Brian Savage was a longshot to reach the NHL as an eighth-round pick of the Montreal Canadiens in 1991 and ended up playing 12 seasons in the league.
The Detroit Red Wings hope some of that determination rubs off on his son, Red, their fourth-round pick this year, in his pursuit to become a pro.
“Tremendous family,” Kris Draper, Detroit’s director of amateur scouting, said. “Red grew up in NHL dressing rooms and a hockey environment. Red knows what being a pro is. He has a lot of insight of going into rinks and seeing the sacrifices his dad made, and that’s exactly how Red is wired.”
Red Savage is a 5-11, 180-pound center who played for the U.S. National Team Development Program in Plymouth. He will attend Miami University (Ohio) next season, joining older brother Ryan at the school his dad played for in the early ‘90s.
“The biggest things he’s taught me about becoming a good hockey player are the things you do away from the rink,” Savage said. “It’s the preparations and putting yourself in the best spot to thrive. He’s really taught me a lot of great lessons about getting there.”
Savage, selected 114th overall, knows he needs to be a well-rounded player to reach the highest level. He said his strong suits are tenacity and work ethic.
“It’s something I go into every game as non-negotiable,” he said. “The biggest thing I focus on is trying to effect the game, whether or not I get on the scoresheet. I can win faceoffs and kill penalties and provide offense.”
Draper spoke of Savage’s character and passion for the game. It helped him get named captain of Team USA at the U-18 championship.
“Watching him play even at an early age, he just understood how to play the game,” Draper said. “Very responsible two-way player. As a 14-, 15-, 16-year-old player he probably played too responsible. That’s the way he was wired. He understands that’s how he’s going to turn himself into a good pro.
“He’s in good spots for his D, he’s really good in the (face-off) circle. Watching him in Texas (U-18s) he had some big blocks on the penalty kill, kind of plays a fearless-type game. He showed throughout this year when he got a little bit of opportunity that he could produce some offense. He knows how to play without the puck. He’s very intelligent, knows how to play in his own end.
“The one thing we want him to work on is the offensive side of the game, to score goals, to challenge himself to put up numbers. It’s going to be tough going into college hockey as an 18-year-old, but we’re certainly going to encourage him to do it.”
Said Savage: “I’m excited to go to Miami because I’m going to have an opportunity to be put in big situations and play a lot more at my age than in different colleges that might have a lot more draft eligibles and more prospects that steal more ice time away.”
Savage has known the Drapers for years. He is a close friend of Draper’s son, Kienan, who the Red Wings drafted in the seventh round in 2020 and who might join Savage at Miami in 2022-23. Savage played AAA hockey for Belle Tire and Compuware, including many games against Draper’s Little Caesars teams.
“My team always had a lot of really good battles against their team; it got pretty heated quite often, a lot of fights, a lot of chirping back and forth between our coaches and Mr. Draper,” Savage said.
“We’re good friends with the Drapers and a lot of people connected to the Red Wings. Just having my dad play and be recognizable, it’s something that kind of benefits you throughout your whole life.”
Savage spoke to the media on Zoom shortly after being drafted wearing an old Red Wings hat he had lying around and a Ryan Barnes’ game-worn jersey. Barnes, Savage’s agent, was Detroit’s second-round pick in 1998 and played a couple of games with the Red Wings in 2003-04.
“I’ve been cheering for them the past couple of years living (in metro Detroit),” Savage said. “It’s tough to watch them go through that little dry spell. I’m just hoping to be part of that re-organization and try to rebuild as much as possible. It’s pretty amazing to be part of an Original Six team and a team that has such a loyal fanbase. Hopefully we can turn it around and start moving uphill as much as possible.”
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