(Editor’s Note: This is the fourth installment in Detroit Hockey Now’s Tomorrow’s series about some Detroit Red Wings’ prospects)
What Detroit Red Wings assistant general manager Shawn Horcoff appreciated about prospect defenseman Eemil Viro is that he made the most of a challenging circumstance.
“It was tough for him,” Horcoff said. “One thing we do have a lot of defensemen (on the Grand Rapids Griffins), especially young defensemen. There are only six spots in the lineup every night, ”
Viro, 21, was one of the defensemen the Griffins sent to the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye to ease the overcrowding.
“I thought that was good for him,” Horcoff said. “He handled that extremely well. He went down there and did everything he could to play a lot, to play in some situations that he probably would not have played in Grand Rapids.”
Horcoff believed Viro’s play improved after that trip to Toledo. Maybe the Finnish defenseman picked up another layer confidence, or gained a better understanding of the North American game. He previously had played three seasons in the Finnish league (SM-liiga). He played a total of 134 games in that league, generating seven goals and 17 assists for 24 points. He was a combined +14 over the three seasons.
Trip to Toledo Helped
“And when he did he did come back up (to Grand Rapids) I thought his best hockey was at the end of the year,” Horcoff said. “He looked more comfortable.”
Viro (drafted 70th overall in 2020) ended up playing 48 games for the Griffins and five for the Walleye. The 6-foot, 175-pound player had one goal and seven assists for eight points in the AHL, plus another three assists in Toledo. He was a combined -9 in the AHL and ECHL this season.
“He’s obviously very competitive and he can skate,” Horcoff said. “The biggest things for him are strength and the overall maturity of his game is going to continue to grow. We’re very happy with the way he finished his season.”
Analysis: No one raves about Viro, but they seem to like him. They saw some growth in his game, but he’s not one of the players who is close to being NHL-ready. He still needs some work. The Red Wings have reassigned him to the Walleye for the ECHL playoffs
Forecast: Viro isn’t near the top of Detroit’s prospect list, but has a shot at maturing into a dependable D man. His competitiveness and skating are his best assets. Teams can’t have enough able defensemen who can skate.