Our journey through the 2019-20 Flint Firebirds roster, assigning player grades is almost complete.
So far, we’ve graded all of the forwards and four of the defensemen. On tap for today is the five remaining blueliners on the roster.
In assessing each player, a lot of criteria were considered to best determine an appropriate grade for each member of the roster. The focus was not only on their overall production this year but also the advances each player made in their individual development.
Of course, player grades are always subjective, especially when you start attaching a “+” or “-” to the letter. These evaluations are certainly open for debate and feedback is strongly encouraged.
Flint Defense Player Grades
Games Played: 56 – Goals: 2 – Assists: 23 – Total Points: 25
The 2019-20 season brought with it a change of scenery for blueliner Owen Lalonde. After spending the prior year with the OHL Champions, the Guelph Storm, Flint acquired him very early on this past season. Lalonde did not play as many games as the year prior and saw his production drop because of it. After a 41-point 2018-19 campaign, he only managed 25 points this year. Still, Lalonde was not brought to the Firebirds for his offensive production necessarily. Instead, he was taken in to be a veteran presence for the youth on the team. In that role, he was successful.
Player Grade: C+
When a defenseman is not a big contributor offensively, it becomes more difficult to provide them with an accurate grade. Some blueliners just don’t put up big numbers and they shouldn’t necessarily be penalized for that. However, Lalonde has proved that he can put up solid numbers from the blue line and didn’t quite reach his potential in that area with Flint. Still, he was far from a detriment to the defense and provided the core with some veteran leadership. All in all, it was a slightly above average year for Lalonde.
Games Played: 43 – Goals: 0 – Assists: 6 – Total Points: 6
In his first full season in the OHL, it was all about establishing a comfort level for 17-year-old Tyler Deline. On a blueline flush with difference makers, Deline struggled to make a noticeable impact. However, it’s clear that he’s still in the growing stages and Flint hopes his game will improve next season as an 18-year-old.
Player Grade: C-
A “C-” might seem brutal for a young developing player still trying to gain his footing in a new league. Still, it’s tough to pinpoint an area of Deline’s game that makes him deserving of a higher mark.
Games Played: 42 – Goals: 1 – Assists: 2 – Total Points: 3
Marcus Gretz is another player not expected to contribute much offensively. Of course, this makes his impact on the team harder to decipher. Still, he was defensively sound, holding his own in his own end. Again, with the understanding of its value, one area Gretz experienced improvement was plus-minus. In his first two seasons, his numbers were deep in the negative. However, this year he managed a differential of plus-six.
Player Grade: C
Keeping in mind that offensive expectations were low, to begin with, Gretz produced an average year in Flint. It’s hard to identify anything to award him a higher or lower mark.
Games Played: 39 – Goals: 0 – Assists: 2 – Total Points: 2
Similar to Deline, Jack Harper’s rookie season was all about getting acclimated to the OHL. Although nothing really stood out in the positive realm, the same could be said about the negatives as well.
Player Grade: C-
For Harper, the focus needs to be on next season. This year, the final grade needs to be taken with a grain of salt.
Games Played: 6 – Goals: 0 – Assists: 1 – Total Points: 1
Michael Bianconi played very little in Flint this season before being traded to Guelph in the Lalonde deal. In his six games with the Firebirds, he recorded one assist. In 48 games with the Storm, he posted one goal and 11 assists.
Player Grade: Incomplete
For this series, we are only focussing on a player’s performance while with Flint. For that reason, it would truly be unfair to Bianconi to provide him a grade.
Up Next for Flint Player Grades
All of the skaters have now been assessed. All that is left to grade is the goaltenders. Next time, we will evaluate the 2019-20 OHL season for Anthony Popovich, Luke Cavallin, and Peyton Grainer.