By Jacob Messing
The last three years have been complicated for Dylan Sadowy.
He’s played in the OHL, AHL, and ECHL, been drafted into the NHL by one team, and traded to another -- although he’s yet to play a game in the world’s best league.
The crazy part? He’s just 21 years old.
But despite the hills and valleys of the Canadian winger’s nascent career, there’s a lot of hope for the future.
“[Sadowy] came in and is learning the pro life,” Griffins coach Todd Nelson told the Detroit Free Press during development camp in July. “He is a young kid -- just from this past season to now, I see the maturity in him. I see him taking ownership of his game.”
Sadowy will need that kind of maturity to keep his NHL dreams alive.
In 2014, he was drafted by the San Jose Sharks, but he never signed an entry-level deal. The Canadian remained in the OHL, in which he started playing in 2012. After not signing a deal with San Jose, he eclipsed the 40-goal mark in back-to-back seasons with the Saginaw Spirit and Barrie Colts.
With his stock higher than ever ahead of the 2016 draft, Sadowy suddenly landed with the Detroit Red Wings when general manager Ken Holland dished a future third-round pick for the promising winger.
But even with the move by the Red Wings, Sadowy didn’t go straight to the NHL -- he did pen an entry-level deal but was seen as a dark horse to land a spot out of training camp.
Sadowy ultimately wound up with Detroit’s AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, where he managed just four goals and six points in 38 games. When it was clear that the young winger needed a temporary step down, he was sent to the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye for six games. He scored a goal and four points during that stretch, appearing more comfortable in his game.
Grand Rapids experienced turnover among its forward group following the team's Calder Cup victory in June, and Sadowy will likely receive a larger role in 2017-18.
The initial disappointing season with the Griffins doesn’t mean you should write off the 21-year-old, who admitted it took him “a little while” to learn pro hockey. His rookie AHL season almost mirrors his rookie OHL season in 2012-13, when he scored just two goals and eight points in 61 games.
He took the next step the following season with 27 goals in 68 games, which was followed by 42- and 45-goal seasons.
Red Wings director of player development and 15-year NHL veteran Shawn Horcoff told the Free Press at camp that the team addressed conditioning with Sadowy. Horcoff said he believes with better foot speed and training Sadowy can return to using his natural ability to shoot the puck and score on a regular basis.
The Red Wings hope Sadowy can adjust to the AHL the way he did in the OHL level to get him back on track and hopefully one day find himself donning the Winged Wheel.
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