TRAVERSE CITY — After Marco Kasper’s season ended due to a broken kneecap last spring, he went back to Sweden to finish his senior year of high school.
“It was stressful, playing hockey all the time,” he said of his final year of schooling. “I would go to school after practice. It was (also) a lot of fun, going to school with my friends. I got to meet a lot of new friends.”
Kasper made more friends over the summer during his rehab in Detroit.
“It’s fun to be around all the guys,” he said Friday after practice at Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City. “And getting to know the new coaching staff. They’re all great guys. It’s fun to be back on the ice again. We just have to keep competing hard.”
Grand Rapids coach Dan Watson, who is coaching the Red Wings team in the NHL. Prospects tournament this weekend, is impressed with Kasper’s compete level and more.
“He’s got good stick detail,” Watson said. “He’s gonna find that offensive touch this year, for sure. But again just another smart player, moves his feet well and makes the players around him better. I liked his game (Thursday).”
It was Kasper’s first game since suffering a broken kneecap against Toronto in his NHL debut last season.
“It was a good game,” Kasper said of Thursday’s game. “A couple of turnovers cost us at the end of the game. We played hard. It was a gold first game.”
Kasper worked diligently in rehabbing the knee during offseason workouts in Detroit. So much so that Director of Player Development Dan Cleary fretted at one point that Kasper was working too hard.
Kasper asserted there was nothing to fear.
“I did some extra work to make sure the knee was good to go,” he said. “I think I know my body well and when I need a rest. I really like to practice, and as long as I benefit I’m going to practice for as longest I can.”
His practice goals go beyond hockey. Kasper, an Austria. who speaks German and English, picked up Swedish while playing there, likes to keep his Swedish on point while speaking with Swedish teammates Elmer Soderblom and William Wallinder during workouts this summer.
He also boasts a skill most high school graduates don’t — cooking.
“I can cook salmon or steak,” he says. “No microwaving.”
Kasper’s odds of making the Red Wings in next week’s training camp are long, but team officials have liked what they’ve seen thus far and have the expectations a former first-round pick dictates.
“I just have to focus on myself, play a 200-foot game and compete really hard,” he said.
He and the Red Wings hope that eventually will be a recipe for success.