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Photo: Mark Newman
09/12/2016 6:00 AM -

Sept. 9, 2016

By Brendan Savage, MLive

Dan Renouf wasn't able to move directly from college hockey to the NHL last season the way Danny DeKeyser did three years ago.

DeKeyser went straight from Western Michigan to the NHL after signing as a free agent with the Detroit Red Wings in 2013. He's become one of the club's top defensemen entering his fourth full season.

Renouf wasn't able to debut in the NHL last season after finishing his junior season at Maine but the 22-year-old defenseman is nonetheless hoping to follow DeKesyer's quick route to Detroit after playing six games for the Grand Rapids Griffins last season.

"That's definitely a goal to do a path something like that," Renouf said. "I know everyone has different paths but just seeing somebody do that right out of college and step in and have already such an established part the Red Wings, that's somebody to look up to and I hopefully can fill that."

Renouf is penciled in to start this season in Grand Rapids although he could force the Red Wings to reconsider those plans with a strong training camp.

When the Red Wings signed him last March, they liked his size – 6-foot-3, 209 pounds – mobility, two-way game and a style that sees him play with "a bit of aggression," according to assistant general manager Ryan Martin.

In 38 games last season, Renouf led Maine defensemen in scoring while finishing fifth on the team overall with six goals and nine assists. He also had 36 penalty minutes and a minus-5 rating.

In three seasons with the Black Bears, he had 10 goals, 28 assists, 72 PIM and a plus-14 rating in 111 games.

"I take care of my own end, a two-way player," Renouf said. "I do like to get up in the rush but I think the best part of my game is the D zone and shutting down players, using my size and speed, mobility. I think that's my strengths.

"I definitely feel comfortable in the offensive zone, too."

Martin said the Red Wings were aware of Renouf before he became eligible for the NHL draft but saw him as a bit of a late bloomer and didn't select him.

Renouf, who spent two years in the United States Hockey League before attending Maine, said he signed with the Red Wings because he felt like they had "a lot of trust" in him and valued his skills.

He didn't know anybody in the organization before signing but said the Red Wings just felt like a good fit after he decided three years of college hockey had prepared him enough to take the next step in his career.

"It's such a storied organization and it seems like a big family here," Renouf said. "There's so much success in this organization for so many years. It's a big family. I just want to be part of it.

"Just from talking to the scouts and management after the season, it seemed like they take care of the players and they've had success. I'm excited about it."

Although he only appeared in six regular-season games with the Griffins – getting one assist, five PIM and an even plus-minus rating – Renouf spent about two months in Grand Rapids last season.

He thinks that experience and getting to know some of his future teammates – Renouf also attended the annual July development camp -- will be a benefit when training camp opens in Traverse City.

Renouf believes the pro game better suits his style of play and thinks his stint in Grand Rapids confirmed that.

"I think it's definitely just a different game," he said. "Older men, stronger, smarter players. I think college is really run and gun. It's more controlled and less mistakes. Everyone's trying to be perfect and make the right play.

"I think I had a couple games transitioning but I felt like my game transitioned pretty well."