Andreas Athanasiou: Human Highlight Reel

On Saturday, Detroit Red Wings center Andreas Athanasiou showcased his offensive talent in a 6-3 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Athanasiou, who was drafted in the fourth round of the 2012 draft, went coast to coast, weaving and deking his way through the Penguins’ defense before flipping the puck over Marc-Andre Fleury’s shoulder for what would end up being the game-winning goal.

Here it is in all it’s greatness.

It was a fantastic individual effort by the 22-year-old, but this isn’t the first time Athanasiou has dazzled us with an impressive individual effort.

On Feb. 29, 2016, Athanasiou had another highlight goal against the Dallas Stars.

Granted, against Dallas, Athanasiou was aided a bit by Antti Niemi going down early, but to be able to chip the puck past his teammate, collect it in the offensive zone, dangle around a defender and backhand the puck over the goalie took a lot of talent and poise.

Athanasiou On Par with McDavid

Before I get called every bad name in the book for even suggesting Athanasiou can be just as good as Connor McDavid, allow me to explain.

In 66 games over the past two seasons, Athanasiou has 18 goals and 10 assists. McDavid, on the other hand, has 30 goals and 69 assists in 91 career NHL games. McDavid, clearly, has had more success, even though he has played 25 more games. Athanasiou has 0.42 points per game (0.39 PPG at five on five), and McDavid has 1.09 PPG (0.67 PPG at five on five). The problem with point-per-game stats is it doesn’t account for players who get less ice time.

Athanasiou has been just as productive with his ice time despite receiving less ice time. In 66 games, Athanasiou is averaging about nine minutes per game at five on five. McDavid, on the other hand, is averaging about 15 minutes per game at five on five in 91 games.

McDavid is getting more ice time than Athanasiou, but Athanasiou is making the most of his limited ice time. During the past two seasons, according to Corsica and as pointed out by Winging It In Motown’s Prashanth Iyer, Athanasiou ranks third in the NHL in primary points per 60 minutes (2.09) of all players who have played at least 500 minutes, behind only Auston Matthews (2.41) and Sidney Crosby (2.21). Iyer’s tweet is from Jan. 11, and McDavid now is tied with Athanasiou for third. Athanasiou also is second in goals/60 at 1.59, behind Matthews (1.78) and ahead of McDavid (0.98), who is 41st.

I’m not saying Athanasiou is comparable to McDavid — because he’s not — but it’s clear Athanasiou has been just as productive with his ice time and even scoring at a better rate than McDavid.

Athanasiou Needs More Ice Time

Highlight reels aside, it’s clear Athanasiou needs more ice time. Two weeks ago, Athanasiou was a healthy scratch in the Red Wings’ 2-0 loss to Anaheim on Jan. 4. Coach Jeff Blashill said Athanasiou’s compete level was not where it needed to be. Since being a healthy scratch, Athanasiou has four goals and three assists in six games.

Even before Athanasiou was benched, he had a primary points-per-60 mark of 1.38 during the past two seasons, which is third only behind Matthews (1.87) and David Pastrnak (1.44) of all players who have played at least 500 minutes.

I know Blashill is concerned about his defensive game, which does need to improve, but that will come with experience. Athanasiou is only 22 years old and hasn’t played a full season in the NHL. He knows he needs to be a complete player in order to be successful in the NHL, as evidenced by his healthy scratch, but in the meantime, Blashill would be best served playing Athanasiou at least 15 minutes per game. Monday was a good start toward that, as Athanasiou had 15:32 of total ice time, 12:49 of which was at even strength, during a 1-0 win against Montreal, according to Shift Chart.

It’s not as if Athanasiou’s lack of defense will drastically hurt the team. The team, as a whole, isn’t great defensively. Athanasiou is a special player with amazing offensive talent, and hopefully, Monday is the first step in Athanasiou showcasing that talent on a more consistent basis.