Holland Weighs In On Cholowski, Zadina, Yzerman Amid Red Wings' Hot Streak

The GM still has two years left on his contract.

Will Burchfield
November 21, 2018 - 11:15 pm

(Photo by Francois Laplante/FreestylePhoto/Getty Images)

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The Red Wings had one win through the first 10 games of the season. They have nine wins in 11 games since. It's a stretch of play that's lifted them up the Eastern Conference standings and left their general manager encouraged. 

Detroit entered play versus the Bruins on Wednesday night with a record of 9-9-2, five points out of the second wild card. 

"Obviously to be .500 the night before Thanksgiving after getting out of the gate 0-5-2, we’re pretty excited that we’ve played our way back into the group," said Ken Holland. 

At the core of that resurgence has been a number of young players, including Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha and rookie Michael Rasmussen. That trio has combined for 14 goals and 24 points in the past 10 games. Holland also pointed to 20-year-old defenseman Dennis Cholowski, who won a spot with the Wings in the preseason and hasn't looked back since.

Cholowski's emergence has served as a bit of redemption for Holland, who forfeited the chance to select defenseman Jakob Chychrun in the 2016 draft when he swapped first-round picks with Arizona in order to unload Pavel Datsyuk's cap hit. Holland took Cholowski four picks after Chychrun went to the Coyotes, then watched the latter make an immediate impact in the NHL. Widespread criticism followed. 

But Chychrun has been frequently injured the past three seasons, including two knee surgeries the past two years, while Cholowski is proving he belongs in his first tour of the league. It's enough to wonder if Holland made the right move all along. He smiled and declined an invitation to say, "I told you so." 

"People want to react quickly to decisions that are made," Holland said. "When you’re dealing with the NHL Draft and 18-year-old players, you really have to wait three, four years, probably, to really get a read on the draft. Certainly the world that we live in, it's important to have people out there making those (judgments). That’s what sells the game, that’s what goes to the appetite of the fans and the passion of the fans. Our scouts were excited when we picked Cholo." 

Among rookie defenseman this season, Cholowski is tied for first in points (10). He looks like a potential cornerstone on the blue line.

"Every young player is different. He’s worked really hard with (director of player development) Shawn Horcoff the last couple of summers to go from 175 pounds to 195, almost 200 pounds. Certainly he’s a big part of our future and he’s played real well," Holland said. 

Another key piece of their future, Filip Zadina, is starting to make strides in the AHL. Holland saw him play in Grand Rapids last weekend and came away impressed. That said, the Wings aren't in any rush to bring him to Detroit. Much like Cholowski prior to this year, Zadina, the sixth overall pick of the 2018 draft, still needs to get stronger. He doesn't turn 19 until later this month. 

"I’m not sure what the plan is, what we’re going to decide with Zadina the second half of the year. He’s going to determine a lot of that (based) on how he plays and how he progresses," Holland said. "But he wants to be a player. ... He understands the importance of gathering information and trying to figure out how to be better, and he’s doing that right now.

"But certainly when I go down there and see some of the things that he does, he knows how to score goals. And I believe he’s going to score goals in the NHL. We just gotta have patience. He’s in a good spot, has to get a little bit stronger here like most young players, has to adjust. I talked to him last week when I was there about the difference between the Quebec Junior Hockey League and the American Hockey League and he just talked about less space, bigger, stronger. But he said, 'You know what, I’m figuring it out.'"

Holland was also asked about the rumors that Steve Yzerman is prepared to return to the Red Wings and take over as GM. Yzerman shocked the hockey world this fall when he announced he was stepping down as GM of the Lightning and taking a senior advisory role in the final year of his contract. His primary motivation was to be able to spend more time with his family in Detroit. 

The Red Wings gave Holland, 63, a two-year extension at the end of last season. He declined to comment on Yzerman's potential return to the organization other than to say the two are close friends. 

"Obviously I’m friends with Steve. At the (2014) Olympics we roomed together for two weeks. He picked me as one of his people to be on his staff (for Team Canada). He’s obviously made a decision to step down. I don’t know what the future is going to bring, but certainly we’re friends and we’ll see what the future brings. I don’t have any other comment, but I would say we’ve got a great relationship. What that means, I don’t know," Holland said with a smile. "He works for Tampa Bay and I work for Detroit."