Marco Kasper beginning to excel now that he's found his sea legs

Former first-round pick, Marco Kasper, is finally finding his way with the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

As expected, an adjustment period was needed, but former Detroit Red Wings first-round pick Marco Kasper is beginning to figure out the North American game. It's just his first year in Grand Rapids, but the 19-year-old center is starting to flourish with the Griffins.

“For Marco, it’s been building since Day One,” Griffins coach Dan Watson said. “He wasn’t getting rewarded offensively with what he was doing early on. He has figured out the league, the pace of play, the types of systems that are different from here to Europe. The way he’s been building throughout the year, he’s steadily gone up our lineup to now being our No. 2 center behind Austin Czarnik. For him to build like that shows he’s been a responsible two-way player. You bring that with a compete level, with a care level; it’s someone we trust a lot.”

Much of the adjustment period is off the ice as it is on the ice for these young players. It's a new city/area, and a bunch of new teammates. Kasper played for Rogle BK Angelholm of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) last season as an 18-year-old. He recorded eight goals and 23 points over 53 games while amassing 72 penalty minutes and maintained a plus-seven rating. He appeared in nine postseason games for Rogle and tallied three assists.

Marco Kasper is beginning to excel in a prominent role with the Grand Rapids Griffins.

“You’re far away from your home,” Kasper said. “It’s time difference. You can’t talk to friends and family as much as you’d like. But it’s also physically a change. The hockey is different here. It’s tighter. It’s probably faster. It’s just different all around. You have to make an adjustment as a young player.
“But I think everyone goes through that phase, and it’s just normal. I’m trying to adjust the best I can and work really hard on that.”

“I think I’m playing with more confidence,” Kasper said. “I’ve been working really hard in practice, trying to earn the opportunity to get those chances, to get in the offensive zone, and work really hard to get those points. It’s not the most important thing; it’s winning, obviously. You just try to out-compete the other teams and then try to pick up some offense.”

Following his successful season in the SHL, Kasper joined the Detroit Red Wings in Toronto, where he made his lone appearance of the season. The young Red Wings' prospect performed exceptionally well in his only NHL stint skating on Detroit's second line.

It was just a small sample size, but Kasper showed some flashes of what we can expect from the young forward as he continues to develop in Grand Rapids. He proved that he wouldn't back down. Although elite offense won't be a part of Kasper's game, he's often shown that he plays with an edge and possesses enough finishing capability and creativity to be a reliable middle-six center. Kasper, like Steve Yzerman's most recent top-ten pick, Nate Danielson, is a 200-foot player. Think of Dylan Larkin, J.T. Compher, and Andrew Copp; all three are reliable two-way centers. That's clearly what Yzerman seeks and the type of player he wants to insert down the middle of his entire lineup. Two-way players that can create offense but also have the ability to check opposing teams' top scoring lines.

Kasper anchors Grand Rapid's second line, only playing behind veteran center Austin Czarnik in Dan Watson's lineup. In 45 games this season, Kasper has totaled seven goals and 22 points. He's a minus-4 on the year and has totaled 20 penalty minutes. Kasper has recorded eight of those 22 points over the last nine games with the Griffins, which suggests he's about ready for liftoff.