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Red Wings Firsts: Tomas Jurco

Rookie forward scored his first NHL goal a week after making his Red Wings debut

Wednesday, 06.25.2014 / 12:00 AM ET / News
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Red Wings Firsts: Tomas Jurco
Known as a splendid puck handler, Tomas Jurco concentrated on bulking up to handle the physicality of the North American game. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT – When Justin Abdelkader suffered a concussion last December it put Detroit’s roster deeper in despair.

Patrick Eaves and Luke Glendening had been recalled the week before, and Gustav Nyquist was given permanent residence in the Red Wings’ locker room in November. With the talent pool to pick from in Grand Rapids dwindling, the club decided to call up a then unfamiliar face, Tomas Jurco, to make his NHL debut against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Dec. 15.

“Well, really it was between him and Riley Sheahan,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We already had up Glendening and he’s that kind of guy, so we looked for a different kind of guy.”

Jurco, the Wings’ second-round pick in the 2011 NHL draft, was touted as a talented winger with endless upside. At the time of his first call-up, he led the Griffins in goals (11), assists (16), points (27) and power-play goals (5). He was also tied for fifth in AHL scoring.

With injuries having decimated the forward lines, with Henrik Zetterberg (back), Stephen Weiss (groin), Darren Helm (shoulder) and Abdelkader (concussion) all sidelined, Jurco made his debut on the Wings’ top line with center Pavel Datsyuk and winger Daniel Alfredsson.

Babcock admitted he didn’t know much about Jurco when the forward first stepped into Detroit’s dressing room, however, Griffins coach Jeff Blashill gave his stamp of approval to the Red Wings.

“Personally, I don’t know him that good,” Babcock said at the time of Jurco’s call-up. “Blash tells me he’s a very good player. Blash tells me he has a chance to be a good player. But you can do anything you want down there but you have to come up here and have confidence to do what you do.”

It turned out that Jurco had plenty of confidence. He appeared in seven games during his first stint with the Wings, tallying his first NHL goal on Dec. 17, and his first two-point game (1-1-2) four nights later before returning to Grand Rapids.

But he didn’t stay in Western Michigan for long. Jurco was recalled on Jan. 16 as the Red Wings continued to suffer from an abundance of injuries, and he stayed in Detroit for the remainder of the season.

The forward finished the regular season with eight goals and seven assists through 36 games, often skating on the “Kid Line” alongside Tomas Tatar and Sheahan.

Most commonly known as “The Magician” for his popular YouTube videos displaying his impressive puck-handling skills, Jurco added a physical element to his game upon his arrivals in Grand Rapids and Detroit in order to continue his success.

“AHL is a little differently, there’s more I would say there’s more hitting and it’s a little different,” Jurco explained. “This is a little smarter here so I think I was building it while I was in Grand Rapids and then when I came up here I knew Babs liked me when I’m physical so it’s a good thing for me and I’m trying to do it. I know if I’m going to do that I know I’m going to get more ice time so it’s a good thing for me.”

While Jurco continues to focus on being more physical, he ultimately hopes to stay in the NHL long enough to combine that aspect of his game with the remarkable skills that made him an Internet sensation.

“Yeah that’s my next step that’s what I’m trying to do,” Jurco said. “If you put these two together, skills and physical, I think it’s going to show up pretty good so hopefully I can do it and hopefully I can do it quick enough to stay here.”

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 53 40 9 4 175 120 84
2 FLA 54 32 16 6 150 122 70
3 NYR 54 31 18 5 153 135 67
4 NYI 53 29 18 6 150 131 64
5 DET 54 28 18 8 136 132 64
6 BOS 54 29 19 6 159 148 64
7 TBL 53 29 20 4 140 127 62
8 PIT 53 27 19 7 138 135 61
9 NJD 55 27 21 7 122 123 61
10 MTL 55 27 24 4 147 145 58
11 PHI 53 24 20 9 127 138 57
12 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
13 OTT 56 25 25 6 157 173 56
14 CBJ 56 22 28 6 140 173 50
15 BUF 55 21 28 6 125 151 48
16 TOR 53 19 25 9 122 149 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
D. Larkin 53 18 20 26 38
H. Zetterberg 54 10 27 4 37
T. Tatar 53 16 17 0 33
G. Nyquist 54 14 16 0 30
P. Datsyuk 39 8 21 13 29
J. Abdelkader 54 14 13 -3 27
M. Green 46 4 17 -7 21
N. Kronwall 45 3 14 -10 17
B. Richards 40 5 11 7 16
D. DeKeyser 50 7 8 13 15
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Mrazek 21 10 4 .934 1.94
J. Howard 7 8 4 .904 2.89