Red Wings sign center Kyle Criscuolo to contract extension

Detroit keeps 29-year-old center

LAVAL, QC, CANADA - JANUARY 5: Kyle Criscuolo #51 of the Rochester Americans skating up the ice against the Laval Rocket at Place Bell on January 5, 2019 in Laval, Quebec. (Photo by Stephane Dube /Getty Images) (Stephane Dube, 2019 Stephane Dube)

The Detroit Red Wings have signed 29-year-old center Kyle Criscuolo to a two-year contract extension.

The former Harvard standout (48 points in 37 games with Harvard in 2014-15) originally signed with Detroit in October 2020. He had 19 points in 29 games played with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins this past season.

Criscuolo stands 5-foot-8, giving him a smaller appearance on the ice. But he’s far from a small player. He is listed at a solid 180 pounds and is a strong skater with a very high hockey IQ. I do believe he would have been drafted if not for his size. I’ll never understand how teams passed up on someone who put up such good numbers with Harvard in the ECAC. It’s the same reason Cole Caufield went 15th overall and not 5th overall in 2019. It’s short-sighted, if you ask me, especially in today’s NHL with less clutching and grabbing, less blatant interference.

Anyway, Criscuolo went undrafted then broke into the pros with the Griffins back in 2015. He scored 17 goals and 24 points with Grand Rapids in 2016-17, then another 9 points in 19 playoff games. He then bumped around and ended up playing nine games with the Buffalo Sabres in 2017-18 -- he barely played.

He kept at it in the AHL and earned himself the attention of GM Steve Yzerman who decided to bring him into the Detroit organization. Does he have a real shot of making the NHL roster this season? That depends on what Yzerman’s roster looks like on the other side of this free agency period. The Red Wings may end up with a spot open for 4th-line center.

NHL free agency opens noon Wednesday, July 28.