The 2012-13 season may not have been the most memorable for the Detroit Red Wings, but it was one that their AHL prospects with the Grand Rapids Griffins will never forget. One prospect who played a big role in the Griffins’ Calder Cup championship was Tomas Jurco, the Wings’ top pick in 2011 draft. In his first professional season, the young Slovak got off to a slow start but finished strong, and is now regarded as one of the top offensive prospects in the organization.
Jurco was well-known for his stickhandling and scoring ability in the QMJHL, but there were questions how his game would translate to the professional level. Those doubts were backed up early on as Jurco had trouble finding the back of the net, but a solid second half showed that the 20-year-old learns fast. He finished the season with 14 goals and 28 points, good enough for spots in the top ten among Griffins players in both categories. It was the AHL playoffs where Jurco really blossomed, as he wound up third on the team with eight goals. He had an especially strong performance in the Western Conference Finals against the Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton Oilers), scoring a goal in each of the final three games of the series. He failed to convert on a penalty shot attempt in a game six loss, but scored one of the biggest goals in team history by scoring a breakaway goal that would hold up as the both the game-winner and series-clincher in game seven.
With Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar expected to see full-time duty in Detroit, there should be an increased role for Jurco in the coming season. There’s also a chance he gets the call to represent his homeland in the 2014 Olympics. With continued signs of improvement and an impressive training camp, Jurco could be in line to be one of the first players the Red Wings turn to as an injury call-up during the 2013-14 season. He’s still very young, and the Wings will continue to hope that a promising rookie season is just a sign of more good things to come.