Birthday: August, 6 1994
Birth Place: London, ON
Height/Weight: 6’2, 192 lbs
Athanasiou was a rare bright spot for the Red Wings in what was a mostly bleak season in 2016-17. When he wasn’t in Jeff Blashill’s doghouse Athanasiou was an electrifying and productive player for Detroit. He finished last season with 18 goals, which was good enough for second best on the team. He was also one of the Wings’ best shooters with a shooting percentage of 15%, second only to Tomas Tatar (15.1%) and Thomas Vanek (15.2%).
If you need some visual evidence of Athanasiou’s offensive skills, here’s a memorable goal from last season:
Athanasiou utilized his blistering speed and skilled hands to burn past opposing players to find the back of the net many times in 2016-17. Aside from his 18 goals last season, he also put up 11 assists and finished ninth in points (29) on the team.
AA is a dynamic young skater who the Red Wings will and should rely on as the team attempts to rebuild on-the-fly in hopes of returning the NHL postseason once again. It would be a disappointing display of salary cap mismanagement if Detroit’s general manger, Ken Holland, somehow found himself at odds with re-signing Athanasiou this off-season.
Looking Ahead to 2017-18
Putting all aforementioned sarcasm aside, there is a real possibility that Athanasiou may chase a bigger payday all the way to Russia and the KHL. The Ak Bars have reportedly offered him a one-year deal worth between $2.5-$3 million. In contrast the Red Wings are willing to dish out two years at $1.9 million per season.
The fact that he hasn’t signed a deal yet with the KHL may be a good sign for Red Wings fans and the whole situation ultimately may just be a leverage move by Athanasiou and his agent. Either way, the thought of losing a player like Athanasiou is extremely disheartening. Detroit will need all the offensive help they can get next season and losing #72 would be a huge blow to the team.
However, if he decides to stay and play in the NHL, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Athanasiou could be a 20 goal scorer for the Wings next season. If Holland’s master plan falls apart next year, and many think it will, the Wings should allow younger players, like Athanasiou, to have a more prominent role on the roster. The speedy-center has proven that he can score goals in a thrilling fashion, something Detroit as a whole wasn’t very good at in 2016-17 for the most part.
On the other hand, professional athletes have been known to regress after signing new and lucrative contracts. This is not to say that Athanasiou will take his foot off the gas if he’s signed to a new contract in Detroit, it’s also quite possible he would thrive in that situation. For now it’s all purely speculation.