As Training Camp draws to a close in Traverse City, MI and the Preseason slate of games gets underway, the Red Wings will begin to evaluate players and start to reassign them to their respective Junior and Minor League teams.
The Griffins lost a slew of scoring this off season after players such as Eric Tangradi (New Jersey Devils), Ben Street (Anaheim Ducks), and Matt Lorito (New York Islanders) all found new homes. The three forwards combined for 75 goals and 103 assists (75-103-178). Each of these players were instrumental in helping the Griffins capture the 2017 Calder Cup.
The 2018 Postseason was a tough pill to swallow for Grand Rapids. They had to deal with injuries to Matt Lortio and Dominic Turgeon, who were both absent from the Griffins playoff series vs the Manitoba Moose. Eric Tangradi was suspended for the fifth and decisive game of the series due to and illegal cross check stemming from game four. These problems proved to be too large for the Griffins to advance to the second round. Once the season was over, it brought out many questions as to what was going to happen to the previously mentioned players. Many people within the Red Wings organization believed that these three players were deserving of an NHL shot, but it was not likely going to happen in Detroit. The Red Wings chose not to offer any of the players contracts and they moved on to other organizations.
Once these players were gone, the organization went to work. The Red Wings signed Wade Megan, Chris Terry, and the Griffins acquired Carter Camper from the Tuscon Roadrunners in a trade. Megan and Terry are expected to join Camper on the Griffins roster. Wade Megan knows the Griffins very well, playing with the Chicago Wolves over the previous two seasons. He led the AHL in goals during the 2016-2017 regular season and finished the regular season with 66 points. He did not have the goal scoring punch in 2017-2018 scoring only 11, but he does have the ability to score 20+ goals consistently. Chris Terry is expected to make a large impact for the Grand Rapids Griffins. Terry led the AHL in points with 71 (32-39-71) during the 2017-2018 regular season as a member of the Laval Rocket. Terry has scored 30+ goals in the AHL three times and has had five seasons of collecting 60+ points. He has appeared in 152 NHL games and has amassed 38 points (22-16-38).
The Griffins are expected to have a couple of familiar scoring faces return in the likes of Matt Puempel and Captain Matt Ford. Ford, who resigned for two more years in the off season, is coming off of a solid offensive year. He added 22 goals and collected 38 points (22-16-38). Ford has shown the ability to score at the AHL level and is expected to contribute again while wearing the “C” for first year head coach Ben Simon. Another player that the Red Wings organization is high on is forward Matt Puempel. Puempel was acquired via trade last season from the New York Rangers organization for often injured defenseman Ryan Sproul. Puempel dealt with some minor injuries that kept him out of the lineup for a few games, but he was still able to score 23 goals and collect 34 assists (23-34-57). Puempel is expected to begin the season in Grand Rapids and may get a look with Detroit should injuries become a problem.
David Pope was drafted by the Red Wings in the 2013 Draft. At 24, and expected to make his professional debut with the Griffins, he is considered as a late bloomer. For the past four years, Pope has played Collegiate Hockey for the University of Nebraska-Omaha. During his final NCAA season, Pope contributed by averaging more than a point a game finishing with 41 points (20-21-41) in just 35 games. Pope has the body of an NHLer standing at 6’3″ and has a booming shot. Pope will no doubt be someone to look out for if the injury bug bites the Detroit Red Wings.