Detroit and Tampa affiliates meet again in Calder Cup Final

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For the second time in four years, the Syracuse Crunch and Grand Rapids Griffins will battle for the AHL championship.

The 2017 Calder Cup Final gets underway tonight in Grand Rapids, and it promises to be an engaging affair.

Why? Well based on history, the series could be a jumping off point for a number of NHLers.

Four years ago, the Rapids defeated the Crunch four games to two to capture the first Calder Cup in franchise history. Here’s a list of the now-notable players that appeared in those playoffs.

Grand Rapids: Gustav Nyquist, Petr Mrazek, Danny DeKeyser, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, Luke Glendening, Tomas Jurco.

Syracuse: Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Radko Gudas, Brett Connolly, J.T. Brown, Vladislav Namestnikov, Andrej Sustr, Mark Barberio.

Now, granted, Tampa and Detroit are two of the more — how should we put this — AHL-enthusiastic clubs in the league. Detroit is renowned for letting its prospects spend extensive time in the minors, while Tampa’s had tremendous success transitioning individuals from the AHL, including current head coach Jon Cooper.

So, who to keep an eye on this year?

In terms of prospects, 22-year-old Grand Rapids forward Tyler Bertuzzi — the 58th overall pick in 2013 — has enjoyed a breakout postseason. He’s scored 13 points in 13 games and, according to Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill, will be gunning for a spot in Detroit next season.

The same can be said of Evgeni Svechnikov, the club’s first-round pick in 2015. He’s been close to a point-per-game player as well, with 11 in 13 contests.

For the Crunch, 23-year-old Matthew Peca — who made his NHL debut earlier this year — has been terrific, with 12 points in 16 games. Ben Thomas, the defenseman taken in the fourth round in 2014, has been solid in his rookie campaign and sits second among d-men in scoring.

Here’s the entire Calder Cup Final schedule:

Game 1: at Grand Rapids, 7 p.m. Friday, June 2

Game 2: at Grand Rapids, 7 p.m. Saturday, June 3

Game 3: at Syracuse, 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 7

Game 4: at Syracuse, 7 p.m. Friday, June 9

Game 5: at Syracuse, 7 p.m. Saturday, June 10 (if necessary)

Game 6: at Grand Rapids, 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 13 (if necessary)

Game 7: at Grand Rapids, 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 14 (if necessary)