Wednesday, July 25, 2012

30 Teams in 30 Days: Detroit Red Wings

Detroit Red Wings, it's your turn!

Ryan Sproul - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
An amazing season by Sproul, who just oozes potential. His 23 goals this year are no fluke. His shot is absolutely massive, but it's also accurate, which is what makes it deadly. He also chose better spots to unload it this year and looked just as comfortable setting up plays with a hard pass from the point on the powerplay as he did unleashing his shot. This is massive because last year he looked a bit stiff on the point at times, relying mainly on his shot to generate offense. His poise with the puck and picking spots to rush also improved. He looked very confident in joining the rush, often leading it. At his size and with his skating ability, he's pretty hard to stop if you don't get to him by center ice. Defensively, he looked much more comfortable, especially in zone coverage. He still needs work in this area, but it definitely improved. This is evidenced by his +16 on a team who missed the playoffs. Moving forward to next year, I look for his assist totals to jump even more and for him to be among the defensive leaders in scoring. Defensively, hopefully he continues to gain confidence and learns to use his size effectively as a stopper. He can be physical, but hopefully he becomes a little more consistent in this area next season. That would add another dimension to his game. 

Petr Mrazek - Ottawa 67's
The Mrazek era in Ottawa is over, but what a great three years it has been. In his final year, the team was finally able to find some playoff success, although they came up short against Niagara in the Eastern final. Mrazek was great in the playoffs this year after last year's very poor performance. It was great to see him rebound. Obviously the big coming out party for Mrazek was this year's WJC's, where he stole the show for the Czech's. Before the WJC's this year, Mrazek actually wasn't terrific and was having some consistency issues. At times, he looked a little bored and his focus just wasn't there. Post WJC's, he looked re-invigorated. The next step for Mrazek will obviously be in the AHL or ECHL next year (the Wings have a lot of goalie depth in the minors). For any unorthodox, reflex based goalie like Mrazek, there's always the question as to whether his style will translate to the faster paced professional game where the shooters are more accurate. I'll certainly be cheering him on, as I greatly enjoyed watching him over his great OHL career.

Alan Quine - Peterborough Petes
Quine quietly had a very strong season for the Petes. The year started looking like Quine could get comfortable playing a supporting offensive role for the team, but then Matt Puempel got suspended, then injured. Then Austin Watson got dealt and suddenly Quine was being counted on as the go to guy for the Petes (along with overager Andrew Yogan). He was consistently dangerous for Peterborough this year and really took that next step in his development. In particular I was impressed by the development of his playmaking ability. Previously he's been more of a goal scorer (with a great shot), but this year he showed off another dimension of his game. His puck protection ability was also better and he was harder to knock off the puck. This allowed him to use his speed more effectively to create scoring chances. He was also less of a perimeter player and looked more engaged away from the puck, although I think he still has some growing to do in this area. This coming year, Yogan will be gone. Puempel is in Kitchener. The team is his to run offensively, let's see how he handles it yet again. He could surprise some people and get close to the 80 point mark.

Andreas Athanasiou - London Knights
It was a trying season for the speedy Greek sniper, who saw his star fall from potential first round pick, to a mid 4th rounder. He saw himself in the doghouse several times this year (including some time in the press box) for his inconsistency, and his lack of tenaciousness away from the puck. If you want to play for the Hunters, you better compete every shift and AA just wasn't doing that this year. He's undeniably talented. He has terrific hands and great puck skill to go with his outstanding skating ability (and breathtaking speed). In the playoffs, when he did draw into the line-up, he looked hungrier and was way more active away from the puck/physically. Hopefully he can carry that over to this season, where he's going to have to (yet again) fight for his spot in a line-up chalk full of talented young forwards. I've heard some rumblings that the Hunter's are exploring the idea of using AA as a center this season, which could utilize his speed and puck carrying ability. He's going to have to earn the trust of the coaching staff again, so he better come out of the gate roaring to go. Otherwise he could find himself on the trading block (like for a new goaltender which London is likely to need). I'd expect that he'll improve on his offensive numbers next year; he's too talented not to. It's just a question as to whether we're talking about a minor improvement, or a point per game player.

Jake Paterson - Saginaw Spirit
Paterson had an absolutely fantastic second half of the season, including the playoffs, that led to his huge climb up the draft charts. I really like him as a goaltending prospect. He's got everything you look for in today's NHL netminders. Size, check. Athletic ability, check. Composure and confidence, check. His rebound control really improved over the course of the season too, which is a big step for young goaltenders. Saginaw has set themselves up with an interesting goaltending dilemma heading into the new season. They've still got Clint Windsor, who Paterson split time with last year. But they also drafted a talented Russian named Nikita Serebryakov in the import draft. Something has to give, which is likely the trade of Windsor. Judging by the fact that the Spirit went with Paterson in last year's playoffs suggests they've got confidence in him moving forward. If he's the starter, I'd expect some pretty solid numbers from him. The Spirit are probably one of the team's fighting for a playoff spot in the West next year, so if he can elevate his game, it'd be terrific and very helpful to his team's cause.

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