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Hirose blooming

March 26th, 2019 by Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press

The best story of the trip has been Taro Hirose. March 9 he played his last game at Michigan State. Ten days later he made his NHL debut at Madison Square Garden, earning an assist when he set up Frans Nielsen. Two nights later, Hirose showed off his smarts when he got his own rebound and, having spotted Thomas Vanek by a goalpost, directed the puck to the net knowing Vanek’s prowess in the area. A third assist came at Vegas. Hirose, 22, grew his point streak to four Monday when he stole the puck off the stick of Sharks forward Joakim Ryan and set up Athanasiou. It’s a small sample size, but Hirose is giving impressive notice.

“It doesn’t seem like there is any panic in his game, ever,” Larkin said. “He’s so calm with the puck — it’s clear he wants to hold onto it and make plays, and that’s the biggest thing that stands out for me. To hang onto that puck an extra split second or to find the late guy — that’s a mature hockey player.”

After the Blues game, Thomas Vanek — the best passer on the team — praised Hirose’s hockey IQ. The Wings are so injured that lines are a patchwork, but Hirose’s situational awareness is noticeable in any grouping.

“That’s part of my game, to read off my linemates and try to get them the puck,” Hirose said. “At this level, guys are always in the right spots so they just make it really easy. I’m just sort of rolling with it right now and trying to get better every game.”

Hirose is an undersized forward (5-10, 160) and he isn’t a fast skater, but like Vanek, he’s savvy. It’s going to be interesting to see how he does next fall in camp, if he can build on this and earn a spot.

“Four points in four games is quite an accomplishment to start your NHL career,” Blashill said. “He’s done a really good job. He’s a real smart player and he’s as fast with the puck as without it. He’s a really, really good passer, he knows how to find little seams and make plays.”

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