DETROIT – When Ryan Sproul was called up to Detroit for the first time, it served as a glimpse of things to come.
The defenseman was originally called up Feb. 25 to practice with the Red Wings as players were still slowly trickling back from the Olympic break. He returned to Grand Rapids the following day, but that wouldn’t be his first trip to Detroit.
Sproul, who was named to the 2013-14 American Hockey League All-Rookie team, became the ninth player to make his NHL debut with the Wings when he suited up for Detroit in the regular-season finale on April 13 in St. Louis.
“I felt pretty good,” Sproul said following Detroit’s 3-0 victory over the Blues. “It’s nice to get that over with, even though it is the end of the year, it’s nice to get that and hoping the best for these guys in the playoffs.”
It was also nice to skate alongside many familiar faces, as several of his teammates from the Griffins appeared in at least one game or were still playing with the Red Wings at the time of his call-up.
“It’s kind of nice to be in there,” Sproul said. “(Everyone) at my house back in GR, these guys are up here now. Calle (Mitch Callahan) came up, too. It’s definitely nice to be up here and be a part of that.”
But that didn’t mean Sproul’s NHL debut came without a few early jitters.
“More in the beginning, before I even stepped onto the ice I think it was more jitters,” Sproul said. “Kind of just turned the nerves into excitement and energy and that’s the way I try to play.”
The defenseman’s big hit on Blues center Derek Roy seemed to do the trick.
“I feed off that a lot,” Sproul said. “It’s not really my style of game but when I can do it, it definitely fires me up a little bit.”
Although his time with the Wings was short, Sproul’s size, speed and aggressiveness did not go unnoticed.
“He’s 6-foot-4, he can skate, he shoots BBs and he’s smart and he moves the puck,” Babcock said.
The 21-year-old registered three shots on goal, two hits and two blocked shots while logging 18:25 of ice time in his debut.
Sproul finished the regular season second among Griffins defensemen in scoring and third among AHL rookie defensemen overall. Through 72 regular-season games in Grand Rapids, he produced 11 goals and 21 assists, as well as 44 penalty minutes.
Prior to turning pro, the 6-4, 205-pound blueliner racked up 153 points, including 57 goals, in 172 games with the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. In 2012-13, he won the OHL’s Max Kaminsky Trophy as the league’s most outstanding defenseman and was named the CHL Defenseman of the Year.