The Griffins got off to a bit of a rocky start this season, much like they did last season, however with Blashill behind the bench, a butt load of talent on the roster, great leadership from Jeff Hoggan, Nathan Paetsch, Brenan Evans and the "vets" on the team, and a lot of hard work and discipline, the Griffins are off to the races.
Reference Links: I'm going to be pulling data and stats from the following sources.
Official site of the Grand Rapids Griffins: Griffins Stats
2013-2014 Regular Season Individual Player Stats
All of the Box Scores can be found at the above link
Link of interest:
Red Wings Central ranks their top 20 prospects in order. I initially disagreed with a few of the positions in the rankings, but it's hard to nitpick when the first 10-15 are all so good and the top 5 are awfully close.
Let's take a look at where the Griffins stand right now:
- They have an overall record of 10-4-1-1
- They lead the Midwest Division with 22 points and are 2nd in the Western Conference
- The Griffins have the best best Goals For/Goals Against differential in the league, scoring 18 more goals than they've allowed.
- Griffins also have the 2nd best Goals For (62) in the league. Abbotsford is the 1st with 64 goals but has played 3 more games than the Griffins
- The Griffins have scored 6 or more goals in 4 games, 4 or more goals in 9 games, and have been held to fewer than 3 goals only 3 times in 16 games. Their season high goals in a single game is 8. Moral of the story.. The Griffins like scoring goals and they're getting them from lots of players and lines.
- The Griffins have 6 players with double digit points (Nyquist, Jurco, Pulkkinen, Sproul, Hoggan, Jarnkrok) and Nyquist and Jurco are both in the top 10 scorers in the league.
Gustav Nyquist - Calle Jarnkrok - Tomas Jurco
This line has combined for 50 points (21G 29A) in 16 games. That's right, 50 points in 16 games. Go ahead and pick your jaw up off the floor, I'll wait.
I won't go into great detail on Nyquist, because everyone already knows about him and his 21 points (7G 14A). I've only been able to watch him live once so far this season, but he looked good, although he did try to be too fancy at times. He leads the team in goals and points and from what I can tell has been manning the point on the top power play unit. There's not much more I can say about him at this point that hasn't already been discussed to death. Nyquist is good at hockey.
Ironhook played 9 games with the Griffins last spring, had 3 assists and looked extremely physically outmatched, wasn't able to keep up with the speed of the game, and spent most of the games skating around (a lot) chasing the pay. It was evident he posessed the skills and smarts (he's a very smart player) he was just kind of lost because of the big difference in the size and speed of the game. He went back to Sweden and started working out and training a LOT. He looked much more stronger and more comfortable in the Prospects Tournament this summer, and has been on the rise ever since. Right out of training camp, Coach Blashill made Jarnkrok the the top line center at even strength and on the power play. Ironhook got off to a slow start with the Griffins production-wise, putting up 4 points (2G 2A) in his first 9 games. He was doing all the right things, and playing like a top line center, the points were just slow to come. He's picking up the pace though and really starting to adjust his game, tallying 5 points (2G 3A) in his last 5 games and is 6th on the team in points. He also had 3 power play goals and is tied with Captain Jeff Hoggan for 2nd on the team. IronHook is really starting to come on strong. And his numbers are pretty good for a rookie in his first year in the AHL.
Tomas Jurco is 2nd on the team in points with 19, and leads the team in goals with 9. He also leads the team in power play goals with 4, leads the team in shots on goal with 42 , and is 9th in the league in scoring. He scored his first professional hat trick on November 15th. He plays on the top power play unit, and while it's not a regular occurrence this season, I have seen him play on penalty kill as well. In one year, Jurco has gone from being a healthy scratch for a few games because he was so bad, to a top line winger at both even strength and on the PP, scoring goals, shooting the puck, and using his new-found size to dominate the competition and show why he was a hell of a steal as a 2nd round pick. I think Jurco will be a top 6 NHL player for sure, and I think he can definitely be a top line winger in the NHL. He's a very skilled player, who's really improved his 2-way game, doesn't have any problems being physical and standing up for himself and his teammates, and takes great pride in working hard. Watching him just take over a game and dominate anyone who tried to oppose him gives me the chills. He's a beast on the ice, and it doesn't matter what the situation is, Blashill can put Jurco out on the ice and know that he can do whatever needs to be done. Jurco is like a Datsyuk/Zetterberg/Hossa Hybrid who has amazing puck skills, can protect the puck like few others, has the size and strength to have his way on the ice, drives the net, scores highlight reel goals, knows when to do it himself and when to use his teammates, has the determination and work ethic to keep getting better, and takes great pride in being a complete player who can do everything. It's been really satisfying watching his growth from his first AHL games last year till now and this year he's at the point where he needs to get called up for a few NHL games this season. I think he's ready to get a little taste of the NHL and I'm ready to get a glimpse of what he can do against the big boys.
Jeff Hoggan - Cory Emmerton - Teemu Pulkkinen
Jeff Hoggan has 11 points (6G 5A) in 16 games and is 5th on the team in scoring. He's a crucial part of this team, and not only for his on ice contributions, but for his leadership. The Griffins made sure to re-sign him after last season, and he's received a lot of praise from not only the coaching staff, but also from his teammates who have said many times that without his leadership last year, they probably wouldn't have won the cup.
Cory Emmerton has 9 points (1G 8A) in 14 games and is on the top PK unit. When I saw him live, he looked like an AHL/ECHL player, and though he seems to be playing better now, I wish him well wherever he ends up next year.
Teemu "Angus" Pulkkinen is third on the team in scoring with 13 points (7G 6A), and is 4th on the team in shots on goal with 36. He's on the 2nd Power Play unit and has 2 Power Play goals so far. He's really dialing in his shooting and scoring abilities. The Holy Slapper is amazing to watch, but he's discovered that he's not going to be able to rely on that as much as he did in Finland. He's scoring goals from different places and in different ways, and seems to be playing the role of a sniper quite a bit. It looks like Pulkkinen and Jarnkrok are both adapting very well.
Landon Ferraro - Riley Sheahan - Luke Glendening
Ferraro has 6 points (3G 3A) in 13 games and is 3rd on the team in shots on goal. He missed the pre-season and first few games of the regular season after suffering a broken foot during training camp. He's fast, he has hands, he's a staple on the PK, and has the Griffins only short handed goal this season. He has a short handed goal in the Calder Cup playoffs, and 3 short handed goals last season.Ferraro is in the last year of his entry level contract and he'll be both a RFA and waiver eligible at the end of this season.
Riley Sheahan has 5 points (2G 3A) in 13 games, plays on the 2nd Power Play unit, and the 2nd Penalty Killing unit. I'm still not really sure what to expect from him in the future. When I watched him in Grand Rapids, he was one of the better players on the ice, which is a compliment to him, but also an indication of how the rest of the team did not play that well. He's also on the last year of his entry level contract and will be a RFA at the end of this season. For a 1st round pick, I had higher hopes from him. Glendening came into Grand Rapids last year and jumped ahead of Sheahan in the depth chart, and while Sheahan isn't a bad player by any means, I'm not sure if he'll be good enough to have a future with the Wings or not. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
I dont' really need to say anything more about Luke Glendenning, because what he's already done with the Red Wings, and the fact that he's got the call-up over a guy like Sheahan is pretty telling. Luke has only played 9 games with the Griffins this season, but he's also played 9 games with the Wings so far. He has 6 points (3G 3A) with the Griffins, and he and Ferraro together on the PK are a sight to behold. I remember those two creating more shorthanded scoring opportunities than and other PK tanden, hands down. Luke will also be a RFA after this season after earning his 1 year contract last year.
Triston Grant - Andrej Nestrasil - Mitch Callahan
This line has been really good for the Griffins, especially lately. They've combined for 21 points and have a penchant for scoring timely goals. They put a lot of offensive pressure on the opposing teams and even late in games, Blashill can throw these guys out on the ice and watch them keep the puck in the offensive zone. With the incredible depth in Grand Rapids right now, it's pretty awesome to be able to have these 3 guys as youre 4th line.
Triston Grant has a Griffins only contract, and has 7 points (3G 4A) and 20 PIM in 14 games. When Jordin Tootoo was sent down to Grand Rapids, Grant was the veteran who had to sit.
Andrej Nestrasil has 5 points (2G 3A) in 16 games and he's 1 point away from having a career best production. He will also be a UFA at the end of the season.
Mitch Callahan has 9 points (5G 4A) in 16 games and is 7th on the team in points and 6th in goals. Callahan plays on the top Penalty Killing unit and has become so much more than just the "tough guy" he was when he came to Grand Rapids. He's also in the last year of his entry level contract and will be a RFA at the end of the season. He plays a tough, physical game, but he has also shown a lot of discipline and control when players try to get under his skin, or try to bait him into taking a penalty or dropping the gloves. His offense has also picked up and he's become a responsible player who has earned the trust of his coaches. I think he could have a future with the Wings, but it will probably depend on if the Wings already have enough guys on the team that fill the same roll as Callahan.
Highlight Videos You'll want to see:
Also, a big thanks for We All Bleed Redd for putting together such great Griffins videos. They're a big help. You can click on the link to his YouTube channel above and subscribe so you get all his latest productions. I definitely recommend doing so.
Martin Frk was having a dickens of a time in Grand Rapids. He played 6 games and had 6 penalty minutes to show for it. He was sent to Toledo, and had 6 points (3G 3A) to show for it. It sounds like he's making progress and starting to put his pro game together. He's got he skills he needs to have a great pro career, he just needs more time to make the jump, and some confidence will help him a lot as well. I hope he continues to adjust quickly.
Marek Tvrdon has 6 points (4G 2A) in 8 games and also seems like he's picking up his game. After missing so much time in Juniors with injuries, and ultimately having surgery last year to have a rib removed, Tvrdon has a lot of rust to shake off. I heard talk that the Wings weren't ready to send him back to Juniors, but it was a possibility if he continued to struggle as much as he did at the beginning of the year. I don't think there's any danger of him being sent back to juniors, and like Frk, I hope he's able to continue to improve and exhibit the skill and talent we know he has.
Coming up next we'll take a look at the defense and goalies.
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