Despite this being the Grand Rapids Griffins’ 26th overall season, they celebrated as if it were the franchise’s 25th-anniversary season due to the 2020-21 COVID campaign being held mostly without fans. This was also the Griffins’ 21st campaign as a member of the American Hockey League and their 20th as the primary affiliate of the 11-time Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings. Grand Rapids concluded with a 33-35-6-2 record (0.487), including 17-16-4-1 at Van Andel Arena and 16-19-2-1 on foreign ice, and a seventh-place finish in the Central Division. Grand Rapids has competed in 1,989 regular season games between the International Hockey League and the AHL since 1996-97 and totaled a 1043-730-27-70-119 (0.579) ledger to go along with seven division titles, 17 playoff appearances and two Calder Cups (2017, 2013).
Named the 11th head coach in franchise history on June 5, 2018, Ben Simon concluded his fourth season as bench boss and seventh season with the Griffins. He served the first three seasons as an assistant under Todd Nelson, now an assistant coach with the NHL’s Dallas Stars. Appearing in 21 games and scoring nine points (4-5—9) with the Griffins in 2006-07, Simon is the third former Griffins player to serve as head coach, joining Nelson and Danton Cole. On Dec. 21, 2021, Simon made his NHL coaching debut when he was called up to the Red Wings to man the bench alongside Grand Rapids assistant coach Todd Krygier, helping lead Detroit to a 5-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils. He became the sixth coach in franchise history to reach 100 wins with the Griffins on Feb. 10, 2022 versus Iowa. Simon also collected his 200th victory as a pro head coach on April 20 against Rockford.
Follow The Leaders
Points: Jonatan Berggren (21-43—64)
Goals: Riley Barber (28)
Assists: Berggren (43)
PIM: Dominik Shine (141)
Plus-Minus: Dan Renouf (+14)
Goaltender Wins: Calvin Pickard (21)
Goals Against Average: Pickard (2.58)
Save Percentage: Pickard (0.918)
Griffins to Wings
Of the 34 players to compete for the Detroit Red Wings this season, 19 had spent time in Grand Rapids at some point during their careers. A total of 10 players appeared in games for both the Griffins and Red Wings this season (Riley Barber, Kyle Criscuolo, Turner Elson, Taro Hirose, Chase Pearson, Calvin Pickard, Dan Renouf, Gemel Smith (conditioning), Joe Veleno, Luke Witkowski). Pearson made his NHL debut with Detroit on March 24, becoming the Griffins’ 191st NHL alumnus.
All Good Things Must End
The Griffins finished the 2021-22 campaign in seventh place in the Central Division standings with a 33-35-6-2 (0.487) mark. The top five teams from the division qualified for the Calder Cup Playoffs, with the top three receiving a first-round bye. The Griffins were eliminated from playoff contention when Texas defeated Iowa on April 23. The contest on April 24 in Chicago was the first game the Griffins played after being eliminated from playoff contention since April 15, 2012. Grand Rapids appeared in the last seven Calder Cup Playoffs, dating back to the 2012-13 season when it lifted the cup for the first time. During this playoff stretch, the Griffins went 52-31-3-0 (0.598) and outscored their opponents 282-233. In addition, Grand Rapids went 12-5 in playoff series since 2013 with two Calder Cups. Excluding the NHL lockout season of 2004-05, and the 2019-21 COVID seasons, this is the first time since Grand Rapids’ inception that neither the Griffins nor the Red Wings qualified for the playoffs. This is the first season since the 2009-10 campaign that the Griffins finished below the 0.500 mark.
Rewrite the History Books
Jonatan Berggren on April 24 became the first rookie in Griffins history to record 60 points when he bagged two assists in the outing. With those two points, Berggren passed Teemu Pulkkinen (2013-14) for the Griffins’ rookie single-season scoring title. Berggren finished the season with 26 points (7-19—26) in his last 18 games, including a season-high 11-game point streak (6-13—19) to close out the year. The Uppsala, Sweden, native paced the Griffins and ranked second among rookies with his 64 points, while his 43 assists were tied for first in the league among first-year players. Berggren was also second among rookies with seven game-winning goals. His 43 assists are the most by a rookie in a Griffins uniform while his 21 goals are tied for sixth among Griffin rookies. Berggren became the first rookie to ever lead the Griffins in assists, and the third to pace the team in either points (Teemu Pulkkinen 59 in 2013-14, Gustav Nyquist 58 (tied) in 2011-12) or game-winning goals (Landon Ferraro 4 in 2011-12 and Petr Schastlivy 6 in 1999-00). His seven game-winning goals and three overtime tallies were both franchise records for a rookie. Berggren was named the AHL Rookie of the Month in April and joined Justin Abdelkader (Oct. 2008) and Tomas Kopecky (Feb. 2003) as the only three Griffins to achieve this award. The rookie recorded 20 points (6-14—20) in 14 contests in April.
|Jonatan Berggren (2021-22)||70||21||43||64|
|Teemu Pulkkinen (2013-14)||71||31||28||59|
|Gustav Nyquist (2011-12)||56||22||36||58|
|Glen Metropolit (1997-98)||79||20||35||55|
|Justin Abdelkader (2008-09)||76||24||28||52|
Welcome to the Barber Shop
Riley Barber was a menace to end the season, as he finished the year on a career-high 17-game point streak (18-8—26), which included hat tricks on April 9 at Toronto and April 30 at Cleveland. There has been only one longer point streak in franchise history (Donald MacLean 19, 2005-06). Barber’s 17-game run was the longest in the AHL this season and the longest by a Griffin in more than 16 years, since MacLean’s franchise-record streak. His stretch to end the season tied Derek King’s 17-game run (2000-01) for the second-longest in franchise history. After being reassigned by Detroit on March 2, Barber notched 34 points (20-14—34) in 25 games, including nine multi-point outings. The Pittsburgh native tied for second on the roster with 53 points (28-25—53) in 49 outings. Through 81 contests with the Griffins, the 28-year-old veteran has 87 points (48-39—87) and 46 penalty minutes.
The Roaring 20s
Riley Barber (28), Jonatan Berggren (21) and Turner Elson (21) became the first three Griffins teammates with 20-plus goals each since Eric Tangradi (31), Matt Lorito (23), Matthew Ford (22), Matt Puempel (22) and Ben Street (21) in 2017-18.
Brian Lashoff’s 580 games played for the Griffins rank first among active AHL players who have spent their entire AHL career with the same club and fourth in league history among one-team players. Of the players ahead of him on that list, the most recent – and, coincidentally, the record-holder – last played during the 1970-71 season (Bill Needham of the Cleveland Barons, 981 games played). Lashoff overtook Paul Larivee (Providence Reds, 1952-62) for the No. 4 spot on April 6 against Cleveland and is now 28 games behind No. 3 Howie Yanosik (Hershey Bears, 1957-67). Lashoff is still 75 games away from breaking the Griffins’ all-time games played record, held by Travis Richards with 655 games (1996-2006).
|Games||Player||Played in GR From-To|
|580||Brian Lashoff||2008-13; 14-present|
|364||Michel Picard||1996-00; 02-04|
|304||Derek Meech||2004-08; 10-11|
|981||Bill Needham||Cleveland Barons||1956-71|
|753||Arnie Kullman||Hershey Bears||1948-60|
|608||Howie Yanosik||Hershey Bears||1957-67|
|580||Brian Lashoff||Grand Rapids Griffins||2008-13; 14-present|
|570||Paul Larivee||Providence Reds||1952-62|
|534||Pete Backor||Pittsburgh Hornets||1945-54|
|Roger DeJordy||Hershey Bears||1962-70|
|517||Pete Kapusta||Providence Reds||1946-55|
|513||Stan Smrke||Rochester Americans||1957-67|
|496||Bob Leduc||Providence Reds||1964-72|
Goaltender Calvin Pickard competed in 43 of the 76 games this season for the Griffins, despite missing 21 games due to recall and injuries. The 10-year-pro ranked 13th in the AHL with a 2.58 goals against average while his 0.918 save percentage placed 11th. Pickard made his 16th consecutive appearance on Dec. 22, which set a new career high for the goaltender and was only halfway to Joey MacDonald’s franchise record of 24, set during the 2004-05 season. The netminder recorded his third helper of the season on Dec. 4 versus Rockford, which set a new AHL career high for assists in a season. Pickard moved into a tie for 10th place in franchise history when he recorded his only shutout of the year and fourth as a Griffin on Nov. 12 against Manitoba.
Going with the Flow
It was a busy season for head coach Ben Simon and general manager Shawn Horcoff, as players on professional tryouts were plentiful for the Griffins this year. Twelve PTO skaters saw action this season for Grand Rapids and totaled 174 games played; both numbers surpassed any full season since Simon joined the team as an assistant coach in 2015-16. The previous high under Simon was five PTO skaters and 23 games played during the 2018-19 season. On average, 12.7% of the Griffins’ lineup were tryout players this campaign. Grand Rapids played in just eight games without a PTO or ATO player in the lineup. The team also played short of the regular 20 players five times, including one game short four players - a 5-4 win over Milwaukee on New Year’s Eve - two games short two players and two games short one player.
Following a 2019-20 campaign in which they finished sixth in the AHL’s power play rankings at 20.9%, the Griffins exceeded that mark in 2020-21 with a power play conversion rate of 21.5%, the fifth best on the circuit. However, Grand Rapids struggled mightily this season on the power play and finished the year in 28th place in the AHL at 16.7%. The penalty kill was not much better, tying for third to last at 75.4%.
Michel Picard’s #7 and Jeff Hoggan’s #10 were raised to the Van Andel Arena rafters this season, joining Travis Richards’ #24 as the only three jerseys to be retired by the Griffins. Picard played 363 games over six seasons with Grand Rapids (1996-99; 02-04) and still ranks as the Griffins’ all-time leader with 158 goals, 222 assists, 380 points, 40 power play goals and 26 game-winning tallies. Hoggan was the longest-tenured captain in franchise history (2012-16) and helped set the recent culture for Griffins hockey, finishing with an 8-3 playoff-series record and one Calder Cup title (2013).
The Griffins had their fair share of overtime games this season and set new franchise records, good and bad. Grand Rapids’ six road overtime wins this season (6-1) are a franchise record. The Griffins’ four home overtime losses this campaign (2-4) tied the franchise record set in 2014-15. With three OT tallies apiece, Turner Elson and Jonatan Berggren tied Grand Rapids’ single-season record (Andy Miele in 2014-15 and Kevin Miller in 2003-04) and along with Brian Lashoff sit one shy of the career mark shared by Miele and Jiri Hudler.
With back-to-back sellout crowds to end the campaign, the Griffins averaged 7,029 fans per game, which ranked third in the league. This marked the 13th straight season that Grand Rapids has averaged 7,000-plus fans per contest (excluding the 2020-21 COVID season).
Win Some, Lose Some
Compare the statistics during the Griffins’ 33 wins and 43 losses (including overtime and shootout):
|GF||GA||PP %||PK %||SF||SA|
Going Back to Back
Compare the statistics for when the Griffins played on successive nights:
|W||L (incl. OT, SO)||GF||GA||PP %||PK %||SF||SA|
Kyle Criscuolo logged a 10-game point streak (7-11—18) from Nov. 20-Jan. 5, which set a new career-high for the forward and tied for the 11th-longest in Griffins history. Criscuolo made his NHL season debut with Detroit on Dec. 1 against Seattle, marking his first NHL game since March 5, 2018. Criscuolo then collected his first career NHL point on an assist against New Jersey on Dec. 18.
Netminder Victor Brattstrom appeared in 14 consecutive games from March 22-April 20. His 14 straight appearances tied for second all time among Griffins rookie goaltenders with Jimmy Howard (2005-06) and trailed only Jordan Pearce (2010-11, 26 GP). Through 32 games this season, the Goteborg, Sweden, native showed a 11-16-3 mark with a 0.894 save percentage and a 3.32 goals against average. Brattstrom’s 32 games played tied for the fourth-most ever for a Griffins rookie goaltender and the most since Petr Mrazek made 42 appearances in 2012-13. The rookie picked up his first AHL shutout of his career on March 5 against Iowa, making 35 saves.
Home vs. Road
Fourteen Griffins set personal AHL career highs this season:
Patrick Curry 29 games played, two assists
Josh Dickinson 48 games played, six goals, seven assists, 13 points, 20 penalty minutes
Turner Elson 73 games played, 21 goals, 24 assists, 45 points
Taro Hirose 59 games played, 15 goals, 38 assists, 53 points
Jon Martin 60 games played
Jared McIsaac 70 games played, five goals, 19 assists, 24 points, 34 penalty minutes
Ryan Murphy 11 goals, 29 points
Wyatt Newpower 55 games played, 54 penalty minutes
Chase Pearson eight goals, 18 penalty minutes
Calvin Pickard 16 consecutive games played, 12 consecutive starts
Donovan Sebrango 65 games played, one goal, six assists, seven points, 23 penalty minutes
Dominik Shine 17 goals, 15 assists, 32 points, 141 penalty minutes
Tyler Spezia 74 games played, 13 goals, 22 assists, 35 points, 24 penalty minutes
Dennis Yan 56 games played
On a Scale of 1-10
Eight Griffins ranked among the AHL’s individual leaders during the regular season:
Riley Barber 15 PPG (T2nd)
Jonatan Berggren 64 points (T12th, 2nd among rookies), 43 assists (T9th, T1st among rookies), 21 goals (T8th among rookies), 7 GWG (T6th, 2nd among rookies), 6 PPG (T12th among rookies), 15 PPA (T5th among rookies), 3 OTG (T1st, 1st among rookies), 3 unassisted goals (T5th, T1st among rookies)
Victor Brattstrom 0.867 shootout save percentage (5th)
Turner Elson 3 overtime goals (T1st)
Taro Hirose 38 assists (T17th), 18 PPA (T16th)
Jared McIsaac 24 points (T9th among rookie defensemen), 19 assists (T9th among rookie defensemen), 5 goals (T12th among rookie defensemen)
Ryan Murphy 11 goals (T4th among defensemen), 5 PPG (T3rd among defensemen)
Calvin Pickard 2.58 GAA (13th), 0.918 SV% (11th), 21 wins (T9th), 2534:30 minutes (5th), 43 GP (7th)
Dominik Shine 141 penalty minutes (T2nd), 3 shorthanded goals (T8th)
Dominik Shine recorded a career-high seven-game point streak (7-3—10) from March 16-27. Shine scored in four straight games from March 22-27, which set a new career-high goal streak. The 28-year-old set career-best numbers this season in goals (17), assists (15), points (32), penalty minutes (141) and shots (122).
Season for the Books
Six Griffins compiled statistics that ranked among the team’s top 10 for a single season:
Riley Barber 15 power play goals (T3rd)
Jonatan Berggren 43 assists (1st among rookies), 64 points (1st among rookies), 21 goals (T6th among rookies), 7 game-winning goals (T5th), 3 overtime goals (T1st)
Victor Brattstrom 0.867 shootout save percentage (3rd)
Turner Elson 3 overtime goals (T1st)
Calvin Pickard 1,221 saves (10th), 4 assists (T1st among goaltenders)
Dominik Shine 3 shorthanded goals (T5th)
Climbing Up the Leaderboard
Six Griffins have now either moved up or cracked the franchise’s all-time regular-season leaderboard:
Riley Barber 23 power-play goals (T9th), 0.151 shooting percentage (10th)
Jonatan Berggren 3 overtime goals (T3rd)
Victor Brattstrom 0.867 shootout save percentage (2nd)
Turner Elson 3 overtime goals (T3rd), 7 unassisted goals (T6th), 6 shorthanded goals (T5th)
Brian Lashoff 580 games played (2nd), 682 shots (8th), 3 overtime goals (T3rd)
Calvin Pickard 79 games played (10th among goalies), 4667:56 minutes (10th), 39 wins (10th), 4 shutouts (T10th), 2,165 saves (7th)
After leading the Griffins in assists a year ago with 23, Taro Hirose finished second on the roster with 38 helpers. Eighteen assists came on the power play, which tied for 16th in the AHL. Hirose logged his second three-point night (2-1—3) of the season on Jan. 1 against Milwaukee, which tied a career-high for the forward. In that same game, he also tied a career-best two goals. Hirose’s 53 points (15-38—53) this season tied for second on the roster. He was recalled for the first time this season by Detroit on Dec. 15 and made his NHL season debut on Dec. 18 against the Devils. With the Red Wings, Hirose totaled four points (1-3—4) in 15 games.
This is the second season in franchise history that Griffins players have had at least three scoring streaks of 10 games or longer. Riley Barber (18-8—26, 17 GP), Jonatan Berggren (6-13—19, 11 GP) and Kyle Criscuolo (7-11—18, 10 GP) all reached the 10-game plateau this year. The record of four players was set back during the 2005-06 campaign. Barber’s 17-game streak tied for the longest run in the AHL over the last five season with Ontario’s Mike Amadio in 2017-18. His 17-game streak is one of only four streaks of 17 games or more over the last 14 seasons, and is tied for the fifth-longest streak over the last 16 seasons. The longest AHL point streaks since 2006-07 (last 16 seasons) are listed below:
|Player (Team)||Season||Point Streak Length|
|*Darren Haydar (CHI)||2006-07||39 games|
|Jason Krog (CHI)||2006-07||26 games|
|Alexandre Giroux (HER)||2008-09||23 games|
|Paul Carey (HER)||2016-17||19 games|
|Riley Barber (GR)||2021-22||17 games|
|Mike Amadio (ONT)||2017-18||17 games|
|Ryan Vesce (WOR)||2008-09||17 games|
|Reid Boucher (UTI)||2019-20||16 games|
|Keith Aucoin (HER)||2011-12||16 games|
|Keith Aucoin (HER)||2009-10||16 games|
Not Your Average Joe
Although Joe Veleno spent the majority of the season with Detroit, he made the most of his time in Grand Rapids. Veleno registered 10 points (6-4—10) in 11 games with the Griffins this year. The former first-round draft pick logged a season-high four-game point streak from Feb. 4-20, recording three goals and four assists. From Feb. 4-25, the Griffins averaged 4.25 goals per game with Veleno in the lineup and 2.20 goals per contest without the forward. With the Red Wings this season, the Kirkland, Quebec, native totaled 15 points (8-7—15) in 66 games.
The Griffins fared well against opponents from the North Division this season, as they finished with a 8-2-2-0 record (0.750) and outscored their opponents 38-28. In comparison, Grand Rapids went 22-29-3-2 (0.438) against Central Division foes and 3-4-1-0 (0.438) against teams from the Pacific Division.
Marching Out of Cadence
The Griffins have had a remarkable stretch of success during the month of March throughout their 26 seasons. Grand Rapids earned a winning record in March for 13 straight years from 2008-09-2020-21, in large part by going 0.500 or better on the road during each of those months and despite playing 62% of its games on the road. However, that streak ended this season, as the Griffins finished 5-7-1-0 in March. All time, the Griffins have only had a losing March record four times in 26 years. The last time Grand Rapids suffered a losing record in March was back in 2008.
|Year||Overall March Record||Home March Record||Road March Record|
Ryan Murphy enjoyed a four-game point streak (1-5—6) from March 9-16. The defenseman registered an assist in four consecutive games during his point streak, which tied for the second-longest assist streak this season by a Griffin. Despite missing the final 19 games of the season, the nine-year pro placed eighth on the roster and led all Grand Rapids blueliners with 29 points (11-18—29) in 53 outings. When Murphy went down with a season-ending injury on March 18, he was tied for first among AHL defensemen with 11 goals while his 29 points were tied for 14th.
Turner Elson reached the 20-goal mark for the first time in his career on April 9. The nine-year pro had a breakout season on the offensive end, with a career-best 21 goals, 24 assists and 45 points. Elson rattled off a career-high five-game goal streak from March 9-18, which tied for the longest goal streak this season by a Griffin. The 29-year-old recorded overtime winners in two straight outings from March 13-16, joining Filip Hronek as the only Griffins to score overtime goals in consecutive games. He scored six seconds into the overtime frame on March 16, which was the fastest goal to start any period in Griffins’ history, for or against. Elson, Riley Barber (28) and Jonatan Berggren (21) are the first three Griffins teammates with 20-plus goals each since Eric Tangradi (31), Matt Lorito (23), Matthew Ford (22), Matt Puempel (22) and Ben Street (21) in 2017-18. On April 25, Elson signed with Detroit for the remainder of the 2021-22 NHL season and competed in the final two games.
Holland, Mich. native Luke Witkowski became the fourth West Michigander to ever play for the Griffins. Witkowski joined East Grand Rapids native Luke Glendening, Kentwood local Mike Knuble and Muskegon legend Justin Abdelkader. Witkowski spent two years with Detroit from 2017-19 but never saw action in the AHL. The veteran totaled seven points (3-4—7) in 44 outings with Grand Rapids before being dealt to the St. Louis Blues at the trade deadline on March 21.
Race for the Cup
The Stanley Cup playoffs got underway on Monday, May 2, with all 16 teams having a Griffins alum among their player or hockey ops ranks.
|Colorado Avalanche||Darren Helm, Head Coach Jared Bednar|
|St. Louis Blues||Pro Scout Michel Picard|
|Boston Bruins||Tomas Nosek, Head Coach Bruce Cassidy, Assistant Coach Chris Kelly|
|Washington Capitals||Nick Jensen, Anthony Mantha|
|Calgary Flames||Calle Jarnkrok, Assistant Coach Cail MacLean|
|Carolina Hurricanes||Brendan Smith|
|Los Angeles Kings||Andreas Athanasiou|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||Asst. GM/Dir. of Player Development Stacy Roest|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||Petr Mrazek (IR), Jason Spezza|
|Edmonton Oilers||Pro Scout Chris Cichocki|
|Florida Panthers||Assistant GM Brett Peterson|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||Pro Scout Kerry Huffman|
|Nashville Predators||Chief Amateur Scout Tom Nolan, Pro Scout Doug Janik|
|New York Rangers||Assistant GM Ryan Martin|
|Dallas Stars||Luke Glendening, Asst. Coach Todd Nelson, GM Jim Nill|
|Minnesota Wild||Joe Hicketts, Pro Scout Mark Mowers|
In the Show
With the advancement of seven former Griffins to the NHL this season, Grand Rapids has now sent 193 players on to the NHL during its 26 seasons of play. Thirty-eight Griffins alumni logged ice time in the NHL during the 2021-22 season. (*Played for Grand Rapids this season)
|Andreas Athanasiou||Los Angeles||28||11||6||17||7||4|
|Martin Frk||Los Angeles||6||2||0||2||-4||2|
|Tomas Tatar||New Jersey||76||15||15||30||-22||22|