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Grand Rapids Griffins Second Half Report Cards 2012
Young Gun Nyquist leads the way...
By Jason Kasiorek
May 8th, 2012

The Griffins were one of the top offensive clubs in the AHL boasting five 20-goal scorers and scoring 245 goals. They were also one of the worst teams in the league defensively surrendering 249 tallies to their opponents and finishing out of the playoffs yet again. Young gun Gustav Nyquist led the way for most of the season before graduating to the NHL. Joakim Andersson and Tomas Tatar took big steps to future NHL employment while veterans Doug Janik and Garnet Exelby did their best to stem the bleeding. Next year should see many new faces and improved seasons from the excellent cast of rookies that survived their trial by fire this season.

These are the Griffins' second half grades:

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

Gustav Nyquist A
Nyquist just got better as the season went on, scoring over a point per game in the second half. He played well enough to get a couple of looks in Detroit before being recalled for good after breaking the franchise rookie scoring record. With 12 goals over his last 22 games and a share of the team points lead (58), Nyquist has proven what he needed to in the AHL and is expected to make a strong showing for a job with the Wings next season out of camp.

Joakim Andersson A
Andersson continued his evolution into a top defensive forward, adding a consistent offensive element to his arsenal. He racked up 30 points in the second half while still playing a physical, defensively responsible game. It remains to be seen whether he has the speed or intensity to take his game to the next level, but he has certainly earned a chance to try.

Doug Janik A
The Griffins' ace defenseman got it done at both ends of the ice and earned another NHL recall. The wily vet turned up the offense in the second half, adding 6 goals and 17 points in 29 games while finishing the season at a team high +19 defensive rating. A consummate professional, Janik is a calming influence and a great teacher for the organization's young defensive prospects. He is at the end of his contract and may draw interest from another NHL club.

Garnet Exelby A-
The captain played stellar defense down the stretch and even cut the bad penalties that plagued him the first half out of his game. His strong, physical play made him one of the team's best defenders down the stretch and his leadership on and off the ice was apparent. Exelby may move on in search of another NHL job after his strong showing in Grand Rapids, but the organization should also make a pitch for him.

Tomas Tatar A-
Tatar's offense still has not hit the plateau expected of him, but his all around game and his intensity level have improved greatly since the start of the season. He notched 13 goals in the second half and was red hot the last few weeks of the season, looking like he had found another gear. He may battle for a spot in Detroit at camp, but probably will return to Grand Rapids for another season.

Ty Conklin B+
Conklin came in and brought some stability between the pipes, winning his first five starts before reality set in. He proved he still has a few miles left in him, albeit in the AHL. The veteran netminder is at the end of his contract with Detroit and is unlikely to return next season.

Chris Minard B+
Minard made up for lost time, returning from a concussion that cost him the first half of the season and going on an offensive tear. The streaky sniper notched 20 goals in his first 31 games, good enough to win a player of the month nod as well as the Fred T Hunt trophy for dedication to the sport. He just as quickly faded away the last month of the season with the team fighting for the last playoff spot. Minard's streaky history with the Griffins will probably lead to him moving on over the off-season.

Chris Conner B+
Conner had a dream first half, playing well enough to earn an NHL recall and then earning a spot in the lineup until injury knocked him out. The wily vet had a tough time duplicating that in the second half, battling through injuries and inconsistency before a hot finish. A speedy forechecker with offensive potential, Conner may get another look at the NHL level, but could return to Grand Rapids as a depth player.

Jamie Johnson B
Johnson continued to be one of the major cogs in the Griffins offense the second half, capping off a nice comeback season. A streaky scorer, at times he was as hot as anyone, but the last month of the season he and his line mate's went cold and stopped scoring. He still managed to net 58 points for a share of the three way tie as the leading scorer. Johnson is at the end of his contract and is a question mark to return for next season.

Fabian Brunnstrom B
Fabian didn't have the offensive explosion that some thought he might in the second half, but he averaged nearly a point per game and quietly picked it up down the stretch. His defensive game however was what really set him apart as he was very responsible in his own end and a key part of the transition game, breaking up plays in the neutral zone and setting up scoring chances. Brunnstrom played well enough to return, and it sounds like Detroit would like him too, but it remains to be seen whether he will return to Europe for a bigger payday. He remains an intriguing possibility because he can be classified as a "developmental player" (less than 320 games played) instead of a veteran.

Brendan Smith B-
The organization's top defensive prospect finished an up and down season, probably his last in the AHL. While he clearly has some next level talent when he chooses to use it, he did not play up to that level consistently. He did pick it up for a stretch in the second half after a recall to Detroit, but disappeared late in the season with a playoff spot on the line. Smith still managed to score 5 goals and 17 points in 25 games, upping his season total to 10 goals and 34 points in just 57 games.

Louis-Marc Aubry B-
Aubry just kept getting better as the season went on and earned a regular spot at center the second half. The hulking pivot used his speed and his size to give the opposition fits in the offensive zone, keeping the puck deep and working the cycle. He was not afraid to play physical, crashing and banging as well as dropping the gloves on occasion. While he didn't end up with a pile of points, that may be more attributed to his line mates and role, as a stint on the top line also produced a three-point game. He has caught management's eye and if he keeps on improving at this rate may get an NHL look next season.

Landon Ferraro B-
After an impressive first half, Ferraro suffered through some injuries in the second but still managed a good showing. He received most of his time in a defensive posture, killing penalties and taking face-offs, but did see some time on a scoring line as well. The rookie forward looked on the verge of breaking out several times over the second half and is probably due for a big scoring increase next season. He surprised a lot of people this year with his poise, speed and complete game.

Brian Lashoff C+
Lashoff earned high marks for playing through a painful shoulder injury most of the season and still managing to play at a high level. He shored up his defensive game over the second half and saw a lot of minutes in all situations. Despite the shoulder he still played physical, banging along the boards and in front. The Wings like his skill set and size and he should be a lock to receive a new contract to return for another season.

Frankie Pare C
Frankie got off to another slow start before really lighting it up in the second half. The streaky sniper saved his best for last, scoring at a torrid pace the last 20 games to try and grab the last playoff spot. When he is on, Pare is a speedy, slippery scorer who goes to the net; his consistency and defensive game however remain works in progress. He has one year left on his current deal and will again be counted on to carry a large part of the offensive load.

Brent Raedeke C
Raedeke lost ground to Aubry and Ferraro and subsequently ended up bouncing around (and out of) the lineup. He was challenged to bring a little more grit and intensity and battle more. He took advantage of injuries and recalls to re-establish himself and ended strong, scoring 8 points in his last 19 games. Brent has one more season left on his entry level contract and will need to step up a notch to stay on the radar.

Travis Ehrhardt C
Battled back from an injury that cost him the first half of the year to claim a regular spot on the blueline. Ehrhardt had his ups and downs, but still looks to be making progress. He has probably shown enough to garner another contract with Detroit, but an injury free year would go along way towards re-establishing himself as a prospect before he gets passed by. When healthy he remains a smooth skating puck moving defenseman who is not afraid to play physical.

Bryan Rufenach C-
Rufenach gave a better showing of himself than many in the organization thought. He signed with Grand Rapids after being released without a contract by Detroit and went down to the ECHL where he lit it up offensively. He was recalled and saw limited playing time, but played well enough, notching an assist and a +1 in 10 games towards the end of the season.

Mitchell Callahan C-
Callahan showed glimpses of his potential in the second half playing on a rookie energy line with fellow freshmen Aubry and Parkes. When he was on top of his game, he was an aggressive forechecker with soft enough hands to keep the puck deep on the cycle and pot the occasional goal. He struggled to stay at the level for an extended time and seemed to have a problem balancing the physical game with the rest of it. His season ended early with a shoulder injury, but he should come back with more consistency next season.

Gleason Fournier C-
Fournier saw spot duty down the stretch, subbing for injured players and recalls between stints in the ECHL. The smooth skating blueliner was not an impact player, but looked good at times. His propensity for bad penalties cost him more playing time as he adjusted to the speed of the AHL while still recovering from off-season shoulder surgery. He should challenge for a spot on the Griffins backend next season especially if he can quarterback the stagnant powerplay.

Mike Thomas D+
The return for the trade of fan favorite Amadio earlier in the year, Thomas had some big shoes to fill and did not appear to be up to the task. He didn't show much when in the lineup and was dispatched to Toledo for the bulk of the season. When he returned he saw a regular shift but didn't display anything that warranted a return next season.

Logan Pyett D+
Pyett became a frequent target of the boo-birds over the second half as his frequent turnovers and bad defensive plays led to pucks in his net. His offensive game dried up and he had a poor finish to the season, his second straight year of regression. The fourth year pro is unlikely to return based on his level of play and having passed the magic games mark to require a veterans spot next season.

Andrej Nestrasil D
Nestrasil was largely ineffective during his time with the Griffins. He did not provide much in the way of offense with only one point in 14 games and only registered 7 shots on goal. The former QMJHL scorer must up his intensity level and keep his feet moving to have a chance in the AHL next season.

Trevor Parkes D
Parkes never was able to get going offensively this season and may have been better served with more playing time in Toledo to get his confidence up. He was effective in spurts on an energy line, keeping the puck deep and working the cycle, but never really cemented a spot in the lineup. An injury shut down his season early and it is hoped he will have more of an impact next season with a year of experience under his belt.

Willie Coetzee D
At the halfway point Coetzee looked to be on the verge of a 20-goal breakout season. The wheels fell off in the second half as he recorded just 2 goals and bounced around until losing his spot in the lineup and even being left off the clear day roster. The speedy sniper has got his work cut out for him to earn a spot in the AHL next season and play for a new contract with Detroit. He needs to add some grit to his game and pay the price to get into scoring areas where his quick release and accurate shot would be put to better use.

Jordan Pearce D
Pearce became the forgotten man in the second half after his struggles took him out of the lineup and at one point had him relegated to the ECHL. He spent some time as the fourth stringer in Detroit when Howard and MacDonald went down, and then rode the pine in GR the rest of the season. Pearce has another year left, but may not have a place to play if the organization turns phenom Mrazek pro next season. He needs to regain his form of 2011 and put last season behind him, or it might be time for medical school.

Thomas McCollum D
McCollum had an up and down second half, and clearly much more was expected from the former first round pick. He had a career high winning streak after being recalled from the ECHL, but faded down the stretch and posted some ugly numbers. McCollum has another year left on his entry-level contract and it will be a make-or-break season for the personable young netminder.

Alan Quine Incomplete
Speedy forward motored around a lot and didn't look out of place. It was tough to judge with the limited playing time he got, but the experience should benefit him as he returns to the junior ranks next season.

Riley Sheahan Incomplete
Sheahan left college early to start his pro career and made quite an impression in doing it. He has size, strength and speed and just needs to find his scoring touch to make a rapid move up the organization's depth chart. He was rewarded with a recall at the end of the season and made his NHL debut for Detroit.

Adam Almqvist Incomplete
The Swedish blueliner definitely looked undersized in his brief two game audition, but he also looked comfortable, showing off some soft hands and the ability to find lanes to move the puck. An off-season in the weight room would benefit him before he takes to the ice for Grand Rapids next season.