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By the Numbers Prospects: Libor Sulak

Raw rookie defenseman made strides this past season with the AHL's Griffins

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji / DetroitRedWings.com

By the Numbers will highlight the on-ice accomplishments in the 2018-19 season for the Detroit Red Wings' prospects. Twice a week during the offseason, By the Numbers will profile a different player in the system, focusing on his statistical highs. This week we focus on defenseman Libor Sulak.

If there was a theme for the Detroit Red Wings this season, it was unhealthy defensemen.

At the start of the campaign, Libor Sulak benefited from the fact that Mike Green was out with a virus and Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson and then Trevor Daley were injured.

So Sulak, 25, made his NHL debut on Opening Night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Later in the season when the defense corps was hit by injuries once again, the Wings called Sulak up on March 20 under emergency conditions.

Sulak practiced once with the team but he was already under the weather and did not get to play in any games before he returned to Grand Rapids.

Sulak, who signed as an undrafted free agent in May 2017, just completed his two-year entry-level contract so he may decide to return to Europe to continue his career.

61 -- Sulak played 61 games with the Griffins during the regular season, the most regular-season games he has played. Last season, he played just two games with the Griffins after his Finnish Elite League season ended.

6 -- Because of all the injuries to Detroit's defensemen at the beginning of the year, Sulak played in six games for the Red Wings from Oct. 4, Opening Night, to Oct. 15 at Montreal.

1 -- Sulak recorded his first point of the season with an assist on Oct. 26 at Belleville. On Dec. 28 at Cleveland, Sulak scored his first AHL goal in the first period. The assists went to Chris Terry and Matt Puempel.

5 -- Sulak finished the season with five goals. Including the one in Cleveland Dec. 28, Sulak scored at home against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Feb. 9, a third-period goal assisted by Dominic Turgeon; at home in the first period against the Texas Stars on Feb. 22, assisted by Filip Zadina and Joe Hicketts; on March 16 at Milwaukee, a second-period goal assisted by Terry and Dylan McIlrath; and April 6 at San Jose, a third-period goal assisted by Givani Smith and Axel Holmstrom. Sulak was second to Filip Hronek in goals by Griffins defensemen. Hronek had seven.

9 -- The Czech defenseman recorded nine assists with the Griffins, tied with fellow defenseman McIlrath.

3 -- Sulak had a three-game assist streak from Jan. 4-9 at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, at Hershey and at Milwaukee.

2 -- In four playoff games against the Chicago Wolves, Sulak had two assists. In Game 3's 6-2 victory at Van Andel Arena, Sulak had the second assist on Zadina's second goal of the game, at 16:55 of the second period. In Game 4's 5-2 loss at Van Andel Arena, Sulak got the second assist on Derek Hulak's goal at 7:02 of the second, the first goal of the game.

Quotable: "We signed him to a two-year deal two years ago and part of that agreement for his development was we felt another year in the Finnish Elite League would do well for his development in terms of allowing him to continue to develop the offensive part of his game. I thought he had a really good training camp. I think with the injuries on defense, a lot of our young D got opportunities that historically maybe they hadn't received and he was a guy that I think took advantage of it and showed pretty well during training camp. His defensive game needs some work, or needed some work. Therefore, Jeff (Blashill), Ken (Holland), myself, we felt that he'd be best served starting in Grand Rapids. The simple message to him was learn how to defend and keep it simple. When he went down there, I would say that he did have some challenges between trying to find that balance, a guy that's been somewhat of an offensive guy and sort of an unbridled mare at times. He likes to get up the ice, he's super athletic, he's a great skater, he's got good size and range. It took him a while to find that balance. And also playing on the smaller ice surface was a bit of an adjustment but I think he was a guy that steadily improved throughout the year for sure, which was a real positive. He's somebody that I think realized that sometimes less is more and he learned to play within some of his limitations while still being effective. Our message to him at the end of the year was to continue to work on your defensive game and use your assets, use your skating, use your range, use your ability to close on people. He's certainly got some aggressiveness to his game, he's not afraid of the physical play. Certainly some positives with his year and a guy that we felt, from the beginning to the end, it was a constant trajectory upwards, although steady at times." -- Ryan Martin, Red Wings assistant general manager and Grand Rapids Griffins general manager

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