The Detroit Red Wings’ sick bay is set to become a little less crowded soon with the expected return of forward Gustav Nyquist (groin) Monday, along with forwards Darren Helm (shoulder) and Justin Abdelkader (concussion) following closely behind him.
This is well-timed news as the Red Wings will seek to extend their two-game winning streak Monday when they host the New York Islanders at Joe Louis Arena.
However, as regular players return to the Detroit roster, decisions on whom among their replacements should be returned to the Grand Rapids Griffins lineup will need to be made.
#RedWings undecided on who will go back to minors. Decide Monday morning skate. Gustav Nyquist ready, Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm maybes.— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) December 22, 2013
Forward Tomas Jurco was called up just four games ago, but he shouldn’t go back to Grand Rapids anytime soon.
This is a bold statement considering two other recent call-ups, Jordin Tootoo and Patrick Eaves, aren’t only veteran players but started their seasons in Detroit, not Grand Rapids.
Having this kind of veteran depth to call up in light of injuries is a rare luxury for any team.
However, neither Tootoo nor Eaves can provide the kind of offensive spark and youthful enthusiasm that Jurco has brought to Detroit over the past few games.
Fans have long anticipated the young winger donning a Red Wings sweater and have been satiating that desire via repeated viewings of any number of Jurco-themed YouTube videos.
Still, it wasn’t until Jurco’s NHL debut that anyone knew for sure if all that fancy puck play was somehow relatable to what he could bring to the Red Wings.
Jurco has three points (2G, 1A) and a plus-three rating over his first four NHL games, making him one of the hotter players in Detroit’s current lineup.
However, his offensive production alone is not the only reason he deserves to get a little comfortable in the Red Wings locker room.
The 20-year-old Slovak has exhibited exceptional patience and on-ice vision, the kind of skills most players can only develop over years spent playing at the NHL level.
What’s more, he is also proving effective playing on different lines—even on different sides of center.
Jurco has played alongside Pavel Datsyuk as a left-winger on the first line as well as on the right side of Joakim Andersson on the right side.
This kind of flexibility, combined with his offensive skill set, provides head coach Mike Babcock with a rare and precious commodity as he continues to juggle a banged-up roster that was struggling to score even when it was healthy.
Which recent AHL call up deserves a longer stay with the Red Wings?
Granted, this assessment of Jurco is based on exactly four games of NHL experience. Most of that time was likely fueled by copious amounts of adrenaline—he is bound to cool off at some point. Jurco will undoubtedly return to Grand Rapids as the Red Wings return to health.
However, as the Red Wings continue their work at improving upon their 17-12-9 record, it stands to reason that they’re employing a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately type of attitude when assessing who stays in Detroit and who returns to Grand Rapids.
Jurco has done quite a lot for the Red Wings lately.
Based on his performance so far and the skills he’s exhibited to this point, he should be the last of his Griffins teammates currently enjoying a stint as a Red Wing to leave Detroit.