For Landon Ferraro, it's all in the family.
The son of Ray Ferraro, an 18-year NHL veteran and current TSN hockey analyst, Landon has spent the past two years with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League, forging his own identity as a player and a force to be reckoned with.
Landon Ferraro, whose father Ray played for 18 years in the NHL, has spent the past two years with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL, forging his own identity as a player. (Photo: Grand Rapids Griffins)
"It's always a steady flow of advice," Landon said of his father, who honed his skills in the AHL with the Binghamton Whalers before playing more than 1,200 games in the NHL. "He'll ask if I need anything or give some pointers here and there.
"He said now that we're in the playoffs to elevate it a little bit and take it a step up. Just go do what you've done all year and make sure you're ready when it starts."
As the primary affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings, the Griffins have barreled into the Calder Cup Playoffs with one goal: victory. They lead their best-of-5 conference quarterfinal series with the Houston Aeros 2-1, looking to punch a ticket to the next round.
"I'm focusing on just doing what I have all year and making sure that I'm doing my part for this team to help us win," Landon said. "We had a good game in Game 3 and we're going to make sure we have a good one (Friday)."
The 21-year-old center was drafted in the second round (No. 32) by Detroit in 2009. After four years in the Western Hockey League, he played his first full year with the Griffins last season and put up nine goals and 11 assists in 56 games.
This year, his production more than doubled. Ferraro led the Griffins with 24 goals and totaled 47 points in 72 contests.
"I got a lot stronger [last] summer, and the biggest thing is that I came in with confidence this year," he said. "Last year was just trying to get my feet wet and coming to this year, I knew I could contribute and it's been going pretty well."
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Even with his recent success, Ferraro said his transition to the pro game has not been without its challenges.
"The most important thing is getting stronger and just finding your confidence again," he said. "[In] junior you're one of the stronger guys and you can hold onto a puck and take your time with a play. But in the AHL you have to be quick, make sure you're strong on your feet and in the corners, and make sure that you get as many chances as possible."
Armed with that strategy and his work ethic, Ferraro said his time in the AHL has been well-spent.
"You go from playing 16- to 20-year-olds to a league that has grown men," he said. "Being in this league makes you mature as a player and helps you elevate your game to a level that can translate to the NHL.
"It's helped a ton, and I think I've put myself in a pretty good position to move on eventually."
With that goal in mind, Ferraro has distinguished himself as one to watch, and remains grateful for the support of his family, teammates and organization as he looks to follow Jimmy Howard, Niklas Kronwall, Valtteri Filppula and Gustav Nyquist from "Hockeytown West" across the state to Detroit.
"Detroit's built to make sure we're improving and getting better," he said of the Red Wings, who had 12 Griffins alumni in the lineup for their Game 2 Stanley Cup Playoff win over the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday. "They've given me a lot of ice time and a lot of opportunities. They make sure that you have everything you need, and then it's up to you to make sure that you're ready and take advantage of it.
"It's been perfect for me."