Detroit Red Wings: 4 Griffins Who Will Soon Challenge for an NHL Roster Spot
The Detroit Red Wings have one of the most dynamic groups of forwards in the NHL. That group of forwards is being pushed to be better by the group of talented young players in their AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Regardless of whether you believe there will be hockey this season, the AHL is only a step down in talent as a whole.
The Red Wings farm team in the Griffins have reeled off six straight victories and seem to have finally found an answer in goal. Not only that, but Grand Rapids is scoring goals in bunches. Five of those last six wins have seen the Griffins score four goals or more.
This is excellent news for the future of the Red Wings, even if the NHL lockout persists, fans can rest assured that the team's future is in good hands.
Here are four young Griffins that you should be keeping tabs on this weekend (where the Griffins play three games) and in general moving forward.
1. Petr Mrazek
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Petr Mrazek owns a 5-0 record with the Griffins. Although he gave up five goals in his latest outing, Mrazek has a mere 2.34 GAA and a 92.1 save percentage.
With just 12 goals given up in five games, Mrazek has tied a Griffins team record for best start with the team with his 5-0 record.
The big thing that keeps fans watching Mrazek is the fact that he never gives up on a shot and always seems to make big saves when his team needs them the most.
The young Czech goalie goes post-to-post and moves from the post to the top of the crease very fluidly. He doesn't always sit at the top of his crease, playing fairly deep in the net, but this allows Mrazek to move side-to-side easier.
It will be interesting to see how Mrazek continues the season after his hot start, as he is 5-0 in the AHL and 2-1 in the ECHL before being called up to the Griffins.
Mrazek's stamina will likely also be called into question this season, as the AHL season is a little bit longer than the OHL's season and the talent is obviously better in the AHL.
2. Tomas Tatar
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With 13 points in 14 games, Tatar will be looking to crack his AHL career high of 58 points this season, and if the NHL season ever resumes, he could possibly challenge for a roster spot on the Red Wings this year.
Tatar's got some sweet hands and he's always thinking a step ahead of other players, and often playing "Johnny on the spot" with some of his goals.
Tatar won a silver medal in the World Championships last year with Slovakia, contributing five points over 10 contests.
His future with the Red Wings will be largely decided on the decision whether to move out some pieces at forward, as Detroit has too many forwards for Tatar to realistically challenge for a roster spot this season.
Either way, Tatar will be great to watch this season in the AHL.
3. Gustav Nyquist
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Nyquist leads the Griffins in scoring with 17 points in 14 games.
Those 17 points rank him seventh overall in the AHL scoring race.
Nyquist is easily the Griffins' most NHL-ready forward playing in Grand Rapids and is making a serious case for ice time at the NHL level whenever the NHL resumes play.
In the image above, Nyquist is wearing number 14, but in the AHL he wears 13 and he plays like another player who wears 13: Pavel Datsyuk.
Nyquist has great awareness with the puck and the Griffins' team page lists him as a right wing. He could end up playing as a first- or second-line right wing and this would be a great boost to the team as a lot of Red Wings forwards are left wingers as opposed to right wingers.
4. Brendan Smith
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Brendan Smith wants to play for the Detroit Red Wings.
His spot on the team is essentially guaranteed this season, but thanks to the NHL lockout, his playing time is not.
Smith continues to develop in his puck moving skills and has played a role on the Grand Rapids power play, which currently sits fourth in the AHL.
This bodes well for a Red Wings' power play that struggled last season.
Smith's nine points in 14 games are respectable, but the big number that fans should look at is the lack of penalty minutes (15 in 14 games) that Smith has.
He is known for taking bad penalties and a lot of penalties in general, with 214 in the previous two AHL seasons combined.
If Smith can keep himself out of the box and on the ice, it will show a lot about his maturing as a whole.
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