Cholowski Making His Mark
And then there was one.
The Detroit Red Wings began the NHL season with four rookie defensemen on the roster, Slowly but steadily, through attrition and the return of veterans from injury, that number has been whittled down to one. Libor Sulak, Filip Hronek and Joe Hicketts were all re-assigned to AHL Grand Rapids, leaving Dennis Cholowski - the guy who was thought to have the least chance of sticking with the big club out of this group - as the last rookie defenseman standing along the Detroit blueline.
And he is standing quite tall.
Cholowski, 21, Detroit’s top pick in the 2016 NHL entry draft, leads all NHL rookie defensemen in scoring with eight points in 13 games. Cholowski also has six power-play points, tops in the league among first-year players.
The Wings aren’t shy in admitting that they frankly doubted whether Cholowski had the stuff to make the jump directly into the NHL after finishing last season in major junior with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks.
“He came into camp and we weren’t sure where he sat in our group of young D and game-in-and-game-out he was the best one and really earned his way on our team,” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said. “I would say coming in he was on the outside looking in and he found a way to earn his way on a team.”
Cholowski skates in Detroit’s top defensive pairing with veteran Mike Green and has averaged 20:41 of ice time per game, second on the team. Perhaps the most impressive part of Cholowski’s success story is the poise and maturity that he’s displayed both on and off the ice.
“He moves the puck well,” Detroit center Dylan Larkin said. “He has his head up all the time.”
In conversation, Cholowski’s answers are both well spoken and well thought out and on the ice, there’s a similar erudite quality to his game.
“I’d say that’s one of the biggest things I try to have in my game,” Cholowski said. “Not panic about anything or make a play that’s not necessary, or just throw the puck away, or anything like that.
“I try to stay calm and poised with it.”
Larkin, who briefly left Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout win over the Vancouver Canucks with an undisclosed injury, did not participate in Wednesday’s practice and his status going forward wasn’t clear.
“He was out today, so we’ll see tomorrow,” Blashill said. “I expect him to practice tomorrow. He left the ice yesterday and was out for a little bit, but I don’t think it’s anything long-term, I think it’s part of the grind.”
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