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Kindl making improvements with Grand Rapids


by Lindsay Kramer || NHL.com



Lindsay Kramer, the AHL correspondent for NHL.com, profiles an up-and-coming player each Monday during the season, and his AHL notebook appears each Thursday on NHL.com.

kindl09a_200.jpgAt the start of the season, Grand Rapids forward Evan McGrath gave teammate Jakub Kindl a black Rolling Stones baseball cap. The hat is a little worn by now, but Kindl keeps yanking it onto his head.

Kindl, a second-year defenseman, isn’t really a big fan of the group. But it comes in handy with his sometimes unruly hairstyle.

“Every day I walk into the rink, my hair looks like a mess,” Kindl said. “I didn’t want to look a mess.”

Kindl can appreciate how tidying up just a little bit can make all the difference in the perception of others.

In an organization where defensive talent is stacked up like planes on a runway, Kindl at last looks ready to take off. His 29 points (5-24) in 55 games are 12 more than he produced in 75 games last season. And just as encouraging, his minus-15, while still in need of a little grooming, is a major improvement from his unsightly minus-34 last season.

“Of course I would like to clean it up a little bit," said Kindl, the 19th pick in the 2005 Entry Draft. "You’re a defenseman. I would rather change my points to be pluses. Everything last year I did felt like it went wrong. I didn’t have a good year.”

To be fair, the same could be said for the Griffins team as a whole, as the squad missed the playoffs. Kindl turned Grand Rapids’ bad luck into his good fortune, as he spent the Red Wings’ Stanley Cup run with the team.

“I learned lots, even though I was (just) practicing, see the guys, how they prepare. They are working their (behinds) off in the gym,” said Kindl, 22. “The best players are in the NHL. It makes sense why some of the guys are playing in the NHL and why some aren’t. That’s probably why I am here.”

First-year Griffins coach Curt Fraser said when he took over, he heard lots of questions about Kindl’s play last season. All he’s seen so far are answers.

“Right from the opening faceoff (in the prospects tournament) in Traverse City, I heard things about him (but) I never saw any of it,” Fraser said. “Through the year so far he’s improved in every area. He’s been our best defenseman breaking out of our end, he’s got good speed. The kid is playing hard on the ice. He can do everything. Now he has to do everything real well.”

Kindl and Fraser agree that the current depth chart likely has Jonathan Ericsson as the Grand Rapids defenseman at the front of the line for a promotion to Detroit. After that, it looks like Kindl isn’t going to let anyone else get past him.

“This year it’s a different story," said Kindl. "You get the feeling you are having a better year, things are going better. You hope you get your first NHL shot. They have a pretty deep lineup. It’s hard to find a spot up there. You have to learn how to play down here, maybe you’ll get a shot.”

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