The American Hockey League provides some excellent opportunities for their NHL counterparts’ cupboard of prospects. Not only is it the top developmental league in the world — and provides the springboard for so many future NHLers — it allows for players to sign professional and amateur tryouts at the end of the season (or at time during the season, really), giving players whose seasons have ended a place to play. Junior and collegiate players have a chance to impress the teams that drafted them (or another NHL club if they’re free agents) and they don’t have to count against the NHL club’s contract limit.
With a bunch of prospects’ seasons coming to an end in the last week or so, the Grand Rapids Griffins are loading up with Detroit Red Wings draft picks and prospects. The Griffins playoffs hopes are fading, unfortunately, and they may have the opportunity to try a bunch of different looks and give the Red Wings a chance to see a bit of the players they’ll have to sign in the coming years. A quick rundown of the players currently in residence in Grand Rapids:
RAMIS SADIKOV :: Goaltender
He’s not Red Wings property, but he was an invitee to camp this past summer. He got a long look and the Wings may be looking to sign the Erie Otters goaltender to shore up net depth in the coming years. With Pearce and Conklin in Detroit, the Griffins can use all the help they can get with netminders.
ADAM ALMQVIST :: Defenseman
Almqvist is already under contract with the Red Wings, having signed a three-year entry-level deal last summer. There’s talk that he’ll be in the American Hockey League next season, which is excellent considering the Griffins are very likely losing another top-flight blueline prospect in Brendan Smith. Almqvist’s season ended and the Wings re-assigned him to the Griffins today.
RICHARD NEDOMLEL :: Defenseman
The Wings’ sixth round draft pick from 2011 doesn’t need to be signed to a contract until next summer, but when his season came to an end (Swift Current of the WHL), the Griffins swooped in and signed him to an amateur tryout. He’s 6-4, 202 and had a breakout season offensively in Canadian juniors.
RYAN SPROUL :: Defenseman
Sproul was officially signed by the Red Wings over the weekend, but his contract won’t begin until he turns pro — likely in 2013-14. His OHL season ended and he’ll be able to maintain his junior eligibility by signing an ATO with the Griffins. He’s a second round pick from last June.
RILEY SHEAHAN :: Winger
Unlike junior players, collegiate players have to forego their amateur status to join an AHL club, even if they sign an amateur tryout. Sheahan has said that he’s withdrawn from Notre Dame following his junior season, meaning he will almost certainly be signed by the Red Wings this summer and join the Griffins on a permanent basis for next season. For now, he’ll get into game where he can.
ALAN QUINE :: Center
Another second round pick from 2011 has joined the Griffins on an ATO. Like Sproul, he won’t be eligible to play for the Griffins permanently for a few seasons — and the Wings would have to sign him to an offer first anyway — but Peterborough’s season is over and the Wings would rather have him play somewhere than start his summer vacation.
Some other notes:
XAVIER OUELLET, who signed over the weekend with Sproul, will not be joining the Griffins at this time. His junior club, the Blainville-Broisbrand Armada of the QMJHL, is still competing in the playoffs. If that changes, he’ll likely join the fellas listed above.
JULIEN CAYER, a Red Wings draft pick from 2008, has completed his senior season at Clarkson University. He needs to be signed by August or the Wings will no longer hold his rights. As of yet, he has not been invited to join the Griffins, meaning he has likely been told that he does not have a future with the Red Wings.
BROOKS MACEK, like Cayer, is a draft pick whose rights are set to expire this summer. His Calgary Hitmen (of the WHL) are still playing, so we’ll see what happens when/if they’re eliminated before the Griffins season ends.
TOMAS JURCO, the gem of the ’11 Draft for the Wings, has not been signed (and won’t need to be for another year), and is still playing in the QMJHL tournament. I’m sure the Wings would love for him to join the Griffins, as a fortunate birthday means that he’ll be able to play in the AHL next year instead of the year after like most of his Draft classmates.
MAREK TVERDON, of the Vancouver Giants, is still playing and likely won’t be joining his 2011 Draft classmates in Grand Rapids unless that changes.
CALLE JARNKROK and TEEMU PULKKINEN, the two blue chip prospects playing in Europe, are both engaged in playoffs in their respective leagues. The Wings would love to get a look at each of them, but they’re in a different boat than the rest of the players mentioned: guys drafted from Europe don’t have signing deadlines, so they could pull an Axelsson and never come over unless they’re promised NHL time… or they could pull a Filppula and come over to be groomed by the Griffins.
NICK JENSEN and BENJAMIN MARSHALL are not eligible for ATOs, as they’re competing in collegiate hockey.
And thanks to our good friend @Kyle_Kujawa of the Grand Rapids Griffins who pointed out that we were incorrect to list PHILLIPE HUDON just above as a collegian. He left Cornell University while suffering from severe obsessive compulsive disorder. He’s joined the Victoriaville Tigres of the QMJHL, meaning he cannot return to college hockey. He’s participating in the Q playoffs, as well, so he likely won’t be added to the Griffins — but we thank Kyle for the head’s up!