GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – As we move closer to dropping the puck on the 85th season of the American Hockey League, the Grand Rapids Griffins roster is starting to take shape.
Yesterday, 11 players were assigned to the Griffins: forwards Riley Barber, Turner Elson, Kyle Criscuolo, Taro Hirose, Chase Pearson, Evgeny Svechnikov, and Dominic Turgeon; defensemen Joe Hicketts, Brian Lashoff, Dylan McIlrath; and goalie Kade Fulcher.
Training camp will kick off later this month for the Griffins as they prepare for the season to begin on Friday, February 5. The schedule is set to be announced at a later date. The Van Andel Arena, home of the Griffins, has started prepping for the season to begin.
— Van Andel Arena (@VanAndelArena) January 12, 2021
The Detroit Red Wings also announced their six player taxi squad: forwards Michael Rasmussen and Givani Smith; defensemen Gustav Lindstrom and Dennis Cholowski; and goaltenders Calvin Pickard and Kevin Boyle. All players will likely suit up for the Griffins once the season kicks off. Goaltender Pat Nagle, who is under contract with Grand Rapids, was also released from his PTO with Detroit and reassigned to the Griffins. Rasmussen, Smith, and Lindstrom all performed well during training camp and were all rumored to be in the running for a spot on the opening night roster. The front office likely made the decision that once the AHL season begins, it would be better for the younger players to get a lot of ice time as opposed to being a consistent healthy scratch.
The Griffins are also set to bring back players like Dominik Shine and Tyler Spezia. Shine has formed into a quiet leader. He is not afraid to mix it up with the opposing team and is very strong on the penalty kill. The forward from Detroit enters his fourth season with the Griffins. He amassed 14 points (4G, 10A) while appearing in 50 games during the shortened 2019-20 season. Spezia will begin his second season with the Griffins. He has great speed and can score in open spaces. Like Shine, Spezia is also a Michigan native residing in Clinton Township. Spezia was also an instrumental piece of the Griffins penalty kill last season. He played in 22 games last season for Grand Rapids while collecting nine points (6G, 3A).
The Griffins roster still has a ways to go to be finalized. There has not been anything mentioned about two other high profile Red Wings prospects in Joe Veleno and Mortiz Seider. Currently, Seider is with the Rögle BK in the Swedish Hockey League. Veleno is with Malmö Redhawks, also in the Swedish Hockey League. Both are said to be playing exceptionally well. Jared McIssac, another well regarded Detroit prospect, was placed on the non-roster list as he is still recovering from a shoulder injury. Once healthy, McIssac is expected to be a part of the Griffins roster.
Once the roster is finalized at a later date, the Griffins should have a good balance of young players and veterans.
Anthony Noffke covers the Grand Rapids Griffins for The Sin Bin. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @SinBinGriffins.