While the Detroit Red Wings have experienced a lot of ups-and-downs to start the 2013-14 season, their top prospects in the AHL with the Grand Rapids Griffins are off to a great start. Thanks to an undefeated record on the road (in regulation), the Griffins are 8-2-1 and atop the Midwest Division. They trail only the Abbotsford Heat (Calgary Flames) for the top spot in the Western Conference, and on Wednesday the defending Calder Cup champions rolled to a 6-2 win over the Rockford Ice Hogs (Chicago Blackhawks).
With goaltender Petr Mrazek spending some time in Detroit, former first round pick Tom McCollum has carried most of the workload in Grand Rapids. He’s off to a 6-0 start and playing some of the best hockey of his career, with a 2.25 goals-against average (12th in the league) and a .922 save percentage (14th in the league). Mrazek has struggled to a 2-2-1 record in his sophomore season with the Griffins, but posted a 14-save shutout on Saturday in his third NHL game for the Red Wings.
Offensively, the Griffins have been led by Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Jurco, who have combined for 27 points so far. Nyquist was expected to have a roster spot in Detroit, but the late signing of Dan Cleary and salary cap issues have so far kept him in the AHL. Jurco is off to a much faster start than last season, and is averaging a point per game. Rookie winger Teemu Pulkkinen has five goals and 10 points, and rookie defenseman Ryan Sproul has four goals and 10 points. With much of the veteran leadership from last season still intact, the Griffins have also gotten a boost from the addition of Red Wings center Cory Emmerton (eight assists). Second-year center Luke Glendening (three goals, six points) has also continued to mature and earned two call-ups for six games with Detroit.
Things may be a little shaky at times in Hockeytown, but the future continues to look bright with a great core group of players showing they have the skills to be future Red Wings in coming seasons.