On the Bubble: Griffins Face Tough Roster Choices
This year’s edition of the Grand Rapid’s Griffins might just be the deepest in years – at least on paper. The team could field the Red Wings top three prospects in Brendan Smith, Tomas Tatar, and Gustav Nyquist. Additionally the Griffins will be bolstered by AHL veterans that include the likes of Doug Janek, Joey MacDonald, Chris Minard, Jamie Johnson, Chris Conner, Garnet Excelby and Greg Amadio.
Before the season opens, the team will need to reduce it’s roster size from 29 to get down to the 23 player limit. While competition for roster spots and playing time will be intense, the Griffins should have a level of depth in the organization that they haven’t had in recent seasons. While that depth is a nice luxury for the organization, it could push some quality prospects and players off the AHL roster. Below is a list of players who could face an uphill battle earning a spot with the Griffins.
- Thomas McCollum – He may start with Grand Rapids if Joey MacDonald is injured, but he’s currently the odd man out if MacDonald and Jordan Pearce are both available. McCollum needs a big season to re-establish himself and also have a shot at a new contract with the Red Wings so starting the season in Toledo maybe a good first step.
- Gleason Fournier (pictured)- With nine defensemen currently on the roster at least two defenders could be cut. Fournier sat out all four games of the NHL Prospect Tournament after recovering from a shoulder injury and he may need to spend at least part of the season in the ECHL. Detroit loves the 6-foot, 184 pound defender’s skating and puck moving ability, but he definitely may not have the physical maturity yet for the AHL grind.
- Nick Oslund – Invited to the Griffins camp as a free agent tryout, Oslund will have a tough time earning a full time spot in Grand Rapids. With the quantity of available forwards, it appears to be just a matter of time before the Griffins release Oslund.
- Sebastien Piche – The 6-foot, 194 pound defenseman has spent the bulk of the last two seasons in the ECHL and may find himself back there again this season.
- Bryan Rufenach – The Red Wings 208th overall pick in the 2005 NHL draft earned an AHL contract with the Griffins. That being said the odds are against Rufenach given the number of undersized offensive defensemen which include Logan Pyett and Gleason Fournier.
- Chris Minard – The veteran AHL forward seems to have fallen out of favor and could find himself on the trade block after seeing his offensive production drop last season.
- Andrej Nestrasil – The Prague, Czech Republic native could find himself starting the season in Toledo if he isn’t able to keep up with the pace of AHL play. Nestrasil, who needs to work on his skating, may be best served starting the year in Toledo. The big winger has plenty of potential, but he needs playing time to develop his professional game.
- Mitch Callahan – The rugged winger will need to adjust to the AHL rapidly or he could find himself starting in the ECHL. Callahan is a hardworking forward who has a limited skill set which may not be quite ready for the AHL.
- Adam Estoclet - The 6-foot-2, 182 pound forward inked an AHL contract with the Griffins during the NHL prospects tournament. Estoclet is a skilled forward who will provide depth for Grand Rapids, but he could be the odd man out given the number of available forwards to start the season.
- Louis-Marc Aubry – Detroit thinks very highly of the 6-foot-3, 183 pound forward. That being said, if Aubry isn’t earning ice time in Grand Rapids, the Red Wings can still send him back to junior this season.
- Trevor Parkes – A gritty forward had a strong prospects tournament and training camp. Despite his solid effort, he could find himself the odd man out if he is outworked and out muscled in the AHL.