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Red Wings’ cuts allow Grand Rapids Griffins to begin Calder Cup defense when camp opens on Monday

The Red Wings' announcement that the team had assigned 27 players--including some of the team's brightest prospects in Calle Jarnkrok, Tomas Jurco, Martin Frk, Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul--to the Grand Rapids Griffins yielded raised eyebrows from Wings fans who expected the team to allow the "almost ready for prime time" players to remain with the Wings for a longer period of time (keep in mind that Teemu Pulkkinen will probably be demoted when his suspension's served after Wednesday's game, and that Willie Coetzee remains with the Wings because he's injured and can't be sent down until he's healthy) instead of the Griffins' most-likely-to-be-called-up players...

But for the Grand Rapids Griffins themselves, the cuts allow Griffins coach Jeff Blashill to prepare six AHL rookies-to-be and the core of the Griffins' roster to defend their Calder Cup championship, with a week-long--and open-to-the-public--training camp kicking off tomorrow at Griffs IceHouse.

The Griffins will hold two pre-season games this upcoming weekend in Plymouth and Windsor, entertaining the Lake Erie Monsters at Compuware Arena in Plymouth on September the 28th and WFCU Arena in Windsor on September the 29th, respecively, but in the interim, the Griffins open camp tomorrow, and again, the Griffins report that a significant portion thereof will be open to the public:

The Detroit Red Wings on Sunday assigned 17 players to the Grand Rapids Griffins, their American Hockey League affiliate: forwards Mitch Callahan, Martin Frk, Jeff Hoggan, Calle Jarnkrok, Tomas Jurco, David McIntyre, Andrej Nestrasil, Trevor Parkes and Marek Tvrdon; defensemen Brennan Evans, Gleason Fournier, Richard Nedomlel, Max Nicastro, Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul; and goaltenders Cam Lanigan and Tom McCollum.

Callahan, Evans, Fournier, Hoggan, Jarnkrok, Jurco, McCollum, Nestrasil, Nicastro, Parkes and Sproul all saw playing time with the Griffins during their 2012-13 Calder Cup-winning season. Frk, Lanigan, Nedomlel, Ouellet and Tvrdon are all first-year pros who spent last season playing major junior hockey, while McIntyre joins the team after playing with the Houston Aeros last year.

This group will be joined by five others – forwards Alden Hirschfeld, Kevin Lynch, Travis Novak and Dane Walters, plus defenseman Joe Hartman – on the Griffins' roster when they open training camp tomorrow at Griff’s IceHouse in Grand Rapids.

Dane Walters was just fantatsic during the summer development camp, and I hope hat he can latch on with the Walleye; Lynch will join the Griffins when the AHL's regular season begins, and Novak plays for the Walleye.

The schedule of practices is as follows (subject to change), with all sessions free and open to the public:

Monday, Sept. 23: 10:30 a.m.-Noon;
Tuesday, Sept 24: 10:30-11:20 a.m. and 11:35 a.m.-12:15 p.m. (Power play practice);
Wednesday, Sept. 25: 10:15-11:05 a.m. and 11:20 a.m.-Noon (Penalty kill practice);
Thursday, Sept: 26: 10:15-11:05 a.m. and 11:20 a.m.-Noon (Specialty teams practice);
Friday, Sept. 27: 10:15-11:05 a.m. and 11:20 a.m.-Noon (Scrimmage).

The Griffins will conclude camp with a pair of neutral-site preseason games against the Lake Erie Monsters next weekend. Grand Rapids will first battle the Monsters on Saturday, Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. at Compuware Arena in Plymouth, Mich., before squaring off again on Sunday, Sept. 29 at 7:05 p.m. at the WFCU Centre in Windsor, Ontario.

The 2013 Calder Cup champions will commence the AHL’s regular season and begin defense of their title on Fri. Oct. 4 in Rochester, the first of three straight road games to start the season. The Griffins will then raise their championship banner prior to hosting the Milwaukee Admirals on Fri., Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. at Van Andel Arena.

Please keep in mind that the Wings will continue sending players down to GR as the week progresses; the Wings have to get down to 23 men on their active roster and under the $64.3 million cap by Monday, September 30th at 5 PM. After the Wings-Penguins game on Wednesday, the team's likely to pare down its roster to about 28 players, and that number will shrink.

The Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner took note of several essential storylines going into the camp-opening week in GR:

The Griffins open the season at Rochester on Friday, Oct. 4. The first home game is Friday, Oct 18, against Milwaukee when the championship banner will be raised.

Here are some storylines to get you started:

CUP? WHAT CUP?
• The Griffins will enjoy the banner raising on Oct. 18, but the Calder Cup, which has made the rounds around the city this summer, won’t be so visible anymore. Coach Jeff Blashill has made it clear that last season’s amazing title run is in the past now.

COMING OF AGE
• Blashill will closely watch the development of forwards Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco. Both were buffered by high-profile veterans last year, such as Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar, but they will need to put up bigger numbers if they expect to improve their stock. Sheahan, a center and the Red Wings top pick in 2010, had 36 points (16-20-36) during a streaky first full season in Grand Rapids. Jurco, after a slow start, finished with 28 points (14-14-28) and was solid in the postseason.

NEXT WAVE: WHO WILL TOP NEW PLAYMAKERS?
• Martin Frk and Teemu Pulkkinen top the charts. Everyone has been waiting for Frk, Detroit’s top pick from 2012 who had 84 points (35-49-84) in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and owns a blistering shot. The other is Pulkkinen, who must learn to use his great speed in the tighter American rinks. He got valuable experience with 14 playoff games with the Griffins last year.

I stand by my assertion that Calle Jarnkrok remains the most important player in the prospect pipeline. He'll be slow on the North American-style-of-play uptake, but his skill level in each and every aspect of his game is elite.

THE FUTURE OF THE DEFENSE
• At the prospects camp in Traverse City, Blashill was impressed by young defensemen Ryan Sproul and Xavier Ouellet, an important reaction because with the Griffins need replacements on the blueline. The Griffins lost Chad Billins to Calgary, and Danny DeKeyser and Brian Lashoff will probably stick in Detroit. Sproul was the CHL defenseman of the year with Sault Ste. Marie in 2012-13, and Ouellet is a two-time first team Quebec Major Junior Hockey League All-Star with Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. The two, along with Alexei Marchenko, Richard Nedomlel or Nick Jensen, could develop into a strong unit to go with veterans Nathan Paetsch, Brennan Evans and Adam Almquist. There are certainly plenty to choose from.

Jensen won't be ready until December or January, but he's going to be a huge addition.

KEEPING THE VETS AROUND
• One of the first moves of the offseason for Grand Rapids was the re-signing of four NHL-experienced veterans who helped lead last year’s team in Nathan Paetsch and Brennan Evans on defense, center and returning captain Jeff Hoggan and forward Triston Grant. Blashill likes the mix of character, skill and toughness among the four. The Griffins also added center David McIntyre, who doesn’t have NHL experience, but is a fourth-year pro who had 33 points (15-18-33) last season with Houston.

WATCHING MRAZEK GROW
• Goalie Petr Mrazek came on board a month into the season and settled in and became a top prospect during the course of the season, and gained valuable experience in sparkled in the postseason. As a 20-year-old, he started all 24 Calder Cup games with four shutouts and a 2.31 goals against average. Who will back him up is another story. Veteran Tom McCollum is back and he will face a challenge from newcomer Jared Coreau, with one of them likely sent to Toledo of the ECHL.

The Wings want Mrazek to play in 50 games and be a dominant, AHL-All-Star goalie instead of sitting on the bench watching Jimmy Howard play 50 games. I know that's not a pleasant scenario for fans who want to see Mrazek RIGHT NOW, but in terms of his development over the long haul, it's better for Mrazek to play--and be pushed by Coreau and McCollum.

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Comments

Nathan's avatar

No surprises here. I can’t say I’ve seen any fans make the argument that the top players should remain with the club as late in preseason as possible. That doesn’t make much sense… this move is way better. These guys are Griffs all the way this season, and it’s better for them to get a chance to build continuity so they can defend the Calder Cup. And more importantly, so they can become better pro hockey players on the North American ice, so they are truly NHL-ready over the next few years as they trickle up to the big club.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 09/23/13 at 08:34 AM ET

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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.