You might say that the Detroit Red Wings might feel a bit snake-bit in dealing with guys from the Finnish Elite League these days. Two years ago, they signed SM-liiga MVP Ville Leino only to see him slump mightily with Detroit while struggling within coach Mike Babcock’s system. They traded him to Philadelphia for defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen only to see Leino flourish with the Flyers in the playoffs and lead many to believe that the Red Wings finally dropped the ball on a Scandinavian import.
This time around, they’re rolling the dice on Ilari Filppula, older brother of Wings star Valtteri Filppula. The Freep’s Helene St. James finds out from Ilari how he plans to make his mark on brother Valtteri’s Red Wings squad during training camp.
With a roster already jam-packed with forwards in Detroit, Ilari Filppula knows the odds favor him going to Grand Rapids next month.
But until the regular seasons forces the Red Wings to pare down, Filppula’s goal is simple: Show the coaching staff that at the very least, he should be atop the depth chart if an injury to a Wings regular requires a call-up from the minors.
“Whatever team I play for, I’ll play hard and just try to help the team as well as I can,” Filppula said. “If it’s in Grand Rapids, then it’s there, and hopefully I get a chance up at some point. Obviously NHL has been my goal ever since I started playing hockey. Sometimes it fell a little further, but now opportunity came and I feel pretty good. I think time is right now.”
Certainly the hype is reduced around Ilari compared to that of Ville Leino. Filppula did manage to win the SM-liiga playoff MVP trophy last season so he’s not coming in as a completely untalented guy but he’d have to be other-worldly in training camp to crack the already crowded Red Wings forward roster.
Still, if having Ilari stateside is something that can help little brother Valtteri perhaps relax a bit more and unleash his game, the bonus effects of giving Ilari a chance could really pay off for Detroit.