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Griffins 2012-13 Second Half Report Cards
Red Letter Day for Calder Cup Champs...
By Jason Kasiorek
July 12th, 2013

The Grand Rapids Griffins ended a roller coaster ride of a season by winning the last game to capture their first Calder Cup Championship. As many as five of the players on the final roster will graduate to the NHL next season with several more ready for their first taste of action. The leadership group led by captain Jeff Hoggan earned rave reviews, while the next wave of players like Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco, Luke Glendening and Petr Mrazek took a big step forward in their development. Coach Blashill and his staff get high marks as well for turning this team around after several seasons of underachieving.

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

Jeff Hoggan A+
After a quiet first half, Hoggan caught fire, picked the team up and carried it on his back all the way to the Calder Cup. He was really a different player in the second half as he notched 15 goals and 31 points in the last 38 games to lead the team in scoring by a wide margin during that span, and then added 12 more in the playoffs. His hard work and energy on the ice set the tone for the team and he clearly led by example. He has re-signed with the Griffins and will be back next season.

Brennan Evans A+
A leader on and off the ice, Evans did a great job as a stay at home blueliner, playing airtight defense with a lot of snarl. He was a calming influence on the younger players and would drop the gloves to defend them. A feared fighter, Evans was smart also, as he rarely went to the box alone, something that could not be said of the team's enforcers in the past (Exelby anyone?). He saved his best for the playoffs where he notched his first two goals of the year including the cup-clinching goal against Syracuse. He recently signed a one-year contact to return for next season.

Nathan Paetsch A+
Paetsch concentrated more on defense the second half, allowing the development of his normal partner Almquist. He fueled the transition game for the team, breaking up plays and moving the puck up ice to set up a scoring opportunity. The veteran puck-mover came up big in the playoffs where he played a ton of ice time and never stopped skating. He also set the example to do anything to win, blocking shots, banging around the boards and making plays from his knees. He was rewarded for his stellar play with a new two-year contract.

Luke Glendening A+
What a whirlwind season for the first GR native to play for the Griffins. He worked his way through the lineup and was centering a line with Hoggan and Mursak where he was a key cog in the Griffins attack. He picked his game up another notch in the postseason and was tied for third in Griffins scoring. The offensive numbers don't tell the whole story, as his face-off prowess, defensive game, and work ethic are key pieces to the puzzle. He was rewarded with an NHL contract with Detroit over the summer.

Jan Mursak A+
Mursak was assigned to the Griffins after missing most of the last two seasons to injury. He did not sulk at the demotion and instead became a force at both ends of the ice, showcasing the talent that got him to the NHL in the first place. He energized the team with his speed and was a great fit with Hoggan and Glendening. It was announced he had signed a contract next year in the KHL and he wanted to go out with a championship. He helped make that happen by scoring 11 goals and 17 points with a team high +12 defensive rating.

Mitch Callahan A
Found his scoring touch in the second half, connecting for 9 goals including his first hat trick. He was a big game player in the playoffs, striking for 11 points in 24 games including 2 goals and 5 points in the finals. Callahan has developed into a versatile player who uses his speed and physical play to fore-check and kill penalties with the best of them. He also has shown some good hands, surprising goalies with his shot and can work the cycle in traffic.

Tomas Tatar A-
Tatar slumped a bit after returning from Detroit, as he tried to be too fancy and stopped going to the net. When he simplified his game, he caught fire and notched 16 goals in 24 games to capture the Butterfield trophy as playoff MVP. With 78 shots on goal in the postseason, Tatar terrorized goalies with his ability to get open and get a shot off and was a dominant force. He has proven everything he can in the AHL and will be graduating to the next level next year.

Chad Billins A-
The rookie rearguard continued his dream season in the second half, scoring 9 goals and 18 points and continuing to improve his defense. He followed that up by leading the team's defensemen in scoring in the postseason with 14 points. While he had trouble at times with some of the bigger forwards, and has some work to do defensively, he was an impressive rookie. The Marysville native departed the organization after signed with the Calgary Flames.

Petr Mrazek A-
After such a strong first half, Mrazek battled inconsistency for much of the second half before turning things up in the postseason. He had back-to-back shutouts twice in the playoffs and was the difference most nights, giving Tatar a run for his money as MVP. The confident young netminder still has some work to do with his positioning, puck handling, etc. but will only get better as he plays more, and should come back ready for another run next season.

Gustav Nyquist A-
Nyquist kept up his hot hand and finally was recalled to Detroit where he earned a spot in the lineup for the rest of the season. When they were eliminated, he was assigned to Grand Rapids and put on some dazzling displays of puck wizardry. His numbers didn't reflect his dominance with the puck (10 2-5-7 4) but at times it seemed as if he had possession for the entire shift. He leaves for the NHL on a high note and should be a regular in Detroit next season.

Joakim Andersson A-
Andersson was on a hot streak when he was recalled by Detroit and took a regular spot in the lineup. After the Wings fell to Chicago he was returned to Grand Rapids and helped tip the balance of power in the Oklahoma City series. The plucky center added 8 points in 10 games to the attack but was uncharacteristically a minus player. We have likely seen the last of him as he graduates to full time work in Detroit next season.

Tomas Jurco B+
Jurco found his dangle in the second half and more than doubled his first half numbers with 10 goals and 9 assists while showcasing his jaw dropping stick-handling prowess. He was incredible in the postseason notching 8 goals and 14 points while embarrassing opposing players with his creativity and hands. He uses his size well and is not afraid to take a hit to make a play. He should be a major part of the offense next season, and will only get better with experience.

Brent Skinner B+
The Griffins were looking for a defenseman with the departure of Smith and Lashoff, and after auditioning a couple, were able to find Skinner toiling in the CHL. The former New York Islander came in and was a great fit from day one. He played a calm, poised game at both ends of the ice, and did a good job of getting the puck up ice. He was a regular for most of the second half and the first three rounds of the postseason until DeKeyser was activated. He ended up back in the lineup three games later when Almquist was injured.

Adam Almquist B
Settled in on the top pairing with Paetsch and dialed up the offense with 7 goals and 19 points in 33 games. He proved more rugged then expected, but seemed to be a magnet for big hits and did miss some time including most of the finals. It remains to be seen whether his skill set are enough to overcome his size to make the NHL, but if he keeps progressing like he has this season, he should get a look.

Landon Ferraro B
Ferraro took on more of a defensive role in the latter stages of the season and his offensive fell off a bit because of it. A tremendous penalty killer and forechecker with a great combination of speed and quick hands, Ferraro was the top shorthanded scorer in the AHL with 7 points (3+4). He took it up another notch in the postseason, finishing with 16 points (3rd in team scoring) including 5 in the finals.

Triston Grant B
An unsung hero from the championship squad, off the ice, Grant was the locker-room prankster that kept everyone loose. On the ice, he was an intimidating physical presence who would hit anybody on the other team, and would drop the gloves just as fast. The gritty winger played his checking role well, and was particularly effective against Syracuse in the finals where he notched 2 goals and 3 points. The recipient of a new one-year pact with Grand Rapids, Grant will return next season.

Thomas McCollum B-
McCollum kept up the pace from the first half and turned in a pro best 18 wins for the season with some respectable numbers for goals against and save percentage. As expected, he didn't see a minute of ice time in the postseason and his future is very much in doubt. The Wings have re-signed him and are giving him one more chance to establish himself, though he may have to bide his time in Toledo at the start of the season.

Frankie Pare C+
A notoriously streaky scorer for most of his Griffins career, Frankie had an up and down second half, and then went stone cold after the second round of the playoffs. His bad puck luck reached epic proportions as he missed open nets and back door passes. Pare kept a positive attitude and kept working hard and was rewarded, scoring the game-winner in game two of the finals. The cup victory was bittersweet for the longest serving Griffin as he was not re-signed after the season and left the organization for Finland.

Riley Sheahan C+
After making such great progress, Riley fell back to earth a bit in the second half of the season. He looked to have hit the wall the end of February and scored just 1 goal and 4 points his last 22 games with a 8 rating in that span. This was hardly unexpected for the former Fighting Irish forward as most college players have to adjust to the longer pro season. He managed 13 assists in the postseason, most the benefit of playing with MVP Tatar and tallied three goals of his own.

Brian Lashoff C
After an unexpected stay in Detroit, Lashoff was returned to Grand Rapids early in the second round. The hulking blueliner was rusty after sitting so long in the NHL, but played his way back into shape and was a physical presence on the Griffins blueline. He played a steady and simple game upon his return, staying back in his own end and not leading the rush. Lashoff is penciled in as the 7th rearguard in Detroit next season.

Teemu Pulkkinen C
Pulkkinen was a surprise at the end of the season as he showed off some world-class offensive skill. He was one of the top scorers in the first round, scoring a pair of goals with his big shot and adding an assist. His defensive deficiencies started cutting into his ice-time, and eventually led to a spot in the press box for the rest of the postseason. Next season should be a good one for the Griffins next Finnish sniper.

Andrej Nestrasil C
Used his big frame more in the second half and even got a game in the playoffs. He seemed to do a better job of going to the net, but still not enough of an impact player to claim a regular slot on the ice. He must continue to improve his intensity to earn a spot in the AHL with one year left on his contract.

Louis-Marc Aubry C-
Aubry gets around the ice well for such a big guy, and looks like a much better player than his numbers would indicate. He is a conscientious defensive center with great reach and good vision. He just always leaves you looking for more. Being sent to the bench for the second half of the post-season will hopefully be some motivation for Aubry to bring a little more intensity and take a step forward. Next season will be a pivotal one for the 6'4 center as it is the last on his entry-level contract.

Gleason Fournier C-
Played well enough in the second half to nail down the sixth spot on the blueline going into the playoffs. He held his own in the first round before coming out when Lashoff came back. Time is running out for the former junior scoring ace to establish his offensive game, and will have a difficult time staying high enough on the depth chart to stay out of the ECHL next season.

Calle Jarnkrok C-
The skilled centerman had a 9 nine game audition in Grand Rapids down the stretch and was underwhelming to put it mildly. It took him a few games to get up to speed in North American hockey on the little ice, though he did show some improvement at the end of his stint. He is expected, on paper, to challenge for a slot in Detroit next season, but with their glut of forwards, he is more likely to spend the majority of the year in the AHL.

Danny DeKeyser C-
Dekeyser only saw action in the finals after missing over a month with a broken thumb suffered in Detroit. Based on his circumstances, I will have to give him the benefit of the doubt, because he did struggle mightily at times. The gangly blueliner did bounce back for a good game in the series clincher, perhaps a more accurate depiction of his ability. A big, mobile puck mover, DeKeyser is expected to start the season in the NHL.

Max Nicastro C-
Lost the last blueline spot to Fournier late in the season and could not crack the playoff roster. Nicastro played well in spurts but was the victim of the numbers game, something that will probably impede him again next year with ten defenseman on the depth chart in Grand Rapids. Needs to play physically more consistently to stay in the lineup.

Trevor Parkes C-
Fell out of favor in the second half when his offense dried up, and with the emergence of Glendening found himself in Toledo, where he tore the cover off the ball. He remains a fast skater and forechecker who brings a physical edge and plays a hitting game. His next challenge is to earn a permanent spot in the lineup and work his two-way game, bringing some of the offense that he lit up the ECHL with.

Brent Raedeke D
Raedeke fell out of favor and out of the lineup in the second half, at one point even being farmed out to Toledo (ECHL). He was a healthy scratch for the post-season and is now out of the organization after not being tendered a qualifying offer by Detroit.