Red Wings AHL/ECHL update

By Zoran Manojlovic

The Detroit Red Wings prospect pipeline is running dry in the AHL and ECHL. There are only eight players who can be defined as prospects. Out of those eight, three seem to have the outlook of future regular NHLers in Jimmy Howard, Kyle Quincey and Jonathan Ericsson. They have made strides in the right direction so far this season and show promise. One is still on the bubble, Evan McGrath.

While on the other side, prospects like Ryan Oulahan, Derek Meech, Eric Himelfarb and Logan Koopmans haven’t made the strides needed to qualify as legitimate prospects for the NHL.

Evan McGrath, C, 20

McGrath is in his first pro season playing with the Griffins in the AHL. He’s finding out that the pro ranks are a whole lot tougher than the OHL, where he was a top scorer with the Kitchener Rangers last year.

Now he’s tuning his overall game and working on the things that he didn’t have to do as much in the OHL to be successful, such as using his body and working on the backcheck. This has made his offensive game take a step back, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

He still has impressive hockey sense, good puck skills and offensive instincts. He just has to keep developing his defensive game and the offense will come. Another season in the AHL will make him stronger and ready for the offensive game to be tapped.

Ryan Oulahan, C, 21

The 21-year-old Oulahan is in his second pro season, but is still feeling out the league. He hasn’t been able to take off yet and deliver offensively. In his second season, he is still fighting for playing time on a rather weak Griffins team that has lost several key offensive players.

Oulahan has mostly been paying his dues on the third and fourth lines. He has never been known as a big scorer, but if he’s about to take his game to another level, then he has to start providing more than just good skating ability and solid effort.

He’s still a young player who has a lot to learn on the farm. He will most likely spend at least another two to three years on the farm in hopes of getting a shot with the Red Wings.

Jonathan Ericsson, D, 22

Ericsson is one of the brightest spots on the Red Wings prospect chart this season. He has gone from a below average player at the second-tier level in Sweden to a rock-solid player at the AHL level.

He started off by having a very strong camp with the Red Wings, getting to play in several preseason games and looking promising. Then after getting back from a minor injury, he took off with the Griffins and is just getting better and better with every game that passes. He has 12 points in 27 games.

Ericsson has always had a very intriguing package of size, skating and puck skills, but unfortunately he never got a fair chance in Sweden. Now he’s getting just that with the Griffins and it looks like he might be a solid player for the Red Wings within the next two years or so.

Kyle Quincey, D, 21

The second-year pro, Quincey has done exactly what has been asked of him by the Red Wings brass. He has taken another step in the right direction this season and is the No. 1 defenseman for the Griffins.

In the preseason, he made a good impression and was one of the last cuts from the Red Wings team. Therefore he will likely be the first one to be called up once there is an injury. With the Griffins he logs big minutes and is used in all situations.

This could very well be his last season on the farm as he was very close to cracking the lineup this fall. He has played in two games so far this season with the Wings and he’ll likely get more games as the injuries keep cropping up.

Derek Meech, D, 22

Meech is in his third year with the Griffins after a successful career with the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL. So far in his pro career he hasn’t been able to deliver what he did in major junior: offense.

This season he has polished his defensive game, maybe at the cost of his offensive game. He has just collected three helpers in 24 games with the Griffins. Those numbers don’t look good for an undersized, puckmoving defenseman.

Yet, he has managed get a few games with the Red Wings as an emergency call-up during last week’s action. He has developed his defensive game, but doesn’t seem to be able to take of offensively at the pro level. His future with the Red Wings remains unclear.

Jimmy Howard, G, 22

Howard didn’t have an easy task heading into this season with the Griffins, after posting stellar numbers in his rookie campaign. The team got weaker in the offseason, putting even more pressure on the young netminder.

As a result, he had a slow start to the season but slowly seems to be finding back to his old form posting impressive numbers in the past nine games, going 6-2-1. He’s still on the learning curve, but shows tremendous potential. He has the ability to win games on his own and keep a team alive when they need it the most.

He will seriously compete for a roster spot with the Red Wings next season and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he gets a chance to show off his potential in the NHL.

Eric Himelfarb, C, 23

The dimunitive center has had an up-and-down pro career so far. His future didn’t seem to be moving in the right direction as he wasn’t signed by the team that had drafted him originally, the Montreal Canadiens. Instead, he signed as a free agent on March 30, 2004 with the Red Wings. Now in his third season with the Griffins, Himelfarb hasn’t made any remarkable strides towards pushing for a call-up to the NHL.

Himelfarb is small but has very good speed and quickness, which should help him thrive under the new rules. But apparently that hasn’t been the case. So far this season, the 23-year-old center has only scored three goals in 21 games and recorded a total of 10 points.

He has to get back to his old scoring self from the junior when he was an impact player offensively if he’s going to challenge seriously for an NHL spot.

Logan Koopmans, G, 22

The Cranbrook, British Columbia native is in his third pro season, after spending three seasons with the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL. Because of a logjam at the goaltending position since his arrival from juniors, Koopmans has been stuck in the ECHL. He has been solid, but unspectacular.

This season, with the Red Wings having Howard and Stefan Liv in the AHL, Koopmans doesn´t have a good chance of getting some quality minutes in the AHL.

There could be an opening down the road though, if Liv decides that he has had enough of being a backup for Howard and returns back home, as several other prospects have done so far. Currently he’s determined to fight for ice time, which means that Koopmans will be doing time in the ECHL.

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