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Griffins 2016-17 Second Half Report Cards
The 'A's Have It...
By Jason Kasiorek
July 30th, 2017

It was mission accomplished this season as head coach Todd Nelson and his band of veterans brought another Calder Cup championship to Grand Rapids. The addition of Dylan McIlrath proved to be the final piece of the puzzle, lifting the Griffins to a long post-season run. Grand Rapids only used 19 games to take home the trophy, going undefeated on home ice. As you would expect, there were a lot of high grades given out for this accomplishment with ten players earning an A and another nine garnering B's.

A championship usually means lots of new faces as players look for promotion either within the organization or finding opportunities in another. Key cogs Mitch Callahan, Kyle Criscuolo and Tomas Nosek appear to be the first wave to find new homes, but several other familiar faces are expected to be missing by the time camp closes. Future lights Filip Hronek, Axel Holmstrom and Dominik Shine all got an audition at the end of the season, giving hope that there is another wave coming.

These are the Griffins' second half grades:

2nd Half
GP G A PTS PIM +/- Shts GP G A PTS PIM +/- Shts
Tomas Nosek A 21 1 9 10 13 -1 35 19 10 12 22 18 4 56
Nosek had an incredible first half that propelled him to an extended look with the parent Wings. He battled through injuries after returning to the Griffins, lowering his offensive stats, but rebounded strongly in the playoffs. The strong two-way player had a dominant post-season, scoring in bunches and leaving no doubt that he was ready for a graduation to the NHL. He easily could have been the playoff MVP with his strong showing at both ends of the ice. The organization was dealt a blow however, when Nosek was selected by Las Vegas in the expansion draft and will look to make their roster out of camp next season.

Ben Street A 27 12 11 23 6 0 75 19 8 13 21 2 4 64
Quietly went about his job, scoring points and running the point on the league leading powerplay. He was rewarded with some NHL time with the Wings where he showed he could be a steady and serviceable bottom six player. He was at his best in the playoffs, scoring big goals and leading the team in scoring right up to the last game. Street is a dark horse candidate to take the 13th forward spot in Detroit out of camp, if not he will be back in the middle of the offense for GR.

Brian Lashoff A 33 2 3 5 20 -1 35 17 1 3 4 12 3 12
One of the best defenders in the AHL, Lashoff is one of the keys to the Griffins penalty kill and routinely gets the task of shutting down the opposition's top gun. He is a calming presence on the ice and really seems to slow things down. Very good at using his stick to break up plays at the line and angle players into the corners, but can use his size and strength to move a player when needed. The two-time Calder Cup Champion was rewarded for his steady play with a new two year contract and provides good organizational depth and veteran leadership for the Griffins.

Cal Heeter A 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Saw action in four games in second half and picked up where he left off, turning in 3-1 record. Cal was the third string goalie for the post-season run but didn't suit up for any games. Deserved more of an opportunity, but he should be able to turn his solid season into an AHL job somewhere next season.

Matt Ford A 31 10 10 20 16 3 81 19 8 4 12 24 -2 51
Ford is exactly the type of veteran player you want on your AHL farm club. A calming veteran presence willing to play anywhere in the lineup, the hallmarks of his game are effort, competitiveness, work ethic and attitude. He had a good second half offensively despite lower minutes, and was a beast on the powerplay. A clutch scorer all year, Ford was at his best in the post-season, scoring 8 goals, including a team-leading 6 with the man advantage. With a year left on his contract and Paetsch's expected departure I would not be surprised to see Ford wear the 'C' next season.

Tyler Bertuzzi A 27 8 16 24 22 11 58 19 9 10 19 50 1 38
Came into his own over the second half posting just shy of a point per game before turning things up in the postseason where he was a game breaker. A rare combination of physical play and skill, Bertuzzi has developed his game to be able to beat you either way. Feisty, combative, agitating are all adjectives to describe the battle that is Bertuzzi's energetic style. The reigning AHL playoff MVP is in a good position to earn a job in the NHL this fall.

Eric Tangradi A 27 13 15 28 33 7 80 19 2 17 19 12 6 57
While the towering winger could not seem to shake the injury bug, there were times during the second half and the playoffs where he was absolutely dominant. He would take the puck to the net through traffic with opposing players bouncing off him or waterskiing behind him and use his soft hands to bury it. He also used his size to bang and knock around people at will, and was a terror along the boards and in the corners. He scored at a point per game pace over the second half and playoffs, notching 15 goals and 32 assists in the 46 games he played. With another season on his contract with the Wings, if he can stay healthy he could vie for another shot at the NHL with Detroit.

Dylan McIlrath A 21 0 4 4 42 -3 21 19 0 5 5 25 10 16
In short, McIlrath was the missing piece to the puzzle; when he was acquired, he put the team over the top for the cup run. After a whirlwind start to the season that saw him suit up for five different clubs in three organizations, McIlrath found a home in GR. It took him a few games to get his feet under him, but once he did, he played solid defense and used his imposing size and strength to keep other teams honest around the Griffins smaller, skilled players. A devastating fighter, Dylan didn't have to drop the gloves often, as his reputation preceded him, allowing him to play a regular role while still being a deterrent, something the team has missed since the departure of Brennan Evans. With a two-year contract from Detroit, it remains to be seen whether the former 1st rnd draft pick will get another chance at the NHL, but the Griffins will benefit from having him in the lineup.

Joe Hicketts A- 36 3 16 19 13 10 66 19 1 7 8 8 8 30
The Griffins diminutive rookie raised the level of his game again in the second half, pushing his offense numbers a bit while showing improved confidence in carrying the puck up ice. His defensive game remains rock solid and he expanded his role to play some tougher minutes in the latter stages including some time on special teams. He also made a name for himself with his deadly hip-check, routinely sending larger opponents flying and not backing down when they inevitably came back to challenge him after being embarrassed. His offensive game remains the next piece of the puzzle he needs to engage consistently as he is capable of creating more opportunities on a regular basis. With the parent club's brittle blueline, a solid start could lead to his first NHL action.

Evgeny Svechnikov A- 34 8 22 30 26 4 95 19 5 7 12 20 0 50
Impressive rookie continued to improve as season went on scoring at a point per game pace and finishing a 20-goal season. Svechnikov became much more assertive in the second half and used his size and speed to create chances more effectively. Great package of size, speed and skill fought through a scoring slump as he adjusted to the level of play in the playoffs, but was not a liability when not scoring. He looks to be close to regular employment at the NHL level.

Dan Renouf B+ 34 1 6 7 55 3 24 19 2 2 4 6 7 17
Renouf finished off an impressive rookie season as a stay at home blueliner for the Griffins. He showed off a knack for defensive positioning and seemed to be in the right place at the right time more often than not. This is good, because foot speed might be the biggest area he needs to improve, not necessarily laterally but chasing down puck carriers, he is good but not great. A rugged player who is not afraid to use his size, Renouf will battle for position and is not afraid to drop the gloves when necessary. As the season went on he also showed he is a big game player, raising the level of his play as the stakes went up.

Colin Campbell B+ 36 5 6 11 16 2 77 17 0 4 4 15 0 23
An unsung hero on this team, Campbell uses his strength and speed to provide energy, playing a hitting, fore-checking game that makes him very hard to play against. He is a rock solid defensive forward who has shown glimpses of having the offensive touch to capitalize on the turnovers he frequently forces. A punishing, but clean hitter, Colin is an effective agitator often drawing penalties as opponents try to get a piece of him after the whistle. An AHL UFA, it remains to be seen whether he will return to the Griffins, but his departure would be a huge loss.

Martin Frk B+ 32 13 11 24 20 -3 101 16 5 10 15 20 3 43
The gifted sniper ran into injury problems in the latter part of season and into the playoffs. He did not look completely healed when he did get back in the lineup and his devastating shot was used much more sparingly, as he notched only 5 goals. Frk did a better job of cutting down on bad penalties and played more disciplined. While he continues to improve aspects of his game, he remains a devastating powerplay shooter who can get his high-velocity shot off from almost anywhere and on net. Signed for another season, he will have another kick at the can at training camp.

Matt Lorito B 29 12 12 24 17 2 65 19 7 6 13 4 3 55
Lorito kept up his hot hand from the first half, fought through injuries and led the team in scoring in his first season in GR. A major league sniper with great speed, the shifty skater was good at finding openings in front and using his soft hands in close to score. His scoring prowess led to first NHL action with Detroit late in the season, and he scored his first NHL point. Not as effective in the closer checking playoffs, but still scored some big goals with his deadly wrister from the circle. Matt is a dark horse to get a shot at the NHL roster with a good camp.

Nathan Paetsch B 34 0 5 5 14 7 37 19 2 5 7 8 1 17
The Griffins captain accomplished his mission, leading the team to its' second Calder Cup Championship in five years. While he did have lots of help in the leadership department, he did a good job in assuming the helm from departed folk hero Jeff Hoggan. The 34-yr old vet showed some signs of slowing in the second half, still playing well defensively, but his offense dried up down the stretch before rebounding in the post-season. With the parent Wings committing to veteran blueliners Lashoff and McIlrath, it appears that Paetsch's days as a Griffin could be over.

Kyle Criscuolo B 36 7 10 17 10 14 79 19 5 4 9 14 6 35
Smaller rookie tailed off offensively in the second half and found it much harder to get open during the postseason. Criscuolo was solid defensively and played bigger than his size. A great passer, Kyle was willing to take a hit to make a play and went to the tough areas of the ice. Appeared to wear down over the long season, not surprising for a player used to the shorter collegiate schedule. An AHL UFA, the speedy center signed with the Buffalo Sabres organization, and will likely be plying his trade for their farm club in Rochester next season.

Eddie Pasquale B 14 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
After a solid first half, Eddie took the brunt of the Griffins late season struggles, dropping four of his last six decisions. He still finished the season among the AHL leaders in shutouts, save percentage and goals against average. Pasquale came in in relief of Jared Coreau in the Calder Cup finals, playing his only 41 minutes of the posts season and stopping everything he faced. The confident netminder was able to capitalize on a strong rebound season, signing with the Edmonton Oilers organization.

Mitch Callahan B 26 5 10 15 29 5 44 19 6 10 16 18 10 45
Fan favorite suffered through a tough season where he couldn't play his game as consistently as he had in the past. Came up big in the playoffs where his gritty, in your face game was at a premium and he played a big part in the GR game plan to get pucks through Syracuse' Mike McKenna. Callahan's work ethic was second to none, and he battled for every inch of ice providing effort and physical play as well as a fearless presence around the net. The veteran winger leaves GR with two championships, moving on to the Oilers organization after not being offered a contract by Detroit.

Jared Coreau B 33 0 0 0 0 0 0 19 0 0 0 2 0 0
Struggled through up and down 2nd half after returning from Detroit. Coreau recovered his form to start the playoffs and overcame a couple of marginal outings in the finals to win the championship. Still needs to find his consistency, but has proven when he is on he can be unstoppable. Coreau could use some more seasoning at the AHL level but may be pressed into NHL service depending on what happens with the goaltending issues in Detroit.

Dominic Turgeon C+ 34 3 5 8 2 -2 45 19 1 1 2 2 -2 19
Turgeon excels at the defensive part of the game, and was impressive as a rookie with his prowess in the faceoff circle and his work centering the checking line that was a difference maker at times during the regular season and playoffs. He uses his speed and instincts well and is very dangerous on the fore-check. His offensive numbers have not materialized yet, even with a couple of opportunities to move up the lineup. He will return to the Griffins and look to take his game to the next level.

Conor Allen C 27 1 7 8 26 -2 21 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
After a good start to the season, Allen became the odd man out after the acquisition of McIlrath. The smooth skating blueliner didn't play a game in the playoffs even with Lashoff out with an injury, not a good sign. He played very well in spurts, doubling his offense, but could not find the consistency to establish himself. Allen is likely to be moving on to another organization over the off-season.

Mike Borkowski C 22 1 1 2 2 -4 21 1 0 0 0 0 -1 1
Borkowski saw action in the second half over several other prospects, mainly due to his energy and work ethic. When he was in the lineup he hustled and was defensively responsible even if he didn't put up any offense to speak of. Spent six games in the ECHL and notched nine points, and also saw action in one Griffins playoff game. Borkowski is a free agent but is possible to return, as he seemed to earn coach Nelson's trust.

Robbie Russo C- 18 2 6 8 12 4 43 19 0 7 7 22 -2 41
After a solid first half, Russo played well enough to earn an extended NHL audition, seeing action in 19 games in Detroit. Upon his return his game had changed, and he brought a much more physical element, showing off some grit and banging in front of the net and along the boards. As the post-season progressed he really looked to have a hard time adjusting to the pace and struggled with his confidence. He made numerous mistakes defensively and was the shakiest defenseman on the Griffins blueline. He will attempt to rebuild his confidence and find his game going into training camp, but will likely require more AHL seasoning.

Dylan Sadowy D 13 0 0 0 4 -6 18 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2nd half of the season was a write-off for Sadowy. After going scoreless in 18 games in the second half he ended up in the press box and did not see any ice in the postseason. A short stint in the ECHL did not produce any offense or confidence and the rangy winger is in danger of getting lapped by the next round of prospects. Needs to get stronger (something that has already been addressed according to reports from development camp) and play with a little more urgency and desperation to find his way this season.

Axel Holmstrom Inc 7 1 1 2 2 -1 9 4 1 0 1 0 2 2
Not your stereotypical European player, the gritty forward actually seemed to play better during the tighter checking and more physical play evident in the playoffs, relishing the battle. Holmstrom looked very solid defensively in his brief AHL debut and spent a lot of time battling in front of the net. It remains to be seen how well his offensive game will translate, and his skating, while not awful, could use some work. He is expected to start the season in Grand Rapids, now fully recovered from the knee injury that kept his in Sweden last season.

Filip Hronek Inc 10 1 1 2 4 1 11 2 0 0 0 6 -2 0
Nice audition for the much heralded rookie defenseman. Showed off quite a skill set and a big, heavy shot. He had a few looks on the powerplay and didn't look out of place. Hronek is a very good skater who can carry the puck up ice and has the skills to make plays. His defense was a bit shaky and he will have to get used to the speed at this level as several times he had his pocket picked while trying to make a play. Got into a couple of games early in the playoffs with Lashoff out with an injury. Should be a regular next season who sees a lot of time with the man-advantage.

Dominik Shine Inc 8 0 3 3 7 -2 16 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Stepped into the lineup at the end of his college season and did not miss a beat. Looked like a regular notching 3 assists in 8 games and showing off speed and a nose for the net. Played well enough at both ends of the ice to earn more ice time. Shine was a black ace for the postseason should earn a prominent spot next season, his first as a pro.