Europe has always been a great source for high-profile talent for the Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings had a total of six prospects that played in Europe this season.
For Johan Ryno and Igor Grigorenko, playing in Europe this year was not supposed to happen, as they were expected to either make the Red Wings as reserve players or the Grand Rapids Griffins as regulars.
Johan Ryno, RW
Acquired: 6th round, 137th overall, 2005
Spending the season in Djurgarden of the Swedish Elite League was not what the Red Wings had in mind for Johan Ryno. The offensively talented winger was getting a long look by the Red Wings at training camp, but they sent him to the AHL affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins in order to get him some much needed regular playing time at the pro level.
Ryno produced offensively with Grand Rapids, earning three goals and four assists for seven points in 12 games. However, Ryno requested to be sent back home to Sweden to play for Djurgarden. It seemed that he could not handle the North American physical style of play, as he needs to add necessary strength to his 6’5, 209 lbs frame.
With Djurgarden, Ryno tallied only two goals and seven assists in 30 games. In five playoff games, Ryno was unable to register a point.
Another year in Sweden is quite possibly what the soon to be 22-year-old needed. As he develops both mentally and physically, Ryno should prove to be able to handle the rougher, more physical style of play in North America.
Dick Axelsson, LW
Acquired: Second round, 62nd overall, 2006
Axelsson has had a rollercoaster ride of a season. He started the year off pretty well, only to lose his scoring touch in the middle of the year. He then turned his game around in the last nine games, scoring four goals and three assists. He finished the season with 12 goals and 13 assists in 47 games with Djurgarden.
The 20-year-old winger demonstrated consistency with his aggressiveness and timing for dishing out big hits. As mid-season approached, this side of his game intensified as his offensive game went south.
Axelsson finished off his year on a really bad note off of the ice. He ended up spending the night in a holding cell for drunkenness and disorderly conduct.
Because of this unfortunate incident, Axelsson salted away his chance to play for Sweden at the World Hockey Championship.
Igor Grigorenko, RW
Acquired: Second round, 62nd overall, 2001
Grigorenko’s hockey career with the Red Wings appears to be over. GM Ken Holland was recently quoted as saying that Grigorenko no longer fits into Detroit’s plans.
In the fall, the 25-year-old winger greatly disappointed the Red Wings organization by reporting to the Red Wings camp in terrible physical shape. His efforts were dwarfed by the skills of the NHL veterans and higher skilled prospects around him.
The Red Wings sent him down to the Griffins, where they hoped that he would get back into shape and find the game that made him such a prized prospect for years.
After five games with Grand Rapids, where he failed to register a point, Grigorenko opted to leave the club and go back home to Russia to play with Salavat Yulaev in the Russian Super League. He was unimpressive with the Russian club, tallying only four goals and six assists in 27 games.
A silver lining to his dreaded season was that he helped Salavat Yulaev win the league title in five games over Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.
Acquired: Third round, 92nd overall, 2006
Larsson enjoyed a sensational year for Djurgarden of the SEL. Not only did he earn the starting job by demonstrating his quick reflexes and poise, but he used those skills to help capture the league’s rookie of the year and goaltender of the year.
To earn these honors, the 22-year-old netminder played in 46 games, posting a goals against average of 2.29 and an equally impressive save percentage of .921.
Larsson is on the cusp of signing a contract with the Red Wings and is poised to travel to North America to attend the Red Wings training camp in the fall. He’ll likely be the starter for the Griffins next year.
Acquired: Third round, 87th overall, 2007
The 19-year-old center enjoyed a successful year at each level he played. Playing for his main club, Borås in Allsvenskan (2nd-division), Andersson tallied six goals and 17 assists in 33 games.
While playing for the Swedish national team at the World Junior Hockey Championships, the 20-year-old played admirably helping the Swedes earn a spot in the bronze medal game where they were defeated by the United States. He also played for the Frolunda U20 junior team where he helped the team win the Swedish Junior Championship. In those playoffs he was electric, scoring six goals and three assists in only five games.
Andersson is expected to take his game to the next level in the fall. It is speculated that he will play for Frolunda, in the Swedish Elite League, where he will continue to develop his skills and add more strength to match his size.
Anton Axelsson, LW
Acquired: Fifth round, 192nd overall, 2004
In a year when it was necessary for him to post strong numbers and show potential to be the checking forward that the Red Wings envision him as, Anton Axelsson did not live up to expectations.
The 21-year-old winger, the younger brother of Boston Bruins forward PJ Axelsson, tallied 10 goals and 10 assists for 20 points in 50 games while playing with Timra of the SEL. He was expected to take his offensive game to a higher level, while improving his strength, but failed to do so.
Axelsson’s year started off very slowly and only a late season surge where he scored five goals and three assists in the last 11 games saved his year from becoming a disaster. All 10 of his goals were scored in the second half of the year.
It is speculated that Axelsson will not be offered a contract by the Red Wings by June 1, making him a free agent.