Andreas Athanasiou is a polarizing prospect who is at this point in his career pretty hard to peg. Since the time I sat down to write this article I have been on a roller coaster trying to accurately profile him. Regardless, this is a guy who’s development is absolutely worth paying attention to over the next couple of years. He is a prospect that has generally flown under the radar in his almost 2 seasons since being drafted 110th overall in the 2012 draft by the Red Wings. Going into his draft year he was considered to be a top 15 player, but after a disappointing season, he dropped down into the 4th round. Athanasiou plays both left wing and center for the Barrie Colts in the OHL, however he projects as more of a winger than a center going forward. He stands at 6’2″ and weighs 200.
Athanasiou has a great spectrum of skills. He has blistering speed, being called one of the best skaters in his draft class. Athanasiou can shoot the puck, often being used as a point man on the power play in Barrie. Athanasiou mainly relies on his speed to generate chances and to create havoc for the other team. Athanasiou has some killer hands. He is able to easily stickhandle around defenders and make impact plays. His hands compare to those of Tomas Jurco. Athanasiou creates his own offense because he has the speed to go around defenders but the hands to go through them as well. He is strong on the puck which allows him to take the puck to the outside and cut to the middle once he slips behind the defense. Athanasiou’s offensive game is very diverse and dynamic. He makes highlight reel plays almost every game and he is a constant threat whenever he is on the ice. What takes Athanasiou to the next level is his ability to finish. His elite hands and good shot enable him to be a difference maker and deposit goals when he is given chances. He is a great forechecker and can generate takeaways because of how fast he moves. Hockey is a possession game, and having a player who can acquire and maintain the puck is a huge asset to any team.
Athanasiou has been extremely productive this year, registering 79 points in 51 games(40 goals,39 assists) and thanks to a 7 point performance on the 13th(including a whopping five goals!) he has moved up to third in the OHL in scoring. Due to the talent disparity in Junior hockey, stats easily become distorted, so placing these stats in context of other top players allows a look into how important a players totals are. So when I say that Athanasiou has 25 more points than anyone else on his team we can deduce that he is the player who is driving possession and goals on his team.
Athanasiou is a genuine play maker at the Junior level and the most important factor in his development is how quickly he adjusts to the increased talent level in the AHL next year. Some players are able to overly rely on a singular skill to propel them to the top of their respective leagues. For Athanasiou this is a major concern. Most of his goals get scored in a similar way. His great speed allows him to beat defenders to the outside and then cut across the net and with his great speed and momentum make it hard for the goalie to move laterally along with him giving Athanasiou an open net on the far side. Since he can move around defenders with ease he is rarely ever forced to be physical and go the front of the net. Although he has many offensive skills, but he lacks offensive aggression.
However his game is far from polished and despite his deep and exciting toolbox, Athanasiou has to work on consistency and the further solidification of his skill. As all prospects do, Athanasiou needs to get bigger and stronger so he could be more physical. The addition of strong physical play gives Athanasiou a much higher ceiling, placing him as a top 6 forward going forward.
Athanasiou has a bunch of different career projections, some scouts think his scoring will continue and he will become a top line goal scorer. Some scouts say he will not develop any scoring touch in the NHL and his speed will be the only NHL skill he will have, but that it alone will get him to be a penalty killer or high energy player. Others think that he is nothing but a bust and that he will not be able to put together any NHL skills and that he will toil in the minors until he retires. The third one is quite unlikely, as is the first one. Athanasiou best fits in between the first and second scenario, he likely could be a second line player who is a legitimate difference maker but not good enough to be on the first line due to a lack of scoring touch.
What is most exciting for the Red Wings right now is the diversification of their prospects. The Wings for a long time were criticized because they had a bunch of high skill finesse players that weren’t able to produce in the playoffs. It would appear as if the front office took note and has built quite the prospect network. Nyquist, Tatar, Mantha, Athanasiou, Sheahan, Pulkkinnen, and Jarnkrok. Not all of these guys will pan out, some of them surely will not progress up to their projected ceilings, but the more players you have the more chance you get of finding some really strong and really good players to establish the third generation of the Mike Ilitch Red Wings.