It looks like Andreas Athanasiou has shaken off his slow start.
The 19-year-old Barrie Colts left-winger — ignored in the evaluation process for Canada’s world junior team — has exploded offensively since the start of November, putting up an eye-popping nine goals and 16 assists for 25 points in his past 14 games. In the past nine games, he’s been named the first star four times and the second star three times, and he just picked up the OHL’s player-of-the-week honours after recording two goals and five assists in two games.
It’s exactly the kind of success the Red Wings were expecting after he knocked their socks off at training camp in Traverse City, Mich., in September. He scored a team-high three goals in the prospects tournament, was the only junior prospect to suit up in the red-and-white game and in an NHL exhibition contest, and signed entry-level contract after camp ended.
“He had an outstanding camp … he came in and he was on a mission, he wanted to open everybody’s eyes and prove to everyone how good he could be,” said Red Wings director of player development Jiri Fischer. “When he got back to Barrie, in all fairness, I know Andreas tries really hard, but he didn’t play up to the level he did at camp and in the rookie tournament. He played harder, he was more determined and he played better when he was in Traverse City.”
The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder was ranked as a top-20 prospect entering his draft year in 2011, but slipped all the way to the fourth round, 110th overall, after struggling on a deep London Knights team that won an OHL championship and went to the Memorial Cup.
Traded to Barrie last off-season after requesting a change of scenery, Athanasiou reestablished himself as a prospect with a 67-point campaign and turned heads in a run to the OHL final with 25 points in 22 games. Now, he’s on the cusp of the OHL’s top-20 scorers and will likely continue to climb that list now that he’s shaken off his early-season struggles.
Elite speed has always been Athanasiou’s claim to fame.
“I haven’t seen a better skater this season, yet, in the OHL,” Fischer said. “In the Traverse City tournament, it was good enough to create at least one breakaway per game … He was routinely beating defensemen with his speed, driving wide, taking the puck to the net. You don’t see that every day when there are so many great-skating defensemen who are so great positionally. He’s as fluid on his feet as anyone … He’s fun to watch skate, that’s for sure.”
So does Athanasiou — who actually prefers playing center over left wing — have the hands to capitalize on the chances his speed creates, particularly at the next level?
“He certainly has enough skill and scoring ability — he’s good in shootouts, he sees the ice well, he can really move the puck, he’s not selfish,” Fischer said.
But the Red Wings would like to see Athanasiou play with more of an edge and develop the types of traits Darren Helm honed as a 40-goal scorer with the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers. That could ultimately determine exactly how effective he is offensively as a pro.
“His offense will need to come from being very hard to play against,” Fischer said. “He can be a little bit more in people’s faces than he has been in the OHL this year. Time will tell.”
NOTES: Grand Rapids is 17-4-1-1 and leads the AHL in goals per game (3.86), despite the fact only one active player (Tomas Jurco) is in the top 20 scorers … Goaltender Petr Mrazek (Grand Rapids, AHL) hasn’t lost since October, posting nine straight wins. In that stretch, he has a 1.55 goals-against average and a .945 save percentage. He’s doing everything he can to prove he’s worthy of Detroit’s backup job in 2014-15 … Center Calle Jarnkrok (Grand Rapids, AHL) has just two points — goals — in his past eight games. His 12 points in 23 games as a first-year AHLer are surprisingly low for a player who has already finished in the top 10 and top 20 Swedish Hockey League scorers in his young career … Center Landon Ferraro (Grand Rapids, AHL) ended a 10-game scoring slump, which included eight straight games without a single point, last week. He now has five goals and six assists in 20 games after missing training camp with a fractured foot. “I felt like I had kind of gone down for a bit,” Ferraro told MLive.com. “ You see guys moving all around you and getting points and you start forcing things and that’s when it really starts going bad for you.” … Defenseman Nick Jensen (Grand Rapids, AHL) made his Griffin s debut last week and will attempt to get his season on track after more than four months on the sidelines because of shoulder injury … Right-winger Trevor Parkes (Toledo, ECHL) is 11th in ECHL scoring, despite the fact Toledo was shutout three straight games two weeks ago.
Sarah Lindenau contributed to this report.
SKATERS: REGULAR-SEASON REPORT
|Almquist, Adam||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||20||0||14||14||18||+6||41|
|Callahan, Mitchell||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||23||9||4||13||29||+12||48|
|Jurco, Tomas||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||23||11||14||25||8||+11||67|
|Marchenko, Alexey||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||23||2||11||13||4||+14||16|
|Sheahan, Riley||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||20||5||6||11||8||+5||31|
|Sproul, Ryan||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||23||5||11||16||8||+14||52|
|Glendening, Luke||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||16||3||7||10||14||+9||21|
|Jarnkrok, Calle||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||23||7||5||12||8||+12||38|
|Pulkkinen, Teemu||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||23||9||9||18||14||+13||50|
|Frk, Martin||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||6||0||0||0||6||-3||3|
|Jensen, Nick||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||1||0||0||0||0||+1||0|
|Tvrdon, Marek||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||1||0||0||0||0||0||3|
|Ferraro, Landon||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||20||5||6||11||15||+4||56|
|Aubry, Louis-Marc||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||1||0||0||0||5||0||1|
|Fournier, Gleason||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||7||0||0||0||0||+3||4|
|Nestrasil, Andrej||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||18||2||3||5||10||+4||17|
|Ouellet, Xavier||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||21||1||5||6||4||+10||26|
|Nedomlel, Richard||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||3||0||0||0||2||-2||1|
|Nastasiuk, Zach||Owen Sound||OHL||CHL||31||13||16||29||16||-3||–|
|McNulty, Marc||Prince George||WHL||CHL||28||6||9||15||52||+4||–|
|De Haas, James||Clarkson||ECAC||NCAA||16||2||4||6||10||-1||21|
|McKee, Mike||W. Michigan||BIG-10||NCAA||10||0||0||0||46||0||1|
|Pope, David||W. Kelowna||USHL/JR-A||JR-A||17||7||7||14||6||–||–|
GOALIES: REGULAR SEASON REPORT
|Coreau, Jared||Grand Rapids||AHL||1||0||1||0||0||3.82||.846|
|Mrazek, Petr||Grand Rapids||AHL||13||10||2||1||1||2.09||.927|
|McCollum, Thomas||Grand Rapids||AHL||11||7||2||0||0||2.28||.922|