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The Malik Report

Grand Rapids Griffins frame their week ahead

Updated with McCollum/Coreau talk at 9:17 PM: The Grand Rapids Griffins issue a weekly press release setting up the team's upcoming week's worth of hockey and non-hockey activities, and I've tended to stuff these into overnight reports, but I'm going to try something different and leave these as stand-alone entries. Let me know whether you prefer things this way:


This Week’s Game
Sat., Oct. 12    GRIFFINS at Hamilton Bulldogs    7 p.m.    101.3 The Brew/AHLLive.com

Last Week’s Results
Fri., Oct. 4    GRIFFINS 8 at Rochester Americans 1
    1-0-0-0, 2 pts. (T1st, Midwest Division)
Sat., Oct. 5    GRIFFINS 3 at Toronto Marlies 4     1-0-1-0, 3 pts. (1st) 

Opening Weekend: The Griffins completed their 2013-14 opening weekend on the road with a 1-0-1-0 record, earning three of four points by defeating the Rochester Americans 8-1 on Friday and losing to the Toronto Marlies 3-4 in overtime on Saturday. Tom McCollum skated away with his first victory of the season against the Americans behind 18 saves. Gustav Nyquist (one goal, two assists) and Adam Almquist (three assists) tied for the scoring lead on Friday night. Mitch Callahan, Triston Grant, Jeff Hoggan, Alexey Marchenko and Riley Sheahan all notched a goal, while Ryan Sproul tallied two goals, as 14 of 18 skaters notched points. On Saturday, Marlies defenseman T.J. Brennan recorded his first career hat trick along with one assist against rookie goaltender Jared Coreau in the first loss of the season for the Griffins. Grand Rapids produced eight penalties during the game, five of which came consecutively in the second period. Still, the Griffins carried the game into overtime where they were plagued once again by similar woes. Following a call on Brennan Evans for closing his hand on the puck, Toronto’s Trevor Smith capitalized on the power play by rifling home the game-winner right past Coreau.

Good Starts: Grand Rapids is now 11-4-2-1 all time in season openers, breaking a three-year losing streak in both season and road openers with its victory over Rochester. The win yielded numerous other accolades, including a franchise record for margin of victory over an opponent in a season and road opener. The previous season opener record was set twice with three goals, most recently on Oct. 8, 2005 against Milwaukee in a 6-3 win, and the road opener record saw a four-goal margin on Oct. 16, 2004 at Chicago in a 5-1 victory. Grand Rapids is 11-5-2-0 all time in road openers.

Banner Ceremony: The Griffins kick-off their home opener presented by Huntington Bank on Friday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. vs. the Milwaukee Admirals. Before the puck drops, the team will raise their championship banner to celebrate last year’s Calder Cup victory.

AHL Leaders: Gustav Nyquist (1-3—4, T4th), Mitch Callahan, Tomas Jurco, Alexey Marchenko and Adam Almquist (three points each, T8th) rank among the league’s leaders in scoring; Callahan, Riley Sheahan and Ryan Sproul are tied for fifth in goals with two apiece; Tom McCollum ranks for goals-against average (1.00, T1st) and save percentage (0.947, T3rd); Marchenko (1-2—3, T3rd), Almquist (0-3—3, T3rd) and Sproul (2-0—2, T9th) all rank among defensive leaders in points, while Sproul is tied for second with two goals; Brennan Evans ranks fourth among defensemen with 11 penalty minutes; Marchenko (T1st) and Sproul (T8th) rank among rookie leaders in points; and Sproul’s two goals tie for the rookie lead.

Rookie Power: Six rookies took to the ice for the Griffins this weekend, including Jared Coreau, Martin Frk, Alexey Marchenko, Xavier Ouellet, Ryan Sproul and Marek Tvrdon. The defensemen had the strongest showings, with Sproul recording two goals in Friday’s game against Rochester and Marchenko posting one goal and two assists over the course of the weekend, tying for second overall in scoring for the team.

Pups and Pucks: On Monday, Oct. 14, the Griffins will host their sixth annual “Pups and Pucks” Fall Dog Walk-A-Thon presented by BeeneGarter L.L.P. The event will take place at Mackenzie’s Animal Sanctuary in Lake Odessa, Mich., and feature events ranging from live music and a BBQ dinner to hay rides and appearances by pet experts and vendors. Everyone is encouraged to join Griffins players, coaches and front office staff, who will attend and assist in raising funds and awareness for the sanctuary. The evening’s events will kick off at 5 p.m. For more information, visit Mackenzie’s FirstGiving page here.

At the Helm: Jeff Blashill, who served as a Detroit assistant coach in 2011-12 before commanding last year’s squad to the Calder Cup Championship, returns for his second season as head coach of the Griffins. Born in Detroit and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, Blashill brought a wealth of Michigan experience to Grand Rapids, having made coaching stops at Ferris State and Western Michigan en route to joining the Red Wings organization. Blashill earned several national coach of the year honors in his lone season as head coach of the WMU Broncos after leading the USHL’s Indiana Ice to a franchise-record 39 wins and a Clark Cup championship in his first season as a head coach in 2008-09. Blashill is joined behind the bench by two familiar faces to Griffins fans. As the longest-tenured coach in franchise history, Jim Paek, returns for his ninth season as assistant coach and Spiros Anastas is back for his second.

Offensive Reload: The Griffins began the 2013-14 season without many strong contributors from last year’s Calder Cup-winning roster. AHL Playoff MVP Tomas Tatar, Joakim Andersson, Brian Lashoff and Danny DeKeyser all garnered spots on the Red Wings roster this year.

Defensive Shuffle: While the offense remains relatively consistent from 2012-13, drastic changes were made on the Griffins’ blueline, which sees only Adam Almquist, Brennan Evans and Nathan Paetsch return from last year’s full-time defensive corps. The unit will see some familiarity as Gleason Fournier (30 games played) and Ryan Sproul (two games played) assume more regular roles in the lineup. The group is reinforced by third-year pro Alexey Marchenko and rookies Richard Nedomlel and Xavier Ouellet.

On Tuesday, the ECHL's Toledo Walleye confirmed that forwards Kevin Lynch and Trevor Parkes, as well as defensemen Max Nicastro, are taking part in the team's training camp. The Walleye will be holding a home-and-home slate of preseason games with the Kalamazoo K-Wings on Wednesday (on the road) and Saturday (at the Huntington Center).

Detroit Exports: Eighteen Red Wings-contracted players are on the Griffins’ 24-man roster, including goaltender Jared Coreau; defensemen Adam Almquist, Gleason Fournier, Alexey Marchenko, Richard Nedomlel, Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul; and forwards Louis-Marc Aubry, Mitch Callahan, Martin Frk, Luke Glendening, Calle Jarnkrok, Tomas Jurco, Andrej Nestrasil, Gustav Nyquist, Teemu Pulkkinen, Riley Sheahan and Marek Tvrdon.

Winged Wheels: The current Detroit Red Wings roster is bolstered by many players who have played for the Griffins, including all seven defensemen and three goalies. Both Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek spent at least a full season with Grand Rapids, and Jonas Gustavsson, who is currently on injured reserve, conditioned with the team late last year. In all, 13 of the 22 players on the Red Wings’ active roster are former Griffins.

Signed and Sealed: Six players on the current roster are under contract to the Griffins: forwards Jeff Hoggan, Triston Grant and David McIntyre, defensemen Brennan Evans and Nathan Paetsch and goaltender Tom McCollum. Evans, Grant, Hoggan, McCollum and Paetsch all skated with the Griffins last year, while McIntyre bursts on to the scene following two years with the Houston Aeros, with whom he lost to the Griffins in the 2013 Western Conference Quarterfinals.

Ready in Waiting: Last week, the Griffins assigned forward Kevin Lynch to the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye. In addition, the Detroit Red Wings reassigned forward Trevor Parkes and defenseman Max Nicastro to the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye from Grand Rapids. Lynch, Nicastro and Parkes all skated for the team at training camp and could see time in Grand Rapids this season. The Walleye open their season at home this Saturday, Oct. 12 at 7:15 p.m. when they host the Kalamazoo Wings.

Fresh Faces: Seven members of the Griffins’ season-opening roster skated elsewhere in 2012-13. Here’s a brief look at each of the new arrivals:

•    Jared Coreau – Signed to a three-year entry-level contract by Detroit on April 3, 2013, Coreau started all 38 games for Northern Michigan University as a junior last year. The six-foot-four, 208-pound goalie finished 10th in the nation in minutes with 2181:36 and owned a 15-19-4 record with a 2.70 goals against average, a 0.919 save percentage and one shutout;

•    Martin Frk – Detroit’s first choice (49th overall) in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Frk begins his first professional season after tallying 84 points (35-49—84) in 56 regular season games and 33 points (13-20—33) in 17 playoff games with the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL last year. He also tied for the league lead in shootout conversion (3-for-3), tallied nine multi-point games during an 11-game point streak and recorded a record eight-point game in the playoffs, as the Mooseheads won both the QMJHL President’s Cup and the CHL Memorial Cup;

•    Alexey Marchenko – The Moscow, Russia, native arrives after his first full season in the KHL with CSKA Moscow. The six-foot-two, 212-pound defenseman was Detroit’s 9th choice (205th overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. He was signed to a three-year contract with Detroit on May 30, 2013. During last year’s NHL lockout, he skated with Pavel Datsyuk;

•    David McIntyre – Fourth-year pro McIntyre joins the Griffins from the Houston Aeros where he posted 66 points (31-35—66) in two seasons. Last year, he led the Aeros with a plus-19 rating and ranked among team leaders with 15 goals (T4th), 18 assists (T6th), 33 points (5th), 45 penalty minutes (T5th), three game-winning goals (T3rd) and 143 shots (3rd). In the 2011-12 season, McIntyre appeared in seven NHL regular season games with the Minnesota Wild and notched two points (1-1—2);

•    Richard Nedomlel – Clocking in at a massive six-foot-five and 228 pounds, Nedomlel served as a “black ace” for the Griffins during the first round of the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs. A first-year pro, he spent the last three seasons with Swift Current of the WHL and played in 210 regular season games, amassing 84 points (17-67—84). In his third season with Swift Current, he tallied 28 points (7-21—28) and 105 penalty minutes in 72 outings and ranked among team leaders in goals (10th), points (10th), penalty minutes (2nd) and power play goals (3, T6th). He also placed second among the club’s defensemen in scoring that year and notched an assist in five playoff appearances;

•    Xavier Ouellet – A first year pro, Ouellet was signed to a three-year entry-level contract by Detroit on March 3rd, 2013. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound defenseman is a native of Bayonne, France, and spent the last two years with the QJMHL’s Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. During the 2010-11 season, Ouellet was a member of the Montreal Juniors along with current Griffin Louis-Marc Aubry;

•    Marek Tvrdon –Tvrdon enters his first professional season and first year with the Griffins after being exposed to the organization as a “black ace” during the first round of the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs. Previously, he skated with the Vancouver Giants of the WHL for three seasons. In the 2012-13 season, he was limited to just 18 games due to a blood clot. However, he posted 22 points (8-14—22) before his injury and finished eighth in scoring for Vancouver.

Welcome Back: Seventeen players from the Griffins’ 2012-13 championship edition, fifteen of whom will have their name engraved on the Calder Cup, are on the roster this year: goaltender Tom McCollum; defensemen Adam Almquist, Brennan Evans, Gleason Fournier, Nathan Paetsch and Ryan Sproul; and forwards Louis-Marc Aubry, Mitch Callahan, Luke Glendening, Triston Grant, Jeff Hoggan, Calle Jarnkrok, Tomas Jurco, Andrej Nestrasil, Gustav Nyquist, Teemu Pulkkinen and Riley Sheahan.

Jarnkrok and Pulkkinen are still technically AHL rookies.

Melting Pot: The Griffins’ roster this year features players representing nine different countries from all over the world. While a majority of the roster comes from North America, other countries featured are Finland (Teemu Pulkkinen), Russia (Alexey Marchenko), France (Xavier Ouellet), Sweden (Adam Almquist, Calle Jarnkrok and Gustav Nyquist), Slovakia (Tomas Jurco and Marek Tvrdon) and Czech Republic (Martin Frk, Richard Nedomlel and Andrej Nestrasil). Willie Coetzee, who is currently on injured reserve with Detroit, is a native of South Africa.

Back-to-Back: Only nine teams in the history of the AHL have claimed back-to-back Calder Cup championships, most recently the 2009-10 Hershey Bears. The Buffalo Bisons, Cleveland Barons, Rochester Americans, Nova Scotia Voyageurs and Maine Mariners have all accomplished the task once in franchise history, while the Bears have repeated the title on two separate occasions. The Springfield Indians not only repeated in 1991, but also won the title three years in a row from 1960-62.

Do You Feel a Draft?: Twenty of the Griffins’ 24 players were once selected in the NHL Entry Draft, including 19 who were tabbed by the Red Wings. This season, the Griffins will employ the Red Wings’ top pick in each draft class from 2008-12: Tom McCollum (30th overall in 2008), Landon Ferraro (32nd overall in 2009), Riley Sheahan (21st overall in 2010), Tomas Jurco (35th overall in 2011) and Martin Frk (49th overall in 2012). In a rare draft oddity, Nathan Paetsch was actually drafted twice – first by the Washington Capitals with their first pick (58th overall) of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, and then as an unsigned draft re-entry by Buffalo with its eighth choice (202nd overall) in 2003.

NHL Experience: Eight Griffins have seen time in the NHL, combining for 297 total games: Nathan Paetsch (167), Jeff Hoggan (107), Triston Grant (11), David McIntyre (7), Brennan Evans (2 playoff games), Riley Sheahan (2) and Tom McCollum (1).

Veteran Roll Call: AHL clubs may dress up to five veteran skaters with more than 260 games of experience in the NHL, AHL or European Elite leagues, plus another with 320 or fewer games played. Four out of five veterans who suited up for the Griffins in 2012-13 return this year. Brennan Evans, Triston Grant, Jeff Hoggan and Nathan Paetsch boast a combined total of 2,029 AHL regular season games and 208 AHL playoff games.

Newbies: The Griffins have seven players who are considered rookies this season, including six newcomers: Jared Coreau, Martin Frk, Alexey Marchenko, Richard Nedomlel, Xavier Ouellet and Marek Tvrdon. Ryan Sproul, who appeared with the Griffins in two games last year, is also considered a rookie, having not met the AHL’s 25-game threshold. Calle Jarnkrok and Teemu Pulkkinen, who appeared in less than 25 games last year, do not qualify as rookies as they appeared in more than 100 games in European elite leagues.

One for the Ages: The average age of the Griffins is 23 years and seven months – three months older than the average for their 2012-13 roster (23 years and four months). This year marks the first season in seven years that the opening day lineup has been older than the season that preceded it. Jeff Hoggan (35), Nathan Paetsch (30) and Brennan Evans (31) check into the over-30 club, but a majority of the 24 players on the roster (16) were born in the ‘90s. Martin Frk (20 years) earns the title of youngest player on the roster, but he’s followed closely by Richard Nedomlel, Xavier Ouellet, Marek Tvrdon and Ryan Sproul, who were all born in 1993.

Where Are They Now?: Six of the players from the Griffins’ 2012-13 season-ending roster now find themselves in other locales, including Germany (Brent Raedeke/Iserlohn Roosters), Finland (Francis Pare/Liiga TPS), AHL Abbotsford (Chad Billins) and  Russia (Jan Mursak/Amur Khabarovsk). Additionally, Jordan Pearce and Brett Skinner are free agents.

Griffins’ Coaching Tree: Six former players or coaches for the Griffins are currently involved in hockey operations with other AHL squads, including Lake Erie director of AHL operations/assistant coach David Oliver (2000-01), Oklahoma City head coach Todd Nelson (1996-98, 1999-00, 2001-02, AC 2002-03), Chicago assistant coach Dave Allison (HC 1996-98), Providence head coach Bruce Cassidy (HC 2000-02), Springfield assistant coach Jared Bednar (1998-99) and Toronto assistant coach Derek King (1999-01, P/AC 2002-04).

Scouting Report

Sat., Oct. 12 at Hamilton Bulldogs (0-0-0-0) – Copps Coliseum – 7 p.m.
Radio: 101.3 The Brew at 6:40 p.m. Web Casts: Video web cast at AHLLive.com. All-Time Series: 35-32-1-0-4 Overall, 16-19-0-0-1 Road. Season Series: First of four meetings overall, first of two on the road. NHL Affiliation: Montreal Canadiens. Head Coach: Sylvain Lefebvre (2nd season). Notes: The Griffins will meet the Bulldogs three other times this season (Nov. 8 in Hamilton; Apr. 4 and 5 at Van Andel Arena)…Grand Rapids won the 2012-13 series, 3-0-0-1, including a 2-0 record at Copps Coliseum…Hamilton finished 29-41-1-5 last season and tallied 64 points, finishing fifth in the North Division, 15th in the Western Conference and 30th overall in the AHL…Hamilton is one of six teams yet to play a game this season.

Update: The Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner noted that Petr Mrazek's absence has required the Griffins to platoon Tom McCollum and Jared Coreau:

Each got a start last weekend. McCollum had 19 saves as part of an 8-1 win Friday at Rochester while Coreau started Saturday in a 4-3 overtime loss at Toronto.

The uncertainly over Gustavsson’s recovery from a groin injury in Detroit has Griffins coach Jeff Blashill going “day by day” in his evaluation of his options. He has not decided who will start Saturday’s game at Hamilton – the lone game this week for the Griffins.

Blashill had expected to face a decision on who to keep between McCollum or Coreau, and who would go to Toledo in the ECHL. But that changed when the Red Wings decided to keep Mrazek, who started 42 games during the regular season and all 24 games of playoffs.

Last year, with Gustavsson again sidelined by injury, the Red Wings usually called up McCollum over Mrazek. But when Mrazek was recalled, the Red Wings played him twice. So, until something changes, both goalies welcome the opportunity.

“Petr’s not here right now so it’s an open game,” said McCollum, 23, who enjoyed his best season a year ago with 2.63 goals against average and .904 save percentage as Mrazek’s backup. “If I’m playing, I’m going to go out and work hard and give the team the best chance to win.”

Coreau, 21, who came in as a free agent after a strong junior year at Northern Michigan, was pleased with his debut Saturday.

“I felt good, I had some good saves,” said Coreau, who stopped 22 of 26 shots against the Marlies. “I think there was one goal I’d like to have another shot at … but, overall, I was happy to get it in.”

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SnarkinLarkin's avatar

@George - if it’s not too much trouble, I like having the prospect/Griffins posts as separate posts. I’ve never been as excited about the Wings’ prospects as I am now. Especially the way the Mantha Ray is lighting things up in the Q.

Is Frk injured? I thought I saw something somewhere about that - and he hasn’t registered a point last I checked.

Thanks and keep up the great work!

Posted by SnarkinLarkin on 10/09/13 at 12:00 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Frk played on Saturday. Not Friday. Not sure about injuries or the lack thereof—Griffins tend not to release that kind of info.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/09/13 at 12:03 PM ET

SnarkinLarkin's avatar

Thanks, George. I’m expecting a big year from Frk. Curious why he didn’t play on Friday…

Posted by SnarkinLarkin on 10/09/13 at 12:30 PM ET

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About The Malik Report

The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.