When the Detroit Red Wings drafted Zack Torquato, they saw him as a guy who’d put up 100-plus points in each of his next two seasons.
They certainly didn’t anticipate him failing to surpass his draft-year total of 69 points, but that’s exactly what happened as Torquato was stuck on the lowly Erie Otters and forced to wallow in the Ontario Hockey League basement.
But give Torquato credit. In his fourth OHL season, he put 63 points on the board and captained the Otters to the playoffs. And in his first post-season appearance since 2006, he put up six points in five games before the Otters were knocked out by the powerful London Knights last week.
His 29 goals were a career-best.
“It’s tough when you’re playing on a team that’s not making the playoffs year after year,” said Red Wings director of amateur scouting Joe McDonnell. “Your development may be stunted a little bit, playing on poor teams, but he continued to work through it, and they made the playoffs.
“That’s a big positive for him and for Erie as well.”
The question for the Red Wings now is whether or not to sign the 6-foot, 195-pound center. Torquato has incredibly soft hands and is a smart all-around player, but he’s a poor skater and not a prototypical checking-line type.
For a sixth-round pick, though, there is hope that Torquato can find a niche, and McDonnell said he will sit down with assistant general manager Jim Nill in the next month or two to debate offering him a contract.
Skating should be Torquato’s main priority in the off-season.
“It can always get better,” McDonnell said. “He needs to continually work at it and develop it and get better at it, and he knows that, too.”
If Torquato isn’t signed by June 1, he can re-enter the NHL draft.
* Forward Dick Axelsson took a shot off the hand last week and will likely miss three weeks, which would keep him out of the Farjestad lineup against HV-71 in the Swedish Elite League championship series.
Axelsson, an enigmatic and unpredictable character who boasts off-the-charts offensive skill, made progress with Farjestad after being kicked off Djurgarden in December for poor on- and off-ice work ethic.
He put up 18 points in 21 games with Farjestad, good for 30 points in 39 games overall. If he had scored all season at the pace he did with Farjestad, he would have finished among the league’s top 10 scorers.
* Red Wings Central owes a correction to forward Brent Raedeke (Edmonton, Western Hockey League). He actually squeaked into the WHL playoffs after the Oil Kings won a tiebreaker, but Brandon swept his club in four straight. Information on RWC indicated he had not made the playoffs.
Raedeke, a free-agent signing out of training camp, is a solid prospect who will make his money as a checker. There are elements of his game that remind of Darren Helm, but Helm was faster and a 40-goal scorer at the same age.
McDonnell said the Red Wings are “excited about him, for sure.”
“He’s a very good two-way guy, and a guy they relied on heavily,” said McDonnell. “He had a great year, for a guy who wasn’t drafted, and (an expansion) team like that making the playoffs … he was a huge part of that.”
* Another correction is in order as well. The Red Wings’ “goalie curse” is worse than RWC indicated last week. Somehow, we failed to mention Frederic Deschenes (114th, 1994), a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League product who didn’t get signed despite impressive stats; and Jamie Kosecki (256th, 1993), a high school pick who played a grand total of one NCAA game.
* Forward Joakim Andersson (Frolunda, Swedish Elite League) saw his season come to a halt in the Swedish semifinals. He had no points in 11 post-season games, but is expected to sign with Detroit in the next month or two.
* A couple of former Red Wings draft picks have played prominent roles in HV-71′s run to the Swedish final. Blue-liner David Petrasek (226th in 1998) leads all defensemen in scoring with 10 points in 13 games. He also have 30 penalty minutes. Goaltender Stefan Liv (102nd in 2000) has a sensational 1.73 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage in 13 starts.
* Goaltender Jimmy Howard (Grand Rapids, American Hockey League) was named his team’s “man of the year” for the second straight season, a testament to the 25-year-old’s character and community involvement. Howard, who sports a 2.49 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage in 41 starts, is one of 29 finalists for the AHL’s Yanick Dupre Memorial Award.
Ryan Oulahen has a dislocated hip and is expected to be out for the season. The defensive-minded center was having a solid campaign, with 19 goals among 31 points in 73 games, the best numbers of his AHL career.
* Defenseman Brian Lashoff (Grand Rapids, AHL) made his AHL debut this week on a tryout contract and recorded an assist in the contest.
* Forward Stephen Johnston (Belleville, OHL) is out with a lower-body injury.