The Detroit Red Wings have a 6-foot-5, 215-pound defenseman who is quietly developing into a quality prospect on the Canadian Hockey League’s No. 1 team.
Mitchell Wheaton, who the Red Wings drafted in the fifth round, 139th overall, last June, is a key member of the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets, who are ranked No. 1 in the CHL and currently locked in a quarter-final battle with the Seattle Thunderbirds after a 57-11-4 regular season.
The 19-year-old had seven goals and 21 assists for 28 points along with a plus-31 rating in 57 games in the regular season, and has followed that up with three assists and a plus-4 rating in seven playoff contests.
Head coach Ryan Huska described Wheaton as the team’s “most consistent defenseman” in a recent Kelowna Daily Courier article, lauding his vision. Similar comments were made by assistant coach Dan Lambert earlier this season.
“You see how much game sense he has,” Lambert told the Kelowna Capital News in December. “Typically guys his size are more physical and play that big, more brutal game. Mitch does have some of that, but certainly his biggest asset is his vision and his ability to break pucks out of our end.”
Wheaton missed half of his draft year with a serious shoulder injury, but managed to record a goal and seven assists in 39 games.
He is expected to return to the WHL in 2014-15 and the Red Wings don’t have to sign him until June 1, 2015.
The Rockets have a 2-0 lead on Seattle in the best-of-seven quarter-finals
Also on Kelowna’s roster is winger Marek Tvrdon, who started the season in the pros but ended up back in the WHL after struggling mightily. Tvrdon, one of the older players in the WHL, is fourth in team scoring with four goals and three assists in seven games.
Elsewhere in the CHL: Andreas Athanasiou’s Barrie Colts are down 2-0 to the North Bay Battalion in the OHL quarter-finals; Tyler Bertuzzi’s Guelph Storm are tied 1-1 with the London Knights in another OHL quarter-final; and Anthony Mantha’s Val-d’Or Foreurs are tied 1-1 with the Drummondville Voltigeurs in the QMJHL quarter-finals.
NOTES: Mantha won QMJHL’s Michel Briere Trophy as most valuable player to add to the Jean Beliveau Trophy as the league’s top scorer … Center Luke Glendening signed a three-year contract extension this week … Defenseman Ben Marshall (Minnesota, NCAA) will play in the Frozen Four starting April 10. Marshall, whose signing deadline isn’t until August 2015, is second in team defense scoring with three goals and 15 assists in 37 games while leading the team with 61 blocks and 56 penalty minutes … Right-winger Zach Nastasiuk signed an amateur tryout contract to finish the season with the Grand Rapids Griffins. He had no points and one shot in his pro debut … Goaltender Jake Paterson and defenseman Marc McNulty, also on amateur tryouts, have yet to play … Right-winger Mitchell Callahan (Grand Rapids, AHL) suffered a broken jaw, lost 10 teeth and had nine stitches after taking a Ryan Sproul slap shot to the mouth. He had surgery on Thursday. Callahan has 26 goals and 18 assists for 44 points along with a plus-23 and 51 penalty minutes in 70 games. “He’s been one of our best players all season long,” head coach Jeff Blashill told MLive.com. “With all that he plays, obviously it’s a significant loss.” … Right-winger Teemu Pulkkinen (Grand Rapids, AHL) sits tied for fourth in league goal-scoring with 30, while Adam Almquist’s 48 assists rank third … Forward Andrej Nestrasil (Grand Rapids, AHL) was named the Griffins’ player of the month for March. He had 13 points in 13 games … Goaltender Thomas McCollum (Grand Rapids, AHL) won the Griffins’ Man of the Year award. McCollum, a restricted free agent, will likely sign with the Red Wings this summer to share the Griffins’ goaltending duties with either Jake Paterson or Jordan Coreau, assuming Petr Mrazek graduates to Detroit … Defenseman Richard Nedomlel (Toledo, ECHL) has made the most of his time in the ECHL. “He plays with an edge every shift,” Walleye head coach Dan Watson told bcsn.tv. “He keeps it simple and smart. He is a very effective hockey player … He plays hard every night.” Nedomlel has eight goals and 10 assists along with a minus-14 rating in 57 contests … A pro scout told the Edmonton Journal that Alexei Marchenko is the Red Wings’ best prospect defenseman ahead of Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul. That’s one opinion, but the fact is, all three project as NHLers and each one brings something different. Marchenko is the safest and steadiest; Ouellet has the best blend of two-way ability; and Sproul has the most offensive upside.
Sarah Lindenau contributed to this report.
SKATERS: REGULAR-SEASON REPORT
|Almquist, Adam||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||69||4||48||52||56||+9||125|
|Callahan, Mitchell||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||70||26||18||44||51||+23||194|
|Jurco, Tomas||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||32||13||19||32||14||+10||91|
|Marchenko, Alexey||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||49||3||15||18||14||+11||34|
|Sheahan, Riley||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||31||8||10||18||12||-2||51|
|Sproul, Ryan||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||70||10||21||31||49||0||145|
|Glendening, Luke||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||18||5||7||12||18||+8||26|
|Jarnkrok, Calle||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||57||13||23||36||14||+19||99|
|Pulkkinen, Teemu||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||67||30||25||55||34||+18||194|
|Frk, Martin||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||48||3||9||12||22||-12||44|
|Jensen, Nick||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||42||0||9||9||6||+15||33|
|Tvrdon, Marek||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||1||0||0||0||0||0||3|
|Ferraro, Landon||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||66||15||15||30||48||-1||180|
|Aubry, Louis-Marc||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||37||2||2||4||16||-1||48|
|Fournier, Gleason||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||24||0||2||2||2||+4||18|
|Parkes, Trevor||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||32||5||3||8||23||+5||46|
|Nestrasil, Andrej||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||66||14||19||33||24||+1||104|
|Ouellet, Xavier||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||67||4||12||16||22||+4||87|
|Nedomlel, Richard||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||3||0||0||0||2||-2||1|
|Campbell, Colin||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||9||1||0||1||5||+1||13|
|Nastasiuk, Zach||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||1||0||0||0||0||0||1|
|Nastasiuk, Zach||Owen Sound||OHL||CHL||62||23||28||51||26||-14||–|
|McNulty, Marc||Prince George||WHL||CHL||67||17||25||42||115||-10||–|
|De Haas, James||Clarkson||ECAC||NCAA||37||6||7||13||18||-12||49|
|McKee, Mike||W. Michigan||BIG-10||NCAA||21||1||0||1||54||+1||11|
|Pope, David||W. Kelowna||BCHL||USHL/JR-A||45||27||23||50||20||–||–|
GOALIES: REGULAR SEASON REPORT
|Coreau, Jared||Grand Rapids||AHL||5||0||4||0||0||4.39||.873|
|Mrazek, Petr||Grand Rapids||AHL||30||22||7||1||3||2.03||.927|
|McCollum, Thomas||Grand Rapids||AHL||44||23||12||3||2||2.32||.920|
SKATERS: PLAYOFF REPORT
|Pope, David||W. Kelowna||BCHL||USHL/JR. A||6||2||4||6||2||—||—|
|Nastasiuk, Zach||Owen Sound||OHL||CHL||5||3||1||4||2||-4||—|
GOALIES: PLAYOFF REPORT