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Dec. 27, 2011

by Kristi Page -

To be a professional hockey player, you must have years of experience; however, age does not define every player. Tomas Tatar just celebrated his 21st birthday on Dec. 1, but he has experience beyond his years.

Born in Ilava, Slovakia, Tatar has grown up around hockey and has been chasing his dream to become a player in the NHL one day. After working his way up the Slovakian junior ranks, and starring for the under-20 team in 2008-09 with 11 points (7-4—11) in seven games, Tatar became the Detroit Red Wings’ second choice (60th overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Instead of taking a few seasons to develop in Europe, Tatar signed a three-year entry-level contract with Detroit and joined the Grand Rapids Griffins.

As a rookie in 2009-10, Tatar was the youngest player in the AHL, leading all Griffins rookies and placing fifth in the AHL with 32 points (16-16—32) in 58 games for Grand Rapids. He built off that success in the 2010-11 season, skating in 70 games and ranking second in team scoring.

“Last year I had a pretty good season. I finished with 57 points, but it would be nice to get more this year”, said Tatar. “I would like to get a little better in the defensive zone, and hopefully get to the playoffs.”

Tatar started his third AHL season slowly, with just one goal and two assists in the team’s first eight games, but has since caught fire with 18 points (5-13—18) in his past 15 games. He says that the start is not unusual for him.

“I had a rough start; I had a rough start last year, too,” Tatar explained. “As of right now, I feel more confident and I think I am making more plays early in games, so hopefully I will keep producing and make sure we are going to win more games.”

Despite his slow start, he has proven to be an offensive leader player for the Griffins this season. Head coach Curt Fraser is pleased with Tatar’s offensive output as well as the strides he’s been making in becoming a better two-way player.

“You can’t just look at his numbers this year. He has been doing a great job killing penalties, and his defensive abilities have really picked up,” said Fraser. “Overall, he has been doing a terrific job for us.”

Although Tatar is hoping to get the Griffins into the playoffs, he always keeps his dream of playing in the NHL in the back of his mind. After appearing in nine games for the Red Wings last season, and scoring his first NHL goal in his first NHL game on Dec. 31, 2010 versus the New York Islanders, his dream seemed closer than ever. Tatar got another chance this when he was called up on an emergency basis on Dec. 15, but he was sent down without seeing any game action.

“It is always nice to be with the Wings, but it’s just too bad I didn’t get to stay up there longer,” Tatar said. “I just have to work hard to get back [to Detroit], starting with more producing and more wins here. I am sure I will be back up there soon.”

Although Tatar was only called up for one day so far this season, it has only motivated him to work harder in the AHL. He will continue his hopes in going to Detroit once again, but until he gets his next opportunity, he is making the most of his time in Grand Rapids.

“It's a beautiful city, there are a lot of fun things to do here, a lot of people around and everybody who has played here loved it,” explained Tatar. “We have visited a lot of other cities in my career with the AHL and overall, I love Grand Rapids.”

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