The following is the first of four parts as we look at this seasons performance of Wings prospects (<25) in the AHL, NCAA, Europe, and the CHL. The grades assigned are not intended to reflect the players potential but simply how they have performed in the current year. Final note: Any stats noted may be slightly out of date, as the information has been compiled over the past week or two. Of the 26 HFNHL Red Wing prospects playing in the AHL or ECHL 20 of them are in their rookie seasons. After watching junior aged players put up some eye popping numbers and reading skill assessments that are based as much on projection as they are on current play seeing how players adapt to the professional ranks is often the most telling commentary. Some will adapt seamlessly and others will stumble through the transition. Of the latter group the toughest part is deciding who to be patient with and who to cut bait on. Excluding Sasha Pokulok and Eric Nystrom, who have both lost this season due to injuries, hereâ€™s the rundown on the Wings prospects. C/LW Mikhail Grabovsky Grade: A Stats: 46-14-30-44, +12, 26 PIM Look out folks he's coming to a HFNHL arena near you soon! Ok so that's a bit premature but so far Mikhail has lived up to the hype and has already been rewarded with a brief NHL call up. His slick skating and strong puck control make him an exciting player to watch. RW Kris Versteeg Grade: B+ Stats: 46-22-27-49, +15, 19 PIM Kris joins the growing battalion of mighty mites in the Red Wings organization. While a bit of an overachiever, Versteeg has shown all season long that he will do anything it takes to win which includes sacrificing his body on offence or defence against much larger opponents. It is yet to be seen how the recent trade of him to the Blackhawks will impact his development. The Hawks are deep at RW and so there is a concern that his ice time will be significantly decreased. C Andrei Taratukhin Grade: B Stats: 48-14-25-39, +5, 50PIM Has overcome his early NA adjustment issues and currently leads the Flames farm team in scoring and is a +5. Before the acquisition of Craig Conroy some had wondered why he had not been called up when so many others had been. The reason is that he's having visa issues for his newborn child and has an agreement with Sutter that he will not be called up until this is sorted out. D Ville Koistinen Grade: B Stats: 34-6-18-24, 26 PIM Despite missing significant time due to injuries, the 2005/06 FNL top point producing dman is currently 2nd in total points and first in pts/gm amongst dmen on a deep blueline in Milwaukee. He was also selected to this years AHL All-Star Game. Unfortunately there are just no openings for another puck moving dman on Nashville's pro roster now or in the near future and so the Wings are hoping he gets traded to a team where he would have better opportunities (oh why couldn't he have been included in the Forsberg deal) G Josh Tjordman Grade: B Stats: 2.69 GAA, .916 sav % The Cinderella season continues for Tjordman. Josh was an undrafted walkon this past summer who started the year in the ECHL and now finds himself ranked 15th in GAA and 7th in save percentage. What makes that even more impressive is that he is playing for one of the worst teams in the AHL. While it's yet to be seen if he can keep this up at this point in time he deserves top marks for his dedication, perseverance, and strong results. RW Martins Karsums Grade: B- Stats: 44-12-18-30, +2, 35 PIM Karsums has made the best of his chances, often fighting for significant ice time on a Providence Bruins team deep at the RW position with players like Kris Versteeg and Petr Kalus not to mention a revolving door of players back and forth from the pro team. With the recent trade of Versteeg to the Blackhawks hopefully Karsums will see his ice time and production increase. LW Vojtech Polak Grade: B- Stats: 42-16-19-35, +2, 30 PIM Not much new report on Polak â€¦ so exciting offensively, so frustrating defensively. The team may be approaching a crossroads with the Polak this summer as, unless there is a clear commitment by the team on playing at the NHL level, it is quite possible Polak will return to Europe. D Brian Salcido Grade: C+ Stats: 44-4-9-13, 60 PIM Salcido choose to sign his first pro contract this summer instead of returning to the NCAA for his final year. After his final season in the NCAA where he recorded 40pts he has had a shaky start to his AHL career but seems to have righted the ship and is seeing his ice time and point production increase. Brian projects as a powerplay quarterback. LW Luciano (Luch) Aquino Grade: C Stats: 13-2-1-3, 6 PIM Who says there's no politics in hockey? The somewhat undersized Aquino plays with a chip on his shoulder that sometimes gets him into trouble when he tries to take on players much bigger than himself but he always plays to win and will cover for teammates (like he always had to do for that floater 'one way Wolski'). After starting in the AHL he is currently in the ECHL but at this time Red Wing management believes Aquinoâ€™s sub par results are more the product of not being allowed to play in roles for which he is suited than his own performance. G Adam Dennis Grade: C Stats: 3.38 GAA, .897 sav % What a difference a few months can make. In his rookie AHL campaign Dennis started with great performances that put him among the goaltending leaders in all categories, received a brief callup, and some over zealous fans even started talking about him possibly backing up Miller next season. Well about mid December the wheels fell off and and GAA rocketed upwards. At this point the most important thing will be for him to regain his confidence. LW Jason Pitton Grade: C Stats: 46-6-5-11, 37 PIM Adjusting to the AHL game he has had some brief struggles but his offence has come on as of late which is a bit of a pleasant surprise since he generally plays a grinders role and projects as a 3rd/4th line checking winger. C/LW Michal Birner Grade: C Stats: 34-7-8-15, -2, 8 PIM By all accounts there is great potential here as a fast, gritty player that has enough offensive upside to potentially play a top six role. That said his rookie AHL season has been a tough adjustment with only passable results which have been compounded by a wrist injury. G Tomas Popperle Grade: C Stats: 2.96GAA, 0.900 sav%, 3 SO Playing his rookie campaign in North America the start of the season was definitely one of adjustment and struggles. As the season has progressed however, both his play and ice time have improved including 2 of the 3 SOâ€™s. RW Adam Cracknell Grade: C- Stats: 17-5-6-11, 20 PIM Not unused to having to prove himself Cracknell is currently facing an uphill battle as he begins his professional career in the ECHL. Having joined the Kootenay Ice as an undrafted tryout and then not being drafted until the 9th round Cracknell will again have to battle for respect and ice time in a very deep Flames organization. Cracknell was performing well and may have been recalled to the AHL but in December he broke his ankle in a freak accident. Apparently his foot got caught in the penalty box door while being checked which required surgery. No word on when he may return. RW Stephen Werner Grade: C- Stats: 12-0-1-1 The Wings organization is having a hard time agreeing on what the future holds for Werner. After a promising showing in his first few AHL games last season, Werner was sent to the ECHL to get more ice time but instead injured his shoulder which is still not 100%. Washington still sees a lot of potential in him but the numbers game may force him out of the HFNHL Wings org. Projects as a 3rd liner. G Jordan Parise Grade: C- Stats: 2.96 GAA, .904 sav% After a strong start to his rookie campaign in which, statistically, he was outplaying his counterpart Frank Doyle, Jordan has hit some rough patches in the second half. RW Stephane Goulet Grade: C- Stats: 42-10-13-23, 34 PIM As they say "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger". Hopefully that will be the case for Goulet. The concern about Goulet was never his offensive potential but his ability to play in a more physical league. Well after starting on an overcrowded Grand Rapids Griffons team shared by Detroit and Edmonton he was sent to the ECHL to get more playing time where he will certainly learn how to take a hit. D Trevor Hendrikx Grade: C- Stats: 24-3-5-8, 75 PIM Known mainly for his willingness to drop the gloves and make the big hits early in his OHL career, Hendrikx received great coaching and developed an unexpected offensive game that saw him record 48 and 56 points in his final two OHL seasons. Not surprisingly Trevor has started his professional in the ECHL with satisfactory results. Still under contract to the Wings for one more year the team will monitor his progress. D Mark Flood Grade: C- Stats: 23-3-7-10, 16 PIM Mark is at a crossroads with the Wings organization. A 2nd tier offensive dman, the team has always been impressed by his leaderhip, maturity and work ethic but being trapped on a team shared by the Canes and Avalanche he has not gotten more than 3rd pairing ice time and his development has been slowed. In other circumstnces the team would be patient but yet again the numbers game is working against him. C Eric Himelfarb Grade: D+ Stats: 41-9-10-19, 28 PIM An enigma wrapped in a conundrum. The diminutive forward has speed, skill and vision. He was offensively explosive in a clutch and grab OHL and had his best AHL season as a rookie in the AHL under the old NHL rules. Under the new rules that should benefit him he has nearly disappeared off the scoresheets. The skills are there, has the fire gone out? LW Ned Lukacevic Grade: D+ Stats: 12-1-0-1, 9 PIM Becoming buried in a relatively deep LA kings farm system Lukacevic found himself relgated to the ECHL earlier this season. Despite the set back, Lucacevic has the kind of work ethic and offensive potential that intrigues GM Niece and so he will likely be patient with his development. LW Adam Henrich Grade: D Stats: 11-2-2-4, 10 PIM Too good for the ECHL but only moderate success at the AHL level the organization may have to cut ties with Henrich this summer. The HFNHL Wings GM certainly had spent more than enough time scouting Henrich and knew the weaknesses to his game but still traded for him on draft day anyway. Homer move! RW Aaron Voros Grade: D Stats: 32-6-7-13, -5, 92 PIM As a very physical winger who has a respectable amount of offensive ability it had always been hoped Voros could be molded into a power forward/enforcer. Voros has slowly improved over the past few AHL seasons and he may yet make it but with his contract expiring the team may need to make room for some new prospects. LW Owen Fussey Grade: D- Stats: 9-1-1-2 Owen's career has been in reverse for a few seasons now and likely will be released this offseason. After a good CHL career and then a strong rookie year in which he received a brief callup his statistics and games played have steadily declined year over year due in part to numerous injuries.