With hockey season officially right around the corner, a lot of players from the Grand Rapids Griffins are participating in pre-season activities with their NHL affiliate, the Detroit Red Wings. Grand Rapids is very embracing of their rich hockey tradition, with the Griffins having been a minor league hockey power for the last number of years. With the start of the Griffins season coming in the next few weeks, let’s take a look at the most recent roster projections. Keep in mind, only 18 skaters and two goaltenders can be dressed for a game, but there is no limit to how many players can be listed on the official roster. Here we will highlight the top 30 most likely players (in my own extremely unqualified opinion) to play in Grand Rapids at some point this season.
Position: Left Wing
Birthday: August 6, 1994
Drafted: Fourth round, 110th overall pick by Detroit in 2012
Last Season: Played his first full season as a professional with the Griffins. Suffered a broken jaw early in the season, which only allowed him to play in 55 regular season games, as well as 16 playoff games. Scored 16 goals to go with 16 assists in the regular season, plus five goals and four assists in the playoffs.
2015 Outlook: Athanasiou is a top-ten prospect in the Red Wings system. While he is gaining some valuable experience right now while participating in the pre-season with the Red Wings, he is expected to be a top six forward for the entire season with the Griffins. He may be on the list of potential call-ups if the Red Wings run in to injury problems, but the key right now is for Athanasiou to complete a full season in the professional ranks.
Birthday: November 11, 1991
Drafted: Third round, 81st overall pick by Detroit in 2010.
Last Season: Played in 67 regular season games with the Griffins, as well as 16 playoff games. Was a healthy scratch on numerous occasions during the regular season. Scored five goals, to go with 11 assists and 52 penalty minutes in the regular season. Added three goals in the playoffs.
2015 Outlook: As stated before, Aubry was a healthy scratch at numerous times throughout the season. While he hasn’t progressed as quickly as you would like to see a former third round draft pick, the Red Wings decided to give him one more year to show them something. Aubry was signed to a one-year, $525,000 two way contract in July. In order to prove himself to the Red Wings organization, Aubry will need to establish more of a two-way style of play, and cut down on penalties. While he will never be known for scoring a high amount of goals, there is some upside in his defensive style of hockey.
Position: Left Wing
Birthday: February 24, 1995
Drafted: Second round, 58th overall pick by Detroit in 2013.
Last Season: Bertuzzi had a breakout season while playing for the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League. He played in 68 regular season games, scoring a whopping 43 goals, and adding 55 assists. Factor in his 91 penalty minutes, and you see how busy Bertuzzi was last year. Also played in nine playoff games for Guelph, scoring six goals and two assists. He was called up to the Griffins upon the conclusion of the Guelph season, where he played in the final two regular season games of the season. He scored a single goal in those two games. In the playoffs, he tallied seven goals and five assists with the Griffins, in 14 games.
2015 Outlook: Bertuzzi is quickly climbing the Red Wings prospect charts. Famously known as the nephew of former Red Wing player Todd Bertuzzi, Tyler will be playing in his first full professional season in 2015. While it wouldn’t be unlikely for Bertuzzi to go through an adjustment phase, his high flying style of hockey is expected to translate to the next level, as we saw in a sample size last season.
Position: Right Wing
Birthday: August 17, 1991
Drafted: Sixth round, 180th overall pick by Detroit in 2009.
Last Season: Callahan is coming off a torn ACL last season, which held him to only 48 games in Grand Rapids. He produced nicely in his time on the ice, however. Callahan scored 16 goals and 22 assists in his 48 games.
2015 Outlook: The Red Wings have always been high on Callahan, as was shown by their willingness to resign him to a one-year, two-way contract for the upcoming season. While he is coming off a devastating knee injury, he is said to be fully recovered and is back up to game speed. He will need to continue playing a solid offensive game if he wants to earn a contract to play with the Red Wings.
Birthday: April 17, 1991
Drafted: Signed as an undrafted free agent
Last Season: Played 44 regular season games with the Griffins. Spent a large amount of time as a healthy scratch. Scored two goals and added three assists. Played in seven playoff games with Grand Rapids, chipped in an assist.
2015 Outlook: Campbell is an AHL body. He doesn’t appear to have a future in the NHL, at least with the Red Wings. He plays on the fourth line for the Griffins, which does carry some importance, however. He is relied upon for his physical style, grinding it out against opponents third and fourth lines.
Position: Left Wing
Birthday: February 2, 1984
Drafted: Ninth round, 286th overall pick by Philadelphia in 2004.
Last Season: Grant spent last season with the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals. While playing in 73 games, he racked up 13 goals and 13 assists, while amassing a whopping 123 penalty minutes.
2015 Outlook: Grant is familiar with the Griffins organization, as he played in GR for two years from 2012-2014. After spending a season in Milwaukee, he was brought back to GR for his leadership capabilities, as well as his physicality. He is not afraid to drop the gloves, and loves laying big hits. At 31 years old, it seems as though his time as a “prospect” is over, and it is unlikely that he will ever play in Detroit.
Birthday: February 1, 1978
Drafted: Signed as undrafted free agent in 2005 by St. Louis.
Last Season: The Griffins captain last season, Hoggan enjoyed a nice season in Grand Rapids. While playing in 76 regular season games, he tallied 14 goals and 17 assists. Add in two goals and seven assists in 16 playoff games, as well.
2015 Outlook: At 37 years old, it is unlikely that the Red Wings have him in their future plans. His leadership ability for the younger players on the Griffins, however, is extremely important. Having played in 107 NHL games, Hoggan has a tremendous amount of leadership that will be heavily relied upon.