Andreas Athanasiou, aka, Greece Lightning, continued to electrify with his blazing speed and dazzling hands during the 2018-19 season. The 24-year-old was the subject of trade rumors as early as last year before he signed a two-year, $3-million extension.
Even today, the flashy winger/center is a lightning rod for trade bait, as his perceived value is exponentially higher than his actual value. The third-year pro continues to improve his offensive production, but he lacks defensive skills, which leave many wondering whether he can be the future No. 2 center behind Dylan Larkin.
As I stated earlier, Athanasiou isn’t great defensively, ranking more than two standard deviations below league average in Corsi against and 1.5 standard deviations below average in expected goals against.
Athanasiou can contribute offensively, as evidenced by his positive expected goals mark, but he struggles to keep the puck out of his own zone and net, which is not ideal as a centerman. At 24 years old, I think we’ve pretty much seen what Athanasiou is as a center, so the experiment to turn him into a defensively responsible centerman could be nearing its end.
Where Athanasiou shines is on the power play, when he doesn’t have to worry about those defensive responsibilities. Seeing time on the first power-play unit with Larkin and Anthony Mantha no doubt helped, but down the line, it could be beneficial to spread out the scoring and put him on the second unit.
Athanasiou continues to produce offensively and improve his offensive production year after year, showing coach Jeff Blashill he is deserving of the increased ice time. He, along with Larkin, were the only two players to hit the 30-goal mark.
It’s a bit shocking to see he only scored three goals on the power play despite playing with Larkin and Mantha for 20% of his time on the man advantage. However, he also spent a good chunk (15%) with Frans Nielsen, Michael Rasmussen and Thomas Vanek, so that doesn’t help.
Again, Athanasiou struggled defensively; this cannot be understated. He had a career low in Corsi for percentage, which ranked 17th on the team behind Justin Abdelkader, Michael Rasmussen and Thomas Vanek.
The Red Wings currently do not have suitable linemates for Athanasiou, someone who can keep up with his speed and also get him the puck so he can use his goal-scoring prowess.
Based on general manager Steve Yzerman‘s history, we know he isn’t afraid to pull the trigger on a trade involving a skilled player; he traded Jonathan Drouin to get Mikhail Sergachev. Granted, there was a lot more to the trade than simply trading a skilled player, but it wouldn’t at all surprise me to see Yzerman make a move to improve the team in the long run.
With that being said, Athanasiou is a skilled player who can be effective if used properly. Yzerman likes to accumulate skill players, so Athanasiou might fit in his plan.
I’d like to see Athanasiou improve just a bit on the defensive side, but I don’t see an enormous jump. Athanasiou’s skill on offense more than makes up for his defensive inefficiencies, so you take the bad with the good.