DETROIT - APRIL 25: Keith Yandle #3 of the Phoenix Coyotes fights with Justin Abdelkader #8 of the Detroit Red Wings during Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 25, 2010 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. Phoenix won the game 5-2 to tie the series 3-3. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
It's been a few weeks since this feature has been around. Most of that is my fault, but to be honest -- there isn't a lot to report. A lot of guys are making playoff runs, but just passing on that information could get a little dry. However, there's been a fair bit that's happened scattered over a couple weeks, so I'm going to use this post to keep on top of it all. Since most prospects are done, I'll try to do one final statistical update in two or three weeks, and think about how to keep this feature fresh going into the summer. Suggestions are encouraged.
Grand Rapids failed to make the playoffs by 12 points. The last month of the season wasn't as bad as the two months before it. Jakub Kindl, Cory Emmerton, Jan Mursak, and Mattias Ritola were particularly good down the stretch.
Thomas McCollum went from December 13 to March 26 without recording a win, but won three of his final five starts and stole some time away from Daniel Larsson. More on Larsson later.
Justin Abdelkader was called up and, obviously, earned playing time. However, Kindl, Mursak, Ritola, Larsson, McCollum, and Logan Pyett were recalled to serve as Black Aces. It's particularly interesting to see that Emmerton and Sergei Kolosov are not among that group.
Mursak was called up late after representing Slovenia at the Division 1 World Championships. Hockey tournament names are always organized poorly, so Division-1 refers to the "second tier" of teams that are fighting to get into the main group. Mursak had five goals and seven points in five games, leading his team. He was called the best player on his team, and is likely the second best Slovenian player period behind Anze Kopitar. Mursak helped Slovenia earn a promotion, so they will be in the top group next season.
Perhaps one reason that Tomas Tatar was not called up as a Black Ace was because he will represent Slovakia at the World Championships, which starts in five days.
Willie Coetzee, Landon Ferraro, and Brian Lashoff were invited to Grand Rapids on tryouts after their seasons concluded. Coetzee and Lashoff are slated for Grand Rapids next season, and I've never seen a player look so comfortable in a tryout as Lashoff is when he plays in the AHL.
When I left you last, Brendan Smith and Gustav Nyquist were among the ten nominees for the Hobey Baker, the award for the top player in college hockey. Nyquist ended up making the final three but lost out to Smith's teammate, Nashville prospect Blake Geoffrion.
Smith saw some action in Detroit -- playing for Wisconsin in the Frozen Four, which was at Ford Field. He had five assists in a particularly impressive performance against RIT, but was on the losing end of a 5-0 beatdown by Boston College in the National Championship.
Smith is expected to sign with Detroit in a few days to kick off his professional career, foregoing his senior season. Despite leading the nation in scoring, Nyquist, only a sophomore this year, looks like he'll stay for another year.
Dick Axelssonmade some comments indicating to a Swedish newspaper that he would prefer playing in the Swedish Eliteserien over the AHL. A lot of people have just assumed this is reflective of his attitude, but I would like to point out two things. First, of course he'd make these comments to a Swedish paper. Second, just because he says it doesn't mean there isn't a chance that he comes to his senses and realizes that the AHL is the only path to the NHL in Detroit. However, there's no doubt that going back to Sweden for a second straight year will end his time as a prospect.
Speaking of which, the guy who pulled this stunt last year and did it because he felt he was too good for the AHL and not because he was getting the shaft in ice time, like Axelsson did, is Johan Ryno. He played in the second tier of Sweden, but played for a team with a large following in AIK. The team got promoted to the SEL and promptly decided that Ryno isn't coming back next year. This opens up a slight chance that Ryno might ask to play in the AHL since his favorite team doesn't want him any more. However, that would require a new contract from Detroit in the summer. They do like him though, so all I'm saying is if they get a guarantee, I wouldn't rule him out.
Speaking of AIK, an article today indicated that they've been in touch with Daniel Larsson's agent about acquiring his services for next year. He is an RFA and is definitely due for a taste of the NHL. There were no comments from Larsson, so it's just a rumor at this point. Reasons he would go: strong play from Thomas McCollum. Reasons he wouldn't go: still in line to start next season.
Jesper Samuelsson effectively ended his career as a Red Wings prospect by signing with Vita Hasten of Division 1, which is the third best league in Sweden. The Wings drafted him from there but the jump from this league to even the second best is huge. It isn't a serious league for a legitimate prospect. Samuelsson split this season with 4th line SEL duty as well as scoring line time with one of the worst teams in SWE-2.
Those last four are depressing, so here's two good things about Sweden. As a reminder (mentioned it in the last update) Joakim Andersson signed with Detroit and will play in Grand Rapids next season. I think he can step in immediately as the second or third line center.
Last summer's 7th round pick Adam Almqvist is a fun story. Scored nearly two points per game in the Swedish junior ranks, then got called up to HV-71 of the SEL due to injuries. He was slated to head to SWE-2, but stuck with HV-71 all season. He scored 11 points in the playoffs as HV-71 won the SEL championship. HV-71 fans called him the team's best defenseman. As an 18-year-old, he played on the top pairing with former NHLer Janne Niinimaa.
Detroit's two KHLers have an interesting connection. Gennady Stolyarov played just one game this season because of injury, for HC MVD. Jiri Hudler played for Dynamo Moscow, the oldest club in Russia. That club had some financial troubles, released Hudler, and folded a few hours later. They're now combining with HC MVD to form UHC Dynamo; however, Hudler is returning to Detroit and Stolyarov might not be under contract.
In the junior ranks, Stephen Johnston is still active as Windsor is currently up 2-0 in the OHL Finals. Windsor erased a 3-0 series deficit in the Conference Finals against Kitchener and have been the OHL favorites all season. Johnston missed some time with injury, and only plays a 4th line role when healthy.
Brent Raedeke and the Brandon Wheat Kings were eliminated in the WHL Conference Finals, but will be back in action later this month as they host the Memorial Cup, which pits a host team against the champions of the OHL, WHL, and QMJHL.
Landon Ferraro had a particularly disappointing playoff for Red Deer. They were swept in the first round and Ferraro was a healthy scratch for the final game. Ferraro seems as though he'll be traded this summer, as most fans are calling for it. I asked a WHL writer at Hockey's Future hat his deal is, and he believes the fans are merely unhappy with the team as a whole and Ferraro's work ethic is not a problem.
Detroit signed WHL scrapper Mitchell Callahan to a contract this week. They drafted him last summer and the signing comes as a surprise because they had until next summer to do so. Doing it early doesn't hurt (a year won't go against his contract when he sticks in the WHL next year), but it does indicate that Detroit really likes him. Get familiar with his work (oh yeah, and he scored 20 goals this year, too).
The top team in the USHL during the regular season, Nick Jensen and the Green Bay Gamblers are down 2-0 in the USHL Finals. Jensen was very productive in the second half of the season and he's taken that into the playoffs with six points in eight games.
The statistical report is after the jump, containing the last month of the season since I haven't done it in a while. While doing it I realized it's a lot better this way -- looking at trends over a month is better than just a week. Also included in certain leagues is the player's playoff stats, so pay attention to the headings in each league.
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