Todd Nelson likely to return as Griffins coach

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Griffins coach Todd Nelson interviewed for the Coyotes head coaching vacancy last week, but appears like he'll be returning to Grand Rapids.

Traverse City, Mich. — It appears Todd Nelson will be returning to coach the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Nelson interviewed for the head coaching vacancy with the Arizona Coyotes last week, in search of moving up from the American Hockey League to the NHL.

But Arizona is zeroing in on former Coyotes player and assistant coach Rick Tocchet, who was an assistant on the reigning Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins the last four seasons.

Nelson, 48, coached the Griffins to the Calder Cup championship this past season.

“I spent time with them last week, and things went well,” Nelson said Friday at the Red Wings' development camp. “They are moving forward in a direction with someone who has ties to their organization and we’ll see where it goes.”

Nelson was high on the Coyotes’ list and one of the first names that surfaced for the job.

Arizona asked for and received permission to interview Nelson, who has experience at the NHL level having been an interim head coach in Edmonton in 2014-15.

Nelson has coached the Griffins the last two seasons, after Jeff Blashill was promoted to the Red Wings upon Mike Babcock leaving for Toronto.

Nelson earned the praise of many young players on the Griffins, and those who’ve moved up to the Red Wings, for his ability to motivate and preparedness.

“I work at a very good place, work with fantastic people, and work for a great organization,” Nelson said. “Even though I haven’t had the time to really enjoy what we (the Griffins) accomplished, that’ll happen in the next few days and we’re happy with what we accomplished there.

“Right now, it’s a starting phase to get back into it and building a team for next year.”

Nelson is overseeing the on-ice coaching at the development camp  coaches from Grand Rapids and Toledo, as well as Red Wings’ development coaches are handling the instruction  and is looking forward to the experience.

“We’re here to work with the prospects, the people we drafted, but it’s more or less an education for the players to get accustomed to pro life, and set them up for success in the future,” Nelson said.

Putting on the jersey

Forward Michael Rasmussen, the Red Wings’ first-round draft pick two weeks ago, said it was a dream come true to be selected at the NHL Entry Draft.

Competing with the organization’s other young players and wearing the Red Wings’ colors was another step in the direction of someday making the NHL.

“Putting on that sweater for the first time, even though it’s a practice sweater, it’s pretty cool and something I’ve wanted for a long time,” Rasmussen said. “It’s real good to be with the guys in Traverse City and I just want to learn, to have fun.”

Since being drafted, Rasmussen said he’s been able to let the situation sink in and get back to business.

“You kind of enjoy Chicago (where the draft was held) and now get back to work,” Rasmussen said. “I was in the gym and working on my game (the last week) and I want to prove to the guys I’m ready to play and I’m here to be a good teammate and work hard.”

Family pride

There’s a Larkin in this camp, but not Dylan.

Adam Larkin, Dylan’s cousin, is a participant at the development camp.

Adam Larkin, a Clarkston native, is a 6-foot, 190-pound defenseman who is entering his senior year at Yale.

Adam and his brother, along with Dylan and his brother, essentially grew up together with hockey as the common bond.

“We grew up as four brothers basically, we always lived about a mile apart, and it was always me and Dylan against our brothers in street hockey, mini-sticks, video games, you name it,” Adam said. “It was always hockey. Watching 'Hockey Night in Canada,' the Red Wings, every moment was hockey.”

There is a sense of pride for Adam seeing his cousin’s celebrity status in town.

“It’s almost weird,” he said. “I remember coming home last year and Christmas and all this Larkin stuff in the stores and people were collecting the Larkin bobbleheads and people were talking about seeing him and what a famous guy (he is).

“It’s fun to watch. It gives me an extra incentive when I’m on the East Coast to watch his games. It’s a big source of pride for me.”

Great addition

Shawn Horcoff, the Red Wings’ director of player development, spent a year as a teammate in Dallas with new Red Wings defenseman Trevor Daley.

Horcoff feels Daley will be an excellent addition to the roster.

“A great guy, a great person, he’s going to bring a lot of character to that locker room,” Horcoff said. “He just came off winning two Stanley Cup championships (in Pittsburgh), he’s as experienced as you can get.”

Daley’s skating is going to help the Red Wings both offensively and defensively.

“His skating ability is elite and the game is going in that direction more and more every single year,” Horcoff said. “He has the ability to bring the puck out by himself with his speed alone, and get up on the rush, and get back and play defense.

“In today’s game there’s so much backside pressure, it’s hard to find open ice out there. When you have a defenseman who can come back with speed and beat their forecheck and make a good first pass, it leads to instant offense.”

Twitter: @tkulfan