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Up-to-the minute updates and insights from the Red Wings locker room at home and on the road. By Chuck Pleiness of The Macomb Daily.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Kindl dreams of Red Wings roster spot

TRAVERSE CITY -- At times, hockey can be an easy game. The waiting game, on the other hand, is never easy. Not when you're a teen-ager.

"A long time for an 18-year-old is a week; They don't think in terms of years," said Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland.

Jakub Kindl is a 19-year-old defenseman in the Detroit organization. He's ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the system (behind goalie Jimmy Howard and ahead of forward Igor Grigorenko) by Years he know about, having spent the past six years playing junior hockey -- first three years in his native Czech Republic and the past three for the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League.

Waiting another year or more isn't easy when you're a teen-ager and that which you wait for is a dream.

"I was hoping last year that maybe I had a shot to play in the NHL," said Kindl. "I wasn't going to say it, but I was hoping. I didn't have a bad camp. I had a couple of points in four games. I don't want to say that I wanted to be there, but I was hoping. I didn't get that much opportunity. They told me that I have to come here and be stronger. So that's what I was doing with my summer, spending a lot of time in the gym. We'll see how things go this year."

Kindl has been a force on the blue line for the Red Wings at their prospects camp, which concludes Tuesday. He did the same last year and then carried that momentum through the team's main camp and the preseason.

In fact, Kindl remained with the Red Wings in preseason long after the other junior-eligible players were sent back to their 20-and-under teams. His talent for offense from the blue line while remaining defensively responsible teased Detroit's management.

"About a week before we did send him to juniors, we said that we were going to send him out," said Detroit assistant general manager Jim Nill. "Then we played him a (preseason) game and he played very well. We said that we'd give him one more and then let him go back to juniors and he played better. He wound up playing about five games."

With seven NHL-experienced defenseman on the team at training camp last fall, there was little chance that Kindl would wind up in Detroit.

This year, however, there will be no juniors. Kindl is no longer eligible and signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Red Wings. This year, Kindl might wind up with the Red Wings or more likely with the Grand Rapids Griffins. When the Griffins called him up for seven American Hockey League playoff games last spring, Kindl wound up on the first power-play unit.

Jakub Kindl is taking his first strides as a professional.

"My dream is to play in the NHL, but I'm looking forward to playing in Grand Rapids if that's where I go," said Kindl. "I'll go step by step. I've got to be patient. I believe if I'm patient, good things will happen."

Kindl's command of the English language has matured as much as his game. Two years ago, he was shy about giving an interview. This past weekend, his personality shone as he spoke about getting ready to live on his own as a pro, about annoying former Kitchener teammate and current Wings prospect Evan McGrath about things like what cell phone to buy … the little things as Kindl puts it.

The big thing about Kindl is his talent. Drafted 19th overall in 2005, Kindl is still the Red Wings' highest selection since taking Martin Lapointe 10th in 1991. Kindl was an OHL all-star in Kitchener and was the captain of the Czech Republic team at last winter's Junior World Championships.

Kindl's resume is similar to Jiri Fischer in that both are Czech, both came to North America to play junior hockey and both were first-round draft picks by Detroit. Fischer cracked the Red Wings' lineup as a 19-year-old after playing the first seven games of the 1999-2000 season in the AHL.

Will Kindl do the same as a 19-year-old?

"We think that we have four players (Kindl, Derek Meech, Kyle Quincey and Jonathan Ericsson) who have a pretty good chance to be NHL defensemen down the road," said Holland. "Our feeling is if you can make the team and play … Kindl isn't fighting for the seventh spot on the team, he's fighting for one of the six spots on the team. … Even if you're a sixth defenseman and playing five minutes, you're better off in my mind playing 20 minutes at the American League level … power play, penalty kill, late in the game, key situations. Young players don't understand that. When they hear the news that they're being assigned somewhere else, they've very, very disappointed."


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