Griffins Second Half Report Cards
Development of young guns tempers record setting season of futility...
By Jason Kasiorek
After a dreadful start, the combination of injuries, recalls, and poor play left Grand Rapids on the outside looking in at the AHL post-season. Lost in the struggle was the development and rise of the next generation of players from the Red Wings farm system. Evan McGrath, Darren Helm, Jonathan Ericsson, and Kyle Quincey took the next step towards NHL employment with solid showings in the second half despite the turmoil.
These are the Griffins second half grades from game 41 through the end of the regular season:
The Rating Scale:
A - Excellence
B - Above Average - Exceeds Expectations
C - Average - Meets Expectations
D - Below Average
F - Fail
Link To First Half Report Cards
LW Darren Helm A
The sky is the limit for the speedy forward. Helm turned it up in the second half earning his first NHL recall. After his return to the AHL he turned things up another notch displaying the confidence to make plays at speed in traffic, turning in a series of dominant performances. If he can bulk up over the summer to withstand the pounding, he could be a darkhorse to start in Detroit next season.
D Garrett Stafford A-
Offensive rearguard overcame some injuries in the first half to score at almost a point per game pace before tailing off at the end. Another one of the players who made his NHL debut this season, Stafford was one of the few veterans this season that lived up to their advanced billing. Rumored to have turned down a multi-year contract, Stafford's fate for next season may be in his own hands.
RW Carl Corazzini B+
One of the few consistent players on the team this season, Carl scored 30 points in both halves of the season, playing in all situations. The speedy winger fell off defensively the second half, but seemed to have a good effect on rookies Helm and Ritola, linemates the last stretch. A quiet leader in the room, "Corzo" broke the team record for shots on goal with 274 and led the team in goals, assists and points.
C Evan McGrath B+
Pressed in to service as a scoring forward due to injuries and recalls, McGrath finally started to put together his offensive game at the pro level. He was red hot in the closing stretch putting up 21 points in his last 27 games including a stretch with 10 goals in his last 17 games. With the increase in ice time Evan has started to find his confidence around the net and could turn into a dangerous two-way threat. If he can pick up where he left off next season, he could find himself back on the path to the NHL.
D Kyle Quincey B+
Quincey rebounded from a slow start to play his best stretch of hockey as a pro the second half. After a trip to Detroit, the physical blueliner tuned up his game, meshing his physical edge with some offensive mojo, missing since his rookie season. One of the biggest improvements in his game down the stretch was his consistency, in effort, intensity and results on the ice. Kyle is out of options, and is likely to snag the last defensive spot in Detroit next season.
D Jonathan Ericsson B+
Ericsson continues to quietly improve, making a believer out of Red Wings coach Mike Babcock during an NHL audition in the second half. The enormous defenseman is capable of playing all situations, and brings a number of different elements to the game. He is an incredible skater, can make plays with the puck that most forwards can't, plays a hard physical game, and is a punishing fighter when he drops the gloves. He made great strides in the second half with his consistency, and could be in play for a spot in Detroit as early as next season.
LW Frankie Lemieux B
When Lemieux came over from Hamilton for the underachieving Engelhardt he immediately brought of a dose of what was missing in Grand Rapids - hustle and grit. The speedy little winger quickly became a fan favorite, buzzing around at top speed all night, banging bodies and going to the net. Frankie is a restricted free agent, and it remains to be seen whether Detroit will tender him a qualifying offer but his play down the stretch could warrant another look.
RW Jamie Tardif B
Tardif kept up his strong play down the stretch, playing a solid, consistent, all-around game. He can provide offense, kill penalties, work the powerplay, and even drop the gloves if need be. A great utility player, Jamie played all three forward positions at times, and saw time everywhere from the first line to the third. A big scorer in junior, Tardif needs to work on his speed to take the next step in his development.
G Adam Berkhoel B-
Recovered from an awful first half to outplay all-star Howard at times. Adam showed a winning record in the second half (8-6-2-1) and posted some credible numbers in his first full season at the AHL level. Forced into more games down the stretch because of Howard's recalls, injuries, and off nights, Adam became more consistent with more minutes.
C Ryan Oulahen B-
Oulahen bristled under full time duty with the captain's C during the second half, but stepped up his offensive game when called upon. The third year forward played with a variety of linemates in a number of roles and remained effective, providing steady consistent play. He still needs to add a little more of an edge to his play to take the next level, but if he can maintain the offensive pace without losing his defensive presence, he is well on his way there.
C Mattias Ritola C+
Much like his fellow countryman Ericsson, Ritola quietly improved throughout the season, and does so many things so well, there is no telling how good he could be. He possesses world class skills, a nice frame, fluid skating, and uncanny on-ice vision. Unfortunately Ritola is also fighting through the rookie inconsistencies offensively. The good news is that Mattias was one of the team's best defensive forwards, so even when his name wasn't on the score sheet, he was making things happen. With a year of seasoning under belt including a stint in the NHL, look for next season to be a breakout season for the talented Swede.
D Jason Jozsa C+
Brought in as an injury replacement, Jozsa quickly earned a regular spot on the Griffins blueline with his steady, unspectacular play. The puck moving blueliner spent most of his time keeping things safe in his own zone, but showed some offensive flair on the powerplay when needed. With the Griffins season coasting to an end, Jozsa was returned to his ECHL in time for their playoff, run, but could end up back in Grand Rapids next season.
LW Mark O'Leary C+
Brought in from the low minors to provide a physical presence, O'Leary was all that and more. He played hard in all situations, was defensively responsible, and a presence in front of the net. O'Leary also provided some hard, physical play along the boards and in the corners, and some speed through the neutral zone to help the transition game.
D Tom Galvin C
This season's feel good story, Galvin earned a two-year contract with his strong, steady defensive play in the first half. His second half fell off a little, but he still led the team's blueliners with a plus 10 defensive rating. A smaller stay at home defenseman, Galvin is positionally sound and makes a good first pass out of the zone.
C Mark Cullen C
Cullen had a season to forget as injuries and a horrendous slump derailed a promising start. The slick playmaking pivot was just returning to form with 10 points in 6 games when he blew out a shoulder and closed the door on his season. Cully struggled defensively at times, and seemed a little uncomfortable as one of the revolving captains. Unlikely to return next season, Mark was rumored to be headed to Europe.
LW Cory Emmerton C-
Cory made some tremendous improvements in his skating since last season, and while no Helm, he didn't look out of place either. The slick playmaker could have easily had several more points if his wingers would have been able to capitalize on his setups. That being said, he still needs to work on his conditioning and strength, and will have to develop more consistency to claim a regular spot on the roster next season.
D Jon Insana C-
Insana had an up and down season fighting inconsistency and injury before losing his regular spot in the lineup to Jozsa. A fine skating defenseman, Jon doesn't have the size or strength to be effective one on one and must learn to use his speed and stick to keep the puck out of trouble. Did not seem able to build on last season's strong finish and was plagued by inconsistency as he adapted to the new defensive scheme.
C Zack Torquato C-
Torquato got his baptism under fire at the pro level and despite some obvious skill, needs to work on several things before returning. First and foremost is his skating, which is a step slow and left him behind the play most of the time. Like most junior prospects, he would also be well served to spend the summer in the weight room, getting bigger and stronger to be able fight through checks. He played about as expected in the limited time afforded to him, and is expected to return to juniors next season.
RW Randall Gelech C-
Gelech went back to the basics after an awful first half, and while he played better defensively, still never established an offensive presence even with powerplay time. A big body and a hard worker, Gelech needs to consistently bring the same level of intensity and be involved in the play. The sum of his parts does not equal the whole of his game. Hopefully he will bounce back in the last year of his contract, and his hard work will produce more result at both ends of the ice.
D Jakub Kindl D+
The good news is that he got better as the season went on, but the rookie rearguard still struggled mightily over the second half of the season. He is a nice package of skills, skating, passing, shooting, etc., but so far the mental portion of the game has not caught up. Kindl makes poor decisions and can be hurried into making mistakes especially one on one. He does not have the confidence in his offensive skills yet to create scoring chances or quarterback the powerplay. He has not started to use his size yet, and while he did drop the gloves a few times, he always came out on the downside. A fresh start next season with a year under his belt should produce better results for one of the organization's best prospects.
C Tyler Redenbach D+
Redenbach was brought in midway through the season to try and regain his offensive game that saw him score 58 points as a rookie. Unfortunately he was unable to regain his touch on a consistent basis and despite a couple of multiple point outings would have to be considered a disappointment. A powerplay specialist, Tyler was wildly inconsistent offensively, and did not bring much else to the table.
G Jimmy Howard D
Coming off his stellar mid-season stretch, the second half was a nightmare for Howard. He won his first three starts of the half and then only five more the rest of the season on his way to an 8-14 record with a gaudy 3.18 goals against. While part of the netminders' problems can be blamed on the team not playing well, a large part was that Jimmy did not look as sharp as earlier in the year. He was pulled in the middle of games for the first time all season, and appeared to lose his concentration and focus in others. His play down the stretch has cast some doubts as to whether he is NHL ready yet, and wherever he ends up next season he will need to have a good start to solidify his presence and stop the slide.
RW Chris Mueller Incomplete
Mueller gave a very good showing of himself in limited ice time the last two games of the season, showing good instincts and grit. He could very well be in the mix next season as a defensive winger, but the jury is still out.