Riley Sheahan made more than his share of headlines for his off-ice conduct when he was arrested for drunken driving in October. But with that fading into the past, it might be time for headlines to start focusing on Sheahan’s accomplishments on the ice.
The recently-turned 21-year-old forward has, on the surface, put the embarrassing incident behind him and become one of the Grand Rapids Griffins’ top performers as an American Hockey League rookie, fourth in team scoring with 15 goals and 17 assists for 32 points in 50 games along with a club-best plus-13 rating.
And he’s getting better as the season progresses. Sheahan has put up 11 of those goals and 13 of those assists for 24 points in the past 27 games in an impressive run since Dec. 21.
“Riley is somebody who is extremely committed to being an NHL player — he has been from Day 1 here,” said Griffins head coach Jeff Blashill. “He’s got a real big strong base, real strong on his skates, real strong on the puck, a real good mind for the game and is a real good defensive player.”
No doubt, it’s been a smooth transition to the pro game for the 6-foot-2, 213-pound center after three seasons at the NCAA level with Notre Dame, where he never once hit double digits in goals nor did he top the 25-point barrier.
The biggest question mark surrounding Sheahan, aside from two alcohol-related incidents that have cast a shadow on his character in the eyes of some, is how much offensive upside he has at the NHL level.
He’s on an 82-game pace for a 24-goal, 52-point AHL rookie campaign — about the same production as Justin Abdelkader at the same age and stage — but the Red Wings drafted Sheahan in the first round, 21st overall, in 2010 because they envisioned him as a big-bodied, top-six power forward in the Johan Franzen mold, not to be a checker.
Blashill said the skill set is there for him to realize that potential. And it’s easy to forget, Franzen didn’t have a true breakout season until he was 28.
“His strength on his skates and his strength on his stick also gives him an extra second to take time with the puck and make good offensive plays and he’s shown an ability to do that,” Blashill said. “How prolific a point producer he’ll be will be determined in time. But he has very good offensive skills to go along with an outstanding defensive set. To me, he has a great, great opportunity to play in the NHL.”
As Blashill points out, there is little doubt Sheahan will be an NHL regular. That the former CCHA top defensive forward nominee has already won Blashill’s trust speaks volumes of his all-around makeup.
“I have no problem putting him out against the other team’s best players at any point,” Blashill said. “He’s really done a good job that way.”
Sheahan made his one-game NHL debut last April and could merit consideration for a recall this season depending on injuries and the Red Wings’ specific needs.
NOTES: How about defenseman Brian Lashoff? He goes from decent third-pairing AHLer to signing a three-year, one-way contract extension this week to possibly put him in Detroit through 2016 if he continues to excel. He’s averaging almost 19 minute per game, and is third on the team in penalty-killing minutes with almost three per outing. Add in 23 hits and 21 blocked shots and you have a Mike Babock favorite. Babcock put it best to MLive.com earlier this year, saying Lashoff is “better here than in the American League, maybe because the game’s more organized.” … Forwards Tomas Tatar and Joakim Andersson also continue to excel in Detroit. Both are among the Red Wings’ top 10 scorers, Tatar with six points in 11 games with 12:01 average time on ice; Andersson with five points in nine games and 10:13 ATOI … All this talk of Lashoff, Tatar and Andersson has left forward Gustav Nyquist (Grand Rapids, AHL) almost a forgotten man on the farm, but he sits one point off the AHL scoring lead behind Syracuse’s Tyler Johnson with 52 points in 51 games … More on the farm — Jan Mursak was waived this week and is back in Grand Rapids. Every time Mursak has had a chance to prove himself in the NHL, he’s gotten hurt. His speed and underrated skills could still make him an NHLer, but will he stay in North America when his contract expires in the summer? More money may await elsewhere … Right-winger Martin Frk (Halifax, QMJHL) has climbed to 18th in the QMJHL scoring race with 71 points in 46 games as he excels on a line with league scoring king Jonathan Drouin. Frk’s Mooseheads have clinched first overall with 10 games left, having won 49 of 58 games. If they win their final 10 games, they’ll set the QMJHL record for victories in a season … Forward Philippe Hudon (Victoriaville, QJMJHL) is unlikely to get a contract by his June 1 deadline, but he is producing more lately, with 16 points in his past 20 games among his 31 points in 56 games overall.
Following is this week’s statistical report.
SKATERS: REGULAR-SEASON REPORT
|Nyquist, Gustav||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||51||19||33||52||28||+10||148|
|Ferraro, Landon||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||49||16||17||33||31||0||103|
|Andersson, Joakim||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||36||10||17||27||55||+1||84|
|Parkes, Trevor||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||34||3||6||9||35||+6||39|
|Lashoff, Brian||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||36||2||4||6||23||+4||38|
|Tatar, Tomas||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||44||19||20||39||44||+13||147|
|Almqvist, Adam||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||48||6||15||21||26||+2||60|
|Nicastro, Max||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||12||1||2||3||5||+1||10|
|Raedeke, Brent||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||31||3||5||8||36||+1||24|
|Sheahan, Riley||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||50||15||17||32||25||+13||78|
|Aubry, Louis-Marc||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||43||1||4||5||40||-3||55|
|Callahan, Mitchell||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||47||10||7||17||85||+2||85|
|Jurco, Tomas||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||50||7||7||14||18||-5||69|
|Fournier, Gleason||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||19||1||2||3||23||-1||13|
|Nestrasil, Andrej||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||11||1||2||3||2||-1||15|
|Coetzee, Willie||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||1||0||0||0||0||-1||0|
|Jensen, Nick||St. Cloud State||WCHA||NCAA||32||3||22||25||12||+16||47|
|De Haas, James||Penticton||USHL/JR-A||BCHL||49||5||18||23||19||–||–|
|Sproul, Ryan||Sault Ste. Marie||CHL||OHL||42||19||42||61||37||+7||–|
|Nedomlel, Richard||Swift Current||CHL||WHL||63||5||19||24||87||-14||–|
|Marchenko, Alexei||CSKA Moscow||EUR||KHL||44||4||5||9||6||-2||46|
GOALIES: REGULAR SEASON REPORT
|McCollum, Thomas||Grand Rapids||AHL||22||12||9||1||2||2.92||.893|
|Pearce, Jordan||Grand Rapids||AHL||4||0||3||0||0||4.32||.847|
|Mrazek, Petr||Grand Rapids||AHL||27||17||8||1||1||2.36||.913|