I can’t imagine what the room chemistry has been like in Grand Rapids for the last couple of years with a good chunk of their roster missing. Late into the Red Wings season, the third straight that they’ll miss the playoffs, the team started to shut down its veteran players as they crumbled under the wear and tear of a long NHL season. They were replaced by some of the best players in Grand Rapids. Today, the Wings assigned them all back to the AHL.
UPDATE: The #RedWings today assigned F Christoffer Ehn, Martin Frk, Matt Puempel and Dominic Turgeon and D Jake Chelios, Joe Hicketts, Filip Hronek and Dylan McIlrath to the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins and assigned G Kaden Fulcher to the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye. pic.twitter.com/71CCfUNXU6
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) April 7, 2019
Each of these players played for different amounts of games at various times this season. Leading the way as perhaps the most regular on the NHL roster were Christoffer Ehn and Filip Hronek, both of whom made the team out of training camp, but were sent down and called back up throughout the season.
Both of these young players showed considerable signs of improvement over the course of the season. Ehn, who had three goals and nine points through 60 games, began to show signs of consistency with speed and effort as a bottom-6, defensively responsible player. Hronek showed signs of a top-4 defenseman who could successfully quarterback a power play. He had five goals and 23 points in 46 games.
Other than them, the remaining players were mostly called up to fill the gaps at the end of the season. Dylan McIlrath and Jake Chelios played admirably, but it’s hard to see them in the lineup over any other defenseman the Red Wings have, including Hronek and Dennis Cholowski. Matt Puempel and Dominic Turgeon both looked good out there and probably deserve more of a fair shake at the NHL level. The problem is, there’s just no room for them on the NHL roster.
The biggest victim of this lack of space is Joe Hicketts. Hicketts started and ended the season with the Red Wings. At 5’8″, he’s always had an uphill climb, but he plays with such passion and fire that it wears his opponents down. In his latest call-up, he looked at his most confident. It will be really interesting to see how Detroit deals with him in this contract year. If he’s re-signed, what’s the development plan for him? He’s still got a few players to jump on the depth chart if he wants on the roster regularly.
And then there’s Martin Frk. Poor Frk. Everyone had such high hopes for him and his booming shot, but he just never materialized as a regular NHLer. His contract is also expiring this year and I’d be very surprised if the Red Wings extended him to anything more than an AHL deal.
With all of these players back in Grand Rapids, the Griffins are gearing up for another playoff run. They have yet to clinch their post-season berth, but they’re currently second in the Central Division with a five point lead on third place. They’ll make it and hopefully they do some damage.