Griffins 2013-14 Second Half Report Cards
Blashill Keeps Prospect Pipeline Flowing...
By Jason Kasiorek
July 27th, 2014
The organization fell short of a second straight Calder Cup championship, bowing out in the second round to eventual champion Texas, but things still look bright in Grand Rapids. Coach Blashill has helped develop a new crop of prospects who now stand ready for an opportunity to play their trade in Detroit. Teemu Pulkkinen, Petr Mrazek, Mitch Callahan and Xavier Ouellet are poised to join Sheahan and Jurco with the parent Red Wings, in an attempt to earn an NHL job during training camp. Thomas McCollum and Andrej Nestrasil have also seen their careers pulled off the scrap heap and back into the discussion after impressive campaigns.
These are the Griffins' second half grades:
The Rating Scale:
A - Excellence
B - Above Average - Exceeds Expectations
C - Average - Meets Expectations
D - Below Average
F - Fail
Teemu Pulkkinen A+
Pulkkinen picked up the pace in the second half, potting 18 goals and 29 points in his last 33 games and then leading the team in playoff scoring with 11 points (6 goals) in 10 games. This was even more impressive when you take into account that he did this while essentially becoming the team's only offensive option due to trades, injures and recalls in the second half. His meteoric rise could lead to a spot in Detroit next season, where his wicked wrister could help the powerplay, but he is also likely to return to the Griffins to start the season.
Thomas McCollum A+
Capped off his best season as a professional with a solid second half, finishing in the top four in the AHL in GAA (2.30) and SV% (.922). McCollum stood tall down the stretch with first place on the line and Mrazek in Detroit, displaying some mental toughness that had been missing in the past. The Wings noticed his improvement and signed him to return next season after a year on an AHL only contract.
Petr Mrazek A+
Mrazek continued to up the ante with his play both in both leagues, serving notice that he is ready for a larger role in the NHL. He led the AHL in goals against average right down to the wire before ending up second to Jake Allen, and then turned in a dominant performance in the 1st round of the playoffs. The re-signing of Gustafsson by Detroit points to Petr spending at least another partial season in Grand Rapids.
Tomas Jurco A (Playoffs Only)
Spent most of the second half as a regular in Detroit and then returned to the AHL midway through the first round. He turned in a handful of dominant performances, showing that his unique brand of physical play and next level skill is indeed NHL ready. Due to his waiver free status, he may be on the Nyquist plan, starting the season in the AHL before departing for good.
Adam Almquist A-
After a subpar first half, Almquist turned things around in a big way the second half. He led the team in scoring down the backstretch; notching 33 points in his last 38 games and raised his defensive game as well. Unfortunately, for the second year in a row, he was knocked out of the playoffs due to injury, shedding doubt on his ability to survive the heavy going with his diminutive frame. He is a restricted free agent and while Detroit will retain his rights, he is headed back to Europe.
Mitch Callahan A-
Saw his breakout season derailed late, but returned from a gruesome facial injury to show his mettle during the postseason. Callahan managed 11 goals and 23 points in his last 32 games while excelling as a top defensive forward. One of the team's best penalty killers, Mitch demonstrated his value as a well-rounded player capable of excelling on any line and earned the trust of coach Blashill. A restricted free agent, Callahan will be given a chance to battle for a spot with Detroit in training camp, but must clear waivers to be sent back to the Griffins again.
Xavier Ouellet A-
Continued his strong rookie season in the second half, becoming much more assertive and confident. Very steady in his own end, he uses his mobility to get the puck out of trouble and transition to offense. Statistically he struggled along with the rest of the team during a late season lull, but was still a defensive presence. Ouellet got into an NHL playoff game with Detroit and came back an impact player for the Griffins the rest of the way. He has an outside shot of stealing an NHL job out of training camp, but still has waiver eligibility and should be a key for the Griffins
Brennan Evans A-
Veteran blueliner had another great season for the Griffins, posting career highs in offensive numbers while providing a physical presence. He dropped the gloves a bit less this season, partly due to his reputation and not many opponents willing to awaken the sleeping giant. This was a plus as he is much more valuable on the ice, as the safety net for the younger defensemen and as a shut down defender that excels on the penalty kill. Evans earned another contract and should be a rock on the Griffins blueline.
Riley Sheahan A- (Playoffs Only)
Graduated to Detroit for the second half but had a brief encore in the AHL in the playoffs. He managed nearly a point per game and looked to have found more confidence in his offensive game. He is now an NHL'er and will not return to Grand Rapids.
Mattias Backman A-
Came in at the end of the season and quickly became a regular. He saw time in all situations and was one of the team's better blueliners. Backman is a strong skater, moves the puck well, and seemingly has ice water in his veins with a low panic point. Not flashy, but very efficient, Backman could be a dark horse candidate for a job with the parent club next season.
Andrej Nestrasil A-
One of coach Blashill's reclamation projects, Nestrasil moved from spare part to front liner over the second half of the season. The big winger played with an edge and showed off some surprising skill playing on the top line with Pulkkinen. With 25 points down the stretch and another four goals in the playoffs Nesty has earned another look and another contract in the organization.
Cory Emmerton B+
Emmerton split the second half between the AHL and Detroit, quietly putting up nearly a point per game during his time in Grand Rapids. He enjoyed a productive playoffs and seemed to raise the level of his game to be a factor every night. Despite his success as a top six two-way forward in the AHL, he has not been able to seize an NHL job and his time in the organization has come to an end.
Jeff Hoggan B
The captain missed some playing time due to injury and the rotating veteran scratch in the second half and was not as affective. He remains a consummate team leader and his example and work ethic were on full display during the playoffs when he tried to carry the team past Texas. He has another year remaining on his contract and will be looking for some redemption.
Trevor Parkes B
The consummate banger, Trevor enjoyed a strong second half in spot duty, notching 6 goals and 9 points and a +7. A willing hitter, Parkes is an agitator that has other teams looking over their shoulders when he is on the ice. His offense has not translated to the AHL level on a consistent basis and he has never been able to cement his spot as a regular for a full season. A restricted free agent, Parkes may be moving on to another organization for his next shot.
Triston Grant B
A vocal team leader and locker room prankster, Grant was a frequent scratch down the stretch as the team had too many veterans, and both he and the team suffered for it. The trucculent veteran continued to bring his work ethic, grit and physical play when he was on the ice, and will be missed next season as he has moved on to Milwaukee (AHL).
Alexey Marchenko B-
Considered the most NHL ready of the blueline prospects, Marchenko did little to change that before being felled by an ankle injury requiring surgery. That Injury may keep the steady defensive defender in the AHL to start the season.
Zach Nastasiuk B-
Pushed a few people to the press box in the playoffs with his strong play on the 4th line. He looked strong defensively and worked hard in a checking role, bringing some spark to the lineup. Nastasiuk still has another year of junior eligibility, so he will return to the OHL in the fall.
Mattias Janmark B-
Very impressive in a brief look despite his absence the score sheet. Janmark showed the size and strength to play a North American game, and had some Jurco level puck skills and vision to go with it. Scheduled to spend at least another year in Europe, he could return with a little more seasoning ready to have more of an impact.
Nathan Paetsch B-
Savvy veteran blueliner really elevated his game the last 20 games and into the playoffs. He played steady defense, chipped in 12 points during that stretch, and used his mobility to press the issue. He will have to adjust to playing without usual partner Almquist next season, but should continue to be a good mentor for the blossoming corps of young defenders in the system.
Ryan Sproul C+
Much has been said about the perceived shortcomings of Sproul's defensive game, but suffice it to say he has made improvements, and it is not as bad as advertised. The offensively gifted rearguard went through a stiff learning curve in the second half, but really picked up his play the last 20 games and into the playoffs. His booming right-handed shot, skating and size may give him the inside track to see some time in Detroit early. He probably would still benefit from another season in the AHL.
Jordan Tootoo C+
Classy veteran accepted his AHL demotion and gave 100% every game. The problem was he just didn't have much left in the tank, as injuries and miles on the odometer conspired to limit his effectiveness. Detroit bought him out over the summer, so he is unlikely to return.
Colin Campbell C+
Another in a long line of undrafted collegiate forwards signed by the organization, Campbell saw some action with Grand Rapids after his college season ended. He is physically mature and plays a gritty hitting game based on work ethic and desire. His scoring touch was not apparent in his late season audition, but like Luke Glendening, he may benefit from a stay in the ECHL to find his confidence before making his impact.
Nick Jensen C
Took advantage of Marchenko's injury to become an everyday player in the lineup. Despite being an older prospect, he was the least impressive of the blue-chip rookies. A smooth skater who moves the puck well, Jensen was hampered by his lack of a physical game.
Gleason Fournier C
Fournier likely finished his time in the organization with a frustrating second half that saw him on the outside looking in. He tallied a pair of assists in the 15 games he got into and was OK defensively, but has not shown enough to earn another contract.
David McIntyre C-
McIntyre never seemed to find his comfort zone with the Griffins. The gritty forward was a non-factor for too many games and could not get his offense untracked with just 5 goals and 12 points in the last 38 games. An unrestricted free agent, he will ply his trade in Finland next season.
Martin Frk C-
Frk took a step forward from a disastrous first half, even earning a regular spot in the lineup for a while. He remains a work in progress, and has several areas to improve, most notably his skating. He did however show off a nice nose for the net, and an ability to win battles along the boards with his determination. An off-season of hard work would benefit Martin, and make the difference between being a prospect or a suspect.
Landon Ferraro C-
Continued an off year by struggling down the stretch at both ends of the ice. He managed just 13 points in 35 games, posted a team worst -8 in that time, and was a non-factor in the playoffs. He is a skilled, speedy forward who excels at the defensive end of the game and has shown more ability than the numbers reflect. He is out of waiver options next season and will have an opportunity to battle for a job in Detroit at camp.
Louis-Marc Aubry D
Aubry saw significantly more time in the second half, but was unable to capture the form from his rookie season. He was tried on the wing with very little impact and lost playing time to rookies on tryouts at the end of the season. He has been in a free fall the last two seasons, and has one more year left on his entry-level contract to find his game. He will have a hard time beating out some of his competition and could find himself in the ECHL.