By Matt Denhartigh
Rebuilding is something fans never want to see their team commit to, and for Detroit Red Wings fans it has been a rough couple of years since the start of their rebuild. While the Red Wings continue to struggle year in and year out, the Grand Rapids Griffins have created a strong developmental program for Detroit’s young prospects.
The Grand Rapids Griffins have been an affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings since the 2002 season, and they have been working closely with the Red Wings organization ever since.
Players like Niklas Kronwall, Valteri Filpulla, and Jason Spezza are just a few names that come to mind when reviewing the Griffins player developmental history. The Grand Rapids Griffins have worked well with the Detroit franchise, and have created a great farm system for the Red Wings organization.
With the recent addition of General Manager Steve Yzerman to the Detroit Red Wings front office, hockey fans have been able to see just how important the Griffins really are to the Red Wings, and how much the team does for Detroit’s prospect pool.
“It’s crucial,” stated Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman in a press release, when asked about the role that the Griffins play in the development of the Red Wings future stars. The farm team has had a major impact on the Detroit sports organization for many years and has developed many NHL stars and Stanley Cup Champions. It’s very important to Yzerman that the Red Wings build a good program in GR.
“We need to have a good development program here,” stated Yzerman. “We know we have a good environment here, and we’ll do everything we can to make it better.”
Recently, the Detroit Red Wings have been ranked to have the fourth best prospect pool in the National Hockey League, with players such as fourth overall pick Lucas Raymond and sixth overall pick Moritz Seider rounding out the top of the list. The players rank from one to 20 with a few players who have already begun their development in the Grand Rapids system.
Mo Seider, a former Grand Rapids Griffin has developed quite well over his few years in the Red Wings program. Seider has since resided in Sweden playing for Rögle BK in the Swedish Hockey League.
“Mo missed a couple of weeks… he’s back and he’s doing well. Expect him and the team he is on to have a good playoff run,” stated Yzerman in a press release. “He’s had a good year, and we’re pleased with how he’s developed over there.” Wings fans should be excited as one of their top young prospects looks to make the leap to the show quite soon.
When Yzerman was asked in a press release which prospects he expects to make it to the big show sooner rather than later he went on to say, “If we look at our kids who played in Grand Rapids last year, they are theoretically the closest to playing, as they are playing in what I consider the best league outside the NHL.”
This is excellent news for Wings fans as well, as they can expect to see many Griffins players make the jump to the National Hockey League much sooner than later.
Players such as Gustav Lindstrom, Moritz Seider, Giavani Smith, Michael Rasmussen are some of the bright spots in the Grand Rapids program and are some of the guys who might find themselves in Detroit quite soon.
“Gustav Lindstrom came up and played some games last year, and did quite well,” stated Yzerman in a Detroit press release. “Moritz Seider at 19 years of age, played his first year of pro hockey and we’re pleased with the season he had. Giavani Smith saw some time last year, as well as Michael Rasmussen who’s had a lot of injuries and missed a lot of time last year.”
Yzerman explained the upside to these individual players who saw some time in both GR and Detroit and how these guys are the ones with the best chance to make the Detroit roster with a full-time role.
“They were all really excelling as the year went on, as they played in the American League in Grand Rapids,” Yzerman also explained in his press statement.
Grand Rapids is essential to the development of the Detroit Red Wings young players and prospects. “It is the main source of our call ups and our players close to playing, are in GR playing for us,” explains the Wings General Manager.
It is very clear that the Griffins play a large role in the Red Wings future player development. For years now, Grand Rapids has been a key factor in the success of the Detroit NHL franchise. Helping to create Stanley Cup caliber teams like in 2008, while winning 2 Calder Cups in the process.
As the Detroit Red Wings continue to rebuild their team from the ground up.Fans can look to the ice in Grand Rapids, to perhaps catch a glimpse of the future of the Red Wings organization.