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By the Numbers Prospects: Taro Hirose

Extra time could help smaller forward build strength

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

By the Numbers will highlight the on-ice accomplishments in the 2019-20 season for the Detroit Red Wings' prospects. Twice a week during the offseason, By the Numbers Prospects will profile a different player in the system, focusing on his statistical highs. This week we focus on forward Taro Hirose.

When you jump right into the National Hockey League from college and put up seven points (1-6-7) in your first 10 games in the league, expectations naturally go up.

That is what happened for Taro Hirose, who left Michigan State to sign with the Red Wings as an undrafted free agent on March 12, 2019.

Hirose also helped lead Detroit's prospects to just their second championship in the NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City before training camp last fall.

Hirose started the season with the Wings but found that the points were not coming as easily as they had during his 10-game stint the previous spring.

So eventually the Wings sent Hirose to the American Hockey League to play for the Grand Rapids Griffins.

One of the issues is that Hirose, who is 5-foot-10 and 162 pounds, is undersized and still needs to increase his strength.

Last summer, Hirose worked out with some of the other Wings at Barwis Methods and then Mike Barwis joined the organization as the director of sports science and human performance, so there is a plan in place for Hirose.

The extended time without games could actually help Hirose as he works toward getting his body more prepared for the NHL game.

26 - Hirose played in 26 games for the Wings, 23 from the start of the regular season through the end of November. He then returned to play three more games from Feb. 6-9.

2 - In those 26 games, Hirose had two goals, Nov. 16 at San Jose in a 4-3 shootout loss and the lone goal Nov. 23 at New Jersey in a 5-1 defeat.

Video: DET@NJD: Bowey sets up Hirose's opening goal

5 - With Grand Rapids, Hirose scored five goals, one in his first game on Dec. 4 against the Chicago Wolves in a 5-2 home loss. He had two goals plus an assist on Dec. 13 in a 6-5 overtime win at Bakersfield, a goal on Dec. 21 in a 4-3 overtime loss at Iowa and another on March 7 in a 3-0 home shutout of the Rockford IceHogs. Hirose also chipped in five assists in his 26 Wings games, all on the power play.

21 - The pass-first mentality showed as Hirose took only 21 shots in 26 games, after taking 15 shots in 10 games the previous spring.

35 - Hirose played in 35 games with the Griffins.

Tweet from @griffinshockey: 2019-20 Highlights: 🌮 Edition

22 - In those 35 games, Hirose had 22 assists, tied for third on the Griffins with Matt Puempel, who had 22 assists in 46 games. Chris Terry led the team with 30 assists in 57 games and defenseman Joe Hicketts had 25 assists in 50 games.

27 - Hirose's 27 points were tied with Matthew Ford (27 in 52 games) and Hicketts (27 in 50 games). Only Terry with 51 points and Puempel with 39 points had more.

3 - In three games, Hirose had multiple assists. He had two on Dec. 28 in a 3-2 victory at Milwaukee, another two on Jan. 18 in a 4-3 home shootout loss to the Belleville Senators and three helpers on Jan. 24 in a 4-3 overtime home victory over the San Diego Gulls. Hirose's third assist in that game was on Filip Zadina's overtime winner.

1 - Hirose had one power-play goal (Dec. 13 at Bakersfield), one game-winning goal (Dec. 13 at Bakersfield) and one shootout goal (Dec. 17 at San Diego).

72 - With the Griffins, Hirose took 72 shots. Terry led the team with 156 and Puempel was second with 142.

Quotable: "Taro is probably a little bit disappointed in the year, being up and down year for him. He probably envisioned as a guy that wanted to be in the NHL right from the start, kind of stay there. But it's a process. It's not easy for kids out of college to come right in and step in and just stay and be a pro in the NHL. I think Taro's kind of going through that. I think the biggest thing for him is just strength. He needs to put on more strength to be able to handle himself in traffic and 50-50 battles in the hard areas. To his credit, I think he realizes that. The good thing about Taro is that he went down, he didn't sulk, he was positive with it right away and put up good production for us when he was down there in Grand Rapids. He's still a player that we believe in. He's just going through the process that it takes to become physically strong enough to be able to do what he's going to need to do in the NHL." -- Shawn Horcoff, director of player development and assistant director of player personnel

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