Behind The Bench: Justin Abdelkader
Born: Muskegon, MI, USA
Birth date: February 25, 1987
Height: 6’1” (185 cm)
Weight: 212 lbs (96 kg)
Position: Center/Left Wing
NHL Draft: 42nd overall by the Detroit Red Wings in 2005
NHL Team: Detroit Red Wings
Jersey No.: #8
National Team: United States
NHL Contract: 11/12
Cap Hit: $787,500
Abdelkader played high school hockey at Muskegon Mona Shores High School, where he was named the 2004 recipient of Michigan’s Mr. Hockey Award, an award that recognizes the top high school player in the state of Michigan. Previous winners of the award include, Brian Lee, Ryan McDonagh, Nick Leddy, David Fischer and Kyle Rau. After spending the 2004-05 season with the Cedar Rapids of the USHL playing in 60 games and recording 52 points, Abdelkader was selected 42nd overall by the Detroit Red Wings in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.
Abdelkader spent the next three seasons playing collagiate hockey with the Michigan State University Spartans in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA). During the 2007 NCAA Frozen Four tournament, Abdelkader scored the game-winning goal in the National Championship game against Boston College with just 18.9 seconds left in the game. His marker was the latest game-winner scored in an NCAA title game. For his efforts during the tournament, he was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. In his final season with the Spartans, he was named as alternate captain. He was also selected to the NCAA West Regional All-Tournament Team and was honoured as the CCHA’s Best Defensive Forward. Despite a busy season, Abdelkader still found time to start the “Shoot for a Cure” initiative to help raise money for children with cancer.
Abdelkader opted to forgo his final season of collegiate hockey and then signed a three-year NHL entry-level contract with the Red Wings on April 3, 2008.
The 2008-09 season was Abdelkader’s first pro season. He spent the majority of the season in the AHL with the Grand Rapid Griffins. In 76 games with the Griffins, he scored 24 goals and 28 assists. He also played in 10 AHL playoff games with the Griffins, scoring 6 goals and 2 assists. Abdelkader joined the Red Wings during their Stanley Cup run and chipped in 2 goals and 1 assists in 10 playoff games en route to a 2nd Stanley Cup Final berth for the Red Wings. His two goals during the Stanley Cup finals made him the first rookie to score a goal in consecutive finals games since Dino Ciccarelli accomplished the task in 1981.
Abdelkader started the 2009-10 season with the Griffins and played in 33 games. He recorded 11 goals and 13 assists before the injury bug hit the Red Wings hard, forcing the Red Wings to recall Abdelkader. He would spend the rest of the season with the parent club. Abdelkader played in 50 games for the Red Wings, scoring 3 goals and 3 assists. He also appeared in 11 playoff games, recording 1 goal and 1 assist.
The 2010-11 season was Abdelkader’s first full season with the Red Wings. He played in 74 games and established career highs in games played, goals, assists and points, scoring 7 goals and 12 assists, good for 19 points.
- Skilled skater
- Versatile, plays both Center and Wing
- Excellent two-way player
- Good size
- Reliable shut-down forward
- Likes to take the body
- Excellent forechecker
- Hard working, consistent work ethic
- Lacks offensive consistency
- Questionable NHL level offensive upside
Abdelkader is an excellent two-way forward but currently lacks the offensive consistency to be a reliable second-line center. If he stays as he is now, Abdelkader will become a great shutdown, third line center with speed that can pot in the occasional goal. If Abdelkader can find more consistency in his offensive game, he could become a very good two-way forward, and a reliable second-line threat. When I see Abdelkader play, I am reminded of Ryan Kesler. Kesler was pegged as always being a shutdown third-line center with no offensive upside. Kesler scored 41 goals last season, that’s impressive for a player who was supposed to be a shutdown third-line center. If Abdelkader can find some offensive flare, he could develop very much like Kesler did but don’t expect that for at least 4 years.
Abdelkader will be the Red Wings third-line center next year and will move up and down the lineup depending on injuries. Expect 30-35 points out of him next season.
- Drafted 42nd overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft
- 1st NHL Game Played – April 3rd, 2007 vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (3-2 W)
- 1st NHL Point – October 15th, 2009 vs. Los Angeles Kings (Assist)
- 1st NHL Goal – October 17th, 2009 vs. Colorado Avalanche
- 1st NHL Assist – October 15th, 2009 vs. Los Angeles
- 1st NHL Multi-point Game – November 11 vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (2 goals)
- 1st NHL Playoff GP – May 10th, 2009 vs. Anaheim Ducks (4-1 W)
- 1st NHL Playoff Point – May 10th, 2009 vs. Anaheim Ducks (Assist)
- 1st NHL Playoff Goal – May 31, 2009 vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (3-1 W)
- 1st NHL Playoff Assists – May 10th, 2009 vs. Anaheim Ducks
- 2008-09 Stanley Cup Champion
- 2003-04 Minnesota Mr. Hockey
- 2004-05 USHL Clark Cup Champion
- 2006-07 NCAA Championship Winner
- 2006-07 NCAA Frozen Four Most Outstanding Player
- 2006-07 U20 WJC Bronze Medal
- 2007-08 NCAA (CCHA) Best Defensive Forward
- 2007-08 NCAA (CCHA) Humanitarian Award
- 2008-09 AHL All-Rookie Team
- 2008-09 Stanley Cup Champion
AHL: 109 GP, 35 G, 41 A, 76 Pts
NCAA: 124 GP, 44 G, 51 A, 95 Pts
NHL: 128 GP, 10 G, 15 A, 25 Pts
NHL Playoffs: 32 GP, 3 G, 2 A, 5 Pts
USHL: 60 GP, 27 G, 25 A, 52 Pts
USHL Playoffs: 11 GP, 0 G, 4 A, 4 Pts
WJC-20: 7 GP, 0 G, 2 A, 2 Pts