Although it’s not his role with the Detroit Red Wings, forward Darren Helm is no stranger to offensive success.
Known as more of an energy player, Helm’s job is to put pressure on defenders and wear down the opposition. But with injuries to scorers Pavel Datsyuk and Danny Cleary, the 23-year-old grinder is being asked to chip in some offense. He has seven points in his last eight games including a goal and an assist in Detroit’s 5-3 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday.
While playing on a line with veteran Kris Draper, Helm’s numbers have skyrocketed over the last couple of weeks.
“We’ve been playing pretty well together,” Helm said about his line. “It had been a while since we’ve played together (mostly last season). At first it was just mixing and matching, and now we’re finding a little spark and chemistry. It’s effective when we can use our speed and find each other.”
That blinding speed is the key to Helm’s success. It can’t be taught, and it’s difficult to defend. He creates many opportunities, especially breakaways, while catching defenders flat-footed. By the time Helm takes off, it’s too late.
While his recent offensive surge may surprise those who have simply seen him at the professional level, it’s not out of character for Helm to put up points. In fact, he was a prolific scorer in junior hockey. During the 2005-06 season, Helm tallied 41 goals and 79 points for the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League. He notched 25 goals and 64 points for Medicine Hat in 2006-07 before making his way to the American Hockey League and Grand Rapids for the 2007-08 campaign.
In his first professional season, the speedster racked up 16 goals while totaling 31 points in 67 games. His role changed while transitioning from a top-line player in junior hockey to a grinder in the AHL. He was then called up to Detroit for the Red Wings’ playoff run. Helm buried his first two NHL goals while playing 18 games en route to winning the Stanley Cup.
Helm scored 13 goals and 37 points in 55 games for Grand Rapids in 2008-09. He was again part of the Red Wings’ trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, this time losing in seven games to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
After two seasons in the AHL, Helm graduated to the big club last year as he registered 11 goals and 24 points in 75 games with Detroit. While his goal total is down this season, Helm is on pace to surpass last season’s 24 points. And if he keeps scoring at his current rate, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock may give the youngster more ice time and opportunities.
Babcock has mentioned Helm a few times over the last week as someone who has been playing exceptionally well. He called Helm “the most dangerous forward” during the club’s last few games.
“We need contributions from everybody right now when we’re short-staffed,” Babcock said before Tuesday’s game. “And Helmer’s a real good NHL player.”