The Detroit Red Wings called up top prospect and AHL All-Star goaltender Petr Mrazek on Sunday, but chose to go with Jimmy Howard against the Calgary Flames instead. In Howard’s ninth straight start of the season, he was overpowered by the Flames on Tuesday, as the Wings lost 4-1.
Mrazek has been stellar at the AHL level this season for the Grand Rapids Griffins. He was the fourth member of the team to earn a call-up this season and should get the start in net Thursday against the St. Louis Blues. With Jonas Gustavsson still bothered by a sore groin and Joey MacDonald needing at least one rehab start before returning, Mrazek is by far the best option to give Howard a night off.
As an AHL rookie this season, Mrazek has a 16-7-1 record with a 2.26 goals against average and recorded his first professional shutout the day before the Wings called him up. A fifth round pick of Detroit in the 2010 draft, he was a junior star with the Ottawa 67’s and burst into the international spotlight with a stellar performance for the Czech Republic at the 2012 World Junior Championship. He led his team to a surprising quarterfinals appearance and was named outstanding goaltender of the tournament.
The Red Wings have a well-documented history of letting prospects “over-ripen” in the minors, but with the current goaltending situation, they really don’t have a choice here. It makes no sense to call Mrazek up to just sit on the bench (like they did with former first round pick Tom McCollum last week), so why not give him a shot Thursday night? With the Wings sitting fourth in the Central Division with a 4-4-1 record, what’s the worst that could happen at this point by letting Mrazek play?