SCSU recruit Dennis Cholowski made Husky hockey history even before donning a St. Cloud State University sweater having been selected by the Detroit Red Wings as the 20th pick in the first-round of the 54th annual NHL Entry Draft. The highest drafted SCSU player previously was Matt Cullen who was selected as the 35th pick by Anaheim in the second round of the 1996 NHL Draft.
The 6’1″ 176 pound smooth-skating left-handed defenseman from Langley, BC played for Chilliwack of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League in 2015-16. With room to grow, Cholowski has the size, skating ability and hockey sense that NHL teams covet.
Following the selection, Detroit GM Ken Holland was pleased to be getting a “great skater” and “love that he can really skate and we can tuck him away in college for 3-4 years”. Director of amateur scouting Tyler Wright noted “We think he’s just kind of hitting the tip of the iceberg. He’s a young kid that’s still growing, could be one of the best-skating defensemen in this draft. So we’re really intrigued by size, skating ability, puck-moving ability. We think that he’s still got a lot of room to grow. He was 5-8, 5-9 a couple years ago and he’s just really kind of taken off,” Wright said. “He’s a beautiful skater. He is an effortless skater. You can’t have enough smart, good puck-moving defensemen on your hockey club. He’s a very driven kid,” Wright said. “It almost sounds boring a little bit but he is committed in what he wants to do in his life. I think that’s impressive for a kid at this age to have those beliefs. He’s got a long summer in the weight room, he needs to get physically stronger, he understands that. There’s no doubt in my mind he’s going to put the time and effort in.”
“St. Cloud’s a good program,” Wright said. “However long it’s going to take him depends on him.”
On being selected by Detroit Cholowski commented “It’s an extreme honor, obviously they’re one of the great franchises of all time,” Cholowski said. “Some of the greatest players ever, guys like Nick Lidstrom, one of my all-time idols. I’m extremely excited to be chosen by the Red Wings.” (I’m) More of a two-way defenseman now, having the ability to jump in the rush and generate points that kind of thing, as well as being sound in my own zone, breaking the puck out and making a good first pass,” Cholowski said. “Just getting a little bit bigger, a little bit stronger and engaging in battles in the corners and in front of the net, just being a little bit harder to play against in general.”
Cholowski joins former SCSU Husky defenseman, Nick Jensen in the tradition rich Detroit Red Wings organization. Jensen left the Huskies following his junior season in 2012-13 and has been playing for the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League.
After being projected as a 4th to 6th round pick in the CSS preliminary rankings, Cholowski was #48 in the January 2016 mid-term Central Scouting rankings and by April had rocketed to #23 in the final rankings making him a possible late first-round or early second-round NHL draft choice. To date, the highest drafted SCSU defenseman was Josh DeWolf who was picked 41st in the second round of the 1996 draft by the New Jersey Devils. Defenseman, Brian Gaffaney was drafted 44th by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round in 1997. Cholowski finished the 2015-16 campaign carrying Chilliwack to the second round of the BCHL playoffs producing 16 goals and 35 assists for 51 points in 64 games (incl playoffs). His efforts earned him second team BCHL All-Star status.
Cholowski joins a very deep SCSU defensive squad in 2016 including Niklas Nevalainen, Mika Ilvonen, Jimmy Schuldt, Jon Lizzotte, Nate Widman, Clark Kuster, Will Borgen and fellow first-year player, Jack Ahcan.