The Red Wing finished up a solid development camp. We've got some good players coming through Grand Rapids next year. But perhaps the most important thing that I noticed at Development Camp was the progression of goaltender and 3rd round pick Jake Paterson. (Not to be confused with Jake Patterson, who was also at camp on a tryout basis and looked decent)
I'll admit after watching Jonas Gustavsson stink his way though seven starts, I was legitimately worried about our goaltending depth. Petr Mrazek is going to be a stud without a doubt, but he needs to play 30+ games this year to develop, and is primed to anchor Grand Rapids to a repeat Calder Cup.
In fact, I wouldn't at all be surprised if Gustavsson and Mrazek split backup duties even more so this year, having Howard take 55+ games Gustavsson playing 12 and Mrazek being called up to play in about 12. I'd be OK with that (as long as Gus only plays against Florida, Buffalo, Phoenix and Colorado and Howard stays completely injury free)
Here's what I see happening post 2014. Wings wave goodbye to Gustavsson and promptly forget he ever played. Move Mrazek to full time backup duty and sign a veteran third string for emergencies. Paterson fresh off another outstanding season in Saginaw, moves over to Grand Rapids and immediately takes over the role left by Mrazek. This would be ideal and set Detroit up for hopefully solid home-grown goaltending for the next 15 years. It might be wishful thinking, but there is a reason why no one can remember the last Wing draft pick that went straight to the NHL. They just don't do it. (I don't count Danny DeKeyser. He is an old soul and was a UFA)
And there's a reason for it. The NHL today is a ridiculously tough league to play in, and I mean physically tough. Players just aren't ready for that after breezing through Junior and skating circles around lesser opponents. Why else do you think in the past four regular seasons no rookie was able to top the 65 point plateau and the last goaltender to come out of juniors straight to NHL to win the Calder award, Steve Mason in 2008...what ever happened to that guy's game?
Anyway, I digress. I'm looking forward to the Wings goaltending future thanks in part to Jake Paterson's progression.
A quick word on the "grit factor". Folks are saying all over the place that the Wings will get run over in the Eastern conference. That they don't play physical enough or fight enough to handle it. Folks, there is a difference between being physical and being stupid. The Wings come to compete every night. Do you think Pavel Datsyuk or Hendrik Zetterberg play soft? How about Justin Abdelkader or Niklas Kronwall? Don't worry about the Wings, they can handle playing physical just fine.
How many more days until opening night?