Andreas Athanasiou comes in ranked at #5 in the 2018 rankings in his last year as part of these rankings. He will be graduating to the status of grizzled over 25 veteran next year or something to that effect. Last year he ranked #3 and his fall is likely a result of an infusion of new talent. But also expectations for AA may be a bit more tempered than they were previously given his performance last season and what many are perceiving his ceiling may be. With his more advanced age and experience he is more of a known commodity than other players on this list.
Position: Left Wing
Born: August 6, 1994 (Age: 24)
Birthplace: London, Ontario, Canada
Drafted: 2012, Round 4, 110th Overall
Current Team: Detroit Red Wings
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 188 lbs
Recent Stats: 2017/18 NHL, Detroit Red Wings, 71GP, 16G, 17A, 33P, -15
Athanasiou’s most obvious weapon is his speed. He is amongst the league’s best for his breakaway ability and he has demonstrated so on many occasions. Larkin may hold the record for the fastest skater but most observers would agree AA is the quicker player. If you have to be somewhat of a one trick pony, speed is not a bad one to have. But Andreas does also possess a great set of hands for opening up opportunities 1 on 1 and finishing those breakaways obtained using his speed. He also has somewhat of an underrated shot and release that aren’t mentioned often. See the video below for his goals from this past season and you’ll see him putting all these abilities to use.
Given his strong offensive talents and finishing ability, you can understand fans wanting him to be among the top 6 forwards on the roster. However Athanasiou has also shown a penchant for ignoring or cheating his defensive responsibilities. He has a tendency to fly the zone early attempting to gain a step or missing his assignments on goals against. He can also bail on corner plays where he doesn’t have a clear chance at taking the puck. This has led to times where Blashill has cut his minutes and moved him down the lineup in an attempt to curb his defensive discipline. Blashill is not the first coach he has clashed with either. Athanasiou was traded from Dale Hunter’s London Knights in junior in part because of a lack of opportunity and whispers of a bit of a personality clash. You can see a bit of history repeating itself in these situations. His possession numbers while improved last season still sat below 50% indicating he gives up more than he creates.
Despite some of these slights to his game, the Wings management appears to at least be willing to give Andreas a chance to improve these areas of his game and perhaps even expecting it. They doled out a 2 year, $6 million contract meaning they expect him to find a place closer to the top of the lineup. He’s also going to have a shot to prove himself as a center based on some off-season reports, especially with the news of Zetterberg’s impending absence.
The hope among Red Wings fans is Athanasiou can find that honesty in his defensive game and be harder on contested pucks. He’s also large enough to be more effective in board battles. Perhaps this is the year he’s able to put it all together and use his speed to his advantage in coverage in addition to it being an offensive weapon. It’s somewhat of a make or break season for AA as there should be ample opportunity for him to show he belongs in the team’s Top 6 and capable of being a consistent 20 goal scorer. Or perhaps he’ll prove he’s the type of player better situated for a 3rd line role with sheltered minutes providing depth scoring.
What are your thoughts on Andreas Athanasiou at #5?
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