DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings today recalled left wing Ryan Kuffner, right wing Evgeny Svechnikov, defenseman Alex Biega and defenseman Oliwer Kaski from the American Hockey League’s Grand Rapids Griffins. Additionally, the Red Wings placed left wing Andreas Athanasiou (retroactive to Sept. 20), center Frans Nielsen, defenseman Trevor Daley and defenseman Jonathan Ericsson on injured reserve and placed forwards Johan Franzen and Henrik Zetterberg on long-term injured reserve.
Kuffner scored his first professional goal in his AHL debut during the Griffins’ season-opening win on Saturday after signing with the organization as a free agent on March 12, 2019. The 23-year-old appeared in 10 NHL games with the Red Wings during the 2018-19 season following a four-year career at Princeton University, where he set the school record for goals after racking up 75 goals in 132 games from 2015-19. Kuffner totaled 152 points (75-77-152) and 20 penalty minutes in his four-year collegiate career. The Ottawa, Ontario, native was a 2019 ECAC First-Team All-Star after he was named an ECAC Second-Team All-Star as a junior in 2017-18.
Svechnikov made his season debut with the Griffins on Saturday after missing the entire 2018-19 season due to injury and picked up three points (1-2-3). The former first-round pick (19th overall) of the Red Wings in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft has appeared in 16 NHL games with Detroit, notching four points (2-2-4) and eight penalty minutes. He has also appeared in 132 AHL games with the Griffins over the last four seasons, recording 77 points (28-49-77) and 122 penalty minutes, helping the team win a Calder Cup championship in 2017. A native of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Russia, Svechnikov spent two seasons with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League before turning professional, logging 157 points (64-93-157) and 167 penalty minutes in 105 games from 2014-16.
Biega, 31, was acquired by Detroit in a trade with Vancouver on Sunday and has appeared in 179 NHL games with the Canucks since 2014-15, totaling 36 points (4-32-36) and 94 penalty minutes. A 5-foot-10, 199-pound blueliner from Montreal, Quebec, Biega posted his best statistical season with Vancouver in 2018-19, registering a career-high 16 points (2-14-16) to rank fourth among Canucks defensemen in points, despite skating in only 41 games. Biega has also logged 351 games in the American Hockey League with the Portland Pirates, Rochester Americans and Utica Comets over his 10 professional seasons, registering 115 points (20-95-115), a plus-16 rating and 245 penalty minutes. Prior to his professional career, Biega spent four seasons at Harvard University, serving as captain in 2009-10. He recorded 70 points (15-55-70) in 131 collegiate games from 2006-10.
Kaski, 23, is in his first season in North America after signing with the Red Wings as a free agent in May 2019 and also scored in his AHL debut in Grand Rapids’ 8-5 win on Saturday. Kaski was the most-valuable player of the SM-Liiga, Finland’s top professional league, during the 2018-19 season after leading defensemen and finishing sixth overall in league scoring with 51 points (19-32-51) in 59 games with the Lahti Pelicans. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound blueliner has played parts of three seasons in the SM-Liiga for HIFK Helsinki and the Pelicans, totaling 73 points (30-43-73), a plus-15 rating and 20 penalty minutes in 144 games. Kaski also made his national team debut in 2018-19 and won a gold medal with Finland at the 2019 IIHF World Championship in Bratislava and Kosice, Slovakia, collecting two assists in 10 games.
In terms of the CBA rules that govern what happens here, the four players who were put on injured reserve have to stay there at least seven days. While they’re on regular IR, their cap hits will continue to count, but they can be replaced on the 23-man roster.
Technically, putting Athanasiou on IR retroactively has very little meaning just yet, but it starts the clock in case the team needs to move him to LTIR, which allows the team to use the LTIR exemption for cap purposes, but requires that the player miss at least 10 NHL games AND be on the IR for at least 24 days. AA being on regular IR means he can come back any time (as long as the team makes roster space for him). If he does have to be moved to LTIR, the earliest he could return would be October 25th against Buffalo.
It’s interesting and unfortunate to see Nielsen back on IR so soon. As I shared on the latest episode of WIIM Radio, I have very serious concerns about Nielsen’s future and the possibility of ongoing concussion issues.
In the meantime, it very much seems that Svechnikov will start working into the lineup immediately, given that the team has to have early concerns about the Bertuzzi-Larkin-Mantha line’s ability to continue to put up four goals every game.
On defense, I would guess that Madison Bowey would be the choice to replace Trevor Daley, but I’m not certain that the team called up both Biega and Kaski to sit. The recently-acquired Biega would seem a natural fit for the healthy scratch, but part of me thinks we’ll see Detroit go to the 11/7 split among forwards and defensemen in the near future, with either Christoffer Ehn or Jacob de la Rose joining Ryan Kuffner in the Leino Lounge.
All early speculation of course, but we’ll keep you updated as the team prepares to play Anaheim on Tuesday.