Detroit's prospects haven't seen much of the NHL, but some could soon.
The Red Wings have slowly gotten healthier with the return of Darren Helm and Patrick Eaves from injury, but with the glut of forwards still looming over their NHL roster, it continues to leave little room for their younger players.
Riley Sheahan, Cory Emmerton and Luke Glendening are some of the forwards who have seen the ice already. With injuries to Jonathan Ericsson and Brendan Smith, Xavier Ouellet and Adam Almquist have had opportunities on the blue line. Even Petr Mrazek made his first start of the season after Jonas Gustavsson was placed on injured reserve.
The Wings have so much talent in their system that there isn’t room for everyone at the NHL level. Some of Detroit’s top prospects are buried in the minor leagues or junior hockey and therefore are easily forgotten. In order to make sure that doesn't happen, here are updates for some of Detroit’s top prospects.
Gustav Nyquist is averaging more than a point per game with Grand Rapids in the AHL.
The biggest name among all of Detroit’s best prospects is Gustav Nyquist.
Since his contract allows only two more NHL games before he loses waiver-exempt status, Nyquist has been skating with Grand Rapids of the AHL all season. Should he play in two NHL games, he’d have to clear waivers if sent back down—which he wouldn't.
Having skated in 10 of 11 games, Nyquist leads the first-place Griffins in goals (five), assists (eight) and points (13). His 13 points are tied for eighth in the AHL. He continues to score at the point-per-game pace he set last season before his promotion to the NHL. The Griffins are first in the Midwest Division and tops in the Western Conference with a record of 7-2-1-1.
It’s only a matter of time before he is a member of the Detroit Red Wings for good, but with the excessive number of forwards on the NHL roster, no one knows when that could be.
Anthony Mantha's torrid pace could get him to the NHL sooner than expected.
Anthony Mantha has been turning heads this season in the QMJHL.
Playing with Val-d’Or of the QMJHL, Mantha leads the league with 43 points in just 17 games. His 20 goals and 23 assists are both league highs, and his 2.52 points-per-game average is off the charts. Mantha has 10 more points than the next highest scorer—in three less games played.
Last season, he tallied a league-best 50 goals and finished 10th with 89 points in 67 games. This season, he is on pace for an earth-shattering 71 goals and 153 points. To provide perspective, last season’s top scorer, Ben Duffy of PEI Rocket, finished with 110 points.
Mantha is a big part of Detroit’s future, and if he continues to put up numbers at his current pace, that future could come quickly.
Petr Mrazek made 14 saves to earn his first NHL shutout Saturday in Edmonton.
Petr Mrazek is an exciting part of Detroit’s future right now.
With Jonas Gustavsson on short-term injured reserve, Mrazek was called up to spell Jimmy Howard during their recent four-game trip to Western Canada. Mrazek made his first start of the season (third of his career) and earned his first career shutout in a 14-save, 5-0 blistering of the Edmonton Oilers.
Back in Grand Rapids, Mrazek has made five appearances with a record of 2-2-0-1, a 3.14 goals-against average and a subpar .891 save percentage. A primary contributor to his struggles could be the time split between Detroit and Grand Rapids.
After leading the Griffins to the Calder Cup title last season, it’s easy to expect a turnaround for the 21-year-old. Once Gustavsson is healthy, Mrazek will return to Grand Rapids where he’ll finally receive consistent playing time.
Ryan Sproul is proving he can transition well from one level to the next.
Ryan Sproul is in his first full season with the Grand Rapids Griffins and appears to be settling in nicely.
Sproul is an offensive-minded defenseman, which he's made evident with his start to the season. He’s totaled four goals and seven points in the first 11 games after failing to record a point in two games last season.
His four goals tie him for third most on the team, and his seven points are tops among defensemen with Grand Rapids. He has adapted quickly to the AHL level after spending the last three seasons with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL.
In his time with the Greyhounds, he amassed 57 goals and 153 points in 172 games before joining the Griffins at the end of 2012-13.
He has shown improvement each season at multiple professional levels, and it’s a key reason he’s a valuable part of Detroit’s system. He could receive a promotion when rosters expand after the March 5 NHL trade deadline.
Tomas Jurco could be a star in the NHL sooner than later.
Tomas Jurco is beginning to put up the numbers that back his sensational skill.
Last season, Jurco was 10th on the team in scoring with 14 goals and 28 points in 74 games, but he has kicked his game up a notch this season. Through 11 games, he is 15th in the AHL in points (12) and second on the team only to Gustav Nyquist (13).
As Jurco continues to improve, the future grows brighter for Detroit. The outlook that he could force himself into the lineup earlier than Detroit’s young players traditionally would is thrilling for fans.
Potential is a relative word thrown around the hockey universe, but with a ceiling as high as Jurco’s, Hockeytown may start breaking down the door before he begins knocking.