GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Andreas Athanasiou spent four seasons in the OHL, splitting time between the London Knights and the Barrie Colts. The fourth-round pick of the Detroit Red Wings in 2012 racked up 111 goals and 110 assists in 252 games. He struggled to score during his first two seasons with the Knights, but was traded to the Colts, and averaged more than a point per game.
After his season with the Colts ended last year, he played in eight games with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins — six of which were playoff games — totaling one goal and three assists. So far this season, he has one goal and three assists in eight games with the Griffins.
I had a chance to talk to Athanasiou after his team’s 3-1 matinee loss to the Chicago Wolves.
The Hockey Writers: You got a taste of the AHL last year, obviously, you are here full time. How have you transitioned form juniors to the AHL level?
Andreas Athanasiou: I think pretty well. Obviously, the guys in this room help me a lot. They show me what it takes to be a pro on and off the ice.
THW: What’s the biggest difference between the junior level and the AHL?
AA: I think it’s just you’re playing with men as opposed to people your own age and some people younger. These guys are big and strong, so you have to really step up.
THW: How do you like Grand Rapids?
AA: I think it’s an unbelievable city. The fans here are great. Once we start getting on a good track here, it’ll be a lot of fun.
THW: What did you think of (local international art competition) ArtPrize this year?
AA: I think it’s incredible. It’s pretty cool, obviously. It’s so creative and you see what type of people there are in their world, and you can see what they are capable of.
THW: It’s no secret the Red Wings like to overripen their prospects. Do you use that as motivation to get to where you eventually want to be in the NHL?
AA: Yeah, exactly. Wherever they put me, I’m going to do the best I can wherever I am. I’ve been in their process, and I know they know the road for me. I’m going to take as long as I need and as long as they want me to. But whenever I get that call, I’ll do my best to be ready.
THW: You guys have pretty streaky to start the season. What do you think has been the key issue?
AA: Just getting that momentum. When we lose it, we have to get it back as quick as we can.
THW: Who did you idolize growing up as a player?
AA: I think, obviously, Bobby Orr. He’s just an unbelievable player. Pavel Bure and his speed and he’s skill — he’s just such an entertaining player.
THW: How did you get into hockey?
AA: I think it was just a family thing. My older brother played, my dad played growing up. It kind of ran in the family and I just kind of stuck to it, and it just all fell through together.
THW: Did they ever play at the NHL level?
AA: No, my older brother got drafted to the OHL. He was a good player, he’s big and strong. He does Rebel Crashed Ice now, so that’s pretty cool.
THW: Obviously, your speed is your main strength. Is that something that you have always had in your game, or is that something that developed in juniors?
AA: I think growing up, I’ve always had that fast twitch. I just did my best to improve it every day. It’s a gift that I have been given. I can’t let it go to waste — if you don’t train every day and you don’t work at it, it’s going to go away. So, I just do my best to maintain it and get better.
THW: You just got your first goal (of the season) a couple of games ago. Do you think that’s going to help you settle in and keep you a little more calm and help you start producing at a more consistent rate?
AA: Yeah, I think definitely. Obviously, this is the pro level, and points are so hard to come by. But, I think the bigger picture is getting those wins. Especially at home, but it was good to get that off the back, and I’m not too worried about it. I’m getting my chances, so eventually, it’s going to go in.
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Tom Mitsos is a Detroit Red Wings and Grand Rapids Griffins staff writer for The Hockey Writers. You can follow him on Twitter @tom_mitsos.
Tom Mitsos is a writer from Michigan who covers the Red Wings and the Red Wings’ AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, for The Hockey Writers.