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Red Wings Top 25 Under 25: Riley Sheahan

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Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

We continue our look at the Red Wings Top 25 players under 25 years of age with a sometimes overlooked and underrated two-way forward whose start with the organization was quite bumpy but he has turned into a true fan favorite.  Today we take a look at Riley Sheahan.

Background

Position: Center

Shot: Left

Height: 6'3"

Weight: 226lbs

Born: December 71991 in St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada

Drafted: 2010 (#21 overall)

Growing up in St. Catherines, Riley played his Junior B hockey with the local St. Catherines Falcons of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League. He then took the less traditional route of going to play college hockey for Notre Dame instead of the Erie Otters in the Ontario Hockey League.  He was drafted 21st overall by the Red Wings in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.  After two more seasons with the Fighting Irish, Sheahan turned pro in 2012, playing seven games with the Grand Rapids Griffins as well as making his NHL debut with the Red Wings on April 7, 2012.  He spent a season and a half with the Griffins, winning the Calder Cup with then in 2013.  Groinageddon during the 2013-14 season led to his third call up (he played in one game with the Wings during the 2012-13 season as well).  Riley played 42 games with the Wings that season and has been with the team full time since then.

Stats


GP

G (EV/PP/SH)

A (EV/PP/SH)

PTS

PIM

S

TSA

S%

CF%

CF% rel

FF%

FF% rel

PDO

ATOI

FOW

FOL

FO%

oZS%

dZS%

2015-16

81

14 (10/3/1)

11 (10/1/0)

25

12

128

199

11

51.2

-0.7

50

-0.9

98.5

15:14

358

424

45.8

49

51

Career

204

36 (25/10/1)

49 (39/10/0)

85

38

314

529

12

53.9

1.4

53

1.4

99.1

15:09

1093

1165

48.4

56.1

43.9

Expectations

Before delving into where I see Sheahan fitting into the Red Wings plans going forward I want to lay out what has already been said about him on this subject on WIIM this offseason.

StraightOuttaSverdlovsk wrote the season review for Riley Sheahan, giving him a B- overall and stating that going forward Riley would be a great fit as the Wings third line center.

JJ outlined the details of the two year, $4.15M bridge deal Riley signed a month ago as well as laying out how the Red Wings should look to use him over the next two seasons. "At 25 years old and $2.075M in salary, it's clear what Riley Sheahan is at this point in his career - A bottom-six forward who can play two-way hockey effectively against other bottom six players."

Lastly, jpicks19 put him centering the Wings fourth line between Tomas Jurco and Anthony Mantha.  "Riley Sheahan would be the steadying influence on the line, a role he could thrive in...Sheahan and Abdelkader have both had time on the PK in the past and could be used in that role again."

The consensus among the WIIM staff appears to be that Riley Sheahan is best used as a two-way center on either the third or fourth lines, preferably with a couple wingers who have some level of offensive talent.  I like the idea of putting him on a line with some offensive minded players, preferably a shoot first type of player.  This would allow Sheahan to take advantage of some very underrated passing skills while also allowing the Wings to take advantage of his solid two-way game since he would be able to help cover for the more offensive minded player and ultimately allow that player to be more aggressive offensively.  What I am not fully sold on is his future as a full time centerman.  Even though he has played a lot of sheltered minutes on the Red Wings third line, Sheahan's face off numbers are not that great and hopefully with the likes of Dylan Larkin, Frans Nielsen, Darren Helm, Luke Glendening and Andreas Athanasiou on the team for the next several seasons they do not really need him to play there full time either.

In a perfect world, Riley would be able to play wing on a line with Anthony Mantha that is centered by Athanasiou.  His passing, two-way play, puck retrieval and even his very underrated and underutilized wrist shot along with his calming veteran presence would be a very good compliment to the speed and skill of the two younger Wings. This next season is likely not going to be a perfect world.  The signing of Helm to the term and cap hit they signed him to means either they are going to play him as a top six wing (please no) or they want to play him as the third line center.  This would free up Sheahan to go where I think he would be perfectly suited for and where he found some level of success this past season...on the fourth line wing with Luke Glendening.  Adding someone like Sheahan to Glendening's wing would really up the overall ability of the line and allow them to put someone like Tomas Jurco on the line.  Of course, it would also mean scrapping the whole using Glendening's line as the sacrificial lamb line against the opponent's top line concept they have used the last season.

Long term I agree that Riley Sheahan is best used as a bottom six forward.  His stats say that he could be a solid two-way bottom six forward and his face off numbers say that he might be better off playing on the wing rather than center.  If allowed to play as a true bottom six line against other team's bottom six lines, Riley Sheahan should be able to consistently put up 12-15 goals and 30+ points a season while also contributing some time on both special-team units.  While not completely irreplaceable, guys like Riley Sheahan are the type that contending teams tend to have three or four of playing in their bottom six.