Grand Rapids Griffins 2012-13 First Half Report Cards|
Next wave on tap...
By Jason Kasiorek
January 21, 2013
Grand Rapids has had its best start in several years, washing away some of the sting of the last few losing seasons, and giving some hope to the future. Part of that hope is the emergence of the members of the next wave, expected to take over after established players like Tatar, Nyquist and Smith graduate. Netminder Petr Mrazek and forwards Landon Ferraro, Riley Sheahan and Luke Glendening have played big parts in the team's success the first half, with several other players on the verge of breaking out.
These are the Griffins' first half grades:
The Rating Scale:
A - Excellence
B - Above Average - Exceeds Expectations
C - Average - Meets Expectations
D - Below Average
F - Fail
Landon Ferraro A
Finally healthy for the first time in several seasons, Ferraro is showing that he has the tools to be an NHL player. The speedy forward is among the team leaders in scoring despite seeing most of his time on the third line. He is dangerous every time he is on the ice, and plays in all situations. He is particularly adept on the penalty kill and is among the league leaders in shorthanded points.
Tomas Tatar A
Tatar has been a different player this season and the Griffins have reaped the benefit. The fourth year pro is at the top of his game and displaying a new level of confidence as he has developed into a dominant player who can change a game with his skill or his will. He uses his low center of gravity and strength to go to the net, and few can stop him on the way there. Tatar has served notice that he is ready for a look at the next level, as he has taken the next step here.
Gustav Nyquist A
The playmaking winger has done nothing in the first half to indicate he is not ready for an NHL job. He has quietly piled up points and is one of the top offensive threats in the AHL and was named as to the AHL all-star team. One of the hallmarks of his game is consistency, as he rarely goes more than a game or two without a point.
Petr Mrazek A
Mrazek has been the difference maker so far this season. The confident rookie ripped off a franchise best winning streak on his way to 13 wins in his first 19 games and a spot among the league leaders in the first half. He gives the team a chance to win every time he is between the pipes and has stolen a few games they had no business being in. The capper was a recent nod as one of the netminder's on the AHL all-star team.
Luke Glendening B+
Glendening started the season in the ECHL, and then went on a scoring tear, playing well enough to get a look from coach Blashill, who was trying to energize his fourth line. Consider it mission accomplished for the GR native as he scored on his first shift and hasn't looked back. His hustle and strong play have earned him a regular spot in the lineup and he has not looked out of place on any of the lines.
Thomas McCollum B
After another abysmal start to the season, McCollum found himself playing backup to rookie phenom Mrazek. With the pressure removed and some extra work with the goaltending coaches, McCollum has enjoyed a bit of resurgence and is playing the best hockey of his pro career.
Brian Lashoff B
Lashoff plays a quiet, efficient game, and most nights you don't notice the 6'3 rearguard. He uses his size and wingspan to frustrate opponents and is a key component in the team's transition game, breaking up plays and sending the puck back up ice. Lashoff also has some offensive skill and can carry the puck end to end or unleash his big, accurate point shot as well.
Brennan Evans B
The veteran blueliner took a few weeks to find his stride, but since then has been a rock solid defender who has made life in the GR zone difficult. He is a leader on and off the ice and has done a great job working with Billins to shore up the rookie's defensive game. He plays a physical, abrasive game, and while he does not drop the gloves often, when he does, he is a punishing fighter.
Chad Billins B
Rookie rearguard Billins got off to a red-hot start offensively, even leading the league in assists for quite awhile. The torrid pace slowed down eventually, but it corresponded with an improvement in his defensive game; which saw him go from a double digit minus rating to around even. He still has work to do, but so far has been a pleasant surprise.
Max Nicastro B
Nicastro has been the victims of the numbers game on the Griffins blueline, and has been up and down to Toledo to get playing time. When he has been in the lineup he has been impressive, showing off a physical game and the ability to move the puck. The rookie blueliner has leapfrogged fellow prospect Fournier and should benefit from Smith's absence to get more playing time.
Joakim Andersson B
Andersson has benefited offensively from time on the first line, but remains a good two-way forward and may be better suited for duty elsewhere especially if Sheahan keeps up his strong play in that spot. The stocky forward missed some time with an injury and is looking to bounce back in the second half.
Riley Sheahan B
The rookie forward made a fairly easy transition to the pro game, especially defensively. But his game really started to take off following a much publicized off ice incident. With a new focus on the ice Sheahan turned up the heat and produced 8 goals and 11 points in his last 14 games, claiming a job as the number one center along the way. He uses his size well, and has an uncanny knack for getting open around the net and using his lightning quick release to surprise goalies.
Adam Almquist B
After a small period of adjustment, Almquist staked his claim to a top four spot on the blueline and has displayed the skills he was known for overseas. He has risen to the occasion and enjoyed his best stretch when filling in for Paetsch and Smith, scoring at a point per game pace. He still has some work to do, but has been impressive so far.
Nathan Paetsch B
Paetsch got off to a slow start because of injuries, but has really made his presence felt since returning. It is easy to see that he has spent regular time in the NHL as he is so poised and patient with the puck. His offensive game has ramped up, and defensively he is better than advertised. Expect a big second half, as he will see more powerplay time with Smith graduated to Detroit.
Mitch Callahan B-
Callahan has done a good job of adapting his game to a more suitable role. Once he realized that he didn't have the size to be an everyday enforcer, he started to use his speed and skill to become a top flight defensive forward and forechecker. The determined winger has gone from a frequent scratch to a regular penalty killer who sees regular ice time in all situations. The only thing Callahan has not been able to get on track is his offense, but if he keeps playing the way he has, that will come.
Frankie Pare C+
The slick sniper got off to a good start, overcoming his normal season-opening slump. When he is on he scores as well as anybody on the team, but is still a streaky player. He is on pace to score in his normal 50 point range and currently meeting expectations.
Jeff Hoggan C+
Hoggan is a responsible winger who plays hard every shift and gives an honest effort. He is no longer the scorer he was in the past, but every once in awhile he turns on the jets and surprises an opposing netminder. He is a calming presence in the room and on the bench and leads by example with his work ethic and optimism.
Triston Grant C
Grant has done just about was expected of him, provided a physical presence, some energy, and a little bit of offense while making the Griffins tougher to play against. He knows his role and delivers it fairly consistently without taking a lot of bad penalties.
Brendan Smith C
The third year blueliner again showed he has the skills to play at the next level, but not always the intensity or desire. He definitely played better when he was angry and was involved more consistently over the last few weeks. We have probably seen the last of Smith in the AHL.
Trevor Parkes C
Parkes has played well in spurts, and is definitely a more confident player this season. He is dangerous when he has room and plays a physical, tenacious game. He is a shorthanded threat and keeps opposing players looking over their shoulders when he is on the ice. Consistency remains his biggest detriment.
Louis-Marc Aubry C-
Aubry's strong play is probably not really reflected in the grade above. He plays well and is noticeable every game, using his size, speed and skill to break up plays and create scoring chances. The one caveat is the almost complete lack of offense from someone who clearly has the ability and ice time to score more.
Andrej Nestrasil C-
The stocky winger is tearing the cover off the ball in the ECHL, but has not seen that translate yet at the AHL level. He has seen spot duty in different places in the lineup, but is probably destined to return to the ECHL for more seasoning. It remains to be seen whether he has the intensity or speed to play at the AHL level.
Brent Raedeke C-
Raedeke got off to a slow start and never really found a regular spot in Coach Blashill's lineup. After seeing spot time as a rotating scratch, he was bumped down to the ECHL in favor of Glendening. He got a bit of a reprieve due to injuries, but may have run out of time as an AHL regular.
Tomas Jurco C-
Starting the season on a regular line, Jurco had a solid but unspectacular stretch. He was noticeable most nights, creating chances and using his size to go to the net or protect the puck. He appeared to be just a goal away from breaking out. That goal did not come and his play has fallen off a bit a frustration has settled in. He has way too much talent to not take another step forward.
Gleason Fournier D
The smooth skating blueliner is getting his second chance to prove he is an AHL'er but so far has not been able to show that. He takes an inordinate amount of penalties, and has not demonstrated his calling card offensive game.