September 10, 2015
by Brendan Savage - mlive.com
Zach Nastasiuk got a sampling of professional hockey the last two seasons.
Now, he's ready to give the pro game his full attention after showing steady improvement during four junior seasons with the OHL's Owen Sound Attack.
The 6-foot-2, 202-pound forward finished the past two seasons with the Grand Rapids Griffins and it gave the Detroit Red Wings prospect an idea of what he needs to do this year to have a successful pro career.
"It was awesome just to get that experience right from the coaching staff and just to see how the veterans do it," said Nastasiuk, the Red Wings second-round pick (48th overall) in the 2013 NHL draft. "You try to learn as a much as you can while being there.
"It helps just being around, practicing with them and knowing how much you have to work and prepare to give your best. They teach you good habits and details."
Nastasiuk, 20, spent five games with the Griffins two years ago and played another six last season, when he also appeared in four playoff games.
He failed to earn a point in any of those 15 games but that drought probably won't last long this season if his final junior campaign is any indication.
Nastasiuk recorded career-high totals of 35 goals, 42 assists and 77 points last season to finish second on Owen Sound's scoring chart while ranking 21st in the OHL.
That continued a trend of improvement that saw him get 11 goals and 19 points in 2011-12, record 20 goals and 20 assists the following season and bag 23 goals and 28 assists in 2013-14.
Each year was just a little bit better than the last.
"I had a really good season at Owen Sound," Nastasiuk said. "I can't thank that organization enough. It was a great year all around."
Now, the next stage of his career will begin with the Griffins after he takes part in the Red Wings prospects tournament beginning Friday in Traverse City.
"Obviously, it's very exciting," Nastasiuk said. "Just like when you got drafted into the OHL. You're trying to get ready for your first game. Now, I'm trying to get ready for my first full season. It's exciting. It's a new chapter and I'm ready to go.
"I can improve on everything but my skating especially. I got to improve that and my shot. I want to get it off quicker and harder. Those are things I gotta keep working on."
Nastasiuk's personal goals in Grand Rapids this season are modest.
"Try and be a plus player, really," he said. "Make Grand Rapids and be in the lineup every night and contribute to winning."