Afternoon news: On Niklas Kronwall, available-to-draft prospects and the Griffins’ “bests”

Of Red Wings-related note this afternoon:

  1. At one end of the spectrum, DetroitRedWings.com’s Dana Wakiji filed a locker room clean-out day article about Niklas Kronwall, who wants to continue playing through the 2018-19 season:

“I think it’s awesome when you have guys coming up,” Kronwall said. “And I think obviously with where we are at, we’re destined to have some young players, especially on D, taking steps. We’ve seen (Dylan Larkin), (Anthony Mantha), (Andreas Athanasiou), (Tyler Bertuzzi), we’ve seen some guys up front, and I think it’s definitely time for the back end to also get rejuvenated with some young players.”

As with Zetterberg, Kronwall knows that his career is closer to the end than to the beginning, but he is not ready to retire as he has one year left on his contract and he feels better than he has in previous seasons.

“The last two seasons after the year, I wasn’t really sure what was going to come out of the training,” Kronwall said. “That part I do feel like if I stick with the program and do what gave me a chance to play this year, I’ll be just fine. Hopefully, tweak the training regimen a little bit and make it even better.

“I don’t think It’ll be any different than it was last year. I’m trying to train as hard as I possibly can and just be ready to go come training camp.”

2. At the other end of the spectrum, the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan posted a list of the top 20 available-to-draft NHL prospects, now that the NHL has released is 2018 draft rankings, and the Free Press’s Helene St. James posted an article in which she surmised which of the available-to-draft prospects might intrigue the Wings;

3. And in Grand Rapids, the Grand Rapids Press’s Peter J. Wallner eschewed end-of-season grades for a look at the Griffins’ stat leaders and “best and worst” of the Griffins’ 2017-18 campaign:

Griffins’ discuss upcoming playoff series vs. Manitoba

The Grand Rapids Press’s Andrew Streitel spoke with several members of the Grand Rapids Griffins regarding the team’s upcoming best-of-five playoff series against the Manitoba Moose, which kicks off with a pair of road games in Winnipeg on Saturday and Sunday:

The team was confident about their matchup against the Moose after going 6-2 against them during the regular season.

“We have been a good road team all season and we do a good job playing a simple game on the road and it’s a building we feel comfortable playing in,” said defenseman Brian Lashoff. “They are a really good team with size up front, great goaltending and special teams.”

Lashoff added that depth and execution on special teams could also help the Griffins in the series.

The Griffins finished the season on a roll at 9-1-1-1 in the final 12 games. The team played better on the road (22-10-1-5) and don’t feel stressed with the first two games at Manitoba.

“Feels like we are the underdogs and have something to prove,” Colin Campbell said after a three-goal night. “Physically we are a little worn out, but we have two days off here in a row. Everyone will be ready for them.”

Streitel continues, and Lashoff appeared on WOOD TV’s Sports Overtime with Larry Figurski on Sunday night:

 

Khan profiles Martin Frk

MLive’s Ansar Khan filed a locker room clean-out day article regarding Martin Frk, discussing Frk’s desire to maximize his ice time by scoring more goals next season:

“I wish I scored more goals,” Frk said. “I was having kind of bad stretches. It’s a hard league and I got to find a way to be better with that. You’re also playing with great players on the power play. I learned a lot and I bet I will learn a lot in this league when I play more games.”

The right-shooting Frk’s booming one-timer was a weapon on the power play (five goals). His challenge is finding ways to score at even strength. He occasionally played on a top-two line but spent a lot of time on the fourth line. He averaged 10:17 in ice time, the lowest among regular forwards.

“There’s no way to have enough ice time for everybody if you want your better players in that 18-20 (minute) range,” Blashill said. “Someone’s going to get cut in ice time.

“As a group we got to find a way to score more goals. If we’re not able to score at elite levels with our top two lines, then we got to make sure we outscore teams in our bottom two lines, so certainly Marty would fit into that as well.”

Preventing goals also is important for Frk. His minus-14 was tied for the second-worst on the team.

“Blash is really strict and he wants the players to work on both sides of the ice,” Frk said. “It’s definitely a little bit different for me. I’m trying to be as good offensively and defensive side. Especially on that fourth line you don’t want the line to score against you.”

Khan continues, and he posted a video of Frk’s locker room clean-out day remarks:

I believe that Frk can be utilized as an asset in a scoring/checking role, but Frk’s going to have to improve his defensive play and skating to work his way off the fourth line.

Frk happens to have left Detroit on Sunday, so he said, “Goodbye” on Twitter and Instagram:

 

Prospect playoff round-up: Smith scores 2 as Kitchener advances to Conference Final; Sambrook’s Greyhounds on the brink

Of playoff-related prospect note:

In the OHL, Givani Smith scored 2 goals, finishing at +2 with 3 shots as his Kitchener Rangers won 6-2 over the Sarnia Sting. You can watch highlights of the game here.

Kitchener won the teams’ second-round series in 6 games, and Kitchener advances to one of two OHL Conference Finals;

Kitchener will play against the winner of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds-Owen Sound Attack series, and Jordan Sambrook’s Greyhounds are in trouble.

Sambrook finished at -2 with 1 shot as Sault Ste. Marie lost 7-1 to Owen Sound, which now leads the teams’ second-round series 3 games to 2, tying the second-round series at 3 games apiece. You can watch highlights of the game here.

Griffins release Trevor Yates, Matej Machovsky

A bit of a bummer here as Matej Machovsky didn’t have the patience to stick around and earn a spot. From the Grand Rapids Griffins:

GRIFFINS ANNOUNCE ROSTER TRANSACTIONS

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Griffins on Sunday announced that center Trevor Yates has been released from his amateur tryout and that goaltender Matej Machovsky will be returning to the Czech Republic for the remainder of the season.

Signed to a contract for the 2018-19 campaign and to an amateur tryout for this season on March 29, Yates skated in his professional debut with the Griffins on Wednesday at Texas. He appeared in a total of two games with Grand Rapids and picked up his first pro point on an assist in Thursday’s 6-2 win at San Antonio.

Yates, 23, appeared in 33 games with the Cornell Big Red (ECAC) this season as an alternate captain and posted career highs in points (26), goals (13), assists (13) and plus-minus rating (+17) to cap off a four-year career. He tied for the team lead in both points and goals, helping the Big Red capture the Cleary Cup as the ECAC’s regular season champion and earn a second consecutive bid to the NCAA Tournament.

A native of Beaconsfield, Quebec, Yates appeared in 120 career games with Cornell from 2014-18, producing 65 points (32-33—65), 30 penalty minutes and a plus-20 rating.

In his first pro season in North America, Machovsky, 24, showed a 1-1-1 record, a 2.43 goals against average and a 0.911 save percentage in four games with the Griffins. He made his AHL debut on Feb. 21 against Chicago and stopped 14-of-15 shots in a relief effort. Machovsky picked up his first career AHL victory in his first start on Feb. 25 versus Iowa, recording 26 saves and turning aside all three of the Wild’s shootout attempts.

Machovksy produced an 11-9-1 record with two shutouts in 21 games with the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye this season. If he had enough minutes to qualify, he would have tied for second in the league in GAA (2.02) and ranked fourth in save percentage (0.928).

A native of Opava, Czech Republic, Machovsky played the last four seasons with Plzen HC of the Czech Extraliga. Appearing in 178 games from 2013-17, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound netminder amassed a 94-84-0 record and a 2.23 GAA.

Second-seeded Grand Rapids will face third-seeded Manitoba in the best-of-five Central Division Semifinals. Game 1 is set for Saturday, April 21 at Manitoba.

Tickets for Games 3 and 4 (if necessary) of the division semifinals at Van Andel Arena are currently on sale and can be purchased at all Star Tickets locations, including The Zone, online through griffinshockey.com/tickets, by phone through Star Tickets at (800) 585-3737, or via the Griffins app for iPhone or Android.

Toledo Walleye take 2 games-to-none lead over Indy Fuel, winning 4-3

In the ECHL, in playoff action, the Toledo Walleye both rallied from a 1-0 deficit and fought of a late scare, scoring 3 straight goals en route to a 4-3 victory over the Indy Fuel.

Christian Hilbrich scored 2 goals, Tyler Barnes had 3 assists, Kyle Bonis had 2 assists and Pat Nagle stopped 29 of 32 shots as the Walleye took a 2 games-to-none lead over the Fuel.

The Walleye’s website posted a recap:

Continue reading Toledo Walleye take 2 games-to-none lead over Indy Fuel, winning 4-3

Kulfan on Athanasiou’s future

The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan filed a locker room clean-out day article regarding Andreas Athanasiou, duly noting that Athanasiou’s inconsistency clouds the restricted free agent’s future in Detroit:

“This is one of the greatest organizations in the NHL,” Athanasiou said. “If I get the opportunity to play here, it’s unbelievable. The main thing is trying to get this team back to a playoff position, so you’re a contender for the Stanley Cup.”

The opportunity to play more has been an issue for two seasons. Athanasiou saw his ice time slightly increase this season (15 minutes, 19 seconds, from 13:28 last year), but the inconsistency of playing time mirrored his production and overall play.

After a good start to his season, especially coming off a contract holdout (17 points in 31 games), Athanasiou struggled mightily the second half of the season (16 points in 40 games). Athanasiou also had a team-worst minus-15 plus-minus rating.

“You have to be ready; it’s that type of business you’re in,” Athanasiou said. “Whether it’s nine minutes, or 10 or 15, or 20, you have to be to try to do the best you can. Obviously you want to play a lot, and if I do play, I think can produce more and give the team a better chance of winning.

“(But) there are a lot of guys in this room that have to play. There’s a lot of things that go (into it) and you can’t really look to much into it. Whatever line combination (coach Jeff Blashill) puts out there, he’s trying to win hockey games. You have to respect that and be ready with whatever you got.”

Kulfan continues, and I’d peg the chances of Athanasiou being a Red Wing next fall at 60/40 “for.”

He and the coach disagree regarding the concept that ice time should be awarded based upon performance (or vice versa), and there really are games that Athanasiou dominates, and then stretches in which he disappears.

ECHL suspends Walleye’s Crisp, Fuel’s Clarke for incident during Game 1 of Walleye-Fuel series

From the ECHL:

Indy’s Garrett Clake has been suspended for one game and fined an undisclosed amount under Rule #28 – Supplementary Discipline. Clarke was assessed a major penalty and game misconduct for charging under Rule #42.5 at 16:57 of the first period.

Toledo’s Connor Crisp has been suspended for one game and fined an undisclosed amount under Rule #28 – Supplementary Discipline. Crisp was assessed a match penalty for fighting under #46.15 at 16:57 of the first period.

Both players will miss Sunday’s playoff game at Toledo.

Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the ECHL and the Professional Hockey Players’ Association, player fines collected by the ECHL are given to the PHPA for its ECHL Player’s Hardship Fund.

Per the Toledo Blade’s Mark Monroe:

 

On Blashill’s rationale for pushing Mantha and others to “take significant steps”

Last week, Anthony Mantha told DetroitRedWings.com’s Arthur J. Regner and other media scribes that coach Jeff Blashill encouraged #39 to seek out a boxing coach this summer.

This afternoon, Hockeybuzz’s Bob Duff delivers a superb quote regarding the rationale behind Blashill’s suggestion:

“Greg Cronin, the assistant (coach) for the Islanders actually told me about it a long time ago,” Blashill said of boxing as a hockey training tool. “It teaches people how to handle fear. Not fear of getting hit necessarily but fear of life and overcoming that, and not having any fear at all. But I also think it brings out aggression.

“I think with Anthony, I just want him to continue to see that there’s more there in terms of pushing himself beyond his comfort level. I’m hoping that in summer training he can push himself beyond his comfort level. If he comes back and has the same year next year that he had this year, not good enough.

“We need guys to make significant steps. There’s teams in this league that last year were out (of the playoffs) and this year are in, and if you look at it, certain individual players made real significant steps. That’s what we need from guys that have that biggest area of growth.”

Duff continues, and I hope that the coaching staff and front office take Blashill’s words to heart. It wouldn’t hurt if some of the veterans push themselves to take “significant steps” forward, either.

Wallner on Hronek’s potential

Red Wings prospect Filip Hronek scored a goal and added 3 assists in last night’s Grand Rapids Griffins win over Cleveland, and the Grand Rapids Press’s Peter J. Wallner discussed Hronek’s potential:

He potentially gives the organization a productive offensive-minded blueliner that’s been missing since Niklas Kronwall in the mid-2010s. Kronwall was the Red Wings’ second leading scorer in 2013-14 (8-41-49) and was effective the following year as well (9-35-44). Since, Mike Green had led the team the past three seasons with a high of 36 points (14-22-36) in 2016-17.

Hronek, who tacked up 14 goals and 61 points in 59 games in juniors with the Saginaw Spirit in 2016-17, has made the most of his production this season. His 11 goals have included three on the power play and four game-winners. He was also two of six in shootouts.

“I give him all the latitude possible to play offensive as long as he’s responsible on the right side of the puck and making the right reads,” coach Todd Nelson said. “I’m got going to stifle anyone’s creativity especially someone like him.”

Wallner continues