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Athanasiou on fast track

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
Red Wings forward Andreas Athanasiou instructs young players during youth camp at Joe Louis Arena. (Photo by Dan Mannes/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT -- Nothing is going to slow Andreas Athanasiou down.

Athanasiou's blend of speed and skill turns heads when he's on the ice, making him one of the more exciting players the Red Wings have had in recent years.

Athanasiou was not really showing off those abilities during the Wings' youth camp at Joe Louis Arena Monday, where he served as a guest instructor along with former Wing and current pro scout Kirk Maltby.

Kids ages 6-14 are taking part in three days of camp.

Athanasiou, who turns 22 on Aug. 6, is not a lot older than some of the campers. He said he once took part in a camp run by former Toronto Maple Leafs Darcy Tucker and Shayne Corson.

"It's a lot of fun," Athanasiou said after the morning session. "You can see how happy the kids are to be out here and just to get the opportunity to skate on this ice, it's probably a dream come true for them. Being around them, they're having a lot of fun and it's always fun to be a part of that."

Athanasiou was pleased that some of the kids were able to pronounce his name but none of them asked him to show how to score on a breakaway.

"No, they haven't asked me that but some of them have asked me to race," he said with a laugh.

In 37 games last season with the Wings, Athanasiou had nine goals and five assists while averaging less than 10 minutes of ice time.

Although he never got more than the 15:30 he played Feb. 23 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Athanasiou was undeterred.

"It's such a tough situation, obviously, with the team we had," Athanasiou said. "There's reliable players that the coach has and obviously when you step in halfway through the season and produce, it kind of puts them in a situation where they have to juggle lines and stuff. We did a pretty good job with it. Unfortunately, I got the minutes I got. I'm not complaining. I'm OK with that. Obviously I want it to be more but that's just my foot in the door there."

Athanasiou has trained at the same place near Toronto for the last several years as he aims toward his goals.

"I think just being consistent, being the player I can be every night," Athanasiou said. "I think I can play the game, I've done it my whole life. Getting the chance to play here is also a dream come true. This is Hockeytown, right? As for my weaknesses, just getting bigger, faster, stronger. I'm fortunate enough to be blessed with speed. Everything else can come hand in hand with that. I got one of the hardest parts of the game down pat so the other parts can come, it's just going to be work."

No matter how hard Athanasiou works, the reality is he does not have to go through waivers to return to the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins.

But getting caught in the numbers game is not something that concerns him.

"I‘m not worried about that," Athanasiou said. "I’m confident in my abilities. I do what I can out there and like I said, it’s their decision and I’m doing to do the best I can to make it as easy as possible."

With the departure of Pavel Datsyuk, the Wings will need more than one forward to step up.

Athanasiou said it's hard to mention everything he learned in the time he spent with Datsyuk last season.

"There's so many things," Athanasiou said. "You can't pinpoint one thing with that guy. Just being in the same area as him is unbelievable. He's definitely going to be someone that's going to be missed. Growing up, I'd always watch his Youtube videos before my hockey games to get pumped up. It's going to be sad not having him here but just getting the opportunity to be with him for that amount of time is a dream come true."

It was a dream come true for Athanasiou to make his NHL debut last Nov. 8 against the Dallas Stars.

Now Athanasiou is confident he can make the permanent jump.

"I think my confidence just comes from what I’ve been through, everything I’ve gone (through) growing up and getting to the National Hockey League," Athanasiou said. "That’s where you build your confidence and just getting a chance to play here is a big thing. I know my game. I know what I’m capable of. So I’m just going to work on my strengths, work on my weaknesses and come September I’ll be ready."

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