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Griffins 2016-17 First Half Report Cards
Organizational depth on display...
By Jason Kasiorek
February 7th, 2017

Coach Nelson and company have put together a pretty impressive first half, and in the process showcased the organizational depth that the Griffins and parent Wings enjoy. There are not many teams that could lose a front line player like Anthony Mantha, a starting goalie like Jared Coreau and a workhorse defenseman in Nick Jensen for large chunks of time and not struggle. The Griffins have not only shrugged it off, but have thrived, going into the halfway point of the AHL schedule leading the Western Conference, and sitting in second place in the league.

Eddie Pasquale and Cal Heater have been incredible in the net in place of Coreau, turning in a 16-4-3 record with both sitting among the league leaders. The Griffins also boast the AHL's best powerplay (28.2%), led by Martin Frk's 9 man advantage goals and Tomas Nosek's 21 powerplay points. Matt Lorito has been one of the biggest surprises, leading the Griffins offense and sitting as high as second in scoring before being slowed by an injury.

These are the Griffins' second half grades:

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

GP G A PTS PIM +/- Shts
Tomas Nosek A 30 14 17 31 20 5 59
What a difference a year makes. Nosek looks like a different player the first half as his offensive game has taken off, thanks in part to more use on the Griffins vaunted powerplay. His defensive game has not suffered, making him a true two-way threat. His one on one moves can bring the crowd out of its seats and he is a shorthanded threat every time he is out killing penalties. If he can keep it up the second half he could find himself back in the NHL.

Matt Lorito A 32 10 22 32 8 3 74
Lorito exceeded expectations in the first half, becoming a front line player almost right from the start. He was an offensive force, sitting in 2nd place in AHL scoring when he went down with an injury. Lorito uses his speed and shifty skating to find holes and take the puck to the net, where he can use his quick release to score. A return to health in the second half could lead to an NHL audition, making this free agent signing a steal.

Ben Street A 35 13 19 32 10 4 124
The savvy veteran has stepped up big, scoring in bunches and playing the role of first line center. Street is a capable penalty killer and has been an asset at the point on the first powerplay unit. He sits just outside of the AHL scoring leaderboard but is 4th in shots on goal.

Nathan Paetsch A 39 1 12 13 16 8 42
Paetsch has really stepped up his play the first half of the year, rising to the level of responsibility of the C on his sweater now. His offensive forays have not yielded as many points as in the past, but defensively he has been airtight. He is a mobile skater with above average vision and does a great job of using his stick and body to take away passing and shooting lanes. His steady veteran presence makes him a great partner for up and coming freshman Joe Hicketts.

Brian Lashoff A 29 1 5 6 12 -1 38
The Griffins defensive ace excels in shutdown role and is the go to guy on the backend for the penalty kill. He was rewarded for his hard work with an NHL recall earlier in the season, but was much more effective in the AHL. Lashoff does a great job of reading the play and positioning himself in the best place to break it up and start the puck back up ice. He has some size and is not afraid to use it, though he is a clean player and rarely ends up in the box on his own. Brian is very good with less experienced teammates, directing traffic on the ice, and providing a calming presence.

Kyle Criscuolo A 40 10 14 24 4 1 68
Criscuolo has had a solid first half and is tracking way above expectations. The rookie speedster excels in all areas of the ice and has showed off a nice touch to go with his strong playmaking ability. His small size has not been a concern as he battles willingly showing off some grit and will go to the traffic areas when he needs to. Kyle is a staple on the second powerplay unit and has an uncanny knack for threading the needle through traffic to get the pass on a teammate's stick. He has been compared favorably to a young Darren Haydar.

Joe Hicketts A 37 4 11 15 27 5 43
Hicketts has definitely played above his experience level so far this season. The gifted blueliner has been defensively sound almost from day one, logging major minutes at even strength and on the penalty kill. He has shown some skill with the puck, and is able to move it up ice even in traffic. Despite his small stature, he has surprised a lot of bigger players with his crushing open ice hits, playing much bigger than his size. Hicketts has shown flashes of his offensive game, but it still looks there is still more there under the surface, waiting to be developed.

Calvin Heeter A 8 0 0 0 0 0 0
For a guy that started the season in the ECHL, Heeter has had a pretty incredible first half. Starting with a 10-1 record in Toledo, Cal has kept up the hot hand in the AHL, notching a 7-1 record in 8 decisions and a 1.78 GAA and 94% save percentage which would rank 2nd and 1st in the league, respectively, if he had played enough minutes to appear on the leaderboard. Heeter is a tall thin netminder who is very animated, taking up a lot of the net and is constantly in motion. A return to Toledo is likely in the 2nd half, but he has made his mark and should return in the future.

Eddie Pasquale A- 15 0 0 0 0 0 0
Veteran back up has been solid in relief for the most part though he has worn down a bit at times, due to playing more games than he is used to in Coreau's absence. Pasquale plays a flashy, unorthodox style and makes some incredible stops look easy (and some easy stops look hard). He ranks in the top ten in several categories including goals against average and save percentage and owns a 9-3-3 record in 15 decisions

Dan Renouf B+ 33 2 7 9 40 9 26
Rangy rearguard has been the most improved player over the first half. He uses his size well, and has improved his defensive play and foot work. Renouf has earned time on the penalty kill and in key situations with his responsible play and solid positioning. It remains to be seen whether he will be able to translate much in the way of offense, but his defense could earn him a look in the NHL.

Evgeny Svechnikov B+ 40 12 9 21 36 -4 92
After a slow start, Svechnikov showed flashes of brilliance and secured a regular spot in the lineup and powerplay time. Much like Mantha before him, he is an impressive combination of size, speed and hands. His shot and hand eye coordination are impressive. He has started to show he has the size and skill to dominate a game in the AHL. Still working on consistency.

Matt Ford B+ 20 4 11 15 12 3 42
The wily veteran has fought through a string of injuries in the first half. When he has played he has been very effective, especially on the powerplay where he showcases his soft hands and creativity. Despite lower than normal goal totals, he has played a key role usually as a mentor on a line with rookies Criscuolo and Svechnikov. A healthy second should benefit his scoring totals and team's fortunes.

Tyler Bertuzzi B 21 4 9 13 15 4 59
It has been an up and down first half for Bertuzzi who earned his first NHL recall and then missed a month and a half with an injury. Since returning to the AHL he has posted his best sustained offense, posting a point per game over the last month. His value isn't just measured in points however as he brings energy with his feisty play and is a willing physical presence and battler. He has worked hard at improving his skill while toning down bad penalties, something he needs to continue in the second half to earn another NHL look.

Mitch Callahan B 40 11 17 28 28 1 97
The gritty winger has gotten off to a streaky start, and despite decent scoring totals has just not looked as effective overall. Absolutely fearless in front of the net, Callahan is a hard worker who pays the price to go to the hard areas to score and takes a ton of punishment. He battles all over the ice and plays in all situations. The good news of the first half is that Callahan is finally healthy, having shaken the injury bug that has dogged him the past couple of seasons.

Colin Campbell B 21 4 5 9 19 -4 50
Injuries derailed much of the first half for Campbell, but he returned shortly before the halfway point and made his presence felt. The stocky forward is a physical presence when he is on the ice, usually leading the team in hits. Campbell uses his speed and size to create turnovers and scoring chances where he has soft enough hands to capitalize.

Louis-Marc Aubry B 34 4 5 9 17 0 56
Aubry has developed into an ideal bottom 6 forward in the AHL. He possesses great size and strength and is still very good at cycling the puck and creating pressure on the forecheck. He sees the ice well and uses that to fuel his defensive game and penalty killing. As his frame has filled out, he uses his size more than in the past and is difficult to play against. He is still working on his consistency but his intensity has improved over the last few years.

Robbie Russo B 40 5 19 24 25 11 76
Smooth skater plays important minutes in all situations. One of his chief assets is his ability to move the puck up ice and he is a strong enough skater to stay in the play and still get back going the other way. The sophomore defender has formed a solid pairing with Dan Renouf and has continued to improve his defensive game. Over the second half, Russo needs to work on shooting the puck more, especially on PP.

Martin Frk B- 33 14 12 26 38 -1 131
Frk is a shooter pure and simple. He is a dangerous offensive weapon every time he is on the ice, especially on the powerplay where he scored nine of his fourteen goals. The gritty winger has a cannon of a shot which he can get off extremely fast, with a lot of velocity and accuracy. Unfortunately he still has a way to go to develop other parts of his game. He plays hard and does a much better job of keeping his feet moving. He also has shown more of a willingness to battle for the puck and play with a physical edge. If the gifted sniper wants another NHL shot, he needs to continue to work on playing in all three zones as well as cutting down on bad penalties which have been costly.

Dominic Turgeon B- 37 3 7 10 4 9 34
Turgeon's hallmark defensive game was good enough coming out of camp to give him a regular spot in the lineup over the first half. The defensive center played very well in his own zone, winning face-offs and using his speed and vision to break up plays. The jury is still out as to whether his offensive game can translate to this level, though his numbers have certainly not been abysmal. Looks similar to former Griffin Ryan Oulahen.

Conor Allen C+ 29 0 3 3 23 -2 26
Allen took awhile to find his legs this season with the Griffins, but has played with a lot of jump recently. A great skater and puck mover, Allen is a very mobile defender who makes a solid first pass out of the zone. An offensive blueliner earlier in his career, the smooth skating defender now focuses more on the defensive side of the game. He also has shown his gritty side; bring an edge to the Griffins blueline.

Eric Tangradi C 27 4 12 16 20 9 54
Injuries have helped the physical veteran get off to a slow start offensively, but his overall level of play has been strong. Unlike last season, when he got off to a torrid pace that led to an NHL recall, this season Tangradi has been snake bit, scoring just 4 goals on 54 shots, one of which was an empty netter. If he can stay healthy, you would expect the goals to start coming again based on his linemates and powerplay usage. Brings some crash and bang to the lineup and is tough to move out of scoring areas.

Mike Borkowski C 29 2 1 3 0 5 25
Beat expectations just by sticking in the lineup over several other players. He has played well in a defensive roll as a semi-regular on the fourth line. Borkowski is a tireless forechecker who uses his skating to bring energy and isn't afraid to play with a physical edge. He needs to work on his offensive game to stay in the lineup full time. The rookie winger could grow into a Colin Campbell type player if he can develop his touch around the net.

Dylan Sadowy C- 25 4 2 6 14 2 33
The much heralded rookie had a good prospects tournament and then came crashing back to earth, struggling in the early going as he adjusted to the pro game. After serving as a rotating scratch for a stretch, he finally started to get untracked, netting his first goal of the season and posting 5 points in 4 games before going dormant again. Sadowy would be helped by a summer in the weight room, as he looks thin and is pushed off the puck fairly easy, but with his hands and frame next year should be a different story.

Matthew Caito Inc. 6 0 0 0 2 -1 10
The freshman blueliner took advantage of Jensen's graduation to slot in as the team's 7th defenseman. Caito has been impressive in limited playing time, showing he is not afraid to move the puck up ice. Unlikely to unseat one of the six in front of him, Caito needs to keep working to take advantage of his ice-time in spot duty and wait for an opportunity over the second half.