The Malik Report
Red Wings prospect gnus: Tomas Jurco’s pro evolution, and Gustav Nyquist, an AHL ‘Star of the Month’
by George Malik on 03/06/13 at 04:34 PM ET
Red Wings prospect Tomas Jurco absolutely dominated play during his final two years in the QMJHL, scoring highlight-reel goals with almost predictable regularity as he won a Memorial Cup and two QMJHL titles with the Saint John Sea Dogs, so the most frequent question I've received about Jurco's status this season is, "Whatever happened to Jurco?"
The answer's simple: Jurco went from playing against 15-to-20-year-olds in the QMJHL to playing against men in the AHL, and as such, the YouTube magician has seemingly disappeared.
He is in fact playing for the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins, and RedWingsCentral's Matthew Wuest reports that Griffins coach Jeff Blashill had no illusions regarding a very big fish in a somewhat shallow pond finding himself performing like anything less than a minnow in hockey's equivalent of the Great Lakes:
Jurco, who was a teenaged rookie until he turned 20 on Dec. 28, has eight goals and eight assists for 16 points in 53 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins — a far cry from the 68 points he recorded in 48 games last season with the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs. Learning the ropes isn’t easy for a rookie at the best of times in the AHL. Throw in the fact that he was playing in a league stacked with locked-out NHLers for the first three months and it gets even harder.
“Tomas is learning how hard and how strong you have to be on the puck and how much you have to value the puck because it just won’t come back to you if you lose it,” Blashill says. “In junior, it comes back to you enough and in pro it doesn’t. He’s learning how to go get it more and when he has it to hold onto it longer. That’s confidence and it’s learning how to do it and it just takes time.”
Jurco won a Memorial Cup with the Sea Dogs in 2011 and was selected in the second round, 35th overall, by the Red Wings that summer after slipping from his ranking as a consensus first-rounder.
The Red Wings have compared the 6-foot-2, 193-pounder favorably to Marian Hossa. He can electrify with mind-boggling stick skills given time and open space, but needs significant work on his play in traffic.
But his work ethic, attitude and commitment have been exceptional since his arrival in Grand Rapids.
“The one thing I know about Tomas Jurco is Tomas cares,” Blashill said. “He wants to be a real good hockey player. I’ve spent lots of time with him in video and he’s very receptive and totally wants to be a real good player. Now it’s a matter of putting the whole game together and learning to be a successful pro.”
It's going to take a couple of years--as in at least 2 to possibly 5--before Jurco's ready for the NHL, but his skills will eventually translate from Major Junior to pro hockey. It just takes time for anyone who's among the oldest and most experienced players at a certain level of professional competition to learn how to hack it playing aginst 6'5," 230-lb behemoth defensemen with hundreds of games of pro experience or goaltenders who've seen every deke, dangle and fake in the book over the course of long careers.
That's just the way it tends to work for most prospects. He'll be fine.
Wuest also offers updates on Gustav Nyquist, Calle Jarnkrok, Trevor Parkes and apparent unrestricted free agent-to-be Jan Mursak...
And, via RedWingsFeed, the AHL named Nyquist one of its "Three Stars of the Month" for February, but they have a funny way of doing so: they unveil their "Three Stars" using a clip from NHL 13, highlighting its AHL game-playing option:
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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.