Detroit — Jonatan Berggren has had a promising rookie season in the American League, but that doesn’t guarantee the forward a late-season promotion to the Red Wings.
Coach Jeff Blashill acknowledged Berggren has shown promise and development in Grand Rapids, but it might be best to let Berggren stay with the Griffins, who are in a battle to get into the playoffs.
Berggren leads the Griffins with 29 assists and 44 points, to along with a minus-16 rating. Berggren was a 2018 second-round draft choice.
“Berggren has grown throughout the course of the year,” Blashill said Wednesday. “The biggest challenge for any player like Jonatan is, he’s an offensive guy who has to make sure he can produce offense in the North American game. Probably the biggest challenge to that is playing faster and getting into the inside, two things that our development staff and American League staff and I’ve talked to him (about).
“He’s been growing in that, and his defensive responsibility, from what I’ve heard, is growing. Those are all positive things. He’s in a great setting to grow. That’s what the American League is for and hopefully he continues to grow.”
There’s often debate as to whether it’s best for a prospect to get a taste of the NHL while he is playing well in the AHL or remain in the minor leagues. There’s much that goes into that decision, said Blashill, mostly what is best for the development of the player.
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“Certainly in Moritz Seider’s case, he was pushing as one of the better defensemen in the (American) league as a young player,” Blashill said. “But ultimately Steve (Yzerman; general manager) makes those decisions based on what he thinks is best for the prospect. There’s a lot that goes into that. Sometimes giving them a taste up here is good, and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s better to stay in the environment you’re in and continue to focus on growing your game and allow that confidence to grow.
“Steve will make that decision and he’ll work with his management staff to decide what they think is best for Jonatan.”
Adam Erne appeared to have an offensive breakthrough a year ago, finishing with a career-high 11 goals and playing with newfound confidence.
The goals haven’t come this season — Erne only had four heading into Wednesday’s game against the New York Rangers — and with that, Erne’s confidence on the ice doesn’t appear to be the same in what’s been a frustrating season.
“One of the things that separates the great players is they’re able to do it year after year. It’s real hard for most players, I don’t care how you are, to year in and year out produce to your kind of ceiling,” Blashill said. “That’s really difficult. Adam, last year, he gained confidence as he scored and it hasn’t gone in for him this year. It hurts your confidence, that’s the reality of it. Confidence is a huge deal for all players.
“It’s just one of those years where it hasn’t gone in easy for him. Last year, he earned his ice time and it went in for him. It hasn’t this year. I don’t have a better explanation than that. That’s just the reality of it sometimes.”
While the offense has waned, Erne has continued to be a grinding, physical presence when playing a checking role.
“He’s done a good job of it. He’s worked and checked so he can still help us win hockey games without scoring,” Blashill said. “That’s really important for guys who’ll fluctuate (offensively) throughout their career.”
Blashill alluded to former Wings forward Vladislav Namestnikov, who was dealt at the trade deadline to Dallas. Namestnikov had 13 goals before being traded, an upswing over the eight he scored with the Wings a year ago. But Namestnikov plays a steady, responsible defensive game and has versatility.
“His production fluctuates, but he can check well and you always have a place on the team for those guys because they can help you win,” Blashill said.
Brattstrom backs up
The Wings recalled goaltender Victor Brattstrom to back up Alex Nedeljkovic against the Rangers.
Thomas Greiss was injured Sunday, has practiced this week, and could be ready to return to the lineup Friday. Calvin Pickard was hurt during Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh and is also unavailable.
Brattstrom, 25, is 6-10-3 with a 3.55 goals-against average and .890 save percentage with the Griffins.
“He’s had growth from the beginning of the year,” Blashill said. “Listening to (Griffins coach) Ben Simon, (Red Wings goalie coach) Jeff Salajko, who speaks with Brian Mahoney-Wilson, their goalie coach, listening to Steve talk, he’s had growth.
“He was pretty good at training camp. He’s a big guy (6-foot-4, 200 pounds) and if he can play his size well, that’s important. Just watching him today, he’s learning to play the puck a little bit better, which was an area he can improve in.”