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Pope must be upwardly mobile

May 11, 2018, 7:56 PM ET [7 Comments]
Bob Duff
Detroit Red Wings Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Is David Pope’s hockey career upwardly mobile? The Detroit Red Wings opted to roll the dice that it will be.

The Wings signed Pope, who they selected 109th overall in the 2013 NHL entry draft, to a two-year entry-level deal earlier this week after he finished a four-year NCAA career with Nebraska-Omaha. Pope is 23, so he’s already behind the eight-ball in terms of earning his way up the ladder as a pro prospect.

Certainly, inking Pope to a pact is a definite gamble, but the Wings are making a habit of taking chances and making reaches of late. Signing free agent defenseman Libor Sulak and trading for the rights to forward Dylan Sadowy over the previous two summers are two examples of this gambling strategy as the club seeks to make up for a run of draft failures.

“Time’s going to tell,” Detroit director of player development Shawn Horcoff told Mlive.com of Pope. “He’s had to earn everything in his life. He’s a little bit of a late bloomer. He’s a winger that gets up and down the ice pretty well and he’s a guy that can shoot it. So you put him with good players, put him in position to score goals, he’s going to put it away.

“We’re hoping he can come to camp and show us that.”

He’ll get his first chance to do so at the club’s post-draft development camp. The 6-3, 194-pound left-winger took clear steps forward as a senior at Nebraska-Omaha in terms of production, finishing second in the NCAA with 12 power-play goals.

“He’s a big kid, got good size, got a long reach,” Horcoff said. “He’s wiry, hard to knock down. He’s kind of slippery out there. But he’s a shooter.

“He’s a kid that has improved his skating over the years and I think that’s helped him get to the areas where he can score. He’s great on the PP, he’s got a real good one-timer off the flank and a great wrist shot in stride, but he’s a kid that’s really come on the last couple of years and had a great senior year last year.

“We’re happy to sign him.”

At the same time, the club recognizes that Pope is a project and with his advanced age in terms of hockey prospect status, he’s a limited time offer, hence the two-year deal. And he’s got to work quickly to make it happen and make the necessary improvements to his game to gain an NHL chance.

“Just strength, adding more speed to his game,” Horcoff listed as the top items on Pope’s to-do list. “It’s going to be the little things with him that make him a successful winger in the NHL. His board play, he’s competitive but I think it’s been easy for him in college, so he’s just going to need to raise his compete level a little bit. I think strength is going to be the biggest thing.”

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