Detroit Red Wings Season Preview: The Griffins Line

USA TODAY Sports

Gustav Nyquist did well in his second career NHL postseason; Joakim Andersson and Tomas Tatar did not have shabby seasons both at the AHL and NHL levels. All three will be coming back with the potential to do something special.

Goaltending? Check. Defense? Check. Forwards who are unbelievable at hockey? Check. Forwards who cannot get out of a hospital bed? Check. That only leaves a minute amount of forwards, and I don't feel like talking about Danny Cleary or somebody who is in immediate danger of getting traded.

Let's take a look at some Wings who are just dying to break out of their Griffin shells and hatch into Wings uniforms: Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, and Tomas Tatar.

For a line that is composed of entirely of players that were part of last year's Calder Cup champion Grand Rapids Griffins roster, there are plenty of questions on the table. Kenny Holland has all but confirmed that Slovakian egomaniac Tomas Tatar will indeed be on the Wings' roster come opening night. Joakim Andersson has been given permission to switch to number 18, perhaps in preparation for an extended stay in Detroit, and Gustav Nyquist was just qualified at about $950k annually, something that screams "use me" more than (let's not finish that joke, shall we?)

The real discussion topic about these three players is not whether or not they will be in Detroit come October 2nd (even with Nyquist in flux), it is how they will be used and how they will perform.

I am almost certain I am not the only person who wants this line to stay in tact, as they have easy chemistry and each player is almost uniquely of a certain category. Nyquist is the play maker, Tatar is the goal scorer, and Andersson is the faceoff man and the gum that puts the hubcaps together. This line has a little bit of everything and provided a decent sampling of what it can do in different situations in this past shortened season.

So, let's break them up and see how they compare.


Gustav Nyquist

#14 / Left Wing / Detroit Red Wings
5-10
169
Jan 9, 1989


Strengths

Out of all of these players, the one who produces the smoothest highlights and play-making ability is Gustav Nyquist. Nyquist is like (insert favorite condiment) on a hot dog. He dishes great passes, he gives great looks, and most importantly, he is Swedish. Nyquist has shared a line with all sorts of players from all parts of Detroit's spectrum, including Henrik Zetterberg in the playoffs this past season. He is an extremely swift skater with a good pair of hands on him, and he is very responsible defensively.

Weaknesses

Gustav Nyquist shows a lot of heart and scores some pretty nice goals, however, the irony is the fact that he is not a goal scorer, at least at the NHL level. In the shortened season last year, he tallied 6 points in the regular season in 22 games played with an additional 5 points in 14 games in the postseason. The only thing that is bad about Nyquist is that he still makes some mistakes, but he is young and has not been cooked in the minors to Detroit standards. Nyquist also has quite a small build and he does get knocked off of the puck easily. Eventually he will grow appropriately.

While it is hardly a weakness, Nyquist has a contract that makes him exempt from waivers, meaning he will be the odd man out if the Wings need to move a forward somehow. It is important to keep this in mind, especially over the first half of the season.

Expectations

A Mike Babcock le gusta(v) Señor Nyquist. As a matter of fact, he likes Nyquist and Andersson as a pairing. Nyquist is a very young and raw talent who is a combination of many good things of a hockey player. As a very raw player, Nyquist is probably going to wind up on either the third or fourth line, depending on whether or not Babcock keeps this line of players together.

It's safe to say that with a full season in the NHL, Gustav Nyquist will be able to pin 30 points on the board, but he can contribute in ways off of the score sheet. Then again, I think fans are due for a nice surprise from the junior Swede.


Tomas Tatar

#21 / Left Wing / Detroit Red Wings
5-11
176
Dec 01, 1990



Strengths

A player with goal scoring ability is never a bad thing. Tomas Tatar can play basically any position up front, especially both wings. He is great with the puck, has a great release, and tends to gel well with anybody that puts the puck on his stick. He has plenty of upside and lest Wings nation forget, he was the AHL Jack Butterfield Trophy winning MVP of the playoffs last year on the way to the Griffins' Calder Cup Championship. Tomas can very much play the game of hockey.

I will leave his strengths at the fact that he is apparently Jiri Hudler 2.0.

Weaknesses

Personality. Yes. You heard it here: personality is an issue. Tomas Tatar has that aura about him that screams Sergei Federov diva, and that little stunt about going to the KHL if he is sent to Grand Rapids may actually hurt him down the line.

Back to hockey, Tomas is very defensively shallow and is very far from being a complete two way forward. Tomas is not a complete player yet and that might not necessarily cost him much with Holland's virtual guarantee that he will be on the roster, but he is occupying a spot where a more complete player could be playing. Then again, there are not many better candidates. Also, his lack of physical strength causes him to get knocked off of the puck quite a bit, though that will take some time to sort out. One does not become Jaromir Jagr strong overnight.

Expectations

"I thought Tatar has been really good and I thought Gus got better here as it's gone on, which is important,'' Babcock said to MLive writer Ansar Khan. "Their job is to put as much pressure on the coach and general manager as they possibly can to be here. That's all you can ask a kid to do and they're doing that.''

Tatar is really going to have a tale of two seasons. He will find his way around, he will be a great rookie, he will score goals and tack on points. However, he will go through rough patches and growing pains like any other full time player learning the ropes. He has to just push forward with his tenacity and not his ego and he will be fine. Wings fans can expect a nice year from Tatar, but even I do not need to say don't expect Zetterberg-like production just yet.


Joakim Andersson

#18/ Center / Detroit Red Wings
6-2
198
Feb 5, 1989



Strengths

Joakim Andersson has one heck of a knucklepuck. (Kenan Thompson would be proud.)

According to The Hockey News' scouting engine, Andersson, "Has the size NHL scouts love from the center position. Plays with sound defensive acumen. Also displays some play making instincts." He is credited with his good hockey sense and his above average ability to make something out of absolutely nothing or create on the ice.

Andersson is a very defensively responsible forward who is going to develop as a standard checking forward in the NHL. On top of that, he is tied with Casey Cizikas for the third most faceoffs won by rookie centers in the regular season from this past year, winning 46.5 % of his draws. (By comparison, Cizikas won 52.2 %; the two both won 144 faceoffs.)

Weaknesses

Let it be known that Andersson is not a goal scorer, and that he is absolutely nothing special. Although he is seen as a potential checking center, he is not there yet. Like every other player that is fresh out of the minors (and in this preview), Andersson needs to spend a little bit more time in the gym and build some muscle before he can effectively fill his role. His acceleration could also use some work, as he is quite slow at times skating up and down the ice compared to his line mates as well as other prospects.

Expectations

Unfortunately, this preview has to end on a bombshell. Out of all the possible forwards that the Red Wings have on their crop for this year, Andersson is probably the one with the lowest upside and probably will not be hanging around the scene for an overly extended period of time. With that being said, Andersson is essentially the glue to the two hubcaps on either side of him, and because of injuries and a lack of "quality" depth, he will be playing in Detroit.

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