Last year the Grand Rapids Griffins had a stunning season. They claimed the Midwest division and enjoyed a thrilling playoff run en route to their first Calder Cup success. On paper, not too much has changed from that Cup winning team. So, what should be expected of the 2013-14 Griffins? Considering there will be up to 17 returning cast members from last year expect more of the same.
The team boasts a plethora of young talent. According to Hockey’s Future’s Top 20 prospects for the Detroit Red Wings, the Griffins have twelve of the Top 20 on their roster: Gustav Nyquist LW (1), Petr Mrazek G (2), Calle Jarnkrok C (4), Tomas Jurco RW (7), Riley Sheahan C (8), Ryan Sproul D (9), Xavier Ouellet D (10), Martin Frk RW (11), Teemu Pulkkinen RW (12), Landon Ferraro C (15), Alexei Marchenko D (18), and Adam Almquist D (19).
The most puzzling name on that list: Nyquist. Not because of his talent. Not because of his prospect placement. But because, well, why? Why?! Why is a player this talented back in the AHL to start the season? Last season in the AHL he played 58 games, scored 23 goals, and picked up 37 assists. He also suited up for 22 games with the Red Wings where he managed 3 goals and 3 assists. Already three games into this season he has 2 goals and 4 assists. Simply put. This kid isn’t going to be in Grand Rapids for too much longer.
Another big name back from last year is netminder Petr Mrazek. The 21 year-old from the Czech Republic was fantastic in his first professional season last year with the Griffins. He played the bulk of games in net and recorded 23 wins, 2.33 GAA, and a .916 SV%. The Red Wings might have a good goalie in Jimmy Howard who they’ve investing in for the next six years, but Mrazek is a player I expect to hear great things from at the NHL level for a number of years. He is fast, athletic, and can only improve between the ears with time.
The Admirals defensemen better be prepared for some speed in this match up. Why? Darren Helm is suiting up for the Griffins. One of the fastest skaters in the NHL, Helm has been incredibly banged up in recent years. Most recently he has been nursing a groin injury, but is expected to hit the comeback trail with a game against the Admirals Friday night.
Last season the Ads went 5-3-0-0 against the Griffins. Patrick Cehlin lead the team in scoring against them with 3 goals and 2 assists. Also pesky against the Griffins is Taylor Beck who in 10 games has a goal and 7 assists in the match up.
How do you see the Ads fairing against the Griffins? Will the solid start on the road continue?