There’s no telling how long Martin Frk will be stuck in the East Coast Hockey League — and how he handles it could make or break his development as an NHL prospect.
The 21-year-old rookie pro right-winger is on assignment with the Toledo Walleye, in part because he has plenty to work on and in part because the Detroit Red Wings have had as many as four NHL-caliber forwards taking up spots with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins.
Unable to establish himself in six games with the Griffins early this season — going without a point while skating on the fourth line — Frk was sent to Toledo to find his footing as a pro. Through 14 games with the Walleye, he has five goals and seven assists for 12 points and a minus-9 rating.
“Frk is competing his butt off every chance he gets,” said Red Wings director of player development Jiri Fischer, who has worked closely with Frk over the years through his involvement with the Czech Republic’s world junior team. “He’s competing, he’s got a very good attitude, and he understands what he needs to work on.”
The 6-foot, 193-pound Frk, selected in the second round (49th overall) by the Red Wings in 2012, has good puck skills and isn’t shy of contact, while his shot may be the hardest in Detroit’s system. He piled up gaudy statistics last season — 53 goals among 126 points in 77 total games — en route to winning a QMJHL title and a Memorial Cup with the Halifax Mooseheads.
While all of that has grabbed a few headlines and the attention of fans, Frk accumulated many of his junior points on a high-octane power-play unit featuring Colorado Avalanche rookie Nathan MacKinnon and Tampa Bay Lightning second overall pick Jonathan Drouin. And because the trio usually had control of the puck, the defensive side of the game often took care of itself.
As a pro, Frk needs to quickly learn the work it takes to score and the effort required to be the type of well-rounded, two-way player the Red Wings demand him to be.
“He needs to learn how to eliminate the drive-bys on the back check, how to stop on all the pucks, fight for loose pucks and have a second effort in the offensive zone, and even though on the forecheck when the defenseman gains a little bit of separation carrying the puck, he needs to go after him,” Fischer said. “Those great habits that Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk have automated, they haven’t come naturally to him, but he’s learning good things in Toledo.”
Skating and discipline are two other areas Frk needs to continue to work on.
The best thing about being in Toledo is opportunity. The Griffins are such a deep and powerful squad, Frk probably won’t get more than a fourth-line sniff this season barring a series of trades or a rash of injuries. With the Walleye, he has a top-line role and power play time.
“He’s in as good of a position and role to succeed as anybody on the team,” Fischer said.
NOTES: Winger Anthony Mantha (Val-d’Or, QMJHL) is getting plenty of ink as Canada prepares for the IIHF world junior championship starting Boxing Day. He’s presently skating on the second line with Charles Hudon and Bo Horvat, but expect him to join forces with Jonathan Drouin when Drouin returns from a concussion … For those keeping track, Mantha left for world junior camp with a 19-point lead over teammate Louick Marcotte for the QMJHL scoring title. Mantha, Marcotte, and another Foreurs forward, Guillaume Gelinas, are 1-2-3 in league scoring … Defenseman Mitchell Wheaton (Kelowna, WHL) returned from injury this week and scored his first goal of the season … Winger Tyler Bertuzzi (Guelph, OHL) has what it takes to play in the NHL one day, according to his coach, Scott Walker. “He’s a high-energy guy,” Walker told the Toronto Star. “In the NHL, he’s one of those guys that you love to play with. He grinds it out, but he’s got more skill than guys give him credit for. He plays the game the right way and can do a lot of different things for us. He can penalty kill. He can go in front and handle the puck on the power play. But he also can play a hard, physical game against other players.” … Goaltender Petr Mrazek and winger Tomas Jurco are both up with Detroit. Mrazek was the third star in Sunday’s 3-0 loss to Tampa Bay, stopping 23 of 25 shots. Jurco made his NHL debut and saw 16:45 of ice time, including 1:27 on the power play, while skating with Pavel Datsyuk and Daniel Alfredsson … On Jurco, Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock told the Detroit News: “Jurco was good. He’s big, fast and has some skill. I’d like him to (go to) the net but he did a lot of good things, got Alfie (Daniel Alfredsson) and Pav (Pavel Datsyuk) the puck. He’s a fairly high-end player.” … Goaltender Thomas McCollum (Grand Rapids, AHL) has picked up his game and will get more starts for the Griffins due to Mrazek’s recall. The Red Wings retain McCollum’s rights as a restricted free agent although they don’t have him signed to a contract. “Tommy had been playing really good even when he wasn’t getting many starts because Petr had been playing so good,” Griffins head coach Jeff Blashill told MLive.com. “Now it really opens up the door for him to do a great job.”
Sarah Lindenau contributed to this report.
SKATERS: REGULAR-SEASON REPORT
|Almquist, Adam||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||23||0||16||16||18||+5||44|
|Callahan, Mitchell||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||26||10||4||14||29||+13||57|
|Jurco, Tomas||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||26||11||16||27||12||+12||76|
|Marchenko, Alexey||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||26||2||12||14||4||+16||17|
|Sheahan, Riley||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||23||6||8||14||10||+4||36|
|Sproul, Ryan||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||26||6||12||18||12||+16||65|
|Glendening, Luke||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||17||3||7||10||16||+8||24|
|Jarnkrok, Calle||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||26||8||5||13||8||+13||42|
|Pulkkinen, Teemu||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||26||10||12||22||14||+14||57|
|Frk, Martin||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||6||0||0||0||6||-3||3|
|Jensen, Nick||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||4||0||0||0||0||+2||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||20||3||3||6||10||+3||20|
|Ouellet, Xavier||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||24||1||5||6||6||+11||28|
|Nedomlel, Richard||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||3||0||0||0||2||-2||1|
|Nastasiuk, Zach||Owen Sound||OHL||CHL||34||13||17||30||16||-4||–|
|McNulty, Marc||Prince George||WHL||CHL||32||6||10||16||65||+5||–|
|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||19||8||7||15||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||14||9||3||0||1||2.22||.923|