Red Wings 2009-10 AHL/ECHL prospects update

By Brandon Peleshok

With the slew of injuries to the Detroit Red Wings, it’s surprising that more prospects from Grand Rapids haven’t been called up. There are 15 prospects that started the year at the AHL level, and also one in the ECHL. Of the prospects, eight are forwards, five are defensemen and three are goaltenders.

Tomas Tatar, LW
Acquired: 2nd round, 60th overall, 2009

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the Red Wings prospects has been Tatar. The 19-year-old Slovak native was slated to play juniors this season, but earned himself a spot on the Grand Rapids roster straight out of camp. With Detroit liking their prospects over-ripe, it speaks volumes that they would allow him to stay at the AHL level. In 22 games with the Griffins, Tatar has put up 17 points. His nose for the net is just what Detroit needs. Tatar is currently playing for the Slovak national team in the World Juniors, the place where he first turned the heads of the hockey world a year ago.

Dick Axelsson, LW
Acquired: 2nd round, 62nd overall, 2006

Another surprise, albeit a negative one, came with the play and attitude of Axelsson. Pegged as a pure offensive talent in Detroit’s system, he was able to put up just five points in 17 games with Grand Rapids. Axelsson’s struggles saw him riding the bench several times during the year, being replaced by hungrier and more driven players. Ultimately, the struggling 22-year-old Swede decided to take himself out of the AHL, going home to Sweden and being suspended by the Red Wings. Whether Axelsson’s move will drop him right off Detroit’s radar, or if it’s just another bump in the road remains to be seen.

Jan Mursak, RW
Acquired: 6th round, 182nd overall, 2006

After struggling a great deal in the 2008-09 season, Mursak has been able to find his stride this year as a member of the Griffins. While his small stature stifled his progress last season, this year he has found a way to battle for pucks and position. In 33 games with Grand Rapids, the 21-year-old Slovenian has put up 20 points, 12 of which were goals. His current course of play combined with the absence of Axelsson could put Mursak in line to be a sniper for the Red Wings.

Cory Emmerton, C
Acquired: 2nd round, 41st overall, 2006

The well-rounded play of Emmerton has earned him time in the top two lines of Grand Rapids. Plagued by injuries during his junior career, he is enjoying a rather injury-free AHL career. Though he has only put up 15 points in 32 games, the defensive aspects of his game have stood out. Early in the season he was the leading prospect for the team, but has cooled off in the last 10 or so games. The 21-year-old’s skills as a complete player suit the Red Wings style of play, but he will need to be more consistent in his offensive production if he hopes to make the team.

Mattias Ritola, C
Acquired: 4th round, 103rd overall, 2005

In his third year as a member of the Griffins, Ritola has continued to adapt to a North American style of game, sticking it out through the rough patches of play. The 22-year-old has learned to physically engage the opposition much more than he did in his first year, and also continued to look for an offensive touch around the net. Through 32 games with the Griffins he has put up just 15 points, but maintained strong defensive play. He earned a call-up with Detroit, and is currently up with the team.

Francis Pare, RW
Acquired: Undrafted, Signed as a free agent in 2009

In the 2008-09 season, Pare was given an AHL contract with the Griffins. His solid play, 48 points in 63 games, earned him a contract with Detroit in the 2009 off-season. The 22-year-old Quebec native has slowed down a bit though, as he has put up just 15 points through 31 games. He is also a team-high +13 for the Griffins. Pare has shown himself to be skilled with the puck with a nose for the net, something that could help him in a Red Wings system that lacks offensive punch.

Evan McGrath, C
Acquired: 4th round, 128th overall, 2004

McGrath has steadily improved his game over the past four seasons of play with the Griffins. The 23-year-old center struggled mightily in the early years of his AHL career, but has improved both offensively and defensively all the while. However, the 2009-10 season has been a bit of a step back for McGrath. Through 32 games with the Griffins, he has put up just 12 points. While his defensive game has greatly improved, his low point totals may cost him in the end.

Jakub Kindl, D
Acquired: 1st round, 19th overall, 2005

Kindl’s play has been closely monitored and often scrutinized. His poor plus/minus rating in the past couple years has given reason for alarm, but he has steadily improved it in that time. Playing top-pairing minutes for the Griffins, Kindl is a -3 rating, and has put up 16 points over the course of 29 games. The 22-year-old has also adjusted to the pace of the AHL very well, making many fewer mistakes than in his previous two years. In early December, Kindl received a call-up to the Red Wings, where he played in three games, going pointless and posting a -2 rating. He could see regular NHL time as soon as next year, with several Red Wings becoming free agents in the offseason.

Logan Pyett, D
Acquired: 7th round, 212th overall, 2006

While Pyett is a seventh-round selection, the 21-year-old defenseman showed a lot of promise coming into his AHL career. However, his 2008-09 season was full of underachieving play. As an offensive defenseman, Pyett put up a mere 14 points in 61 games. He has turned things around a bit, showing a good deal of improvement during the 2009-10 season. In 33 games played, Pyett has been able to put up 13 points, just one shy of his last year’s total. His willingness to engage in puck battles and find proper pace and timing have contributed to his better play. Pyett will have to continue to improve his game if he hopes to become an NHL-caliber player.

Sergei Kolosov, D
Acquired: 5th round, 151st overall, 2004

At 6’4 and 217 lbs. Kolosov sees himself as one of the largest bodies in the Red Wings system. What he lacks in terms of offensive, he makes up for in brute strength and physical play. The 23-year-old Belarusian defender maintains his strong play, while taking minimal penalties, with only eight PIMs on the year. With only three points through 32 games played, Kolosov will have to prove himself to be very responsible defensively while dishing out punishment. With respect to his NHL future, the result of Andres Lilja’s injury could very well determine whether or not Detroit needs to add a big body on their blue line.

Travis Ehrhardt, D
Acquired: Undrafted, Signed as a free agent in 2009

Ehrhardt started the 2009-10 season as a member of the Toledo Walleye, but was quickly called up to the Griffins after playing three games. Signed in the summer of 2009, the 20-year-old was added to the team in hopes of adding an offensive flair to defensive depth. Spending time as a healthy scratch and third-pairing defenseman, Ehrhardt has put up just two points in 18 games.

Sebastien Piche, D
Acquired: Undrafted, Signed as a free agent in 2009

Piche was also signed this summer for his offensive talents, as he posted very good numbers in the QMJHL. However, he was plagued by a very poor start as a member of the Griffins. After the 21-year-old went scoreless over a period of nine games, he was sent down to the ECHL. In 10 games as a member of the Walleye, Piche has netted eight points.

Daniel Larsson, G
Acquired: 3rd round, 92nd overall, 2006

When Jimmy Howard graduated to play full time as a member of the Red Wings, Larsson was left with the reins in Grand Rapids. While Curt Fraser has generally tried to even out games played among the goaltenders, Larsson is showing himself to be the definite starter of the team. Through 20 games with the Griffins, the 23-year-old Swede has put up a 2.79 GAA and .907 save percentage. With pressure above from the NHL and below from fellow goaltenders McCollum and Pearce, Larsson will have to continue to prove himself for the duration of the season.

Thomas McCollum, G
Acquired 1st round, 30th overall, 2008

As a first-round selection by the Red Wings, a great deal was expected out of McCollum when he hit the AHL level. His numbers coming out of the OHL were excellent, but his consistency and ability to perform under pressure were questioned. Unfortunately, the 2009-10 season hasn’t gone as well as anticipated. He’s put up a 3.10 GAA and .887 save percentage for the Griffins through 16 games. His play will certainly have to get better to move up the depth chart, but the 20-year-old netminder still has plenty of time to mold himself into the No. 1 goaltender the Red Wings were expecting.

Jordan Pearce, G
Acquired: Undrafted, Signed as a free agent in 2009

The 23-year-old Pearce has had a tough start to the 2009-10 season. Signed in April of 2009, the netminder was inked to give the team some much-needed depth in between the pipes. After putting up superb numbers for Notre Dame during the 2008-09 year (1.68 GAA and .931%), he has struggled mightily. With Larsson and McCollum in Grand Rapids, Pearce was sent to the ECHL affiliate Toledo Walleye. In 16 games with the team, he has posted a 3.71 GAA and .885 save percentage, a large step down from his college numbers. Pearce will need to prove that he can stick it out and battle.