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Grand Rapids Griffins First Half Report Card
The next wave takes over in tough times...
By Jason Kasiorek
www.griffinscentral.com
January 14, 2011

Detroit spent the summer restocking the talent pool in Grand Rapids in the wake of numerous graduations, defections and releases. Several veterans were brought in to lead the way while the next wave of prospects ripened and learned the ropes in the AHL. Sometimes the best laid plans have a way of not working out quite as expected. Veteran scorers Chris Minard and Jamie Johnson have struggled epically and have almost been non-entities as far as the offense is concerned. Seasoned defenseman Doug Janik has spent more time in the NHL and the trainers room than on the ice, and AHL all-star netminder Joey MacDonald has been superb, but has spent a lot of his time with the parent club.

That just left the door open for a group of younger prospects to seize the opportunity and turn some heads with their performance. Newcomers Brendan Smith, Ilari Filppula and Brent Raedeke have all stepped up to keep the team afloat. Add to that the continued development of Cory Emmerton, Jan Mursak and Tomas Tatar and the future suddenly looks bright. Dark horses Jordan Pearce and Travis Ehrhardt have also come from nowhere to fill in in the absence of more heralded teammates and done very commendable jobs.

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

G Joey MacDonald A
For the most part MacDonald has been one of the only consistent parts of this team, keeping them in games they had no business getting points out of. The former AHL all-star has been at the top of his game most of the season. The team will certainly miss his veteran presence between the pipes in the second while he is in Detroit.

C Cory Emmerton A
Perhaps the top defensive forward in the AHL, Emmerton has gotten it done at both ends of the ice in this breakout season. The only black mark so far has been the knee injury that caused him to miss a month of action. He looks a half step faster then in the past, and his intensity level has risen to make him a competitor.

D Brendan Smith A-
Showed off NHL caliber skills on the blueline and was one of the most exciting players on the team until injury problems slowed him down. Does need some work on his composure as he takes a lot of penalties and his play seemed to suffer during the teamís epic losing streak. An easy choice for the AHL all-star game, Smith is probably not long for this league.

RW Ilari Filppula A-
Skilled forward has an NHL skill set that he shows off on most nights. He needs to keep his feet moving to be successful as his skating is the one area of his game that is not dynamic. His defensive game is directly tied to his work ethic and effort, meaning he will have to find some consistency in those areas to continue to improve. He is a game-breaker at the AHL level and has showed he is ready for the challenge of the NHL.

D Travis Ehrhardt A-
One of the brightest surprises on the team the first half is how Ehrhardt battled his way up from spare part to regular contributor on the Griffins deep and crowded blueline. Travis does a lot of things well, is a great skater and moves the puck up ice with authority. His defensive game is seemingly airtight, he looks to have ice-water in his veins, and he is not afraid to play physical.

RW Jan Mursak B+
Streaky scorer has all of the tools to move to the NHL but still has to find the consistency. Currently in Detroit for first NHL recall. Not afraid to battle around the net, but prefers to use his speed to rush the puck for a scoring chance. Plays equally well at both ends of the ice and has a good chemistry with Emmerton on a two-way line.

D Derek Meech B+
At times one of the better offensive defenseman in the AHL. He has quite a collection of skills at this level, but can be hurried into making bad decisions with the puck. Meech is a fluid skater with soft hands who is not afraid to jump into the play. His level of play has improved fairly dramatically from his last stint in the AHL.

LW Jamie Tardif B+
The captain continues to be a great example to his teammates on and off the ice with his work ethic. Tardif has also found his offensive game again this season as his 12 goals are one off the team lead. He is not afraid to throw the body, is an effective fore-checker, and plays on both special teams.

LW Tomas Tatar B
Big things were expected for the rookie phenom after last seasons surprise campaign, but Tomas got off to an awful start and didnít regain his game until about 20 games in. He announced his return with a record setting 7-point night and then piled up points on a regular basis to take over the team scoring lead and earn his first NHL recall. He scored a goal in his first NHL game and should be a big part of the Griffins second half.

C Brent Raedeke B
Raedeke is a great defensive forward with incredible wheels, reminiscent of Darren Helm, a player he has been compared to by scouts. His offensive game has not been readily apparent, but he has shown enough skill to burn you with a goal if he gets by you. Where he has really earned his spot is on an energy line that frequently fore-checks the puck away and cycles it deep in the attacking zone, giving the opposition fits.

C Frankie Pare B-
Slick sniper Pare has bounced back nicely from his sophomore slump last season and was on a pace to post a 20 goal 50 point season. He has been very opportunistic, scoring most of his points at even strength, and often as the result of a great individual effort with him blazing in on the net and getting a quick shot off. The one question mark was his -14 defensive rating, one of the worst on the team, an aberration from someone who was always one of the more defensively responsible forwards on the team. Hopefully that can be attributed to his slumping line mates, Johnson and Minard and not a cost of his increased scoring.

G Jordan Pearce B-
Pearce hasnít had a chance to play much at the halfway mark, but has certainly not looked out of place. He had a brief recall earlier in the season with MacDonald in Detroit, and played well enough to escape the ECHL for a longer stint, outplaying McCollum who took his place with Toledo.

D Doug Janik C
Janik hasnít really had a chance to get settled in on the Griffins blueline this season, so it is no wonder his play has been up and down over the first half. He spent several weeks in Detroit early on, and then missed the last several weeks with a broken hand. In between he bounced around the lineup without a regular partner and never really got into a rhythm. Look for the veteran blueliner to get untracked in the second half.

D Greg Amadio C
Warrior on the back end has been everything advertised. He is a vocal team leader, plays hurt, and blocks shots with the best of them. His defensive game while much improved from his last stint in GR could still use some work, and his puck handling is not for the faint of heart.

C Joakim Andersson C
Andersson has pretty much fit the bill for the type of player he was advertised as. He is physically mature and very skilled, although he seems to relish the defensive side of the game as opposed to playing offense. His skating has improved from the last time we saw him, and it would be no surprise if his scoring picked up over the second half and into next season.

RW Brandon Straub C
Straub has not looked out of place in his first sustained AHL action. He is a decent checker with good skating and good enough hands to cycle the puck. As a heavyweight he is a deterrent when he is in the lineup, though he doesnít drop the gloves often.

D Logan Pyett C-
Pyett is another of the teamís bluelinerís who have not picked up where they left off last season. Defensively he has regressed and his offense is off, though he is still on a pace for double digits in goals thanks to his heavy point shot. He doesnít look as strong as last season, losing a lot of the battles for position in front and possession along the boards. He has gotten better as of late, but needs to step it up in the second half.

D Bryan Lashoff C-
Lashoff has had a hard time establishing himself in his first pro season. He started out with a rough stretch as he tried to find his confidence, and then sandwiched a strong set of games in between two serious injuries that kept him out of the lineup. If he can get healthy, expect a resurgence in the second half for the lanky defender.

RW Willie Coetzee C-
Willie has played well when in the lineup, but doesnít have much to show for it on the scoreboard. Much like Mursak last season, look for the lessons learned this year to pay dividends with full time employment next season. He is a very heads up player and is good at finding holes to advance the puck, he does however need to shoot the puck more and have more confidence in his shot as he passes up a lot of good chances in front in favor of the pass.

LW Jordan Owens D
Owens does a lot of the little things well, but always leaves you feeling like he is capable of much more. He plays great defensively, using his incredible speed well to break up plays and fore-check like a demon. He is one of the few forwards on the team who will initiate the hitting game and is willing to drop the gloves if need be. His offensive game, however, has been missing in action since he came to Grand Rapids late last season. For a player with his skills, he is transparent and disappears for long periods of time during the game. After his strong showing in Detroitís training camp this fall, he should be more of an impact player for this team.

D Sergei Kolosov D
What has happened to Sergei Kolosov? He has regressed on most levels and the loss of size and weight over the summer has hampered him in his own end. He does look a bit quicker but has had very little impact in the games he has gotten into after starting the season as a healthy scratch. Time is running out for the hulking blueliner to regain his physical, shut down defensive form and earn a contract for next season.

C Jamie Johnson D
A top flight AHLíer most of his career, Johnson was expected to carry the load more up front and has been invisible for large parts of the season. His style of play does not seem to fit the Griffins puck possession system and a change of scenery may be in order. He has started to add a few points as of late but still has a way to go before being considered an impact player, and his team worst -15 speaks to his defensive efforts as well.

LW Chris Minard D-
Three goals in 39 games is not good enough no matter how you look at it for this sniper. Minard has gotten involved in other aspects of the game to help this team win, but you canít overlook his season long drought. A notoriously streaky scorer, the veteran winger hopes to catch fire in the second half.

G Thomas McCollum F
Another tough first half featuring a complete confidence meltdown and a stint in the ECHL for the former first round pick. The team does not seem to have much confidence playing front of him, which mirrors the fact he doesnít look very confident in the net. Goaltending coach Jim Bedard has his work cut out with this one, but he is young and still has a lot of time to mature into a capable netminder.

D Sebastien Piche Incomplete
Piche has not looked out of place since returning from Toledo. He was involved physically and did a good job of getting the puck to the net.

RW Evan Rankin Incomplete
Brought some energy and scored a goal in his AHL debut.

RW Adam Keefe Incomplete
Played with a lot of fire and passion in his role as a physical forward, but also surprisingly showed off some offensive spark. Keefe really seemed to bring a lot of energy and resumed his role as a crowd favorite in Grand Rapids.