The Detroit Red Wings drafted Riley Sheahan to be a scorer and they’re still waiting for him to realize that potential at the college level.
The 20-year-old center has quietly developed into a big, strong all-around force during his three NCAA seasons at Notre Dame, and — offensive breakthrough or no offensive breakthrough — has the look of a future NHLer.
But Sheahan, who the Red Wings selected 21st overall in 2010, is ever-so-close to emerging as an elite-level prospect.
“The biggest thing he still could improve is his scoring touch,” said Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson. “He’s had a lot of chances and he can work on his finishing skills. Confidence has a lot to do with it. As he’s gained confidence, he’s gotten better, but he still hasn’t been a dominant offensive player.”
The 6-foot-2 212-pounder has already set career-highs in goals (nine) and points (24) through 27 games and sits third in Fighting Irish scoring. Evidence of what he’s capable of came in the form of a two-goal, one-assist, six-shot outburst that earned him the first star in a 4-3 win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Jan. 7.
“He’s shown flashes,” Jackson said. “The game against Minnesota he was the best player on the ice. He was a dominant player both offensively and defensively and I’d love to see him do that on a consistent basis. This is one area he’s improved on, but it’s an area where he still has work to do.”
Aside from scoring, everything else is falling into place for Sheahan. With impressive skating ability, he has matured into a responsible two-way player who is winning more and more faceoffs and logs ice time on both special teams. Jackson often puts him on the power-play point to utilize his hard one-timer. He also called Sheahan his “best penalty-killer.”
“He has good instincts and he has a real good stick offensively and defensively,” Jackson said. “A lot of players don’t have a good defensive stick but Riley does and part of that comes with anticipation. He’s had numerous breakaways when killing penalties. He has good hands, and he’s become really strong in 1-on-1 situations using his strength, his reach and his hands to beat defenders.”
Jackson said an off-ice incident prior to the NHL draft in April 2010 has prevented Sheahan from getting a captain’s letter at Notre Dame, but that he’s emerged as a leader nonetheless.
“The guys look up to him — he’s a high-profile guy but he doesn’t have a big ego,” Jackson said. “He’s matured a lot in his three years. He’s grown up a lot. We stuck by him during those tough times and he responded positively to it.”
The Red Wings often pull their top prospects out of college after three seasons, with Gustav Nyquist, Justin Abdelkader and Jimmy Howard at the top of the list. It’s not clear what their plans are for Sheahan, but it’s hard to imagine another year in college hurting him, especially if he finally starts dominating on a game-in, game-out basis.
“Confidence is the biggest thing for him at the next level, and when he goes, it’s important that he’s prepared for it mentally,” Jackson said. “The physical skills are there. He’s a strong kid with a great hockey body and a great hockey mind and he’s a very intelligent player. The thing for him is confidence and consistency.”
NOTES: Defenseman Xavier Ouellet (Blainville-Boisbriand, QMJHL) earned his league’s first star of the month award for January after piling up four goals and 12 assists for 16 points along with a plus-8 rating in 11 games … Center Alan Quine (Peterborough, OHL) is on fire with nine goals and five assists in his past nine games. With 57 points on the season, he is 25th in OHL scoring and 19th in goals … Forward Gustav Nyquist (Grand Rapids, AHL) continues his impressive point-per-game pace on the farm with 45 points in 44 games. The Red Wings haven’t had a Grand Rapids prospect average a point-per-game since Jiri Hudler put up 96 points in 76 games back in 2005-06 … Defenseman Richard Nedomlel (Swift Current, WHL) has been more productive of late with three goals and 11 assists in his past 18 games.
Following is this week’s statistical report.
SKATERS: REGULAR-SEASON REPORT
|Coetzee, Willie||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||43||9||9||18||15||-1||100|
|Ferraro, Landon||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||37||6||7||13||29||-3||49|
|Nyquist, Gustav||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||44||15||30||45||16||+3||118|
|Tatar, Tomas||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||48||13||23||36||33||+3||145|
|Andersson, Joakim||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||45||12||15||27||20||+2||90|
|Aubry, Louis-Marc||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||35||4||8||12||19||-3||61|
|Callahan, Mitchell||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||34||5||3||8||71||-1||47|
|Ehrhardt, Travis||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||13||0||2||2||15||+4||19|
|Lashoff, Brian||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||48||7||6||13||25||-6||69|
|Pare, Francis||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||47||8||18||26||14||-10||110|
|Parkes, Trevor||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||33||2||6||8||17||+4||56|
|Raedeke, Brent||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||43||7||6||13||22||-1||68|
|Smith, Brendan||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||42||8||20||28||66||+7||86|
|Piche, Sebastien||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||22||0||3||3||18||-7||19|
|Pyett, Logan||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||45||2||16||18||42||-2||110|
|Nestrasil, Andrej||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||11||2||1||3||2||-1||17|
|Fournier, Gleason||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||3||1||1||2||2||0||1|
|Nedomlel, Richard||Swift Current||JR||WHL||57||7||26||33||67||-28||N/A|
|Sproul, Ryan||Sault Ste. Marie||JR||OHL||47||14||24||38||47||+18||N/A|
|Jurco, Tomas||Saint John||JR||QMJHL||40||25||34||59||29||+35||160|
|Jensen, Nick||St. Cloud State||COL||NCAA||30||5||17||22||2||+8||57|
|Nicastro, Max||Boston U.||COL||NCAA||25||2||6||8||30||-1||40|
|Sheahan, Riley||Notre Dame||COL||NCAA||29||9||15||24||18||+1||97|
|Marchenko, Alexei||CSKA Moscow||EUR||KHL||4||0||0||0||2||-3||2|
GOALIES: REGULAR SEASON REPORT
|Pearce, Jordan||Grand Rapids||AHL||16||3||7||1||1||3.39||.879|
|McCollum, Thomas||Grand Rapids||AHL||13||6||6||0||0||3.74||.879|