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Red Wings prospect Moritz Seider playing beyond his years in Grand Rapids

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Grand Rapids — It was a big compliment, delivered with sincerity, but Moritz Seider wasn’t fazed.

Seider had a bit of a sheepish grin, and delivered a little nod. Thanks, but Seider wouldn’t accept it totally.

Grand Rapids Griffins defenseman Moritz Seider knocks down the San Diego Gulls' Jack Kopacka in the first period Saturday night at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids.

“Top five defenseman in the National Hockey League right there,” said Bob Kaser, the Griffins’ longtime broadcaster, as Kaser walked by and noticed Seider. “Guaranteed.”

Seider, the Red Wings’ top prospect, the defenseman picked No. 6 overall in June’s NHL Entry Draft, appreciated the praise.

He’s been hearing a lot of it this season as Seider’s play has given merit to the Wings, surprisingly, picking Seider so high in the draft.

But, in Seider’s belief, there’s plenty more work to do.

“Yes, it’s always nice to get a little pumped up from guys like him (Kaser); he knows the business,” Seider said. “But it’s still a long way away.”

The tone was matter-of-fact, sort of businesslike, with a bit of determination thrown in.

That is Seider, when you talk to him and hear others talk about him. He’s an 18-year-old who wants to make the NHL someday, is determined to make it, and will work diligently until he gets there.

The major speculation now is when exactly the Wings will promote Seider for a nine-game look-see somewhere in the next two months.

“You always will be excited and honored, but for now, I’m not even paying attention to all of it,” Seider said of the possible call-up. “I don’t care what the other people are saying. I have to be focused in the locker room and I have to be prepared for my practices and for my work and for my games first of all.

“Honestly, I don’t care at all what other people are saying.”

But those fans on social media can’t stop their excitement, gushing, after the way Seider has played this season.

In 36 games, Seider has two goals and 13 assists with a minus-8 plus-minus rating, and 20 penalty minutes. Basically, Seider hasn’t looked out of place as a teenager playing in the AHL, at all.

Playing for Germany at the world junior tournament last month, Seider had six points, all assists, in seven games with an even rating. Most scouts generally viewed Seider as one of the top three defensemen in the tournament.

“Mo has done a real good job of playing with confidence since the day he walked in,” Griffins coach Ben Simon said. “For an 18-year-old kid, coming into the American League, playing with confidence, it’s atypical. He’s not walking on eggshells.

“He’s confident in who he is as a person, and player, and for a foreign kid coming into this league, he’s assimilated very well.”

The biggest and hardest step for many players is going from junior hockey to the American League.

In 36 games in Grand Rapids, Red Wings prospect Moritz Seider has two goals and 13 assists with a minus-8 plus-minus rating, and 20 penalty minutes.

It’s the first taste of professional hockey for an 18- or 19-year-old kid, going against men who’ve already had a taste of the NHL, or players awaiting the call from the NHL.

The Red Wings debated what was best for Seider before the season, whether it was returning him to his German team, or have him play junior hockey or with the Griffins. But playing close to Detroit in Grand Rapids, in a league close to NHL-caliber, has turned out to be ideal.

“I’m not a person who looks back, Seider said. "I’m a person who is always looking forward, and for me, it was the right decision. I’m here and playing a lot of minutes and getting trust from the coaches, and I have a great team around me.

“So, yes, it was the right decision for me.”

Seider’s poise on the ice has impressed coaches and teammates alike. Seider doesn’t sound like a typical 18-year-old, and hasn’t played like a teenager, either.

“You forget he is 18,” said Griffins forward Taro Hirose, who has spent time with the Red Wings. “He’s 18, but he’s so composed and mature for his age, and the stuff he can do out there (on the ice). He’s not throwing pucks away. He wants to make plays and help teammates out.”

But that’s not to say Seider is close to being a finished product.

There’s an adjustment for any European player coming to North America, and going from the larger to smaller ice surface. The smaller surface requires quicker decisions, and a more physical game.

Seider admits there has been a transition, and he’s learned, and is learning.

“I knew it was going to be hard, and it is a little different,” Seider said. “You’re on a smaller (ice) sheet, and it’s a little bit faster and harder and the guys are competing a little bit more. The time and space factor is the biggest difference. You have to make quick decisions, and you have to be always in the right spot because if you’re not, the guys are so skilled (and will score).

“But overall I’ve adjusted pretty quick. I feel real confident on the smaller ice and playing against grown men that all want to get a job in the NHL.”

Simon and his coaching staff want to make sure Seider doesn’t overextend himself, and continues to play within himself.

“He’s definitely a talented, athletic kid and we have to make sure he’s making sure he’s not doing too much,” Simon said. “When he’s effective, he’s picking and choosing his spots, not trying too much, not gambling or too high risk.

“He’s got to work on his strength and he goes into battle. He’s not afraid.. He plays with a bit of moxie and jam.

“This is an everyday business up top and he has to be able to dominate every game, every day, here before that’ll transition up there (to the NHL). He comes in and works hard every day he is around the rink.”

For now, Seider is concentrating on helping get the Griffins into the AHL playoffs. After Saturday’s loss, the Griffins are fifth in their division and just outside a playoff spot.

Seider is excited about the remainder of the AHL season, which resumes this week following the All-Star break.

“Everyone is focused on the second part of the season,” Seider said. “The break comes at a perfect time, everyone is a little bit tired. It’s a lot of hockey in a short period of time. But everyone is ready and prepared for the last 30 games.”

But will there also be a short detour to the NHL with the Wings?

That is outside Simon’s pay grade, and it obviously isn’t his decision. But Simon can vouch for Seider’s wanting to get to the next level

“I just know every day he comes to the rink with a purpose,” Simon said. “He wants to get better. He competes hard, which is a great quality to have for any young player.”

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan