. James acknowledges it was difficult to get accustomed to a higher level, new coach and different system.
“I thought he had a good season,” Cleary said, “the opposite of what he thinks.”
This is what Cleary saw from James: “He came in and had to find his way. He made some freshman mistakes and had to sit but that’s all part of it. At the end of the day I always look at where you are at the end of the season. At the end of the season, he was trending upwards. Out there in the last minute. I was in Omaha watching and he scored a great goal shorthanded. He’s playing in the regionals as an important player. That’s what I look at. ”
The fact that James wished he could have done more this past season may highlight how badly he wants to keep improving.
James finished with eight goals and 16 points in 32 games as a freshman at North Dakota. He looked strong at the Red Wings Development camp, particularly visible in the 3 v 3 tournament.
“He’s a legit rink rat,” Cleary said. “He doesn’t leave. Everybody might have been gone by 1 or 2. He was here until 4:30. Asked him: “What are you doing here? He said looking at sticks, messing around. He just doesn’t like to leave. I liked him a lot.”
There’s plenty James needs to work on to improve his overall game. But the Red Wings view him as being on a professional track. He has the skating and instincts to be an NHL scorer. His skating is a plus, but the Red Wings are asking him to take it to another level.
“Skating coaches keep telling me things,” James said. ” Keeping my upper body upright is something I have to work on. Doing that makes me see the ice better.”
This is an important sophomore season for James. His role should be expanded at North Dakota. He will kill penalties, log more minutes, be on the ice when the game is on the line.
“Near the end of the year, I was on the (penalty) kill, and on at the end, I think coach started to trust me at the end,” James said.
Cleary keeps in regular contact with James. “It’s good to hear what he has to say. Obviously he had a good career in the NHL. I take what he says to heart.”
Ideally, James would have an exceptional season and turn professional next spring. But players all develop at their own rate. If you ask the Red Wings what they want from James this season, they would say continual improvement.
When the Red Wings drafted James, director of amateur scouting Kris Draper joked that he was glad James was going to North Dakota because there was not much to do there. He would have plenty of time to concentrate on hockey. James said Draper was correct. But he recently bought a guitar because he wants to learn how to play.
More importantly, James loving being in such a passionate hockey environment.
“Even before warm-ups there are 5,000 students across the ice, waiting for your to come out,” James said. “It’s crazy, every game I looked up and looked at the students, so passionate, It’s so cool.”