MLive’s Ansar Khan is posting a set of Red Wings player profiles as training camp approaches, and Khan kicks off his the series by discussing Andreas Athanasiou’s 2018-19 season accomplishments, as well as his 2019-2020 season outlook:
2019-20 outlook: Athanasiou experienced a breakout season after two years of inconsistent play that occasionally drew criticism from coach Jeff Blashill for lack of engagement. Blashill praised him in training camp and continued to laud his competitive level throughout the season.
Athanasiou made a seamless transition to center following the trade deadline and performed well there the final 19 games. He was destined to be the second-line center until Valtteri Filppula was signed on July 1. Now the plan is for Athanasiou to return to the wing, perhaps on a line with Filppula or Frans Nielsen at center and Taro Hirose at the other wing.
Athanasiou’s elite speed and finishing ability should make him a consistent candidate to score 30 goals. Playing the wing will reduce some of his defensive responsibilities, but it’s an area of his game Blashill will continue to stress, regardless if he’s at center or wing.
It’s a contract year for Athanasiou, who could cash in with a long-term deal worth more than $5 million per season with another strong showing.