The Grand Rapids Griffins haven’t missed a beat as they prepare to defend last year’s AHL Calder Cup triumph.
The Griffins, who finished last season with 92 points, have already exceeded that total, breezing to a 46-22-6 record to leave them two points away from the 100-point plateau and a win away from clinching the Midwest Division crown.
What’s most impressive about their success — trailing only the Manchester Monarchs, Texas Stars and Springfield Falcons in the overall standings — is that they’ve done it despite losing so many key players along the way.
Strong team play, particularly on the defensive side, has led to their success, as well as key offensive contributions from sniper Teemu Pulkkinen and defenseman Adam Almquist and the goaltending of Petr Mrazek and Thomas McCollum.
Mrazek and Almquist were named AHL second-team all-stars last week while Pulkkinen and defenseman Ryan Sproul made the all-rookie squad.
Whether it will all be enough for head coach Jeff Blashill to get the Griffins to another Calder Cup remains to be seen. Last year’s Griffins got hot at the right time, led by playoff MVP Tomas Tatar, and had the benefit of adding Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, Danny DeKeyser and Brian Lashoff after the Red Wings were eliminated from the playoffs.
NOTES: It appears there’s no looking back for Sheahan, Jurco and Glendening. “These kids (have) replaced our players because our players that were here can’t get their jobs back,” Babcock told Sportsnet last week. “It’s not like these (young) guys are going anywhere. They’re NHLers from now on.” All three would be eligible for the AHL playoffs should the Red Wings be eliminated before the Griffins, although Jurco would also be a candidate for Team Slovakia at the IIHF world championship … Sproul made his NHL debut in the final game of the regular season on Sunday and saw 18:25 of ice time, including more than three minutes on the power play. He showed off his impressive range, skating ability and hard shot, while demonstrating he is still a work in progress defensively. “He’s 6-foot-4, he can skate, he shoots BBs and he’s smart and he moves the puck,” Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock told MLive.com … Defenseman Xavier Ouellet paired with Sproul on Sunday and played 16:21. “Ouellet makes the right play each and every time,” Babcock said … Mrazek posted his second career NHL shutout on Sunday, a 3-0 win over St. Louis. His career NHL numbers: 3-5 record, 212 saves on 229 shots, 1.79 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage. He’s ready for full-time NHL duty in the fall … With Sproul’s debut, 12 of 23 players drafted from 2009 to 2011 have played in the NHL. Of those picks, only one was in the first round and no pick was higher than 21st overall … Center Landon Ferraro (Grand Rapids, AHL) has seen his production fall off the grid. He has just four goals and two assists in his past 27 games and just 30 points on the season. He’ll be hard-pressed to win a job in Detroit next fall at this rate … Defenseman Ben Marshall (Minnesota, NCAA) wrapped up his junior year with a 7-4 loss to Union College in the NCAA title game. It was the second trip to the Frozen Four of his career … Left-winger Andreas Athanasiou (Barrie, OHL) saw his junior season come to an end as his Colts suffered a 4-2 series loss to North Bay. Athanasiou had just three goals in 11 playoff games, including just one goal against North Bay … Elsewhere in the CHL: Tyler Bertuzzi’s Guelph Storm are in the OHL semifinals against Erie; Anthony Mantha’s Val-d’Or Foreurs are up against Halifax in the QMJHL semifinals; and the Kelowna Rockets, featuring Mitchell Wheaton and Marek Tvrdon, have advanced to the WHL semifinals … Mantha, not surprisingly, is the most notable of that group. He leads the QMJHL with 10 goals along with five assists in 10 games … Defenseman Mattias Backman (Linkoping, SHL) saw his squad eliminated 4-1 by Skelleftea in the SHL semifinals. He had five assists and a plus-4 in 11 games and could finish out the year in the AHL with Grand Rapids … Center Mattias Janmark (AIK, SHL) had just a goal and three assists in 10 games as AIK was relegated to Allsvenskan. It’s not clear where Janmark will play next season.
Sarah Lindenau contributed to this report.
SKATERS: REGULAR-SEASON REPORT
|Almquist, Adam||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||71||4||48||52||56||+8||126|
|Callahan, Mitchell||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||70||26||18||44||51||+23||194|
|Jurco, Tomas||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||32||13||19||32||14||+10||91|
|Marchenko, Alexey||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||49||3||15||18||14||+11||34|
|Sheahan, Riley||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||31||8||10||18||12||-2||51|
|Sproul, Ryan||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||70||10||21||31||49||0||145|
|Glendening, Luke||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||18||5||7||12||18||+8||26|
|Jarnkrok, Calle||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||57||13||23||36||14||+19||99|
|Pulkkinen, Teemu||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||69||30||26||56||34||+17||197|
|Frk, Martin||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||50||3||9||12||22||-12||45|
|Jensen, Nick||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||44||0||9||9||8||+14||33|
|Tvrdon, Marek||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||1||0||0||0||0||0||3|
|Ferraro, Landon||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||68||15||15||30||48||-3||187|
|Aubry, Louis-Marc||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||38||2||2||4||16||-1||48|
|Fournier, Gleason||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||25||0||2||2||4||+4||19|
|Parkes, Trevor||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||34||6||3||9||25||+6||50|
|Nestrasil, Andrej||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||68||14||20||34||24||0||108|
|Ouellet, Xavier||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||68||4||12||16||22||+3||89|
|Nedomlel, Richard||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||3||0||0||0||2||-2||1|
|Campbell, Colin||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||11||1||0||1||5||0||15|
|Nastasiuk, Zach||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||3||0||0||0||0||-1||4|
|Nastasiuk, Zach||Owen Sound||OHL||CHL||62||23||28||51||26||-14||–|
|McNulty, Marc||Prince George||WHL||CHL||67||17||25||42||115||-10||–|
|De Haas, James||Clarkson||ECAC||NCAA||37||6||7||13||18||-12||49|
|McKee, Mike||W. Michigan||BIG-10||NCAA||21||1||0||1||54||+1||11|
|Pope, David||W. Kelowna||BCHL||USHL/JR-A||45||27||23||50||20||–||–|
GOALIES: REGULAR SEASON REPORT
|Coreau, Jared||Grand Rapids||AHL||5||0||4||0||0||4.39||.873|
|Mrazek, Petr||Grand Rapids||AHL||31||22||8||1||3||2.07||.925|
|McCollum, Thomas||Grand Rapids||AHL||45||24||12||3||2||2.28||.922|
SKATERS: PLAYOFF REPORT
|Pope, David||W. Kelowna||BCHL||USHL/JR. A||6||2||4||6||2||—||—|
|Nastasiuk, Zach||Owen Sound||OHL||CHL||5||3||1||4||2||-4||—|
GOALIES: PLAYOFF REPORT