During the Grand Rapids Griffins’ recent eight-game winning streak, several players emerged as leaders of the talented young team full of Detroit Red Wings prospects.
Fourth-year pro Tomas Tatar showed he continues to improve, scoring five goals in three games Nov. 23-25, bringing his season total to 10 goals and 18 points. His recent scoring outburst has moved him into fifth place on the Griffins all-time goal scoring list. He is seeing top-line playing time each night, alongside Gustav Nyquist (eight goals and 19 points) and Joakim Andersson (four goals and 11 points), a dangerous trio of European players who have all seen NHL time with the Wings.
Tatar came to the Griffins during the 2009-10 season as an 18-year-old rookie, having been drafted by Detroit in the second round after a season with HKm Zvolen in the Slovakian league. In 58 games of AHL action, he scored 16 goals and added 16 assists. He represented Slovakia at both the World Junior Championships and World Championships.
He would see an expanded role during the 2010-11 season, and played well enough to earn nine games of NHL duty with the Wings. He scored his first career NHL goal on Dec. 31, 2010 against the New York Islanders, and would finish his AHL season with 24 goals and 57 points (second on the team behind Ilari Filppula).
He turned in another strong performance during the 2011-12 season, scoring 24 goals to lead the team, and his 58 points also led the Griffins (tied with Nyquist and Jamie Johnson). He once again represented Slovakia at the World Championships, netting a pair of goals and winning a silver medal.
Tatar’s strong start this season should have his name in the mix for an outside chance at making the Wings’ roster once the lockout ends. His speed and puck control make him a threat every time he enters the offensive zone, and the physical aspect of his game continues to get better. If the line of him, Andersson and Nyquist continue to lead the way in Grand Rapids, they could all see more NHL time in the near future.