*Petr Mrazek ruined the title of this post with his outstanding talent in net and the complete and utter failure of the Griffins’ net minders. He is now playing for the Grand Rapids Griffins, but the title will stay.
We now move away from Grand Rapids to look at a couple other top prospects that the Red Wings have waiting in the wings. All of these players were drafted in the 2010 NHL draft and if they pan-out then the 2010 year could end up being one of the best draft classes of the Red Wings. The headliner of the draft is Petr Mrazek. While he was drafted in the 5th round he has shown remarkable talent in net and Detroit fans cannot wait to see him in the net for the Wings.
Petr Mrazek – Mrazek broke into the OHL as a rookie with the Ottawa 67’s in 2009-10. In his first year he served as a back-up, but took over the starting job in the playoffs and led the 67’s to the second round. He led all rookies in goals against average (3.00), save percentage (.905), and shutouts (3). In the 2010-11 season he took over the starting goalie job of Ottawa. In his first season as a starter he built on his rookie campaign by leading the league in in save percentage (9.20) and was third in wins with 33. While he struggled in an early first round playoff exit, he shrugged it off and came back strong the next season. In 2011-12 he once again won 30 games, posted a 2.84 goals against average, and a .917 save percentage. He was then selected as the Czech Republic’s starting goaltender in the World Junior Championship. While his time at the WJC is mostly recognised for his celebrations, he made show stopping saves and kept the Czech team in every game. Against USA he made 52 saves in a 5-2 win and against Russia he made another 43 save in a 2-1 heart-breaking overtime loss. He was named the WJC’s top goaltender and was an all-star selection. After the WJC he led the Ottawa 67’s to the final four in the postseason and then he was selected as the Czech Republic’s third goalie for the IIHF World Champinship. In 2012-13 he was assigned to the Toledo Walleye to gain starting experience and be given as much ice time as possible, but with the goalie struggles in Grand Rapids he has been brought up to the AHL. He had his first start against the Texas Stars and made 29 saves in a 4-1 victory. In his second game the Griffins, they defeated the Houston Aeros 2-1 in the shoot out. Mrazek had 30 saves. In his third straight start Mrazek made 24 saves on 26 shots, while the Griffins offence scored 4 goals. In 3 games Mrazek has reinvigorated the Griffins and back stopped them to three straight victories. Having a goalie that the team can rely on to make the big saves when it counts helps the team preform. Players are able to focus completely on their play because they have a goalie they can trust backing them up and making the high pressure saves.
Mrazek is not the biggest goalie at 6’1”, but he plays large in the net. There have been many comparisons to Dominik Hasek, not only because of his play in net, but because of his competitiveness. Mrazek never gives up on a play and continues to battle to keep the puck out of the net, even if it means diving across the crease. He uses his quickness and athleticism to make unconventional highlight-reel saves even when out of position. He has tremendous focus and confidence in himself and his talent, which helps him put a bad goal or game behind him so he can focus on the next opportunity. Mrazek’s best games come when the pressure is on. He is not shy about showing his emotions before, during, or after games and celebrations are typical with Mrazek. His positioning is lacking and relies on his reflexes too much, but with Bedard and Osgood working with him his game will tighten up. Bedard and Osgood have both started that they won’t change how he plays, only refine it.
Calle Jarnkrok – Jarnkrok will be able to play for the Grand Rapids Griffins next season. For now he is playing the Swedish Elite league and continues to develop into a strong offensive weapon. Last season he logged the second most ice on his team with a 19:05 time on ice average. He was second on the team in scoring and won 50% of his faceoffs. In the playoffs he helped Brynas win the SEL championship with 4 goals, 16 points, and he was plus 12. So far this season he has 2 goals and 13 points in 17 games. Jarnkrok brings a solid skill set with him. He is a great playmaker and likes to have to puck on his stick in all situations. His work ethic is outstanding and does not take any shifts off. He has great hockey sense and can find teammates on the ice when it seems that there is no play to be made. He needs to learn how to shoot more because he has smooth hands and a quick release which could be deadly. Also, he needs to bulk up in order to physically take on the NHL game. Jarnkrok is a prospect not many people are able to watch often, but when he gets a chance to show off in either Grand Rapids or Detroit, fans will quickly learn his name.
Teemu Pulkkinen – In 2010-11, his rookie season with Helsinki Jokerit, Pulkkinen finished fifith in the league with 54 points. He, also, broke Teemu Selanne’s 20 year old rookie assist record with 36 assists. He went on to lead the Finnish team at the World Junior Championship with 9 points in 9 games. In his sophomore year he took a step back in production by only producing 16 goals and 37 points, but he was still second on the team in scoring. In the World Juniors though, he came on strong putting up 6 goals and 10 points in 7 games for team Finland. This season he has once again started slow, having only 2 goals and 5 points in 18 games. Pulkkinen has a fantastic shot and is a pure goal scorer. He is a right-handed shot that plays on the left wing which leaves him open for one-timers and quick release shots. He is a strong playmaker as well, but he looks for the shot first. His skating is average and he may lack the top gear that is required of most NHL players. He likes to have the puck on his stick, but he needs to work on his play without it, on the offensive and defensive sides of the ice. He has a strong shot, but needs to work on his accuracy, as he tend to miss the net more often than a shooter like him should.
Next season Petr Mrazek, Call Jarnkrok, and Teemu Pulkinen will get there shot to make the Detroit Red Wings in training camp. If they do not make it, all three will be in Grand Rapids for the season. For Calle and Teemu time in Grand Rapids will help them become accustomed to the North American game and rink size. The new rink size will likely throw off their game for a while, but once they become used to the feel and speed, they will be back to showing off their talents. For Mrazek another year in Grand Rapids will help his positioning and keep him focused on improving. Mrazek could get his shot in net for the Red Wings next season if Jimmy Howard prices himself out of a job in Detroit, but I don’t see that happening. If Mrazek keeps up his play in the AHL, he could be on the fast track to the NHL. Ken Holland, a former goalie and current Red Wings GM, will make sure Mrazek will not only be able to handle the NHL game physically, but mentally as well, before bringing him up to the NHL. Petr Mrazek is making a name for himself with the Griffins, but Calle and Teemu won’t take long to do the same once they make the trip across the pond next season. There will be plenty of talent in Grand Rapids for years to come.