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Sized up and ready to sizzle: Red Wings' Cholowski put in the work

After adding muscle and mass, the mobile Dennis Cholowski is taking aim on the NHL.

When the Red Wings nabbed defenseman Dennis Cholowski with the 20th overall pick in 2016, they knew they were getting a project. Cholowski had climbed the prospect rankings in his draft year, putting up nice numbers in Jr. A with the BCHL’s Chilliwack Chiefs while showing off impressive mobility and upside. He also came in at just six-foot and about 180 pounds.

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Fast-forward to the present, and Cholowski is ready to go pro. “For us, he controls the flow of the game,” said Ryan Martin, Detroit’s assistant GM. “He has a level of maturity to his game that wasn’t there a year ago. Increased body strength has helped his confidence, and he’s put on close to 20 pounds of muscle in the past year and a half, which is a testament to his dedication.”

Cholowski even moved to Detroit for the summer so he could train with fellow Wings prospects and pros. But moving around is nothing new for the blueliner. Coming out of Chilliwack, he spent the 2016-17 season with St. Cloud State, where he put up decent numbers as a freshman. In a surprising turn, he left school that summer and joined the WHL’s Prince George Cougars, where he spent the first half of the 2017-18 season until a trade to the contending Portland Winterhawks. “I really enjoyed being able to play in both leagues,” Cholowski said. “In college, you’re playing older, stronger guys, while the WHL is probably more skilled. It was a transition, but I had fun doing it.”

Now the mission is to help the Red Wings after making the season-opening NHL roster. “I’m trying to take control a little more on the ice,” Cholowski said. “Be more assertive and have the puck on my stick more, be the guy who makes the first play, joins the rush and creates the offense.”

Now 200 pounds, Cholowski is no longer the skinny project Detroit drafted in 2016. “I just feel bigger on the ice,” he said. “There was definitely work done in the gym, that’s for sure.”

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This story appears in the Prospects Unlimited 2018 issue of The Hockey News magazine.

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