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Grand Rapids Griffins First Half Report Cards
Mursak leads class of young Wings prospects...
By Jason Kasiorek
www.griffinscentral.com

Forced to graduate several young players early, including Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm to fill spots in Detroit, the prevailing concern was the cupboard was bare. With people like Hakan Andersson and Jim Nill calling the shots, people shouldn't have worried. As it turns out, a lot of the young talent has taken a large step forward, putting themselves onto the radar of the big club. Jan Mursak has already scored twice as many goals as he had points last season and is the club leader with seventeen. Rookie Thomas Tatar and second year man Frankie Pare were not far behind, helping to carry the offense. On the blueline Logan Pyett has stepped up to be the teams best all around defenseman so far this season while Sergei Kolosov has emerged as a legitimate NHL candidate. The news is not all rosy as Jakub Kindl, Corey Emmerton and Daniel larsson among others have taken a step back, but there is still time for a rebound.

These are the Griffins' first half grades:

The Rating Scale:
A - Excellence
B - Above Average - Exceeds Expectations
C - Average - Meets Expectations
D - Below Average
F - Fail

Jan Mursak A
After being a frequent scratch last season, Mursak came to camp this year ready to make a difference Ė and he has. The fearless winger gets it done in all three zones, throwing his body around as one of the teamís best forecheckers and showing off his top-flight offensive skills on a regular basis. His 17 goals lead the club, and if he can keep up his strong play, a trip to Detroit (NHL) should be in his future.

Patrick Rissmiller A
Rissmiller came on board in the nick of time after the teamís disastrous start. His veteran presence, hard work, and leadership have added some stability to the roster and helped settle down some of the young players on the roster. He has averaged around a point per game the first half, and is one of the coachesí favorites with his steady defensive play and penalty killing.

Tomas Tatar A
Tatar has continued his meteoric rise to prominence in the hierarchy of the organizationís prospects with a torrid first half. A surprise to make the AHL roster, the Slovakian rookie had a short adjustment period before reeling off 8 goals and 10 assists in his last 17 games, sandwiched around a successful stint at the World Junior Championships. Tatar also sports a stellar +11 defensive rating, showing that he is not a one-dimensional player. The sky is the limit for this player.

Logan Pyett A-
Pyett may be the most improved player on the club not named Mursak this season. His confidence has grown to the point where he is moving the puck with authority and making plays instead of just passing off. His defensive game has also improved as he is not guilty of standing around so much but is constantly in motion taking away space and using his body to block shots.

Sergei Kolosov B
Kolosov picked up right where he left off last year, assuming his role as one of the teamís best defenders. The hulking blueliner has also shown an improvement in his intensity level and skating, looking much more mobile and fluid. He missed some playing time at the end with a mild concussion, but was expected back to start the second half.

Andy Delmore B
Delmore has had a strange season, apparently finally transforming the all-offense powerplay quarterback into a good defensive player. Moreover, while you canít argue with his defensive game this season (blueline high +10) it appears that his offensive game has started to dry up. The former Eddie Shore Trophy winner is on a pace for one of his lowest scoring seasons, but brings a whole lot more to the table.

Frankie Pare B-
After a brutal start featuring a 21 game goalless drought and just seven assists, the diminutive sniper used a penalty shot to get his game back on track. With seven goals and 14 points in his last 17 games, Pare has been one of the few scorers on this team as of late, and has raised his +/- to a team high +18. Junior, as he is know, has improved his foot speed since last season, and uses his great vision to create turnovers and steal the puck.

Mattias Ritola B-
A tremendous two-way player whose talent is evident every time he steps on the ice, Ritola has had an up and down start. The puck-handling wizard has looked dejected for the last month as there is not enough talent left on the roster to take advantage of the sick scoring opportunities his hard work and deft passes create. A recall to Detroit (NHL) and some good comments from Coach Babcock seems to have jump-started him again.

Daniel Larsson C+
Larsson started out well and then became a victim of the teamís lack of defensive prowess the last month or so. Most games he has played better then the stats would show, but he still needs to raise his game a notch to hit the level he was at last season. He is very quick on his feet, plays the angles well and seemingly has ice water in his veins, three traits that should ensure his return to form in the second half.

Kris Newbury C+
Newbury has had a tough time finding his rhythm this season, interrupted by injuries, recalls and suspensions. At times, he has been an intense, agitating forward that scores backbreaking goals and takes on all comers. Unfortunately, too often he is the person in the penalty box or the press box where he is not able to help. Even when he is not scoring, Newbury brings a lot of other good things to the table with his strong defensive play, gritty demeanor and leadership, both in the room and on the ice.

Jamie Tardif C+
The captain does all of the little things on the ice that win games. He is a tireless worker, an ace penalty killer and a gritty net front presence. He leads by example and will bang and crash and even drop the gloves if necessary. A streaky scorer, Tardif is on pace for his first 20 goal season, which is a bonus for the energy forward. His defensive game could use a little shoring up as indicated by his uncharacteristically low defensive rating at minus eight.

Michael Nylander C+
Nylander had a couple of stints with Grand Rapids in the first half and showed that he was still a very dangerous playmaker, especially on the powerplay. His scoring tailed off a little at the end of the half with one assist to show for the last five games. His defensive game is not his strong point and added to the fact that he scores most of his points with the man advantage his -6 is not terribly surprising.

John Vigilante C
Vigilante is very reminiscent of former Griffin Nate Dicasmirro in that both were skilled, speedy scorers before turning pro and then were remade into top defensive forwards. Vigilante is a great skater and plays with a lot of energy and hustle. It is obvious he has the skills to be an offensive player but instead he channels it all into being a demon checker and uses the vision to create turnovers almost at will. He is ultra versatile, having played all three forward positions and in all situations.

Paul Crosty C
Crosty is just about the benchmark for playing to expectations. He has been just what he was advertised to be a: tough, physical defenseman who can play up front if needed. He has taken on all comers, winning his share, but always sticking up for his teammates. He has been decent most nights defensively and isnít someone you would expect to score many points.

Ryan Stokes C
Stokes has brought a veteran presence to the blueline in the absence of many regulars. He has not stood out in any area, but has played OK. He brings a little bit of size, a good first pass and is pretty good in his own zone. It remains to be seen whether he will stay once the blueline get back to strength, but he has certainly played well enough to get the opportunity.

Jeremy Williams C-
There were high expectations for Williams when he signed, and the streaky forward has had a hard time living up to them. Lauded as an AHL sniper knocking on the door of NHL employment, he has been underwhelming for large stretches of the season. After holding the club lead with 14 goals in his first 30 games, he followed than up with none in his last nine. It would be different if he did other things when he wasnít scoring goals, but most games he just appears uninterested.

Francis Lemieux C-
Lemieux, exiled to the ECHL earlier in the season, has made the most of his second chance, scoring eight points in his last eight games. The speedy winger looked to have regained some of his intensity and feistiness as well, without taking the costly penalties that plagued him earlier in the season.

Thomas McCollum C-
ďBullwinkleĒ started out strong and showed he had the skill to play in the AHL despite his age. He battled through some tough games and showed flashes of brilliance before falling back to earth during the teamís skid. After getting roughed up in a couple of consecutive outings, the organization sent him to Toledo to regain his confidence and rebuild his game.

Cory Emmerton D+
Consistency and intensity are the two watchwords with Emmerton, a rangy forward with a lot of talent. If he had more of those two things, he would be a dangerous player, challenging for a job in the NHL. As he develops those however, he remains a player that has a couple of good games and then disappears for a while. He has tremendous vision and soft hands to go with his improved foot speed, giving him a full toolbox to work with.

Jakub Kindl D+
Much more was expected from Kindl this season as the wings anointed him their top prospect and signed him to a three-year one-way extension. So far, he has been marginal at best and has not taken the next step in his development. His scoring totals are down, and his defensive game has gone AWOL again. He has played a good game here and there, but doesnít seem able to put it together on a game-by-game or shift by shift basis.

Travis Ehrhardt D+
A skilled, smooth skating rearguard, Ehrhardt won the battle for the seventh spot with Sebastien Piche earlier in the season. The depleted blueline gave him an opportunity to play regularly, and he took some lumps as his learning curve was ramped up. He looks to have the makings of being a Red Wings style of defenseman but likely is a year away from showing it at the AHL level.

Evan McGrath D
McGrath expected to challenge for a spot in the Wings lineup out of camp, and got out to a good start in the AHL when he didnít. His play fell off rapidly after the first month leading to his freefall down the depth chart. He has battled lately through a groin injury, but has also been a healthy scratch. This could be the end of the line with this organization as more was expected this season.

Johan Kroll Inc.
Kroll was added to fill in on the blueline short term, and has not played much in the games he has gotten into. With the return of Kolosov, his time in Grand Rapids is probably short.

Jordan Pearce Inc.
The former Notre Dame netminder had a rocky start after being recalled from Toledo (ECHL) to replace Thomas McCollum. He looked to be improving however, collecting his first AHL victory on the road in Rochester. It looks like he will have an opportunity to make a bigger impact in the second half.