The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/22/13 at 11:52 AM ET
Update: The Wings have confirmed their signing of Mattias Backman (and the Free Press is confirming, too):
The Red Wings' prospects still playing playoff hockey had big nights on Tuesday, with the Grand Rapids Griffins advancing to the AHL's Western Conference Finals and Halifax Mooseheads forward Martin Frk registering a hat trick at the Memorial Cup.
RedWingsCentral's Matthew Wuest took note of the Griffins' top performers in his latest prospect report (and the Griffins-Oklahoma city Barons series starts with back-to-back games in Grand Rapids on Friday and Saturday):
Winger Tomas Tatar and goaltender Petr Mrazek have been among those leading the way. Tatar is tied for seventh in AHL playoff scoring with eight goals and three assists in 11 games while Mrazek has started every minute of every game as a rookie and is 7-4 with a 2.19 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage.
Also among the league’s top 20 scorers are centers Landon Ferraro (two goals, seven assists) and Riley Sheahan (one goal, eight assists). Rookie winger Tomas Jurco has four goals and four assists in 11 games.
The Griffins will face the Oklahoma City Barons in the Western Conference final. The Barons, the top minor-league affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers, had two fewer wins and one fewer point than the Griffins in the regular season.
If you missed it, as noted in the overnight report, Michigan Hockey offered a superb profile of Grand Rapids Griffins forward and Wings prospect Teemu Pulkkinen, penned by Griffinshockey.com's Kyle Kujawa...
Every season, the Griffins get a few Red Wings prospects on tryouts once their respective seasons end, but it’s not easy to break into the lineup. While many are ready for the rigors of AHL hockey, coaches generally aren’t comfortable throwing an unproven player into a high-stakes game. But for Pulkkinen, confidence was not an issue, as he had the benefit of 185 regular season and 13 postseason games in Finland’s best professional league.
“I didn’t know [if I would play] when I came over,” said Pulkkinen. “But I was ready to keep going after my season in Finland. Of course I wanted to play, so I was happy to get the chance. I really enjoy playing here.
“I think these leagues are pretty much the same,” he continued. “Of course, the ice is smaller here, so the rink being bigger is one thing. I think the speed is the same, but maybe it’s just a little more physical over here.”
Physicality is a common theme noticed by European players when adjusting to the North American game. But even at 5-foot-10, 180-pounds, Pulkkinen has proven to be more than ready to handle that, regularly standing up defenders who try to separate him from the puck and several times surprising a puck carrier with strong checks of his own.
“I’ve played three seasons in Finland with men,” he explained. “It’s kind of the same here. It’s hockey, you have to be ready to take hits and give hits.”
The late-season tryout has proved valuable in Pulkkinen’s development. In addition to having a better grasp on the lay of the land as he joins the team full-time in 2013-14, he’s helping his teammates in what they hope will be a deep Calder Cup Playoff run. And that not only pays off for him, but for all of the Griffins who helped to end the franchise’s three-year playoff drought.
“It’s my dream to play in the NHL,” he said. “In Finland, you have to first make the SM League, and then build yourself up through the American game. So that was my first step, and now I’m playing here. I want to play so good here that it’s possible to play someday in the NHL.”
And in Major Junior Hockey news, in
Alberta Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (home of the host Saskatoon Blades), Martin Frk's hat trick powered the Halifax Mooseheads to a 9-2 win over the London Knights and at least a guaranteed berth in the Memorial Cup semifinal, and Yahoo Sports' Sunaya Sapurji profiled Frk as both a superbly-talented sniper and the beneficiary of some superb work by two of the 2013 draft's top prospects:
Sometimes, says Martin Frk, it’s hard to play alongside Jonathan Drouin and Nathan MacKinnon on the Halifax Mooseheads’ top line. They are supremely talented, but he admits they can also get a little petulant when he’s unable to finish off a nice passing play with a goal or hit the dynamic duo with a sweet set-up.
On Tuesday night at the 2013 Memorial Cup, however, Frk showed why he was placed on the same line with the two highly touted future NHLers. He sent a reminder that he, too, is a special player in his own right with a hat trick and an assist in a 9-2 rout over the OHL champion London Knights.
“I got great passes from them and I had to put it (in the net),” Frk said. “I hope the boys (Drouin and MacKinnon) are not too mad at me. They always get a little bit cranky, but I try to do my best. I guess I did today and they are happy.”
Very happy, actually. And as far as MacKinnon is concerned, it’s a mutual admiration society since he and Drouin are thankful to be playing with the 19-year-old Detroit Red Wings prospect.
“He’s a second-round pick and a signed NHL player,” said MacKinnon of Frk. “He got over 80 points this year and he helps us out a lot. He’s an unbelievable player and he’s got a hell of a shot and really works hard. He touches all three zones really well. I think we’re really lucky to play with him as well because he creates a lot of space for us and it’s awesome.”
Sapurji continues at length, and as Memorial Cup playoff seeding is kind of weird--there are four teams (the OHL, QMJHL and WHL's playoff champions, as well as the host team) that play 3 round robin games against each other--she explains what happens next for Halifax:
The win was important to Halifax because it helped the ‘Q’ champs avoid the tiebreaker with a 2-1 record. The worst that can happen to the Mooseheads now is to play in Friday’s semifinal. A win by Portland on Wednesday in their game against the host Saskatoon Blades would give the Herd a bye into Sunday’s final.
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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.