By Ansar Khan, MLive.com
DETROIT - A player who is trying to break into the NHL, like Martin Frk, must possess quality that most others do not, according to Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill.
"You got to bring an element to the team," Blashill said. "You have to stand out in some way and do something that other people don't do."
He just described Frk, whose blistering right-handed shot is as hard as any Blashill and some players said they have seen.
"If he's going to be around, that's going to be a serious weapon on the power play," Red Wings center Frans Nielsen said. "I don't remember ever playing with someone with a shot like that. If he's open you've got to give it to him, but if teams realize that shot he's got, it's going to open up so much more room in the slot or down low."
Goaltender Jimmy Howard added: "He's got a cannon. Now as it goes around the league how hard of a shot he has and how fast he can get it off and teams start to zero in on him, his next key is still going to be to find a way to get open so he can get it off."
Frk displayed his booming shot in Saturday's 5-1 preseason victory over the Boston Bruins, in the Little Caesars Arena debut. He scored two goals, one on a blast from the point during a five-on-three power play, and added an assist.
"You can have an average power play look real good in a hurry when you got a guy who can shoot a puck like that," Blashill said.
"It would be hard to stand in front of the net as the screen guy when he's firing that thing. Our goalies don't love facing it in practice."
The performance surely helped his efforts to earn a roster spot. Opportunity is there, with Andreas Athanasiou unsigned and Tyler Bertuzzi out 3-4 weeks with a wrist injury.
The Red Wings selected Frk with their top pick in 2012 (49th overall). He struggled his first two season as a pro, dividing time between the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins and ECHL Toledo Walleye. He broke through in 2015-16, with 27 goals in Grand Rapids. It didn't win him a job with the Red Wings, however, and he was claimed on waivers by Carolina.
But Frk appeared in only two games for the Hurricanes before being waived again and reclaimed by Detroit. He enjoyed his best season as a pro in 2016-17 with the Griffins (27 goals, 50 points in 65 regular season games; five goals, 15 points in 16 playoff games).
If he doesn't stick with the Red Wings he is liable to be plucked off waivers again.
Frk figures to play in two or three more exhibition games. His main competition might be from a pair of NHL veterans in camp on tryouts, PA Parenteau and David Booth, as well as his Griffins teammate Ben Street. Evgeny Svechnikov, the club's top pick in 2015, likely needs another season in the AHL.
"We ultimately need some secondary scoring, or some more scoring, we need to make sure our power play is good," Blashill said. "Obviously, Frk can make a real statement for that. I'd also say we may need some depth as well, some energy, some physicality."
Blashill said Frk much outscore mistakes. The message has gotten through to Frk.
"It's not just about scoring, it's about what you do on the other side of the ice, too," Frk said. "I got to be a good player overall on the full ice, not just in the offensive zone.
"When you lock us in our zone, I need to know what I have to do there. That will help me to make this team."
Frk, born in the Czech Republic, was around 12 when he realized he could shoot the puck harder than older kids. He knows accuracy is important, too.
"I got to go hit the net," Frk said. "If I shoot hard enough, always the rebound can come, give an opportunity for the other guys."
Teemu Pulkkinen, another Red Wings prospect with a booming right-handed shot, couldn't make it in Detroit. He's now with his fourth NHL organization, the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.
"(Pulkkinen's shot) might have been just as hard," Blashill said. "I thought Teemu got it on net more. Frky's been working to get it on net more.
"There are other guys who've been dominant-type players in the American League that haven't made it in the NHL, some in our organization that aren't with us anymore. So, (Frk) has got to prove not only that he can be great at that level, but this level. Sometimes it transfers, sometimes it doesn't."