The Malik Report
Talkin’ prospects: Khan confirms that Red Wings are bringing Alexei Marchenko, Teemu Pulkkinen to GR
by George Malik on 04/09/13 at 11:22 PM ET
The Grand Rapids Griffins somewhat inadvertently revealed that they'd not only signed Richard Nedomlel and Jake Paterson to amateur try-outs, but also that Alexei Marcheko was practicing with the team, and this evening, MLive's Ansar Khan is confirming Matias Strozyk's report that the Wings are also bringing Teemu Pulkkinen over for a look-see.
With Calle Jarnkrok scheduled to head back to Sweden after Saturday's slate of three Griffins home games played over the course of four nights (Wednesday vs. Chicago, Friday vs. Milwaukee and Saturday vs. Peoria), and Nedomlel, Paterson, Marchenko, Ryan Sproul and now Pulkkinen joining the mix, the Wings' AHL affiliate is becoming something of a talent evaluation machine.
Wings assistant GM Jim Nill tells Khan that, well, "that's the plan" given that the Wings want to determine whether players like Marchenko, Paterson and especially Pulkkinen are ready to make the jump to professional hockey---and Khan reveals that the Wings plan on bringing both Pulkkinen and Jarnkrok over to North America on a full-time basis next year, even if they don't make the Wings' roster:
“Every year you bring in kids whose teams are done playing, to start working on their conditioning, let them get ready for pro hockey,'' Nill said.
In Pulkkinen's case, he has been playing in Finland's top league, SM-liiga, for three seasons with Jokerit Helsinki. He had 54 points (18 goals, 36 assists) in 55 games in 2010-11, but his production has declined the past two seasons (16 and 14 goals, 37 and 34 points, respectively).
“Two years ago he was one of the final cuts on the World Championships team,'' Nill said. “He got off to a slow start this season. There were a lot of NHLers in the league during the lockout. The last half he started to score more.''
Khan says that Pulkkinen might not play for the Griffins, but he's going to be brought up to speed regardless.
According to Nill, Marchenko won't get into any game action as CSKA Moscow and Sergei Fedorov want him back--mostly because contracts in the KHL go from the start of May until the end of the following April (seriously, and the KHL gets VERY ITCHY when NHL teams actually employ their signed players before May 1st)--though RedWingsCentral's Matthew Wuest has reported that the Wings will then sign Marchenko to an entry-level deal...
“We talked to Sergei Fedorov (the former Red Wing who is GM of CSKA Moscow), he allowed him to practice for a week (with the Griffins) and then go back to Russia,'' Nill said.
Marchenko is 21 and shoots right-handed. He had four goals and nine points in 44 games this season. He played with Pavel Datsyuk during the lockout
As for Jarnkrok, his stint's over after Saturday, but despite only registering 2 assists over the course of 5 games and registering a +2, it sounds like the team's decided that his development will be best-served by making the jump to North American hockey on a full-time basis:
“It's been a good eye-opener for him, the smaller ice and the speed and the strength needed here,'' Nill said. “We always tell the younger guys they got to get stronger. It's been a good experience for him.''
Jarnkrok and Pulkkinen will be at Red Wings training camp next season, competing for roster spots. They'll play in Grand Rapids if they don't make the NHL roster.
Keep in mind that the Griffins are in a playoff hunt themselves, so they're not going to "play all the kids" for the sake of doing so.
Speaking of the Griffins, here's their weekly press release...
This Week’s Games
Wed., April 10 - Chicago Wolves at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Fri., April 12 - Milwaukee Admirals at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Sat., April 13 - Peoria Rivermen at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - WOOD 106.9 FM/1300 AM / AHLLive.com
Two-Week Trek: The Griffins wrapped up their busiest road stretch of the season last week, with the final three games of a season-high seven-game road trip and a stretch of 10 of 11 away from home (March 16-April 6). The team started the week in Texas, earning a 5-1 victory over the Houston Aeros on Tuesday. Francis Pare tallied three points (2-1—3), Tomas Jurco picked up a goal and an assist and Luke Glendening and Chad Billins also scored in the win. Grand Rapids continued its winning ways on Friday in Abbotsford, picking up its 40th win of the season – and 700th in franchise history – in the first of back-to-back games against the Heat. Landon Ferraro matched a season-best with two goals and an assist and Calle Jarnkrok picked up his first two points (both assists) as a Griffin in the 4-1 victory. The luck didn’t follow the Griffins into Saturday’s rematch with the Heat, but the team still picked up a point in a 3-2 shootout loss in Abbotsford, concluding their seven-game road swing with a 4-2-0-1 record.
Welcome Home: The Griffins have played just one home game since a 3-2 overtime win over Chicago on March 13, but they’ll return to Grand Rapids this week to begin a four-game homestand. The club will host Chicago on Wednesday, Milwaukee on Friday and Peoria on Saturday (all games at 7 p.m.) to begin a stretch of five of the final six games of the regular season coming against Midwest Division opponents. The Griffins are 16-9-3-1 within their own division, giving them the AHL’s eighth-best intra-division winning percentage at 0.621.
Road Weary: Grand Rapids’ 4-2-0-1 mark on its season-high seven-game road trip improved the team’s road record to 20-13-1-2 (0.597) this season, which ranks sixth in the AHL. Only Texas (0.706), Syracuse (0.689), Charlotte (0.676), Providence (0.639) and Springfield (0.603) have been better. Additionally, Grand Rapids boasts the league’s second-best offense away from home, averaging 3.39 goals per game and trailing only Syracuse (3.46). The Griffins will play only two more road games this season, April 20 at Lake Erie and April 21 at Chicago.
Nicastro Reassigned: The Red Wings on Tuesday reassigned defenseman Max Nicastro from the Griffins to the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye. Nicastro, 23, has skated in 23 games with the Griffins in his first professional season, showing three points (1-2—3) and 10 penalty minutes. The Thousand Oaks, Calif., native also appeared in nine games with Toledo, registering five points (2-3—5), a plus-seven rating and four penalty minutes.
With Sproul in the lineup and Riley Sheahan returning from Detroit, the Griffins have thrown the Toledo Walleye--who trail the Cincinnati Cyclones 2 games to 0 with their playoff series set to resume on Wednesday night--two big bones in the form of the nasty Nicastro and Andrej Nestrasil, who scored very, very regularly with the Walleye.
Clinching Scenario: With six games to play in the regular season, the Griffins are closing in on their first playoff berth since 2008-09. The team could clinch as early as Wednesday if it beats Chicago in regulation and Rockford loses (in regulation or extra time) at Peoria. The Griffins can then clinch the Midwest Division – and earn the Norman R. (Bud) Poile Trophy for doing so – as early as Friday with a victory over Milwaukee. If the playoffs started today, the third-seed Griffins would face the sixth-seed Rochester Americans in the best-of-five Western Conference Quarterfinals. The teams have never met in the postseason and only met twice in the regular season, with Grand Rapids winning 4-2 on Dec. 19 at Van Andel Arena and Rochester winning 4-3 on Oct. 19 at Blue Cross Arena.
The Griffins haven't made the playoffs in three seasons, so there's just no reason for them to tank games for the sake of playing all the kids.
They also happen to have a rookie on their roster who's playing so well that his play merits a contract from the Wings in short order...
Top-Notch Rook: With his goal on Saturday versus Abbotsford, Chad Billins tied Clay Wilson as the highest-scoring rookie defenseman in franchise history. Billins, who is also tied for 14th among AHL rookies and for seventh among defensemen, has 37 points (10-27—37) in 70 contests, which also matched Josh Langfeld (21-16—37 in 2001-02), Chris Bala (21-16—37 in 2001-02) and Wilson (10-27—37 in 2005-06) for eighth place among all Griffins rookies. Additionally, Billins could write himself into the record books as one of the team’s best in the shootout, as he improved to five-for-five this season in the skills competition on Saturday. He is just one of four players in the league to have a perfect shootout percentage, and he’s the only one to have done it on more than three shots. The Griffins have only had two players finish a season with a perfect shootout percentage (on at least three shots): Todd Robinson (2004-05) and Dave Roberts (2000-01), who both finished four-for-four.
But he'll have stiff competition in the man whose name rhymes with "Droll":
New Face: The Red Wings on Wednesday reassigned defenseman Ryan Sproul to the Griffins from the Ontario Hockey League’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. A native of Mississauga, Ontario, Sproul led all OHL defensemen and finished second on Sault Ste. Marie with 66 points (20-46—66) in 50 games. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound blueliner was recognized in the leagues’ Coaches’ Poll, topping the list for hardest shot and best offensive defenseman in his conference. In three seasons with the Greyhounds, Spoul notched 149 points (54-95—149) and 134 penalty minutes in 170 games. The 20-year-old was Detroit’s third choice (55th overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. He signed an amateur tryout with the Griffins last March but has yet to make his professional debut.
And also in the prospect department, RedWingsCentral's Matthew Wuest has added the not-yet-playing Jared Coreau to his stable of prospect profiles--at this point, it appears that the Wings will bring Coreau into the mix as a practice goalie in Detroit and will have Paterson practice with the Griffins, mostly because Tom McCollum's playing in an attempt to continue professional career with the Wings while splitting time with Petr Mrazek down the stretch--and Wuest also penned a superb profile of Nedomlel in his newest Prospect Report.
Wuest is confirming that the Wings have signed BOTH Nedomlel
AND Paterson to an entry-level contract that will take effect on July 1st:
The 6-foot-4 202-pounder stepped up his defensive play in his third WHL season with the Swift Current Broncos, logging heavy minutes against top lines while finishing with seven goals and 21 assists for 28 points along with a minus-13 rating in 72 games.
Focusing on his defensive play cost Nedomlel points — considering a season before, he quadrupled his rookie point total with a 10-goal, 46-point sophomore campaign — but the Red Wings didn’t draft him in the sixth round (175th overall) in 2011 to run their power play. They drafted him for his bread and butter: a rugged, physical defensive game.
“We watched him closely,” aid Red Wings director of player development Jiri Fischer. “He played top-four minutes and (has) been a shutdown guy for Swift Current.”
Wuest's asked me to keep his quips short, but he suggests that the Wings' defensive depth has become something of a pleasant problem, because the team's already signed Ryan Sproul and Xavier Ouellet (he's leading the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada through the QMJHL playoffs) to entry-level contracts, and once Marchenko's signed and the team brings Mattias Backman over (he's slated to play for Linkopings HC of the Swedish Eliteserien next season), the Wings' blueline will be jam-packed in both Grand Rapids and in Toledo, where they're only allowed to assign six players to the team.
The Wings have two more players from the 2011 draft to decide whether to sign by June 1st--with Saint Cloud State University junior Nick Jensen (he plays in the Frozen Four as SCSU will tangle with Quinnipiac on Thursday at 8 PM in Pittsburgh, and the game will air on ESPN2) remaining Wings property until August 15th after the year he graduates, the Wings will probably let Jensen play as one of SCSU's top-pair defensemen before signing him a year from now--in Victoriaville Tigres forward Phillipe Hudon and Belleville Bulls forward Alan Quine.
The undersized by hard-hitting and downright admirable Hudon's more likely to get a courtesy contract with the Walleye in an attempt to earn a professional foothold (Hudon battles moderate-to-severe obsessive-compulsive disorder, so the fact that he's pursuing a professional hockey career period is near-miraculous), if not an AHL-only deal with the Griffins, but Quine's definitely going to be signed and brought into the mix as the fleet-footed playmaking center has dazzled after being traded from the Peterborough Petes to the Belleville Bulls:
Quine has lit it up since a mid-season trade to Belleville and will get consideration. He had 14 goals and 27 assists for 41 points in 28 games with the Bulls in the regular season and has eight points in nine games in the playoffs.
“He really rejuvenated his OHL career (after the trade) — he was really on a tear for a bit,” Fischer said.
Some of the aforementioned prospects actually played hockey games on Tuesday, and here are the results of their efforts:
In the QMJHL, Martin Frk didn't register a point but the Halifax Mooseheads defeated the Gatineau Olympiques 4-2, and they took a 3-0 series lead in their second round series;
Blainville Boisbriand-Armada captain Xavier Ouellet scored 2 goals and was named the game's first star as his Armada defeated the Val-d'Or Foreurs 5-0, taking a 3-0 series lead;
In the OHL, Barrie Colts forward Andreas Athanasiou was named the OHL's player of the week on Tuesday, and while he didn't register a point in the Barrie Colts' 4-2 win over the Oshawa Generals, Barrie swept the series on Tuesday night, and will advance to the 3rd round of the OHL playoffs;
And the aforementioned Alan Quine registered an assist in the Belleville Bulls' 4-0 win over the Sudbury Wolves. Belleville leads that series 3 games to 0.
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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.