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Griffins 2017-18 Second Half Report Cards
Veterans go out with a bang..
By Jason Kasiorek
June 13th, 2018

The Griffins enjoyed a strong second half, surging up the leaderboard and flirting with 1st place before injuries and recalls took their toll. The team got key contributions from the veterans including dominant offensive performances from Ben Street and Eric Tangradi. The veteran contributions are reflected in the report cards below as they made up most of the honor roll. Rookie Filip Hronek forced his name into the conversation with a red hot second half that saw him tie a franchise record for rookie rearguard scoring. A run of bad luck that saw several key contributors out of the lineup at the end of the season torpedoed the teams' playoff hopes as they fell in five to Manitoba.

Next season could see wholesale changes as head coach Todd Nelson departs for Dallas and several of the veterans are likely moving on. Evgeny Svechnikov (among others) will need to step up and reclaim his position as a top prospect after an abysmal season.

These are the Griffins' second half grades:

The Rating Scale:
A - Excellence
B - Above Average play - Exceeds Expectations
C - Baseline - Meets Expectations
D - Below Average play - Does not meet expectations
F - Fail

2nd Half
GP G A PTS PIM +/- Shts GP G A PTS PIM +/- Shts
Ben Street A 37 16 23 39 10 14 106 5 4 4 8 6 1 21
Veteran center put up 39 points over the last 37 games and then led the team with 4 goals and 4 assists in 5 games of the postseason. With Tangradi, Street carried the Griffins down the stretch and was a key catalyst in driving the team into the playoffs. Ben played in all situations, killing penalties, ringing up points on the powerplay, and playing big minutes on the Griffins number one line. Productive player is likely to move on for an NHL chance after not getting a sniff from the parent club, which will leave a huge hole up the middle for Grand Rapids.

Eric Tangradi A 36 20 18 38 25 17 123 4 2 2 4 4 2 18
After a slow start, the gritty power forward put up big numbers over the second half, posting 20 goals and 38 points. His dominant finish to the season left him tied for 4th in goals (36) 8th in points (64) in the AHL. He posted a point per game in the brief playoff run, and it isn't a coincidence that the team bowed out in the game he missed with a questionable suspension from a play that didn't garner a penalty. Tangradi is a rare combination of size, speed and skill and is an impact player at the AHL level. The veteran UFA is likely destined to move on in search of NHL job over the offseason as the lack of an NHL recall has left him looking for another opportunity.

Filip Hronek A 36 8 17 25 22 14 77 5 0 1 1 14 -5 12
Great second half as the rookie phenom upped his game again to grab a share of the Griffins' rookie defender scoring record. The gifted blueliner rang up 8 goals and 25 points over the second half to garner a spot on the AHL all-rookie team. Hronek was much improved defensively, and harder to play against down the stretch, he plays with an edge and doesn't back down as evidenced by the number of times an opposing player took a penalty trying to get a piece of him after the whistle. He is tremendous on the powerplay, finding lanes to the net and making smart passes. After the season he raised his stock again with an impact performance on the world stage against NHL'ers. With a good showing in camp next fall, he could force a spot on the Wings blueline.

Colin Campbell A 35 3 14 17 19 11 65 4 0 0 0 2 2 3
The Griffins defensive powerhouse enjoyed another solid season equaling or exceeding his previous career high offensive totals. Offense however is the least important part of his game, however, as his true value lies in his work on the forecheck and penalty kill. He plays a hard physical game that wears down opponents and gets them looking over their shoulders, but possesses soft hands, quick feet and good enough instincts to take advantage of the turnovers his hits and poke checks create. He is among the top penalty killers in the AHL, and the team looked much different when he was suspended during the postseason. He finished off the season in style with a hat trick in the final game. Coming in to the second year of his contract, the Griffins should expect more of the same.

Brian Lashoff A 35 3 5 8 6 3 45 5 1 2 3 2 1 8
Another great second half and playoffs for the Griffins' defensive cornerstone. Lashoff was again Mr. Consistency, putting up the same number of points as the first half and playing his solid, steady defensive game. He upped his level in the postseason, pacing the rearguard scoring with a goal and 2 assists in 5 games, while maintaining a standout level of play in his own end. Signed for another year, Lashoff should reprise his role as one of the top defenders in the AHL while also serving as a team leader and on ice mentor for the younger players.

Thomas McCollum A 22 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 0
McCollum played one of his best stretches as a Griffin, grabbing the reins after Coreau was recalled to Detroit and leading the team into the postseason. He posted 15 of his 20 wins in the second half with a record of 15-7 a 2.13GAA and .926% save percentage. After splitting the first two games he was pulled in game 3 for Coreau, though it was more to wake the team up than an indication of poor play. An unrestricted free agent, Tom could return as the wings have very little in the pipeline. A lot depends on whether the organization feels they need an upgrade at the 3G spot, and Jared Coreau's expected departure.

Jared Coreau A 12 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 2 0 0
Coreau recovered from a shaky first half to return to dominant form between the pipes for the Griffins, posting an 8-1-3 record. He was recalled to Detroit with the trade of Petr Mrazek where he alternated rotting on the bench with rusty performances, bottoming out at the end of the season where he was sent back to the Griffins. He replaced McCollum in game three and went out with a bang, giving the Griffins life with a game 4 shutout of Manitoba before falling in game 5. No longer in the wings plans at the NHL level, Coreau is likely to move on to another organization.

Dominic Turgeon B 30 6 4 10 7 6 42 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Had career season derailed by blood clots related to thoracic compartment syndrome, a development that shut him down for the rest of the year. It is no coincidence that the team struggled in his absence as his presence in the faceoff dot and on the penalty kill could not be replaced. After setting offensive career highs in the first half, his offense fell off a bit in the second half, at least partially due to the season ending injury to sniper Matt Lorito, his normal left winger. Great defensive forward has worked hard to improve his skating and touch with the puck. It appears he has a legitimate shot at making the jump to the NHL which would be a big hole the Griffins would need to fill.

Matt Lorito B 28 11 11 22 12 3 97 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Lorito found a home and excelled on a line with Turgeon and Campbell, taking advantage of their disruptive style to snipe pucks they forced loose on the forecheck. A knee injury eventually led to season ending surgery, leaving the Griffins without his services for the last several weeks of the season and the playoffs. An unrestricted free agent, Lorito should be re-signed, he remains a dark horse candidate to make the Wings, but his recovery from surgery will play a big part in that decision.

Zach Nastasiuk B 15 0 4 4 0 3 15 5 1 0 1 0 -1 7
Nastasiuk took advantage of the crowded Griffins injury list to seize a regular spot in the lineup for the first time in a couple of seasons. He used his size and physical style to play a grinding role on the 3rd and 4th line and was an effective player. Zach finally looks to have shrugged off the effects of the serious concussion he endured three seasons ago and has stepped through the door. It remains to be seen whether he will generate enough offense to remain an everyday player at the AHL level, but he took a big step this season and appears poised for full time AHL employment next season.

Dylan McIlrath B 37 3 5 8 53 10 44 5 0 0 0 4 1 7
McIlrath appeared to play through some injuries midway through the season that hampered his physical play, but was still steady defensively. The towering defender also equaled his career high in points, while setting new highs in goals (7), plus minus (+8) and shots on goal (100). He excelled with a variety of partners and was a steadying presence on the ice. He has another season left on his current contract and provided he clears waivers should look to build on his strong season with the Griffins.

Matt Ford B 36 7 6 13 22 -12 79 5 2 3 5 10 -5 18
The Griffins captain was unable to sustain his blistering offensive pace through the second half of the season. This was in large part to playing with lesser linemates as he was frequently saddled with the rookies and fill-ins from the ECHL as the roster thinned out. He gave 100% on and off the ice, and despite a team low -12 defensive rating he was strong defensively, often blocking shots and paying a price physically to cover up linemate's turnover. With Coach Nelson moving on to Dallas, the unrestricted free agent may be part of the expected veteran exodus over the off-season.

Matt Puempel B 26 9 15 24 15 -1 73 5 1 3 4 0 -1 25
Streaky scorer battled through a series of injuries and a scoring slump in the second half, though when he did score, he scored in bunches. A gifted sniper, he seemed to play better in a supporting role and became less effective as other offensive weapons left the lineup due to injury and suspension. Puempel made his living on the powerplay which was much more dangerous with him. Still needs to work on his play without the puck and intensity to garner a look at the next level. The restricted free agent is likely to be qualified and will be counted on as a major piece of the Griffins offense.

Dominik Shine B- 31 5 4 9 22 7 41 5 0 0 0 2 -1 7
A part time player in the first half, Shine used his hustle and speed to force his way into the lineup on a full time basis. He gave the Griffins a little bit of everything and a lot of hard work in his first AHL season, even dropping the gloves when necessary. Like Colin Campbell he seemed to have a knack for creating turnovers and using his speed to turn them into scoring chances, though his ability to convert could still use some work. A great skater, his game is based on acceleration, finding openings and moving the puck up ice. If he returns to the Griffins he would look like a safe bet to improve on his numbers.

Luke Esposito C+ 18 1 5 6 4 1 17 5 0 1 1 2 1 6
Esposito had an up and down season, spending most of the second half in the ECHL with Toledo. He eventually returned to the Griffins as an injury replacement and enjoyed a nice period of sustained offense with 7 points in a 7 game stretch in March. He saw regular ice time during the postseason, showing off his hustle and determination on the third and fourth lines. He has shown glimpses of being an everyday player at the AHL level, but if he returns it could be as depth player slated for Toledo.

Dan Renouf C+ 34 2 2 4 28 -1 34 5 0 1 1 19 2 0
After a lackluster first half, Renouf began to play with a little more fire, heating up during the last quarter of the season and into the playoffs to solidify his spot in the top 6. The rugged defender gives you a little bit of everything, but is not a standout in any area. He is at his best when he plays physical and creates turnovers in the neutral zone. Renouf is not afraid to sacrifice the body blocking shots or taking the hit to make a play, but has endeared himself to teammates by being willing to drop the gloves to stick up for them. This summer could be interesting for the restricted free agent as the organization has a crowded blueline in both Grand Rapids and Detroit, but he is expected to be on the Griffins again

Joe Hicketts C- 29 2 3 5 8 -2 34 5 0 2 2 2 0 5
A fan favorite for his energetic style, Hicketts had an up and down season, suffering from the sophomore slump. His offensive game fell off from his rookie campaign and he was not as impactful of a player in any aspect of hi game. He seemed to perk up a bit after a late season look in Detroit, but it did not carry over long after his return to the AHL. He will contend for a spot on the Red Wings blueline if there is an open spot, but could be in tough to displace a veteran or beat out fellow prospect Hronek. In either case he needs to up his game next season or risk getting passed by.

Vili Saarijarvi C- 24 0 6 6 8 0 38 1 0 0 0 0 0 1
The diminutive speedster was not able to secure a permanent spot in the lineup over the second half and seemed have a hard time playing with the same fire he had earlier in the season. While he still showed good vision in the offensive zone and played with pace, he was inconsistent and at times tried to force the play, causing some glaring defensive lapses and turnovers. He showed some moxie on the powerplay, but needs to get stronger and will have to step up his defensive play to make an impact next season.

Turner Elson C- 34 1 6 7 42 5 41 5 2 0 2 0 -3 11
Elson had red hot start to the season and then missed significant time with a mysterious ailment. When he finally returned he was a shell of his former self and it took him almost to the end of the season to return to form. He was tied for second on the team in goals during the playoffs and was one of team's better forwards during that short series. When he is healthy, Elson provides energy and clutch scoring as well as a gritty physical presence. An unrestricted free agent, Elson has another season before he hits the veteran ceiling, making him a likely candidate for re-signing.

Corey Elkins C- 37 3 4 7 8 5 28 5 0 1 1 0 -2 3
Elkins was pressed into service in a larger role down the stretch and into the playoffs when he was one of only two healthy, natural centers left on the Griffins. Great skater excelled in defensive role, where he could play large minutes especially on the 2nd penalty killing unit. On the downside, his anemic offensive game fell off even more over the second half and with his obvious skill set, it always left you wanting more. After the season he promptly signed with a team in Germany ending his tenure with the Griffins.

Robbie Russo D+ 36 6 12 18 49 11 65 5 0 1 1 14 -5 12
After a dreadful first half, Russo rebounded down the stretch, finding his confidence and playing more assertively. When he was on, he played a physical game and had confidence in his shot, netting 6 goals in the latter half of the season. He also posted a +11 defensive rating, among the best on the team. Things fell apart again at the end of the year and carried over into the playoffs where he was the goat on the ice for several epic turnovers that ended up in his own net. This is the second year in a row he has faltered and with a crowded blueline and diminishing chances of playing in Detroit, he could find himself on the outside looking in next season. A fresh start with another organization could be the best thing for Russo and the Griffins going forward.

Evgeni Svechnikov D 23 2 9 11 23 0 45 5 1 0 1 4 -3 8
The gifted Russian sniper suffered through an abysmal first half and showed some signs of righting the ship around the halfway point. After a decent stretch he was recalled to Detroit for 14 games, scoring his first 2 NHL goals. Upon returning to the Griffins he promptly went into the tank again and struggled into the postseason. Next season will be a make or break season for Svechnikov, who must find a way to stop putting so much pressure on him and learn to just play his game. He remains an impressive package of skill, size, speed and snarl, hopefully he shakes the sophomore slump and gets a mulligan on last season.

Axel Holmstrom D- 31 2 7 9 2 -3 30 2 0 1 1 0 0 3
Putting a below par first half of the season behind him, Holmstrom looked to be finding his game for a brief stretch midseason. His skating looked a bit better and he even chipped in some timely offense. Things quickly plummeted for the gritty forward and he found himself a frequent scratch before injury problems took their toll. He may never be an offensive dynamo, but could be a dependable defensive forward if he could develop his intensity and consistency. Frequently slotted at center due to the team's lack of depth, he appeared much more effective (and comfortable) on the wing. He needs a big season of growth in the AHL next year to get back on the prospect radar.

Libor Sulak Inc. 2 0 2 2 0 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Was impressive in a brief showing at the end of the season. A skilled defenseman with good size, he was not afraid to use it to get the puck out of danger or separate the puck carrier from the puck. Sulak is very mobile, a great skater for a player of his size and sees the ice well. Very adept at reading the play and breaking it up, he also showed how quickly he can recover even when he makes a mistake. Libor also possesses soft hands and made some great passes in his limited sample size. Under contract for another season, he is a dark horse to spend some time in NHL next season, but should be able to earn a spot on the GR blueline.

Mike Borkowski Inc. 8 0 0 0 2 -4 10 2 0 0 0 0 -1 2
A semi-regular last season, the Borkowski found himself in the ECHL for most of the year but excelled in an energy role after being recalled. He will do anything he can to help team, and pays an honest physical game. Not the most offensively blessed player, he creates turnovers and any scoring will be a result of that. Filled in admirably at center in the postseason with the team down to one natural center, he was solid in the faceoff circle and played defensively responsible. It remains to be seen what the future holds for the unrestricted free agent, but he was an impact player in the ECHL and a solid depth player for the Griffins.

Dylan Sadowy Inc. 13 0 0 0 9 -1 19 1 0 0 0 0 -1 2
After being relegated to the ECHL for the majority of the season, Sadowy finally got recalled to help fill in for the rash of injuries that hit the Griffins toward the end of the year. While he failed to record a point in his time in Grand Rapids, he looked far better than his numbers would indicate. He was feisty and aggressive and did a good job of taking the puck to the net. He also was an irritant to the Griffins opponents as played an abrasive style and seemed to draw a crowd after the whistle. Next year is a big year for him as he needs to take a spot in the AHL and run with it, conventional wisdom says that if he keeps putting in the work, that points will eventually come.

Matej Machovsky Inc. 4 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Machovsky played well in a short sample size, but eventually refused an assignment to the ECHL and was sent home to Europe. He subsequently signed a three-year contract to play for Sparta Praha HC, which does not bode well for his future in the organization.