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Wings Encounter: Andreas Athanasiou

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Despite missing 21 total regular-season games last season, Andreas Athanasiou managed to produce 16 goals and 16 assists in his rookie season with Grand Rapids. (Photo by Mark Newman/Grand Rapids Griffins)

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – Though Andreas Athanasiou didn’t skate in this month’s development camp he felt it was important enough to participate in whatever off-ice workouts he could at Centre Ice Arena.

The Red Wings’ fourth-round draft pick three years ago, Athanasiou is still working to regain strength which he lost following a devastating jaw injury last December. He’s also recovering from a broken finger sustained during the Calder Cup playoff series against Utica.

Athanasiou started his first pro season weighing in at 195 pounds. But he dropped about 25 of that following surgery to wire a fractured jaw together after a controversial hit during a game in Oklahoma City on Dec. 13.

“It was definitely tough coming back and playing at that weight, but I thought I handled it well and made the most of it,” said Athanasiou, who missed 20 AHL games. “Came back, got up to 183 pounds then I got the flu so I lost another 14 pounds and went right back down. It was a tough thing to go through. I think I made the most of what it was and did the best I could.”

Athanasiou spent his five days in northern Michigan working out with Marcus Kinney, the strength and coaching coach for the Grand Rapids Griffins.

“Right now I’m about 175 so the goal is to get back up to 195 by the end of the summer,” Athanasiou said. “I’m not too worried about it. I’m confident in myself and my trainer. … Just getting that strength back up, getting back to that weight level. Just sticking with my game and not trying to do too much. Just do the best I can.”

Despite the injuries, which limited him to 55 games with the Griffins, last season was a tremendous learning experience – especially as it applies to defensive responsibility – for the London, Ontario, native.

“I had a great 200-foot game last year,” he said. “I very rarely got beat back to my own net. I feel I can always get between my man and the net, which is a big thing. I can use my quickness to my advantage to break the puck out of the D-zone. I think I’ve become a defensively sound player.”

Athanasiou knows that making the Red Wings’ roster out of training camp this fall is a long shot, however, he intends to work hard throughout the rest of the summer to give himself the best opportunity to succeed in Detroit or Grand Rapids.

“I’m going to do my best to try and make that team if they put me back in Grand Rapids I’ll be happy with that,” he said. “I’m just going to keep making my push to try and get one step closer to making that team.”

Now, let’s get to know more about this 20-year-old prospect:

Andreas Athanasiou

ANDREAS ATHANASIOU

STATUS: Red Wings’ fourth-round pick in 2012 NHL draft. The center will play his second full season for the Grand Rapids Griffins, the Wings’ American Hockey League affiliate, where he registered 16 goals and 16 assists in 55 games last season.

DOB: August 6, 1994, in London, Ontario.

FIRST HOCKEY MEMORY: “There are probably a couple here, it’s probably waking up on those early mornings in London and having my dad (Stan) take me out on the ice. That was a big thing when I was small. I used to hold his hand and he would swing me around. I’d pick up so much speed and I loved it, and he would push me around on the chair, too.”

HOCKEY HEROES: “I think Bobby Orr is definitely a big one. He was such an amazing hockey player and also Pavel Bure. I try mimicking my game as much as I can to him. He’s an exciting player with lots of speed and skill. So I think those two definitely. (Ever meet either?) Bobby Orr is actually my agent, so it’s definitely cool to have him there. But, no, I never got to meet Pavel Bure.”

LAST BOOK READ: “Let me think here. … We’ll go back to this one.”

CURRENT CAR: “A 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee. All black.”

FIRST JOB: “Probably working at a goalie school, shooting on goalies. That was fun. Definitely helped me improve my shot. I was young, geez, probably started when I was 12 or 13.”

GREATEST SPORTS MOMENT: “I think it would be getting drafted by the Detroit Red Wings. Obviously, that was a big thing, you know, everyone’s dream come true, and especially with this organization. (Vividly recall your draft day?) Yeah, I was actually at home with a couple of my buddies and I got the call. It was definitely exciting.”

MOST PAINFUL MOMENT: “Probably breaking my jaw or getting the shot off my finger and being able to see inside my finger. (When did that happen?) I think it was Game 2 of the Utica series. The feeling is just starting to come back. Still have blood in the nail bed. It’s still hard to shoot, it vibrates when I shoot.”

FAVORITE UNIFORMS: “Golden State has some sweet ones.”

FAVORITE ARENA: “I got to play in Chicago and Pittsburgh and those are unbelievable arenas, but in my OHL career I always had good games in the Bayshore Arena, which is in Owen Sound, where (Zach) Nastasiuk played. Not too many people like that arena, but I somehow found some good games on that small ice surface.”

CLOSEST HOCKEY FRIENDS: “Oh, geez, there are so many. I’ve got a lot of guys in Barrie. Zach Hall is definitely a big one. He’s playing CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) right now. Joseph Blandisi is with New Jersey. My buddy Jake Emilio just committed to Colorado College, and Dillon Duprey – those two are my best buddies who I hang out with every day – he goes to school at Florida Gulf Coast and plays club hockey there. Then obviously, these guys here (at development camp) there are so many of them here.”

FUNNIEST HOCKEY PERSON KNOWN: “The funniest is probably Zach Hall. I used to hang out with him every single day in Barrie. We were very close and he was such a funny guy to be around. Definitely, he’d be up there for sure.”

TOUGHEST COMPETITORS FACED: “There are so many, even out here there are so many guys and you can see it every day when they come in and compete. I could say any one of these guys out here for sure.”

MOST MEMORABLE GOAL: “The season that just passed, I had the OT winner against Utica to keep up going there. So that was definitely a cool moment when I scored and I went to the corner. I was so excited that I couldn’t even stand on my feet. Another one was when I was about 10 years old and I was playing in a tournament in Law Vegas and we went to overtime. The rules were a little weird. It went 5 on 5, 4 on 4, 3 on 3 and the way down to 1 on 1. Yeah. I scored the 1-on-1 goal there, so it was the same thing, I scored and I couldn’t stand on my feet I was so excited. I just buckled, so that was definitely a cool moment too.”

FUNNY HOCKEY MEMORY: “I can look back on it now and laugh. Joseph Blandisi actually fought each other and the next year we became teammates in Barrie. We fought in Owen Sound actually, at the Bayshore Arena. It was my first game with Barrie, in an exhibition, and we fought. Then the next year he got traded to us and we became best of buddies and I text him all the time. It’s definitely a big thing. We talk about who won (the fight), but it was really more of a wrestling match with no many punches thrown.”

FAVORITE PLAYERS TO WATCH: Pavel Datsyuk is definitely up there, he’s so exciting, Sidney Crosby is amazing. Those are two who are definitely exciting to watch.”

FAVORITE SPORT OUTSIDE HOCKEY: “Growing up I played all sports, I did track and field, I played basketball and me and (Colin) Campbell this year would go to the community center and play basketball. I love tennis, I love baseball. There are so many sports outside of hockey that I enjoy. I love golf. I played all sports growing up. I love competition. I tried to be the best in those sports growing up.”

PERSONALITY QUALITIES ADMIRED IN OTHERS: “It’s definitely someone you can get along with. It’s a big thing. My best buddies I could hang out with every single day and get along with them. We never get in arguments, it’s a cool thing to have. I don’t like getting mad too much. If you get know me I very rarely get mad, so if they’re easy to get along with and they’re funny and someone I can hang out with every single day it’s definitely a big thing.”

FAVORITE MOVIE: “I’m a big Brad Pitt fan. I think he’s an unbelievable actor, so any movie with him in it. (Did you like ‘Fury’?) That’s a pretty good one. He gets into his character so well that it’s exciting to see.”

IF NOT A HOCKEY PLAYER, WHAT: “If I wasn’t pursuing another sport I’d probably get into flight and be a pilot like my dad. That would definitely be cool. He’s a commercial pilot for Air Canada. Actually, this year he took me to a simulator with my one buddy, Jake, and we actually got to go in there and see him fly the planes. It’s unbelievable. You go into this huge hanger, and they have the front of the plane on these huge hydraulic systems. It was just an unbelievable experience. It was so realistic, it was pretty wild.”

HIDDEN TALENTS: “I played a sports called sepak takraw that not many people know about. I picked it up in elementary school. It’s like volleyball, but only with your feet with a badminton-high net.”

VIDEO GAMES: “I’m a big FIFA player. I love soccer. It’s definitely a big thing for me. That’s probably one of the games I really get into.”

WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO HAVE: “Coming to the rink and hanging out with the guys is definitely something I enjoy doing every single day, so I guess that’s like an addiction. That’s a big thing for me. Spending time with my family is a huge thing. My family is so close with my brothers and sisters and parents, we do so many things together, so I guess you can call that an addiction too.”

MOST ATHLETIC TEAMMATE: “There are a lot of them. You can see it when they play soccer, you can see the athleticism. I don’t know if I can pick one individual. (They all picked you as the most athletic) Did they really? I played so many sports going up that it definitely helped, but they are so many guys that can play tennis, soccer, basketball. (Who gives you a run at tennis?) I haven’t been able to play anyone yet. I played with (Anthony) Mantha a little bit. You can see he’s a good player. He has that touch. My buddy back home, Dillon is a real good tennis player, so we go out and play. My buddies are all very athletic. Since I’ve been back home, every day we’ve done something, throwing the football around or something, but every day for sure.”

NICKNAME: “It’s always varied. When I was in Barrie it was Double Cheese, or Double-A, AA, or whatever they wanted to call me. Usually, something with a Double, Double Dog, they all make up whatever they want and I go with it. It’s fun.”

PREFERRED JERSEY NUMBER: “This year I wore 23 and that’s because Dogg (Griffins equipment manager Brad Thompson) gave it to me. I told him to pick me a cool number and I loved wearing 23. In Barrie I wore 22 because of a past coach that actually passed away. He played for the Cornwall Royals and won back-to-back Memorial Cups, Stu Davison. I wore 86 once too because 8 month, 6 day, that’s my birthday. I change my number up a little bit.”

OFF DAYS: “On off days I’ll relax, hang out with buddies. But you know, we’re always doing something. Like I said, every single day we’re throwing a baseball around, playing golf, playing football or baseball. We have fun. It’s good, it keep you active. It helps with the athleticism and I just love sports. That’s the big thing.”

MOST FAMOUS PERSON IN PHONE: “I don’t know, let’s check I have it right here. You know what, Bobby Orr’s got to be right up there for sure. I’d have to say Bobby Orr. Dale Hawerchuk, my old coach, hall of famer. Those two are definitely up there.”

FIRST THING YOU BOUGHT AFTER SIGNING FIRST CONTRACT: “I took some of my teammates out for dinner. I didn’t buy my car until last year, I kind of waited until I needed it.”

GUILTY PLEASURES: “I watch a lot of ‘Family Guy’ actually. It’s a pretty funny show. I might watch one episode a day. If I’ve got nothing to do in my room I’ll put it on and fall asleep to it.”

ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO DO/HAVE BEFORE EVERY GAME: “Playing soccer it a big thing, just getting the touches in. It’s a great way to warm up, so I think that’s a big thing.”

MORNING PERSON OR NIGHT OWL: “I can go at all times of the day. This morning I woke up at 7, went to the rink with Marcus (Kinney, Griffins strength and conditioning coach) at 7:30.”

IF YOU COULD BE SOMEONE’S TEAMMATE FOR A DAY, WHO: “I think it would be Pavel Bure. I think it would be unbelievable to see if I could keep up with him. I think we could have some good plays together.”

GO BACK IN TIME MOMENT: “Probably back in the day to see how my dad was. He was an unbelievable athlete and a great basketball player. He was one of the best cross-country runners in Ontario when he was in high school, so it would be cool to go back in his day and play some sports with him. You see him now, and I still play ping pong with him and shoot-around basketball with him. He was so athletic, even now, you play tennis with him, it’s definitely awesome.”

WHAT SCARES YOU: “I hate spiders. I lived with (Colin) Campbell and (Mark) Zengerle this year, and me and Zengerle both hate spiders. I remember this one night, we were in bed and I saw a spider on my ceiling right above my bed. I went and knocked on Campbell’s door and told him ‘You’ve got to get this spider!’ He was definitely the one who had to get all the spiders. He is the exterminator. … I hate spiders.”

MOST EMBARRASSING CHILDHOOD MOMENT: “This is actually a funny one. In Grade 7 I played John Travolta’s part in ‘Grease’ in our drama class. We were doing the one scene where he is trying all the sports. We were doing the play in front of the school and I actually fell and hurt myself a little during the wrestling scene. That was pretty embarrassing. (Not much of an actor?) You know what, I love acting. I think I get into character pretty well I’d say.”

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