Saturday, July 19, 2014

30 Teams in 30 Days - Detroit Red Wings

Yup, that was my introduction.

Andreas Athanasiou - Barrie Colts
Athanasiou had another terrific year, continuing to build upon his breakout last year. His speed and skill with the puck make him an incredibly difficult player to contain off the rush. He's very aggressive in trying to get to the net and has become far from a perimeter player. This year, his game without the puck continued to grow and he's now someone who can create offense by winning battles along the boards and by forechecking hard to create turnovers. He's become a very well rounded offensive player. Athanasiou's defensive game grew this year too and he's on his way to becoming a solid two-way player, which was something that definitely wasn't the case in his draft year. There might not be a player from the 2012 draft who has progressed as much as Athanasiou. Next year he'll be in Grand Rapids and I expect him to do well. A 45-50 point first season is certainly possible.

Jake Paterson - Saginaw Spirit
Paterson had only an OK year. The Spirit weren't a great team, so he had that to deal with, but they could have been better if he was at his best (see Plymouth with Alex Nedeljkovic). It was great to see him with the Canadian WJC team, but it was unfortunate how the tournament turned out for him personally. At this point, I'm not sure he's really progressed a lot since he was drafted, yet he remains a solid goaltending prospect. He'll have to continue to work on his angles, especially as an average sized netminder. This year, he'll likely be in the ECHL as a starter based on the depth the Wings have at the goaltending position. That's OK as it will allow him to come on slowly and work his way up.

Zach Nastasiuk - Owen Sound Attack
The captain of the Attack (a feat in itself) had a decent year in Owen Sound, and continued to play his strong two-way game. As much as I like him, I'd be lying if I wasn't a bit disappointed in the consistency of his offensive production though. I did feel like he made strides to improve his skating and he looked a bit more explosive. He needs to become more confident handling the puck and looking to drive the net more though, as he's still primarily a cycle/boards guy who picks up his scoring chances coming off the wall or by outworking defenders. There's nothing wrong with that, but I think he's capable of more. If I'm nitpicking, I'd also like to see him be a bit more physical, using his size to create havoc and get under the skin of the opposition. Next year I expect big things from him and I think he'll finally hit the 30 goal mark and should be a good bet to score over a point per game. The next Kris Draper/Kirk Maltby?

Tyler Bertuzzi - Guelph Storm
Bottom line, he just needs to stay healthy. When he plays, the talent level is terrific. When he wasn't injured (head and neck injury this year), he was fantastic this year. It was especially great to see him come back late in the year and not even miss a beat. In the playoffs and in the Memorial Cup, he was consistently one of Guelph's top players. He has deceptive speed off the rush and has a lot of success taking defenders wide, giving him a chance to use his terrific shot. He plays the game hard too, sometimes too hard, and really gets under the skin of the opposition. Next year is a HUGE one for him. Guelph will need Bertuzzi to step up with the loss of several key players from last year's roster (Rychel, Mitchell, McGinn, Kosmachuk). If he stays healthy, I think he's going to have a really big year playing with either Robby Fabbri or Jason Dickinson. In all honesty, he could hit the 35 goal, 70 point mark rather easily. And that would really establish him as a great prospect. Detroit never ceases to amaze me with their drafting ability.

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