As the Grand Rapids Griffins begin their 25th anniversary celebration on Friday against Rockford, let’s take a quick look at all of the coaches and players on the opening night roster.
The Griffins’ roster features six players who qualify as an AHL rookie and six players who are classified as veterans (260+ pro games played at NHL, AHL or top European league level).
Head coach Ben Simon
Returns for fourth season as head coach…Led Griffins to a 16-12-3-1 record (36 points, 0.563) and a third-place finish in the Central Division during a delayed, shortened and no-playoff season in 2020-21…Became the eighth head coach in franchise history to lead the Griffins to the postseason during his first season behind the bench in 2018-19…Served as an assistant coach with the Griffins from 2015-18 and helped the team win the 2017 Calder Cup…During first six seasons as coach in Grand Rapids, the Griffins compiled cumulative records of 216-144-17-22 (0.590) in the regular season and 24-14 (0.632) in the Calder Cup Playoffs…Appeared in 762 regular season pro games from 2000-11, including 81 in the NHL and 481 in the AHL.
Assistant coach Matt Macdonald
Returns for fourth season as an assistant coach…Worked with the defensemen and helped direct the penalty kill in 2020-21 to a 74.8% effective rating…Head coach of the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones from 2014-18 and assisted the club from 2012-14…Played seven pro seasons as a defenseman from 2005-12 and appeared in 385 career games.
Assistant coach Todd Krygier
Entering his third season with the Griffins…Oversaw a 2019-20 power play unit that ranked sixth in the AHL (20.9%) and powered Grand Rapids to a third-place finish in the Central Division…Improved on that performance in the shortened 2020-21 season with a power play conversion rate of 21.5%, which was good for fifth in the AHL…Assistant coach at Western Michigan University from 2016-19…WMU posted a 21-15-1 record in 2018-19 and tied for fourth in the NCAA with a 3.47 goals per game average…Head coach of the USHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks from 2013-16…Appeared in 543 NHL games and totaled 243 points (100-143—243) from 1989-98 between Hartford, Washington and Anaheim.
Assistant coach Mike Knuble
Returns for his ninth season as an assistant coach with the Griffins…Helped Grand Rapids win the 2017 Calder Cup and helped guide the team to the playoffs in each of his first six years…Appeared in 1,068 NHL games and tallied 548 points (278-270—548) from 1996-2013 between Detroit, New York Rangers, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington…1997-98 Stanley Cup champion with the Red Wings.
#9 Patrick Curry | 5-11, 187 lbs.
2020-21 Stats: Two points (0-2—2) in eight games with HC Detva in the Tipos Extraliga, the highest professional league in Slovakia…Five points (4-1—5) in 24 games with Grand Rapids…Earned first AHL goal on March 3 and first AHL assist on March 27.
Career: Second season as a Griffin…Second year pro…Spent time with HC Detva and the Griffins during his rookie season, totaling seven points (4-3—7) in 32 games between the two clubs…Made AHL debut on Feb. 11, 2021 against Chicago…Logged first AHL point on a goal in Rockford on March 3, 2021…Earned first AHL two-point outing and inaugural assist on March 27, 2021 at Iowa…Amassed 79 points (39-40—79) in 141 collegiate contests…Won the Hockey East Conference championship in 2017-18 with Boston U.…Named the 2019-20 Hockey East Best Defensive Forward after registering 19 goals and 13 helpers…Selected as a semifinalist for the Walter Brown Award in 2019-20, given to top American-born college hockey player in New England.
#11 Riley Barber | 6-0, 194 lbs.
Drafted: 6th round, 167th overall, in 2012 by Washington
2020-21 Stats: 34 points (20-14—34) in 32 games with Grand Rapids…Led the Griffins in goals and points…Named to the AHL Central Division All-Star Team…Scoring pace equaled a 48-goal, 81-point clip in a regular 76-game season…Ranked second in the AHL for goals, just one shy of Cooper Marody who played seven more games.
Career: Second season as a Griffin…Seventh year pro…Enters 2021-22 with 12 career NHL games between Washington and Montreal…Also enters with 291 career professional contests to his name, totaling 217 points (106-111—217) while playing for Hershey, Laval and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Grand Rapids…Recorded his first goal during his AHL debut with Hershey on Oct. 10, 2015 against Springfield…Bagged inaugural AHL assist on Oct. 24, 2015 against Hartford…Made NHL debut on with Washington against Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2017 Named to the AHL Central Division All-Star Team in 2020-21 AHL Rookie of the Month in February 2016 …2014-15 NCHC Conference Champion with Miami (OH)…Named to the NCAA Second All-Star Team in 2013-14…Earned CCHA Rookie of the Year, All-Rookie and First All-Star Team honors in 2012-13…Captured a gold medal with Team USA at the 2013 World Junior Championship and the 2012 IIHF U-18 World Championship…USHL Clark Cup Champion in 2011 with Dubuque.
#15 Turner Elson | 5-11, 185 lbs.
2020-21 Stats: 17 points (4-13—17) in 31 games with Grand Rapids…Alternate captain.
Career: Fifth season as a Griffin…Ninth year pro…Signed to a one-year contract by Grand Rapids, 7/30/21… Established career highs in points (39), goals (18), assists (21), PIM (80) and games played (72) with the Griffins in 2018-19…Won the 2014 Kelly Cup with the ECHL’s Alaska Aces…Logged an assist during his NHL debut with Calgary on April 9, 2016 against Minnesota…Made AHL debut on April 15, 2012 with Abbotsford against Toronto…Collected first AHL point on a goal against Milwaukee on Oct. 11, 2013…Earned opening AHL assist on March 5, 2014 against Texas.
#17 Taro Hirose | 5-10, 162 lbs.
2020-21 Stats: Two points (0-2—2) in six games with Detroit…28 points (5-23—28) in 29 games with Grand Rapids…Finished second on the Griffins in points, points per game and paced the team in assists, which set a career high.
Career: Third season as a Griffin…Third year pro…Agreed to terms on a one-year contract extension with Detroit, 7/27/21…In 2020-21, finished second on the Griffins in points (28), points per game (0.97) and paced the team in assists (23), which is a career high…Named to Detroit’s opening night roster in 2019-20 and logged 26 NHL games in his inaugural full pro season…Scored seven points (1-6—7) in 10 games during his NHL debut with Detroit at the end of the 2018-19 season…During his junior season at Michigan State in 2018-19, was named a Hobey Baker Award finalist, a First Team All-American, the Big Ten Player of the Year and a unanimous All-Big Ten First Team selection…Led the NCAA in multi-point games (15) and three-point games (9), while tying for the lead with 50 points…Became the first Spartan to hit the 100-career point mark since 2009…All-Big Ten Second Team selection in 2017-18.
#21 Dennis Yan | 6-2, 197 lbs.
Drafted: 3rd round, 64th overall, in 2015 by Tampa Bay
2020-21 Stats: Five points (4-1—5) in 13 games for Black Wings in the ICEHL, the top hockey league in Austria.
Career: First season as a Griffin…Fifth year pro…Signed to a one-year contract by Grand Rapids, 9/16/21…Totaled career highs in games (53), assists (11) and penalty minutes (46) in 2018-19…In 2017-18, compiled a career-high 23 points (13-10—23), including a pro-best 13 goals during his rookie season…Made pro debut on April 8, 2017 against Albany…Collected first AHL goal during a two-point (2-0—2) night on Oct. 13, 2017 against Belleville…Added inaugural AHL assist on Oct. 27, 2017 against Toronto…Won a bronze medal with Team USA at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in 2014-15, earning eight points (4-4—8) in five games…Took home the gold at the 2013-14 U17 World Hockey Challenge after recording three points (1-2—3) in six contest.
#22 Chase Pearson | 6-2, 200 lbs.
Drafted: 5th round, 140th overall, in 2015 by Detroit
2020-21 Stats: 22 points (8-14—22) in 28 games with Grand Rapids, which tied a career best set in 2019-20, but with 31 fewer games played.
Career: Fourth season as a Griffin…Third year pro…Re-signed a one-year contract with Detroit, 8/5/21…Ranked third on the Griffins’ roster with 22 points (8-14—22) in 2020-21, which tied a career high set in 2019-20, but with 31 fewer games played…Skated in 10 games and scored two goals during his professional debut with the Griffins in 2018-19…Named Hockey East’s best defensive forward and a Hockey East Second Team All-Star in 2018-19…Finished second on Maine in scoring in 2017-18 with 27 points and was named to the Hockey East All-Star Honorable Mention team and All-Academic Team.
#32 Tyler Spezia | 5-10, 175 lbs.
2020-21 Stats: Eight points (5-3—8) in 26 games with Grand Rapids…Eight assists tied a pro high…26 games were an AHL best…Ranked second on the Griffins with two game-winning goals.
Career: Fourth season as a Griffin…Fourth year pro…Re-signed a one-year contract with Grand Rapids, 8/4/21…Notched a career-high nine points (6-3—9) and 18 penalty minutes with Grand Rapids in 2019-20…Helped lead the Toledo Walleye to their first trip to the 2019 Kelly Cup Finals after skating in all 24 postseason games and scoring 12 points…Contributed two points and skated in eight games while making his AHL debut with the Griffins in 2018-19…Two-time selection (2017, 2016) to the WCHA All-Academic Team…Scored a collegiate career-high 30 points as a junior at Bowling Green State and tied for second on the team in scoring.
#38 Hayden Verbeek | 5-10, 183 lbs.
2020-21 Stats: Two points (2-0—2) in four games with HC Banska Bystrica in Slovakia…Three points (1-2—3) in seven games with Laval in the AHL…Acquired by Detroit via trade with Montreal FOR on April 11…Two points (0-2—2) in eight games with Grand Rapids.
Career: Second season as a Griffin…Fourth year pro…Signed a one-year contract, 7/29/21…Enters 2021-22 with 12 points (5-7—12) over 69 career AHL games…Made AHL debut on Oct. 19, 2018 with Laval against Springfield…Recorded first pro point (0-1—1) against Belleville on Jan. 2, 2019…Bagged first AHL goal on Feb. 18, 2019 at Belleville…Spent parts of five seasons with the OHL’s Soo Greyhounds from 2013-18, logging 136 points (59-77—136), a plus-50 rating and 114 penalty minutes in 250 games.
#48 Jonatan Berggren | 5-11, 183 lbs.
Drafted: 2nd round, 33rd overall, in 2018 by Detroit
2020-21 Stats: 45 points (12-33—45) in 49 games with Skelleftea AIK in the Swedish Hockey League…33 assists notched a career high…Led Skelleftea in scoring and tied for sixth in the league…Became 13th player in SHL history to compile 40-plus points in a season at age 20 or younger, first since 2017-18…Made first pro playoff appearance and totaled four helpers in 12 outings.
Career: First season as a Griffin…Fourth year pro…2020 U20 World Junior Championship Bronze Medal winner…2018 Hlinka Memorial Bronze Medal recipient…Averaged 1.5 PPG and led Sweden’s highest-level junior hockey league in scoring with 57 points (18-39—57) over 38 contests played in 2018-19, leading the circuit in both assists and points…Made pro debut with Skelleftea on Nov. 18, 2017 in the SHL at age 17…Logged three points (2-1—3) and won a gold medal with Sweden during the 2017 IIHF U17 World Hockey Challenge…Led the J20 SuperElit league in points (57) and assists (39) in 2017-18…Won a SHL silver medal with Skelleftea in 2017-18.
#65 Dominik Shine | 5-11, 180 lbs.
2020-21 Stats: Four points (2-2—4) in 29 games with Grand Rapids.
Career: Sixth season as a Griffin…Fifth year pro…Re-signed to a one-year contract, 7/15/21…Logged a career-high 10 assists and 57 penalty minutes in 2019-20 with Grand Rapids…Recorded 16 points (8-8—16) in 58 games during his rookie season with Grand Rapids in 2017-18…Made his professional debut with the Griffins on March 19, 2017 at Milwaukee…Led the WCHA in goals with 20 in 2016-17 and was named an All-WCHA Third Team selection…Finished second on Northern Michigan in points in 2015-16 and was named to the All-WCHA Second Team.
#71 Jon Martin | 6-2, 216 lbs.
2020-21 Stats: 24 points (11-13—24) in 37 games with Lausitzer in the Deutsch Eishockey Liga 2, the second highest league in Germany.
Career: First season as a Griffin…Sixth year pro…Signed to a one-year contract, 7/29/21…Netted a career-best 12 goals for Tucson in 2019-20…Compiled career highs in games (57), points (28) and assists (17) in 2018-19 with San Jose…Made his AHL debut with San Jose on March 26, 2016 against San Diego…Bagged first AHL point on a goal against Bakersfield on Dec. 17, 2016…Recorded opening AHL helper on Dec. 28, 2016 at Bakersfield…Amassed 141 points (73-68-141) in 316 regular season games at the junior level in the WHL with Kootenay and Swift from 2011-16.
#79 Kirill Tyutyayev | 5-9, 146 lbs.
Drafted: 7th round, 190th overall, in 2019 by Detroit
2020-21 Stats: 32 points (11-21—32) in 43 games with Yunost Minsk in Belarus Extraleague, the top league in Belarus…Won the league title, contributing 10 points (2-8—10) over 13 playoff games.
Career: First season as a Griffin…Third year pro…Signed to a one-year contract, 5/1/21…2021 Belarus Champion with Yunost Minsk after totaling a professional career-high 32 points (11-21—32) in 43 outings…VHL Prospect of the Week on Feb. 10, 2020…2018 Russia U18 champion with Spartakovets Yekaterinburg…Point-per-game player in his first full MHL season (2018-19) by recording 60 points (14-41—60) in 60 contests…Highest-scoring player in Russia’s U18 league after racking up 114 points (47-67—114), a plus-75 rating and 31 penalty minutes in just 31 games in 2017-18.
#90 Joe Veleno | 6-2, 200 lbs.
Drafted: 1st round, 30th overall, in 2018 by Detroit
2020-21 Stats: 20 points (11-9—20) in 46 games with Malmo in the Swedish Hockey League…Missed final four Malmo games due to a concussion…One point (1-0—1) in five games with Detroit, recording his first NHL goal on May 7…Three points (1-2—3) in four games with Grand Rapids.
Career: Third season as a Griffin…Third year pro…Made NHL debut with Detroit on April 27, 2021 in Columbus…Netted first NHL goal on May 7, 2021 at Columbus…Served as an alternate captain and won a gold medal for Team Canada at the U20 World Junior Championship, logging six points (1-5—6) in just as many contests…Made AHL debut on Oct. 5, 2019 in Chicago…Collected inaugural AHL goal and point on Oct. 25, 2019 and earned his first assist on Nov. 8, 2019…Named a 2019 QMJHL First Team All-Star and was a finalist for the league’s MVP after finishing fourth in the league with 104 points in 59 games for Drummondville…Helped the Saint John Sea Dogs win the QMJHL President Cup in 2017…Served as captain for Canada at the 2017 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and helped the team win gold.
#3 Jared McIsaac | 6-1, 196 lbs.
Drafted: 2nd round, 36th overall, in 2018 by Detroit
2020-21 Stats: Played one game with HPK in SM-liiga, Finland’s top pro league…Suffered a shoulder injury in pro debut with HPK that kept him sidelined until April…Two points (0-2—2) in 10 games with Grand Rapids…Made his AHL debut on April 20…Registered first AHL assist on May 1.
Career: Second season as a Griffin…Second year pro…Made his North American and AHL debut with the Griffins on April 20, 2021 against Cleveland…Logged first AHL point on an assist in Rockford on May 1, 2021…Won a gold medal with Team Canada at the U20 World Junior Championship in 2020…Hlinka Memorial Gold Medal winner with Canada in 2018…Named the QMJHL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2016-17 and earned a spot on the QMJHL All-Rookie Team…Achieved the NSMMHL Rookie Defenseman Award in 2014-15…Named to the NSMBHL Rookie All-Star Team in 2013-14.
#6 Ryan Murphy | 5-11, 185 lbs.
Drafted: 1st round, 12th overall, in 2011 by Carolina
2020-21 Stats: Eight points (2-6—8) in 12 games with Dinamo in the KHL…27 points (5-22—27) in 37 games with Henderson in the AHL…Paced all AHL blueliners in points and assists…Named a Pacific Division All-Star…Received the Eddie Shore Award, given to the AHL’s best defenseman.
Career: First season as a Griffin…Ninth year pro…Signed to a one-year contract by Detroit, 7/28/21…Paced AHL blueliners in points (27) and assists (22) in 2020-21…Named a Pacific Division All-Star in 2020-21…Recipient of the Eddie Shore Award in 2020-21, given to the AHL’s best defenseman…Named to the AHL All-Star Game in 2014-15…Led the OHL in postseason assists (20) in 2011-12…In 2010-11, named to the OHL First All-Star Team and paced the OHL defensemen with 26 goals…Achieved the U18 World Junior Championship Best Defenseman award in 2011 after leading all blueliners in goals (four) and points (13)…Won a U17 World Hockey Championship silver medal in 2010…OHL First All-Rookie Team nominee in 2010.
#18 Brian Lashoff | 6-3, 215 lbs.
2020-21 Stats: Three points (1-2—3) in 13 games with Grand Rapids, serving as team captain…Reached 513 career regular season games played, which ranks first among active players who have spent their entire AHL career with the same club and tie for eighth all time in league history.
Career: 13th season as a Griffin…12th year pro…Signed to a one-year contract by Detroit, 7/30/21…Won the 2013 and 2017 Calder Cups with Grand Rapids, one of only three players to be a part of both championships (Mitch Callahan, Nathan Paetsch)…513 career regular season games played ranks first among active players who have spent their entire AHL career with the same club and tie for eighth all-time in league history…Appeared in 75 Calder Cup Playoff games with the Griffins, ranking second in team history…Places second on the franchise’s all-time list with 513 regular season games played…Became the 126th Griffins alumnus to play in the NHL when he debuted with Detroit and registered his first goal in the same game on Jan. 21, 2013 in Columbus…Won a gold medal with Team USA at the 2010 World Junior Championship.
#20 Dan Renouf | 6-3, 198 lbs.
2020-21 Stats: Three points (0-3—3) in 18 games with Colorado in the NHL…Logged first multi-point outing in the NHL on March 14 when he garnered two helpers against Los Angeles…Three points (1-2—3) in five games with Colorado in the AHL.
Career: Fourth season as a Griffin…Sixth year pro…Signed to a one-year contract by Detroit, 7/29/21…Won Calder Cups with Grand Rapids in 2017 and Charlotte in 2019…Became the 162nd Griffins alumnus to play in the NHL when he debuted with Detroit on March 27, 2017 at Carolina…Made his professional debut with Grand Rapids against Manitoba on March 12, 2016…Recorded his first professional point on an assist against Lake Erie on April 13, 2016…Led Maine’s defensemen in goals, assists, points and shots as a junior in 2015-16.
#28 Luke Witkowski | 6-2, 216 lbs.
Drafted: 6th round, 160th overall, in 2008 by Tampa Bay
2020-21 Stats: Two points (0-2—2) in 14 games with Syracuse in the AHL, serving as team captain.
Career: First season as a Griffin…Ninth year pro…Signed to a two-year contract by Detroit, 7/29/21…Logged career highs in points (14), goals (3) and assists (11) in 2015-16 with Syracuse…Made NHL debut with Tampa Bay on Jan. 20, 2015 against Vancouver…Notched first NHL point on an assist against Vancouver on Dec. 8, 2016…Netted inaugural NHL goal with Detroit on Feb. 17, 2018 in Nashville…Skated in first AHL game on April 6, 2013 at Hershey…Pocketed first AHL assist on Oct. 26, 2013 and grabbed first pro goal on Feb. 22, 2014…Amassed 38 points (7-31—38) in 152 collegiate games with Western Michigan University from 2009-13…CCHA champion with WMU in 2012…Named to the USHL All-Star Game in 2008-09 with Fargo after totaling 22 points (6-16—22) in 55 outings.
#37 Donovan Sebrango | 6-1, 190 lbs.
Drafted: 3rd round, 63rd overall, in 2020 by Detroit
2020-21 Stats: Three points (1-2—3) in five games with HK Levice in the Slovakia2, the third-highest pro league in Slovakia…Four points (0-4—4) in 31 games with Grand Rapids…Credited with the fourth-highest point total among 18-year-old AHL defensemen…Made AHL debut on Feb. 11 and captured first AHL assist on March 3.
Career: Second season as a Griffin…Second year pro…Signed to a three-year entry-level contract by Detroit, 3/14/21…Appeared in 118 career OHL games from 2018-20, recording 56 points (13-43—56) and 87 penalty minutes…Made his North American pro debut with Grand Rapids on Feb. 11, 2021 in Chicago…Registered first AHL point on an assist at Rockford on March 3, 2021.
#40 Wyatt Newpower | 6-3, 194 lbs.
2020-21 Stats: 10 points (3-7—10) in 24 games with Cleveland in the AHL during his rookie season…Made pro debut on Feb. 12, potted first assist on Feb. 22 and garnered first AHL goal on Marc 20…Paced Cleveland with a plus-10 rating.
Career: First season as a Griffin…Second year pro…Signed to a two-year entry-level contract by Detroit, 5/31/21…Skated in first AHL game on Feb. 12, 2021 against Rochester…Earned first AHL point, assist, and multi-point game on Feb. 22, 2021 at Rockford…Netted inaugural AHL goal on March 20, 2021 against Grand Rapids…Appeared in 114 collegiate games with UCONN and tallied 47 points (11-36—47)…In 2019-20, named the Hockey East Best Defensive Defenseman and earned a spot on the Hockey East Second All-Star Team.
#1 Victor Brattstrom | 6-5, 198 lbs.
Drafted: 6th round, 160th overall, in 2018 by Detroit
2020-21 Stats: 18-12-7 record, 2.20 GAA, 0.903 save percentage and one shutout in 38 games with KooKoo in SM-liiga, the top league in Finland…Earned an 18-save shutout on April 9…Skated in first career playoff game, saving 79% of his shots faced…0-1 record in the playoffs with a 4.00 GAA and a 0.790 save percentage.
Career: First season as a Griffin…Fifth year pro…Made professional debut in Sweden’s second-highest professional league with the Allsvenskan’s Timra IK in 2017-18, recording a 1.93 GAA and a .919 SV% in 15 outings…Helped guide Timra to a promotion to the SHL by winning the Allsvenskan league in 2017-18…Paced the J20 SuperElit league with a .943 save percentage in 2016-17…Won a J18 bronze medal with Frolunda and led the south division with a .930 SV% in 2013-14.
#31 Calvin Pickard | 6-1, 210 lbs.
Drafted: 2nd round, 49th overall, in 2010 by Colorado
2020-21 Stats: 3-3-0 record, 1.96 GAA and a 0.919 save percentage in six games with Vienna in the ICEHL, the Austrian professional league…2-1-1 record, 3.16 GAA and a 0.874 save percentage in six games with Detroit…1-1-1 ledger, 3.33 GAA and a 0.882 save percentage in three games with Grand Rapids…Spent much of the year on Detroit’s Taxi Squad.
Career: Third season as a Griffin…10th year pro…Enters 2021-22 with 113 career NHL games with Colorado, Toronto, Philadelpia, Arizona and Detroit…Logged a professional-low 1.96 GAA in six games with Vienna in the ICEHL in 2020-21…2018 Calder Cup champion with Toronto…Won the Harry Holmes Memorial Award, awarded to the goaltending tandem with the lowest goals against average (2.24), alongside Garret Sparks with Toronto in 2017-18…Made his NHL debut with Colorado on Oct. 16, 2014 at Ottawa…Represented Canada at the 2016 and 2017 IIHF World Championships, winning a gold and silver, respectively…Became the first goalie in NHL history to record his first two wins in relief in back-to-back team games on Nov. 22 and Nov. 25, 2014…Finished his junior career with Seattle as the Western Hockey League’s all-time leader in minutes (14,025) and saves (7,727).
All photos by Mark Newman/Griffins