TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - The Red Wings kicked off this year’s prospects tournament with a bang, defeating the Minnesota Wild, 3-1, at Centre Ice arena.
Andreas Athanasiou, the Wings’ fourth-round pick (110th overall) in 2012, led the way for Detroit, scoring a goal in each of the first two periods.
Athanasiou, a forward for the OHL’s Barrie Colts, has oft been revered by the Wings’ brass for his speed, and showed some quick hands and good instincts throughout the game. On his first goal, he came in wide, cut in and chipped it in high and short side. In the second frame, defenseman Xavier Ouellet hit him with a strong slap pass in front of the net that Athanasiou smacked home as he was checked to the ground.
“I thought Athanasiou was outstanding,” said Griffins coach Jeff Blashill, who’s also coaching the Wings’ prospects team. “I thought he did everything right, he was great defensively, he stopped on pucks, he checked well. I was extremely impressed with him.”
Riley Sheahan, Detroit’s first-rounder (21st overall) in 2010 and a key part of the Griffins’ Calder Cup run last season, scored the third goal off a wicked backhander just 31 seconds into the third period.
Sheahan was great all night, playing a smart and physical game at both ends of the ice. Sheahan centered a line alongside fellow Griffin, Tomas Jurco, a highly skilled Slovak who showed excellent speed, vision, and play-making abilities.
“Last year, Riley and Tomas were very good players and good pieces to the puzzle in Grand Rapids, but didn't necessarily have to be the go-to players,” Blashill said. “I think this is a great chance for both Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco to be those go-to guys for us and I thought they were both outstanding tonight.”
Both Sheahan and Jurco are expected to challenge for spots with the Wings this year, but will likely begin the year in Grand Rapids.
“I was pretty happy with the way the team played,” goalie Jake Paterson said. “It’s unfortunate we didn't get the shutout, but we’re happy to get the win.”’
Paterson, the Wings third-round pick (80th overall) in 2012, was just 2:01 away from a shutout when Tyler Graovac beat him on a bang-bang play in front of the net. Paterson, who plays for the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit, was phenomenal all night, playing positionally sound and showing great control of his rebounds.
“I thought Paterson was great,” Blashill said. “He made all the stops he was supposed to make and he didn't give any life to the other team.”
The Wings’ defensive corps were solid all night; they frequently made Minnesota’s players go wide and shoot from the outside while protecting the front of the net.
“Obviously, give credit to my teammates,” Paterson said. “They made it pretty easy on me.”
While Detroit’s big performance in their first game is exciting, the Wings’ staff realizes the importance of this tournament goes far beyond winning one game.
“Obviously, you cant judge off of just one game,” Blashill said. “This camp gives the guys a great chance to show us what they can do.”
NOTES: Athanasiou was given the game puck after his performance … Athanasiou plans to return to Barrie this season, where he scored 29 goals in 66 games and led the Colts on a long playoff run last year … Teemu Pulkkinen led the Red Wings prospects with five shots … Tyler Bertuzzi and Richard Nedomlel each dropped the gloves in the first … Detroit out-shot Minnesota, 35-21 … Goalie prospect Jared Coreau is expected to be the starter for Detroit’s game on Friday against Dallas.