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The Malik Report

Red Wings prospect news: Blashill and Marchenko’s AHL All-Star experiences; on Frk and Ferraro

Amongst this morning's Red Wings prospect-and-prospect-coaching-related news: Grand Rapids Griffins coach Jeff Blashill and defenseman Alexey Marchenko helped the AHL's All-Stars defeat SHL team Farjestads BK during both the AHL's skills competition (Marchenko skated a 14.823-second lap in the fastest skater competition and and his slap shot clocked in at 92.9 MPH) and the All-Star Game itself, which the AHL took by a 7-2 tally (no points for Marchenko during the game).

Former Red Wings player and Adirondack Red Wings coach Bill Dineen was inducted into the AHL's Hall of Fame as well, and prior to returning to Grand Rapids, the Griffins' current coach spoke with MLive's Peter J. Wallner about his All-Star experience (and Wallner notes that Fox Sports Detroit will rebroadcast the All-Star Game tonight at 10:30 PM EST):

“It was probably a closer game than the score indicated,” Blashill said. “Both teams had some chances early, but I thought Jake Allen (goalie from Chicago) made some big saves and our players made some good skilled plays that resulted in some goals.”

Marchenko had a plus-minus of zero and had one shot on goal.

“Alexey did what he normally does,” Blashill said. “He defended very well and he was efficient with the puck and made good outlet pass and was a really steady influence for our D.”

Blashill, who’s in his second year as head coach after leading the Griffins to the Calder Cup championship last season, enjoyed the experience.

“Having a chance to work with Rob Zettler was really fun and I learned a lot,” Blashill said of his Calder Cup final counterpart from the Syracuse Crunch. “It was great to work with such a talented group, and the passion here for hockey is just unbelievable.”

The Griffins have struggled a bit of late, so it's not necessarily surprising that the Wings both sent Riley Sheahan down and pre-emptively demoted Tomas Jurco so that he can get some games in if Slovakia bows out of the Olympics early (and as I understand it, Luke Glendening will be eligible to do more than skate with the Griffins closer to the NHL's schedule resumption, but not before as he played in 75% of the Wings' pre-Olympic break games)...

And if you're wondering why the Wings recalled Mikael Samuelsson, it involves both helping the Griffins alleviate their veteran crunch (the team can only play 5 "veterans" at a time and Samuelsson, Jordin Tootoo, Corey Emmerton, Triston Grant, Brennan Evans, Jeff Hoggan and Nathan Paetsch were all rotating in and out of the lineup) during the Olympic break and it involves the fact that (according to the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch) salary will continue to tick off Samuelsson's $3 million cap hit, possibly making some sort of miraculous move possible--and maximizing the Wings' LTIR space by pushing the Wings over the cap, which allows them to spend in excess thereof while

Anyway, the Griffins get back to work with a pair of home games against San Antonio on Friday and Saturday, and, via RedWingsFeed, the Griffins may or may not have Martin Frk in the lineup as the former Halifax Mooseheads star is having a very difficult time adjusting to the rigors of professional hockey.

Frk spoke with Metro Halifax's Andrew Rankin about his in-progress transition from being fed back-door passes by Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin to toughing it out against men:

“I was thinking it would be a little easier to play pro, but it’s very hard,” said the Mooseheads’ former top line winger. “The first couple of games I was really struggling, I didn’t know what to do.”

He would continue to struggle with everything from the pace of the AHL game to adapting to a new team system, where he was no longer a go to offensive guy, but a fourth liner struggling to stay in the lineup.

All told, Frk would endure a demotion to the ECHL, and 26 goalless AHL games before just last Saturday when he fired home his first goal as a Griffin against the Rochester Americans.

Frk told Rankin that he has to simplify his game...

In a league marked by player parity, Frk knows if he is to have success it will start at keeping his game simple.

“All the goals mostly come from rebounds in the AHL. I haven’t seen really nice goals. That’s what you have to do is get to the net. Because goalies are good enough to stop the first shot.”

And he readily admitted that the tongue-out swagger and drive-to-the-net dynamism that marked his game have disappeared for a simple reason:

“I lost my confidence. I played games and I didn’t pick up any points. I was wondering what’s going on? I was thinking am I a good player? Why can’t I play good again? I was putting too much pressure on myself, and I didn’t have to. Now I’m feeling better and trusting myself more.”

While I'm catching up, in the FTR department, RedWingsCentral posted their mid-season slate of prospect rankings, they addressed Calle Jarnkrok's relatively slow start in in the scoring department, and this week, RWC pondered the future of Landon Ferraro, one of the many Wings prospects who has to clear waivers to be demoted to the AHL next season (as the Production Line noted, Ferraro, Sheahan, Adam Almquist and Mitchell Callahan highlight that "lineup").

Ferraro's had his ups and downs this season, as Blashill told RWC...

The 6-foot, 179-pound center, in his third American Hockey League season with the Grand Rapids Griffins, has 12 goals and 14 assists for 26 points, along with a plus-2 rating, in 46 games. His statistics are lower than expected — and lower than his points-per-game pace in 2012-13 — but head coach Jeff Blashill predicts a more productive finish to the campaign.

“I’ll think he’ll end up with more (points) than what he’s projected,” Blashill said. “The last 30 games, you’re going to see a very offensive Landon Ferraro and a very productive Landon Ferraro. He’s done lots of real good things and it just hasn’t resulted in point production that I think it’s going to. If he continues to do those good things over time, the point production will come.”

He’s already trending in the right direction. In his past 11 games, Ferraro has a modest five goals and three assists, his most productive stretch of the season.

And in the FYI department...

Winger Teemu Pulkkinen (Grand Rapids, AHL) has climbed into a tie for 11th in AHL scoring with his team-leading 41 points in 49 games. His plus-16 rating is tied with Mitchell Callahan for best on the team and sixth in the league while his 142 shots are 13th in the AHL.

Hockey's Future's Adam Schnepp noted that--for now, anyway--all seven of the Red Wings' 2009 draft picks have been signed and play for the NHL team or its AHL and ECHL affiliates...

And I will say this about the Wings' prospects who have to clear waivers: in today's NHL, fewer players are plucked from the waiver wire each season, so Ferraro and Callahan might clear.

As you might imagine, there's no way in hell that Riley Sheahan will be playing anywhere other than Detroit next year, but the Wings seem to have to make a very hard decision on Almquist as his status as 6th in scoring among defensemen with 2 goals, 31 assists and 33 points registered over the course of 46 games, but he remains extremely undersized, and he'll have to try to steal somebody's job while out-pacing Xavier Ouellet, Ryan Sproul, Marchenko and Nick Jensen, who are all bigger by significant margins as compared to a player charitably listed at 5'11" and 178 pounds.

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Hootinani's avatar

So they were willing to contemplate bringing back an extremely undersized 41 yr old Rafalski, but Almquist who is young and doing everything you could want from a skilled dman is a questionable addition?

I can only hope that is pure speculation on your part George, and not Hollands true method of thinking.

Posted by Hootinani from the parade following Babs out of town on 02/13/14 at 10:04 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

No, they weren’t realistically thinking about bringing back Rafalski. The Wings were going to WATCH him. It was the local press corps that decided it was going to happen. Rafalski was in the ECHL, and when the Wings’ brass was actually quoted, they said that being in the ECHL at 41 was being a step lower than the AHL at 41. Jimmy D was going to watch him.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 02/13/14 at 10:15 AM ET

TreKronor's avatar

So they were willing to contemplate bringing back an extremely undersized 41 yr old Rafalski, but Almquist who is young and doing everything you could want from a skilled dman is a questionable addition?

Let’s take a step back here.  It’s one thing for the Wings to release Rafalski so he can play in the ECHL, and for there to be that minor possibility that he could compete for a job in the Wings line-up.  It’s another thing to think that the Wings told him he has a legitimate shot at the team or were willing to bring him back. 

And before people jump in shouting Danny Cleary’s name: 1) Cleary hadn’t been retired for 4 years.  2) I believe management learned their lesson on the Cleary signing.  Or I hope.

Posted by TreKronor on 02/13/14 at 10:23 AM ET

TreKronor's avatar

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 02/13/14 at 09:15 AM ET

Or like GM said smile

Posted by TreKronor on 02/13/14 at 10:24 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.