There are two things you need to know about Tomas Jurco.
First, and widely known in hockey circles, is that he has immense natural skill, so much so that he was considered a first-round talent back in his draft year.
“When you see some of the goals he’s scored, you say to yourself, ‘OK, this guy has a chance (to play in the NHL), because other people just can’t do that,’” says Grand Rapids Griffins head coach Jeff Blashill.
Second, he’s young — among the 10 youngest players in the American Hockey League — and it’s important to keep that in mind when you look at his first-year statistics.
Jurco, who was a teenaged rookie until he turned 20 on Dec. 28, has eight goals and eight assists for 16 points in 53 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins — a far cry from the 68 points he recorded in 48 games last season with the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs.
Learning the ropes isn’t easy for a rookie at the best of times in the AHL. Throw in the fact that he was playing in a league stacked with locked-out NHLers for the first three months and it gets even harder.
“Tomas is learning how hard and how strong you have to be on the puck and how much you have to value the puck because it just won’t come back to you if you lose it,” Blashill says. “In junior, it comes back to you enough and in pro it doesn’t.
“He’s learning how to go get it more and when he has it to hold onto it longer. That’s confidence and it’s learning how to do it and it just takes time.”
Jurco won a Memorial Cup with the Sea Dogs in 2011 and was selected in the second round, 35th overall, by the Red Wings that summer after slipping from his ranking as a consensus first-rounder.
The Red Wings have compared the 6-foot-2, 193-pounder favorably to Marian Hossa. He can electrify with mind-boggling stick skills given time and open space, but needs significant work on his play in traffic.
But his work ethic, attitude and commitment have been exceptional since his arrival in Grand Rapids.
“The one thing I know about Tomas Jurco is Tomas cares,” Blashill said. “He wants to be a real good hockey player. I’ve spent lots of time with him in video and he’s very receptive and totally wants to be a real good player.
“Now it’s a matter of putting the whole game together and learning to be a successful pro.”
NOTES: Forward Gustav Nyquist (Grand Rapids, AHL) is on a tear with seven goals and seven assists in his past eight games. He’s taken over the AHL scoring lead from Tyler Johnson of Syracuse … Nyquist is ranked No. 55 among NHL prospects in The Hockey News’s annual Future Watch issue. The ranking, which includes prospects in the NHL, tabs defenseman Brendan Smith as the NHL’s 26th-best prospect and center Calle Jarnkrok (Brynas, SEL) at No. 31. Tomas Tatar, Petr Mrazek and Riley Sheahan didn’t crack the top 75 … Jarnkrok finished tied for eighth in Swedish Elite League scoring with 42 points in 53 games, while defenseman Mattias Backman (Linkopings, SEL) was eighth in defense scoring … Right-winger Trevor Parkes (Toledo, ECHL) picked up ECHL player of the week honours and has 15 points in seven games with the Walleye. The gritty forward is a breakout candidate in Grand Rapids next season … A final note about former prospect Jan Mursak: He’ll qualify for Group 6 unrestricted free agency because he will not have reached 80 career NHL games.
Following is this week’s statistical report.
SKATERS: REGULAR-SEASON REPORT
|Nyquist, Gustav||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||54||22||35||57||30||+11||160|
|Ferraro, Landon||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||52||16||18||34||37||+1||108|
|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|
|Almquist, Adam||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||48||6||15||21||26||+2||60|
|Nicastro, Max||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||15||1||2||3||5||+1||12|
|Raedeke, Brent||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||31||3||5||8||36||+1||24|
|Sheahan, Riley||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||53||15||18||33||25||+13||80|
|Aubry, Louis-Marc||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||46||1||5||6||40||-2||58|
|Callahan, Mitchell||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||50||10||7||17||82||+2||90|
|Jurco, Tomas||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||53||8||8||16||18||-3||75|
|Fournier, Gleason||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||21||1||3||4||23||-2||15|
|Nestrasil, Andrej||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||14||2||3||5||2||0||15|
|Coetzee, Willie||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||1||0||0||0||0||-1||0|
|Jensen, Nick||St. Cloud State||WCHA||NCAA||34||3||23||26||12||+14||55|
|De Haas, James||Penticton||USHL/JR-A||BCHL||51||5||18||23||19||–||–|
|Sproul, Ryan||Sault Ste. Marie||CHL||OHL||45||19||45||64||41||+8||–|
|Nedomlel, Richard||Swift Current||CHL||WHL||67||6||20||26||97||-12||–|
|Marchenko, Alexey||CSKA Moscow||EUR||KHL||44||4||5||9||6||-2||46|
GOALIES: REGULAR SEASON REPORT
|McCollum, Thomas||Grand Rapids||AHL||23||13||9||1||2||2.83||.897|
|Pearce, Jordan||Grand Rapids||AHL||4||0||3||0||0||4.32||.847|
|Mrazek, Petr||Grand Rapids||AHL||29||18||9||1||1||2.34||.915|
SKATERS: PLAYOFF REPORT
|Marchenko, Alexey||CSKA Moscow||KHL||EUR-PRO||4||0||0||0||0||0||2|