Red Wings sign top draft pick Dennis Cholowski to three-year entry deal

The Detroit Red Wings have come to terms on a three-year entry level contract with defenseman Dennis Cholowski. He is now eligible to join the Grand Rapids Griffins for the remainder of their season.

Cholowski, 19, was drafted by the Red Wings in the 2016 NHL Draft with their 20th overall pick. When the Red Wings traded the contract of Pavel Datsyuk to the Arizona Coyotes, the Coyotes also obtained the No. 16 pick and used it to used select defenseman Jakob Chychrun. Arizona sent Detroit the No. 20 pick, an additional second-round pick (No. 53 overall) and forward Joseph Vitale, one of three players on long-term IR for Detroit and an unrestricted free agent after this season.

Detroit selected Cholowski at No. 20.

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Tyler Wright, who serves as Detroit’s director of amateur scouting, laid out the reasons why the team was eager to draft him.

“He’s an elite thinker,” Wright said. “We think his hockey sense is very good. He’s just a guy that can play in any position, late in a game, early in a game, never have to hide him because of size and skating ability.”

“He’s one of the best-skating defensemen in this draft. Kind of been a little bit of a late bloomer, has done a lot of growing in the last couple years. We still believe he could still be growing for that matter, which would be a plus.”

The Langley, British Columbia native soon participated in the team’s annual development camp. Almost immediately, he caught the eye of Griffins coach Todd Nelson, who had plenty of good things to say about him.

“He impressed me from day 1 from the first skill sessions,” said Nelson. “Just the way that he moves out there, his skills set. He passes the puck like a pro right now. He passes it crisp and firm.”

He was also noticed by former Red Wings defenseman and current director of player development Jiri Fischer.

“I absolutely love his demeanor and the mentality he has,” Fischer said. “No extreme highs and no extreme lows and the bigger the moment, the better he plays. The bigger the moment, the harder he tries.”

Of course, Cholowski was happy to hear his name called off the draft board and to be joining the Red Wings.

“It was getting a little bit anxious,” he said soon after the selection was made. “A little bit nervous, just waiting for my name to be called. Thankfully it did, so I’m very happy.”

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In 36 games this year for St. Cloud State University, Cholowski scored one goal to go with 11 assists and 14 penalty minutes. Among defenseman born in 1988, Cholowski ranked fourth in points and was one of the youngest players to suit up in the NCAA this season.

Before playing at SCSU, he spent two years with the Chilliwack Chiefs of the British Columbia Hockey League. In 106 games with the Chiefs, he scored 16 goals to go with 51 assists, and led his team in defense scoring in 2015-16. He was also named to the 2016 BCHL Second All-Star Team.

He will most likely start next season with Grand Rapids and get himself adjusted to playing at the professional level. It may not be long before we see him donning the winged wheel. Detroit currently has their last three No. 1 picks, prior to Cholowski, playing for them as the season winds down: Evgeny Svechnikov (2015), Dylan Larkin (2014) and Anthony Mantha (2013). Svechnikov was only called up recently by Detroit.

Written by Michael Whitaker

Always at the front lines of Detroit Sports.

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