Story by Charlie Crowley, The Saint Reporter
Photo Courtesy of Randy Knauf
For those of you unfamiliar with the team, the Grand Rapids Griffins are the American Hockey League affiliate of the Red Wings. The American Hockey League sits just below the NHL, and similar to triple A baseball, the top team can call up or send down players as needed. The Griffins have been with the Wings since 2002 and have been influential with developing players such as Jimmy Howard, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, and Niklas Kronwall.
After a six game loss to Utica in the Western Conference Finals, the Griffins are looking to rebound and get back to the Calder Cup Final, which they came out of as champions in 2013. Their roster to get to the conference final last year may be a little different with possible call ups to Motown, but that has never stopped the team from success in the past. Although many of them may make a name for themselves on the big stage, this year, training camp continues before the Wings’ first game on October 9. The Griffs were led last year by Michigan native Andy Miele. Miele, a Hobey Baker recipient as the top college player in 2011, registered 70 points last year to the tune of 26 goals and 44 assists, earning himself a spot on the AHL first all-star team. Locals hope that Miele will have Teemu Pulkkinen to help him again this season, too. Despite only playing 46 games last year due to being called up to the Red Wings, Pulkkinen left his mark on the team with an astounding 61 points (34 goals, 27 assists). The Griffins also got a taste of 19 year old wonderkid Dylan Larkin, who may spend at least a small portion of his season on the west side of the state. The Griffs will also hope to have Tom McCollum in net again this season after posting a 19-11-2 record last season.
With the end of training camp just around the corner, the Red Wings will have decisions on who stays with the big club and who heads back to Grand Rapids. Whatever the brass decides, the Griffins will play the hand they’re dealt to head back to the Calder Cup Final and bring home the Cup once again.