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Pare in right place at right time?

Published Monday, March 2, 2009, 12:01 a.m. under 2008-09 RWC Reports

It’s not often Red Wings Central devotes its weekly update to a prospect not signed by Detroit, but Francis Pare is a special case.

The 21-year-old forward is having an outstanding American Hockey League rookie season with the Grand Rapids Griffins, with 19 goals and 18 assists for 37 points in 45 games. He attended training camp with the Red Wings in the fall but is signed to a minor-league contract with the Griffins.   
The Red Wings are keeping a watchful eye on Pare, a skilled 5-foot-10, 185-pounder who fits their puck-possession system to a T.

“He’s such a smart player … The puck follows him around,” said Griffins general manager Bob McNamara. “He’s got great hands, he always knocks it out of the air, and he’s in the right place at the right time — all the time.”

Pare recorded 298 points during a four-year career in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League but was never drafted. Size and skating worked against him, but as a 20-year-old, he exploded for 54 goals in a 102-point campaign with Chicoutimi and was named QMJHL most valuable player.

His smooth transition to the AHL is opening some eyes, and he could be one to watch if he picks up a quicker step in his skating stride.

The Red Wings have a history of signing free agents who impress them. They inked Brent Raedeke and Brian Lashoff out of training camp, and last season, they were so impressed with Jamie Tardif’s play on a minor-league contract with the Griffins, they locked him up with a two-year NHL deal.

* Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (Grand Rapids, AHL) returned from a wrist injury on Friday and has played three games, recording an assist in a 5-4 win over Toronto. Ericsson has missed 22 games to injury and told the Grand Rapids Press, “You want to go out there and help the team any way you can, so it’s really tough just sitting and watching. I’ve done that way too much this year.”

* Forward Justin Abdelkader (Grand Rapids, AHL) has been dynamite lately, with six goals and 11 assists for 17 points in his past 14 games.

* Forward Cory Emmerton (Grand Rapids, AHL) has scored four times in his past six games. He had just three goals in his first 49 contests. Overall, he’s made a smooth adjustment and posted 30 points in a solid rookie campaign.

* Forward Stephen Johnston (Belleville, Ontario Hockey League) has just one point in his past 12 games and three points in his last 18.

* Goaltender Thomas McCollum (Brampton, OHL) continues his sensational season. He leads the OHL in goals-against average (2.09) and shutouts (seven) and is second with a .929 save percentage in 49 starts.

* Forward Zack Torquato (Erie, OHL) has 10 goals and 11 assists for 21 points in his past 17 games and is doing what he can to earn a contract. Conversely, forward Randy Cameron (Moncton, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) has been out with an injury at a key point in his contract year. Quick Launch

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