The puck is set to drop on the 21st season for the Grand Rapids Griffins. The Griffins have been the primary affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings since 2002.
With this season comes many familiar faces but also many new ones. The Griffins will have a new team captain for the first time in 4 years. Fan favorites Martin Frk, Andy Miele, and Tom McCollum are gone. But there is plenty to be excited about for the 2016-2017 season. 66 of the 76 regular season games will come against divisional opponents. This may bode well for Grand Rapids as they were successful playing in their division with a 37-17-1-1 record a year ago.
Jared Coreau will no doubt be the # 1 goalie for the Griffins this season. The former Norther Michigan product is returning for his 3rd season with Grand Rapids. The development of the 6’6’’ netminder has been impressive. Coreau made his professional debut during the 2013-2014 season. He struggled a bit winning just 1 game in 25 appearances between Toledo and Grand Rapids. He appeared in 25 games for the Griffins in the 2014-2015 season. Even though he struggled a bit down the stretch last season, Coreau was among the top-5 in AHL goalies in both goals against average and save percentage. He ended the season recording 6 shutouts and 29 wins which tied for fourth best in the AHL. After two solid seasons behind, him there is little doubt that Coreau is close to being a solid NHL goaltender. During the preseason, Coreau played in 3 games stopping 86 of 90 shots and had a 1.61 goals against average.
The back-up for Coreau appears to be Eddie Pasquale, a five-year veteran who has played most of his professional career in the AHL. Pasquale spent time with the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps where in 30 games, he finished with a record of 13-10 and had a 2.62 goals against average.
Other goalies who may get a shot to impress with the Griffins this season are Jake Paterson and Calvin Heeter.
The Griffins are believed to be very strong on the blue line this season. The defense is led by veteran and newly named team captain Nathan Paetsch. Griffins veteran Brian Lashoff will also be returning. Lashoff was recently named an assistant captain. The New York native has played in 262 games with the Griffins over a span of six seasons. Nick Jensen is back for his fourth season with Grand Rapids. During the Red Wings training camp, Jensen was competing for a roster spot with Xaiver Ouellet and Ryan Sproul, both of whom made the Red Wings roster. Jensen should be the first Griffins defenseman to get the call if a Red Wings blue liner goes down with an injury. Robbie Russo is back for his second season with Grand Rapids. Russo turned a lot of heads last season leading the AHL in the plus/minus category. Russo is close to being an NHL defenseman and he should be in line for another solid season for the Griffins. Dan Renouf will be entering his first full season of professional hockey. Renouf is known for playing with an edge and is believed to become a fan favorite with his hardcore style of play. He did appear in 6 games with the Griffins last season. Conor Allen begins his first season with the Griffins. Allen is looking to make a name for himself and regain his style of play that made him a force in professional hockey. Joe Hicketts is set to make his professional hockey debut this season. Hicketts spent the last two seasons playing in the WHL for the Victoria Royals. The Griffins front office is impressed with the offensive ability of Hicketts. Rounding out the defenseman is another first year Griffin, Matthew Caito. Caito played for NCAA hockey powerhouse, Miami (OH) University. He played in 151 games for the RedHawks.
Teemu Pulkkinen and Martin Frk were placed on waivers by the Red Wings before the start of the season. The thought of those two joining the Griffins was just too good to be true. Eric Tangradi was the leading goal scorer for the Griffins last season. The seventh year pro is coming off his best season and feels like he has much to improve on entering the 2016-2017 season. Fan favorite Mitch Callahan also returns to the Griffins after a solid preseason with the Red Wings. He is back for his sixth season in Grand Rapids. Callahan is looking to provide the offensive spark that led him to a career high 26 goals just three seasons ago. Louis-Marc Aubry is also back for his sixth season as a Griffin. He is coming off of his best season as a professional. Returning for his third season is gritty fourth liner Colin Campbell. Along with Aubry and now departed Jeff Hoggan, these three formed one of the best checking lines in the AHL last season. Anthony Mantha enters his third professional season and will begin it with the Griffins. But the organization believes that he still has untapped potential. The Red Wings are still waiting for him to burst onto the scene and be the dominant scorer they believe he can be. Another high draft pick by the Red Wings, Tyler Bertuzzi, is entering his second full season as a professional. The hope for Bertuzzi is the he can score goals in the regular season the way he does in the playoffs. Bertuzzi has 13 goals in 73 regular games and 14 goals in just 23 playoff games. Veterans Matthew Ford and Ben Street enter their first season with the Griffins. They are looking to bring experience and leadership to Grand Rapids. Street has scored 27 and 28 goals at the AHL level. Ford has played two seasons under head coach Todd Nelson. While only playing in 64 games last season, Ford still scored 27 goals. Entering his first professional season, the Griffins and Red Wings expect big things from young Evgeny Svechnikov. The 19-year-old had a solid preseason for Detroit with three goals in four games. Dylan Sadowy is another rookie is expected to add a scoring punch to the offense. The former third round pick scored 45 goals last season in the OHL. Former Harvard two-year captain Kyle Criscuolo will also be joining the Griffins this season. He appeared in four games for Grand Rapids last season. Dominic Turgeon comes to the Griffins from the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks where he scored 36 goals. Mike Borkowski enters his first season with the Griffins after playing 12 games last season for the AHL’s Binghamton Senators where he scored 2 goals and had 3 points. Another new addition to the Griffins roster, Matt Lorito is going to be looked at to replace former Griffin leading point scorer, Andy Miele. Last season as a rookie for the AHL’s Albany Devils, Lorito led the team in scoring where he had 54 points (18-36-54) in 71 games. Veteran Daniel Cleary is entering his first full season as a Griffins. Cleary was sent down to the Griffins last season and appeared in 35 games for Grand Rapids last season. Cleary is expected to provide another aspect of leadership to the young players who are looking to break in with the Red Wings. Tomas Nosek will be back with the Griffins for his third season. The solid two-way forward will begin the season on IR due to suffering a knee injury during training camp.
A.J. Jenks, Alex Globke, Carter Sandlak, Jack Barre, Zach Nastasiuk, and Matt Santos will also be looking to crack the Griffins lineup at some point this season.
Who is gone- There are some players who skated with the Griffins last season that have found new homes. Mark Zengerle signed an AHL deal with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms along with Andy Miele who signed with the Philadelphia Flyers but will begin the season with Lehigh Valley. Former captain Jeff Hoggan was not resigned this offseason and will begin the season as a member of the Iowa Wild. Martin Frk was claimed by the Carolina Hurricanes off of waivers on October 9. Goalie Tom McCollum signed a PTO contract with the LA Kings but was released and is now a free agent. Enforcer Joel Rechlicz signed a contract with the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors. Andreas Athanasiou, Xavier Ouellet, and Ryan Sproul all made the Red Wings out of training camp.
Who is new– There are four new additions to the Griffins roster who led their teams in scoring or goalie statistics last season. Matthew Ford led the Bakersfield Condors in goals and points (27-24-51). Matt Lorito led the Albany Devils in points last season with 54 as a first year pro. Dominic Turgeon enjoyed a 36 goal season in his final year in the WHL. Eddie Pasquale, who is expected to be the #2 goalie behind Jared Coreau, led the St. John’s IceCaps netminders with a 2.62 GAA and a .919 save percentage.
With a solid mix of young players and veterans, the Griffins should find themselves competing for not only a division title, but for a Calder Cup title.
The Griffins will open up the season at home against the Chicago Wolves. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. EDT. Single game tickets for all home games can be purchased by logging on to griffinshockey.com or by calling the box office at 616-774-4585 ext.2.
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