Youngsters Joe Veleno, Jonatan Berggren, Jesper Eliasspon & Otto Kivenmaki perform under watchful eye of Detroit Red Wings' top brass in elite junior hockey event

 PLYMOUTH (CCN) —  Top brass of the Detroit Red Wings got a look at four of their top prospects during the World Junior Summer Showcase event last week at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth that hosts Team USA's 18-&-under and 17-&-under programs. Joe Veleno, Jonatan Berggren, Jesper Eliasson and Otto Kivenmaki took part in the event. 

 General Manager Steve Yzerman was on hand, along with Assistant General Manager Pat Verbeek, Assistant General Manager Ryan Martin, Director of Player Development Shawn Horcoff, Player Development Assistant Dan Cleary, Director of Player Evaluation Jiri Fischer, Director of Statistical Analysis and Hockey Administration Bryan Campbell, Coach Jeff Blashill and Assistant to the General Manager Kris Draper.

Veleno, Detroit's first-round draft pick in 2019, had remained in the Metro Detroit area after development camp to train with some of the other top prospects and scored twice in two games while playing for Team Canada.

"Joe played great," Horcoff said of the 19-year-old who was the 30th overall pick in this year's NHL Entry Draft. "I think he only played two games. He played the first one, sat out the next two, played in the last one, scored in both games. He played a little bit of center, a little bit of wing in both, which I like. I like his versatility, he's starting to be able to learn to do that. We'd love for him to learn all those positions and turn into a guy that you could play anywhere in the lineup, up and down, both center and both wings, even though we view him as a center. It never hurts to learn to play every position. He looked good. He came into Detroit, stayed after development camp, knows that there's some work to be done there in terms of physical conditioning and strength and explosiveness but he's putting the work in and we're looking forward to see how he looks in prospect tournament."

Berggren, Detroit's second-round pick and 33rd overall in the 2018 draft, suited up for Team Sweden and had one assist in three games. Horcoff said the 19-year-old also shined.  "I liked him in development camp, especially for a guy that missed so much time in the second half of the season, which limited his training. I think he's getting some of his quickness back, he's on a better strength program, conditioning program and all that's coming together," Horcoff said. "So he's continuing to work hard. I look for him to have what is hopefully a good, healthy first half of the season and obviously to make that team would be a big part of it. He feels good, he's healthy again for the first time in a long time, but he's been off for a long time, especially coming off an injury like that, you never kind of want to really rush yourself back into it. Having not played any competitive games in essentially, four or five months, it's probably the right and smart approach."

 Eliasson played in three games, starting two and finishing another as Team Sweden's goaltender.  Eliasson stopped 48 shots out of 58 fired at him for an .828 saves percentage. He posted a 4.32 goals against average and also drew praise from Horcoff. "He looked just OK to me," Horcoff said. "The problem with that Summer Showcase is it's right in July so a lot of times when I watch I'm hesitant because first off, a lot of Europeans, that's their month off. They get their time off right in July away from their team, especially the Swedes. They're not skating that much, so it's a little unfair. The North American guys, they're kind of right in the middle of their summer training. The training nowadays is really specific so they're training to peak in September for the start of prospect tournament, not for the end of July."


Kivenmaki, Detroit's seventh-round pick, played all five games for Team Finland and the 19-year-old drew two assists. Hofcoff's evaluation of the Finnish prospect was as follows: "He's a kid that came into development camp, he put on another 12 pounds, which sounds like a lot but it's not when you weigh 140-something, low 140s during your draft year. But that's a credit to him. He's got a whole new strength program, he's got a nutritionist back home, he's putting the work in. He knows he needs to get stronger and I thought you saw that out there. No one's doubting his skill. He's a slick player, really, really good edges, good vision. But in order to play pro hockey, and even just play at an elite level in that men's league over there in Finland, he's got to get bigger, faster, stronger and he's working towards that."

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Brian Rolston selected to lead Little Caesars Amateur Hockey program


 DETROIT (CCN) — Brian Rolston has been named as the new director of Little Caesars Amateur Hockey, according to an online story by Michigan Hockey Magazine. Rolston is a Michigan native who played 17 season in the NHL. Rolston, who won a Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils in 1995, played at Lake Superior University after an amateur career in Michigan's Compuware travel hockey program.

Rolston, 46, was named to oversee strategic operations for 12 Little Caesars AAA clubs, the Little Caesars Amateur Hockey League and the Little Caesars Farmington Hills Hockey Association Tier 2 program.

“Little Caesars is a premier hockey organization that has proven over many years they are the leader in youth hockey,” Rolston told Michigan Hockey Magazine. “I am proud to have the opportunity to lead such an elite organization. Little Caesars has developed countless elite players and I intend on continuing that culture moving forward.”

Kris Draper, Assistant to the General Manager for the Detroit Red Wings, was also quoted in the story. He said, "We are very fortunate to bring in Brian Rolston as the new Director of Little Caesars AAA hockey. Brian had a very successful NHL career and when it was over; he started giving back to our great game of hockey. We know he will take on his new role with the same passion he played and coached with.”

Rolston's son, Ryder, plays in Plymouth on Team USA's national development program. Jack Hughes plays there on the 18-&-under team and is the  consensus choice to be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NHL draft. Ryder Rolston has scored 18 goals this season after scoring 26 times a year while dividing time between the 17-&-under and 18-&-under teams.