DETROIT – Dennis Cholowski is leading all Detroit Red Wings players with an average 22:14 minutes of ice team through seven games played this season.
He logged 24:50 -- about 2 minutes more than anyone else in the game -- on Monday night against the Carolina Hurricanes. The 20-year-old defenseman has 5 points (2G and 3A), including a power play goal.
Right now, there is no question young Cholowski is the main man back there on the Red Wings blue line, and these seven games are the only seven games he's ever played in the NHL. He was Detroit's first pick (20th overall) in 2016, then he spent a year playing college hockey for St. Cloud State.
Then he really blossomed when he left college for juniors -- not something you see a lot of players do. He flourished this past season as he split it between Prince George and Portland in the WHL. Through 69 games he scored 14 goals and 52 assists.
Cholowski saw two professional games with the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins -- a regular season game in 2016-17 and playoff game this past spring. Those were the only two pro games he played before this season.
And now he's quarterbacking the Detroit Red Wings powerplay. That should say something about how good he really is. He has been paired up with 22-year-old Joe Hicketts. They're going up against the best forwards in the NHL as they learn on the job. With speed and good hockey sense, this duo looks like the real deal, even if they don't stay together. Both should have a nice career in this league.
Cholowski appears to be the exact type of defenseman NHL teams want right now: He's quick, he's already pretty solid physically, he works the neutral zone transition game as good as anyone, and he knows how to jump up into the offensive zone and finish. That's the total package right now. The only drawback is he's a lefty not a righty -- oh well.
In a TV interview on Fox Sports Detroit during preseason, Cholowski's own mother said he's just getting started, that she knows making the NHL squad is just the beginning of her son's success -- that he'll only get better. We must trust a hockey mom's intuition.
So, yes, this is the type of player you can try to build a defensive corps around. The Red Wings are still tangled up in contracts with aging veterans like Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Trevor Daley and Mike Green, but I would expect to see the young d-men like Cholowski earn more ice time as the season wears on. At least that's what we can hope for.