Andreas Athanasiou, a.k.a AA, made his 2015-16 NHL debut last season on November 8, 2015 when the Dallas Stars visited Joe Louis Arena for the first matchup between the two teams of the season. Detroit lost by a score of 4-1, with the only goal coming from Gustav Nyquist on the powerplay. Athanasiou’s performance wasn’t much to write home about. He only played seventeen shifts for a total TOI of 9:36. It didn’t take him long to get it going, though. And once he did, the Red Wings fanbase fell in love with his speed and highlight reel goals.
Unfortunately, his ice time never got much better than that original 9:36. His average time on ice in 2015-16 was 9:01. The big question for this coming season is whether or not AA will get the ice time that he deserves. But first, he’s got to make the team.
Born in London, Ontario, Athanasiou was drafted 110th overall by the Red Wings in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. He spent two more seasons in the OHL, where he was a 1.22 point-per-game player for the Barrie Colts. He then played one full season for the Griffins where he 32 points and nine playoff points before splitting the 2015-16 season with the Red Wings.
Athanasiou spent a lot of time on the Red Wings bench last season, only averaging nine minutes of ice time per game. He’s known for his incredible speed, earning him the nickname “Greek Lightning”.
Last Year’s Stats
As far as rookie seasons go, Athanasiou’s was pretty good. He netted nine goals and fourteen points, the first coming in his second NHL game against the Washington Capitals. He followed that up with highlight reel goals that displayed his speed and finesse with the puck.
From an advanced statistics perspective, Athanasiou was only average. His 50.7 CF% ranked him in the bottom half of the roster, despite getting 64.2% of his starts in the offensive zone. That being said, this is such a small sample size for such an exciting player. One can only wonder if these stats would look differently had he gotten more time on the ice with better players.
There’s no doubt that Athanasiou is a young player who still has a lot to learn, but he needs to get the playing experience at the NHL level if he’s going to develop into an NHL player. He didn’t get that last season.
It’s tough to talk about Athanasiou’s comparables from a salary perspective, since he’s still on his entry level deal.
However, looking at rookies who played less than forty games in 2015-16, Athanasiou has got some competition. Nick Cousins and Frankie Vatrano put up similar numbers for the Philadelphia Flyers and the Boston Bruins respectively. Kerby Rychel wasn’t far behind. Of these three, only Nick Cousins is on his team’s opening night roster, so it’s not unlikely for players to be playing in the minors at this stage of their career. The difference with Athanasiou is that we’ve seen that he’s better than some roster players on the Red Wings and he deserves a spot on the team.
He’s also faster than all three of the guys listed here. Like, way faster.
This Year’s Projection
Andreas Athanasiou made the 2016-17 Detroit Red Wings roster. It was a tough training camp, full of uncertainty. Athanasiou and teammate Anthony Mantha played their hearts out, both feeling they were deserving of a spot on the roster. Alas, only one of them made it and Mantha will be starting the season with the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Which is exciting for Athanasiou! It means that he’ll be starting the season…. In the press box.
Yep – as it stands at the time of this writing, Athanasiou is the extra forward and will be sitting the first game of the season against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He’ll likely get a chance to play if injury befalls one of the players or someone goes on a long offensive slump. Then, Athanasiou will have to prove that he deserves to stay on the roster.
The competition is fierce, but this is the position that Ken Holland has put his team in by signing veteran after veteran in the offseason. It’s been said to death, but if Steve Ott and Drew Miller were not offered contracts this offseason, both Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou would be suiting up for tonight’s game.
Instead, Athanasiou will be literally suiting up and watching from afar.