As we get ready for the the 2014-15 season, it may be time to get yourself reacquainted with your team’s minor league affiliates and what could be in store for your team should they need a call-up or two. I’ll go through them team by team in hopes that this enlightens some people to their affiliate teams. Today, the Detroit Red Wings are on the block with their affiliates in Grand Rapids, Michigan and Toledo, Ohio.
GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS
Affiliate Since: 2002-03
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 157 miles
Last Season: 46-23-2-5, 2nd in Midwest Division, 4th in Western Conference
With the injuries to Detroit through the season, the Griffins’ roster was ransacked throughout the season. Thankfully, without much of a forward chemistry, the Griffins’ goaltending held down the fort and were able to keep the Griffins in the playoff race througout. The tandem of Thomas McCollum and Petr Mrazek were tremendous both registering 20+ wins and both being in the top-5 in both GAA and save percentage. With that stellar performance, the Griffins gave up the least amount of goals in the AHL on the season at 187.
While using 37 skaters is not conducive to getting any kind of chemistry, they were still able to have some scoring distributed around, especially with rookie Teemu Pulkkinen and Mitch Callahan having over 20 goals on the season. Contribution on the blueline from Adam Almquist also helped the offense that was in some needs of a spark with 49 assists and 53 points on the year.
Outside of Almquist and Nathan Paetsch, the rest of the defense was a cavalcade of rookies; but they were able to hold their own and be responsible for their own end. Though Ryan Sproul did put up 32 points in a rookie campaign, the other defenseman like Alexey Marchenko, Xavier Ouellet, and Nick Jensen were very responsible for their own end and to create a solid defensive identity for the Griffins.
Leading Scorers: Teemu Pulkkinen (31g, 28a), Adam Almquist (4g, 49a), Cory Emmerton (16g, 30a)
Possible Frequent Flyers: Assuming that Tomas Jurco is going to stick with the roster in camp, the odds that he and Pulkkinen change spots in lieu of some struggles they may have– those two could enjoy the highways and byways between Detroit and Grand Rapids. Also on the right side, don’t count out Martin Frk getting a look here and there, too– if maybe in another forward spot.
Outlook: Barring another season of injuries, the Griffins should be in a solid spot, especially with McCollum and Mrazek back in net. The addition of Andy Miele will be a bonus for the Griffins up the middle, while it could be crunch time for Landon Ferraro in his tenure with the Red Wings organization. The sophomore seasons for the defense will definitely be a focus on the season, especially to see if Jensen and Ouellet can progress properly within the system.
Affiliate Since: 2009-10
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 57 miles
Last Season: 21-44-4-3, 5th in North Division, 13th in Eastern Conference
Unlike their AHL counterpart, the injuries from both the Red Wings and the Blackhawks (as the Walleye had a dual affiliation last season) devastated the Walleye roster and caused head coach Nick Vitucci to step down late into the season. Throughout the year, the Walleye used 53 players and had many go up and down multiple times from different organizations. Not surprising, the Walleye gave up a league-high 268 goals on the season. No regulars on the Walleye were on the plus side of the plus/minus register. Only Jimmy McDowell was a plus player (+1), but he only played seven games with the team.
Any kind of bright side was the rookie Maxim Shalunov putting up a team-high 18 goals and 2nd in points with 34 points on the season. David Gilbert’s eight goals on the power play was another bright spot, while goalie Hannu Toivonen did a respectable job to try and revitalize his North American career with 12 wins in 31 games and was 8th in the ECHL in saves on the season.
Leading Scorers: David Gilbert (17g, 18a), Maxim Shalunov (18g 16a), Trevor Parkes (17g, 17a)
Possible Frequent Flyers: With newcomer AJ Jenks coming into the fold, he could be going back and forth to the AHL, as he has done in the past. If he can’t stick with the Griffins, Alden Hirschfeld could very well be in Toledo for some spot duty here and there.
Outlook: As it is right now, captain Kyle Rogers is the only returning player for the Walleye from last season, as the team is going through a total revamp, including being back to one affiliate on the season. One big addition is of AJ Jenks, who played well with both the Florida Everblades and the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers. Justin Mercier coming over from the Idaho Steelheads will also be an added bonus for the rebuilding Walleye. With a decent amount of depth in the Red Wings system, the Walleye should have a lot of talent to choose from that’ll trickle down.