Defenseman Jeremie Biakabutuka, who turned heads as an invitee to Detroit Red Wings training camp last fall, signed an amateur tryout offer with the Grand Rapids Griffins Saturday.
Biakabutuka, 21, is the nephew of former University of Michigan and NFL running back Tshimanga “Tim” Biakabutuka (pronounced bee-OCK-ah-buh-TOO-kuh). He played in the NFL for the Carolina Panthers.
The Quebec native wasn’t drafted by an NHL team. He posted 17 goals and 42 points in 56 games as an over-age player for the Charlottetown Islanders in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
He is a 6-foot-4 right-shot defenseman and the Red Wings have a shortage of right-shot defensemen in the organization. Biakabutuka can skate.
The Red Wings were intrigued by Biakabutuka last fall. He played in one preseason game against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Chicago Wolves tried to sign him for the AHL, but he chose to return to junior hockey.
Lalonde Appreciated Biakabutuka
This is what Detroit coach Derek Lalonde said about him last fall: ““High compete,” Lalonde said. “He can skate north south. Driven kid, Wants to be coached. Looks you in the eye. Little habits like that, you appreciate as a coach. Made a good impression. Really good kid. We’ve liked having him around.”
In 266 QMJHL games from 2018-23, Biakabutuka had 40 goals, 78 assists and 199 penalty minutes.
He started in youth football, but eventually moved into hockey at his father’s urging.
“We are a football family first. Hockey’s like a second sport in our family,” the young Biakabutuka said. “But my father didn’t really like the contact aspect. You can get injured really bad with a concussion. So I played hockey, and I was pretty good at it. So I thought why not just keep going in that sport.”
The Griffins play Monday in Cleveland.