Grand Rapids Griffins Second Half Report Cards|
Griffins Graduates at the top of the class...
By Jason Kasiorek
While the Griffins missed the their mark, finishing out of the playoffs and in last place in the conference, they made the grade in another area. As the primary affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings, the goal from the parent club was to keep developing players and sending them up the pipeline. It was towards that end that they succeeded. Several griffins saw time in Detroit to rave reviews, and the team stands on the brink of graduating three more players to the NHL. Justin Abdelkader, Jakub Kindl and Mattias Ritola have likely played their last games as AHL regulars and should fight for jobs on the 2010 Wings opening night roster. Another group are poised to take their spot on the depth chart and vie a call-up, most notably Jan Mursak, Tomas Tatar, Logan Pyett and Sergei Kolosov. With the club expected to add Brendan Smith, Brent Raedeke, Brian Lashoff, Willie Coetzee and Joakim Andersson for next season, the future is indeed bright.
These are the Griffins' second half grades:
The Rating Scale:
A - Excellence
B - Above Average - Exceeds Expectations
C - Average - Meets Expectations
D - Below Average
F - Fail
Justin Abdelkader A
Justin returned from Detroit and immediately made the team better. His development at the NHL level was evident in his play as he was a dominant physical player in the AHL. Abby did it all for GR the second half, providing leadership, scoring, muscle, grit and swagger. He has nothing left to prove at this level and will be a full time NHL player next season.
Brad May A
May was a breath of fresh air for this club when he was assigned by Detroit to play his first minor league games after an 18-year NHL career. Instead of sulking, he played his heart out and showed that he still had something left in the tank. He scored a surprising 5 goals and 10 points in 17 games and protected his teammates against the thugs that had victimized them earlier in the season. Brad was also a good influence on the younger players and brought some experience to the bench.
Douglas Janik A
Janik followed up his strong first half with a stronger second half, posting career highs in offensive numbers. He also showed he had what it takes to play at the next level during a stint in Detroit that drew raves from coach Babcock. An unrestricted free agent, Janik isn't likely to return, having played well enough to be in a position to entertain NHL job offers for next season
John Vigilante A
A fan favorite, Vigilante brought the same game every shift regardless of the score or the opponent. The speedy center used his superior on-ice vision to be a threat in all three zones. John was a versatile player, playing all three forward positions, on all four lines, and killing penalties during the season and not looking out of place in any role. He showed great chemistry late on a line with captain Tardif, setting him up on a late season goal-scoring streak.
Pat Rissmiller A-
Rissmiller had a good second half, and was a key contributor for the Griffins. At times he was the only consistent offensive threat on this team, and also was one its best defensive players. He did a great job working with the younger players, and was on a pace to challenge Williams for the scoring lead before breaking his wrist and missing the last few weeks.
Jan Mursak B
The surprise of the first half, Mursak kept up his strong play even though his scoring dropped off. Jan is a fearless forechecker with blazing speed and was quite adept at breaking up plays and creating odd man rushes. His work ethic and all-around game made him an asset to the club even when he wasn't scoring as much.
Jakub Kindl B
Jakub overcame a rough patch to play some of his best hockey as a pro down the stretch drive. The speedy rearguard started to gain some success in his puck moving ability and found that a good offense is a good defense. He started to be aggressive in getting the puck up ice instead of making mistakes in his own end. Late in the season when paired with Brian Lashoff, he raised his game another notch and was actually a difference maker for the first time in his career. He will graduate to the NHL this summer and begin the next set of lessons in Detroit.
Jamie Tardif B
The captain did it all this season, playing on every line and in all situations. He scored some big goals on the powerplay and stopped some big ones on the penalty kill. When the team needed some muscle he dropped the gloves and took on the other team's thugs. He played his hard working, honest, gritty, game every night, every shift and set an example for the rest of the team.
Sergei Kolosov B
Kolosov continued his steady progression of development, turning his first trip into the Olympics into another step up. His skating and intensity have improved dramatically, even over the first half. A prototypical stay at home defenseman, Sergei just needs to play with a little bit more of a mean streak and keep improving his offensive game to move up to the next level.
Daniel Larsson B
After a trying mid-season swoon, Larsson rebound down the stretch to lower his GAA by almost half a goal per game, and gut himself over the 20-win plateau. Next season will be a big one for the talented young netminder, to establish whether this season was a fluke or not. When he is on his game he looks so composed and confident, never scrambling, but in the right spot for the save.
Logan Pyett B
Pyett finished up a great rebound season, improving his play at both ends and providing consistent offense from the point. The stocky blueliner just missed out on scoring in double digits with nine goals, a number that is sure to climb with more powerplay time and a little more confidence. Pyett may have been the best all around defender on the team this season behind only Janik and was rewarded for his strong play with an increased role. He saw time both shorthanded and on the powerplay and even stepped up his physical game.
Mattias Ritola B
Ritola came back from a mid season audition in Detroit a new player. He showed great chemistry with Abdelkader and caught fire down the stretch, scoring at a torrid pace and missing his first 20-goal season by one. He plays a strong two-way game and can do things with the puck that very few can. He is out of waiver options next season, and should see time as the 13th forward in Detroit next season where coach Babcock already likes his game.
Jeremy Williams C+
Williams had an up and down season and followed up a frigid cold streak right around the clear day deadline with a torrid stretch that saw him tally 12 goals and 19 points in his last 17 contests. The sneaky sniper was there to score, and when he wasn't he didn't have much else to offer.
Frankie Pare C+
A gifted scorer and playmaker, Pare didn't seem to be able to get his offense firing consistently at the level he is capable. He still worked hard and brought his very mature defensive game, but for a player whose bread and butter is scoring, he didn't have the year he wanted.
Travis Ehrhardt C
The 1st year defenseman made some strides in his game during the second half in very limited playing time. Defensively he settled down and started to make the simple play to get the puck up ice. He looked like he was starting to get comfortable using his size and playing physical, and his offensive game should ramp up next season with some seasoning.
Ole-Kristian Tollefsen C
Tollefsen brought a presence to the Griffins blueline with propensity for punishing hits. He added a new dimension as opposing forwards spent time looking over their shoulders lest they get smoked. The gritty Norwegian shoed he would also drop the gloves and defend his teammates without hesitation. He never really got involved offensively, though it appears he has some skill with the puck. It would be interesting to see how we would look with a full season in Grand Rapids.
Riley Armstrong C
Armstrong is not the most talented guy in the lineup, but he plays hard all the time and is a gritty, hard-hitting player. His versatility came into play shortly after he was acquired, when injuries necessitated his move to center where he did a good job on an energy line that created turnovers and got pucks to the net. He brought something the club had in short supply, and his sandpaper demeanor got opposing players off their game as they followed him around.
Paul Crosty C
The team's resident enforcer the first half fell out of favor and found himself watching from the press box more often in the second half. His penalty minutes fell off dramatically as the season progressed, and as the depth increased on the back end, he was the odd man out.
Tomas Tatar C
Tomas was never the same player after leaving for the World Junior Championships earlier in the year. He struggled to contribute offensively at times and appeared to have lost some of the magic. The skilled winger continued to work hard and looked to be finding the range again as the season wound down. Expect big things from Tatar next season where a year of experience and a summer of conditioning will be a big help.
Cory Emmerton C-
Emmerton's development seems to be in a holding pattern, as he didn't really take a step forward this season. He is defensively sound and shows glimpses of top shelf offensive talent, but is running out of time to find the consistency and intensity he needs to move up.
Jordan Owens D+
Jordan was brought in to provide some energy and grit to the Griffins lineup, and didn't do that on a consistent basis. When he was on his game, he showcased his rink wide speed and hitting game, but he was invisible too much of the time to be a real factor. He didn't look like he ever really got comfortable with the team.
Thomas McCollum D
Rookie netminder lost his confidence around Christmas and had a brutal two and a half month losing streak sandwiched around a demotion to the ECHL. He showed signs of recovering at the end of the season, and should rebound next season with a year of experience under his belt.
Brian Lashoff A/Inc.
Following up on last season's strong finish, Lashoff again turned heads with his defensive acumen and great first pass. He posted a stunning +5 in six games and made Kindl look like a star.
Willie Coetzee Inc.
Willie got his feet wet with a couple of games at the end, showing he can generate offense with four shots on goal in that span. He has put himself in a good position to make this team next season with a strong camp and needs to add some strength to his frame.
Brandon Wong Inc.
Wong displayed a nose for the net and a good defensive game in the few games he saw action in at the end of the year. He had good speed and his size didn't seem to hinder him much. Expect the wings to invite him to camp this summer for a chance at a free agent contract and a job in GR.
Landon Ferraro Inc.
Ferraro didn't have much of an opportunity to show off before the end of the season, but gave a decent showing of himself. He didn't shy away from the physical game, throwing a monster hit on his first shift, and did not look out of place. He heads back to Red Deer (WHL) to get a strong start on overcoming his injury plagued 2009-10 campaign.