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Photo: Mark Newman

By Brendan Savage,

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - Chris Chelios had trouble with the prospect's name.

But there was no question the Hall of Fame defensemen likes what he's seen from one of the Detroit Red Wings second-round picks in the 2016 NHL.

"The Czech kid that finished up -- I can't pronounce his name, starts with an H," Chelios said during the Red Wings annual development camp at Center Ice Arena. "Hronek, really good in the hour that we spent here. It's amazing again, you see the speed and the agility some of the defensemen, how quick they are."

To paraphrase James Bond, it's Hronek. Filip Hronek.

And early indications are he could turn out to be one of the steals of the 2016 draft.

Hronek was the Saginaw Spirit MVP in his rookie OHL season last year - his first in North America - before joining the Grand Rapids Griffins for the regular-season stretch run and playoff ride to the Calder Cup.

Hronek had one goal, one assist and a plus-1 in 10 regular-season games with the Griffins before going without a point in two postseason games.
In Saginaw, he had 14 goals, 47 assists, 60 penalty minutes and a plus-15 rating in 59 games.

Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill was reluctant to single out any players after the lone scrimmage of the development camp but Hronek was one of the few he did mention Sunday afternoon.

"I wold say both (Vili) Saarijarvi and him," Blashill said when asked who stood out. "Hronek was involved in three scrums. I know our scouts are excited about the years they've had in major junior hockey and I thought both of those guys played very well (in the scrimmage) and showed transferable skill sets that can lead to success.

"Neither (Saarijarvi) nor Filip are afraid of the physical confrontation as well so I think that helps them as undersized D. I hope they have good years in Grand Rapids."

Hronek is 6-foot, 164 pounds while Saarijarvi is 5-10, 172.

Their size might explain why the Red Wings have focused on drafting bigger players the past couple of years even though that's drawn criticism in some hockey circles as NHL teams try to get faster.

Hronek had never played in North America until last season. The North American game and it's smaller ice surface was another adjustment he had to make after joining the Spirit.

"I like it," Hronek said. "Like in Europe, it's bigger ice, you have more time for everything. Here is faster and quicker and make faster decisions. You must be faster and quicker at everything.

"It's a little bit different game."

Like all of the prospects, Hronek knows he still has plenty of work to do as he climbs the ladder to the NHL. He's scheduled to play for the Griffins full-time this season.

"I need more everything," said Hronek, whose English has come a long way since last year, when he didn't speak any at the development camp. "I have to get stronger, so many strong guys. Like must get bigger and stronger and faster."