The Afternoon Shift – Nov. 8

Ilari and Valtteri Filppula/Photos by Mark Newman

Over the Griffins’ 15 seasons of hockey, four sets of brothers have suited up for Grand Rapids, either as teammates or during separate stints with the club.

First up were Jeff and Todd Nelson, who anchored the Griffins’ inaugural 1996-97 club. Jeff was a prolific forward who went on to log 136 points in 148 games with the team, while Todd spent parts of four seasons on Grand Rapids’ blue line.

Next came Lansing’s first family of hockey, the Millers. Following a long NHL career, Kelly experienced his first-ever taste of the minors as a Griffin in 1999-00, when he was a teammate of Kevin, who captained Grand Rapids to the IHL’s Turner Cup Finals. Kip later joined the squad and became one of the top offensive players in franchise history, totaling 208 points in 203 games.

Before they both advanced to the NHL, defensemen Sheldon and Wade Brookbrook played together on the Griffins’ 2001-02 edition, becoming the most recent brothers to share the locker room.

Current Griffin Ilari Filppula also yearns to occupy the same locker room as his brother, but it’s one that happens to be located on the other side of the state. And if he keeps playing like he has lately, that goal may be achieved sooner rather than later.

Ilari has a lot in common with younger brother Valtteri, who starred for the Griffins’ regular season championship squad in 2005-06 before establishing himself as a regular with the Detroit Red Wings. They both wore jersey no. 15, they both possess tremendous vision and passing ability, and both of their names routinely get slaughtered by P.A. announcers and broadcasters across North America. (For the record, it’s VAHL-tuhr-ee and ih-LAR-ee FIHL-poo-luh.)

And, they may prove to be the most talented set of brothers to ever play for the Griffins. Ilari leads the Griffins and is tied for ninth in the AHL with 15 points (6-9–15) through 12 games, an early 1.25-point-per-game clip. Combined with Valtteri’s 74 points (22-52–74) in 77 career games, they’ve tallied exactly one point per game in a Griffins uniform. The Millers are the only other sibling set to approach that number, averaging .87 points per game combined while in Grand Rapids.

Ilari signed a one-year contract with Detroit last summer, in hopes that he could prove himself, move up to the NHL and play with Valtteri. If he earns that opportunity, the Filppulas could pose as many problems for those with clipboards as they currently do for those with microphones.  

Today’s Griffins links:

AHL/opponent link:

Alumni news and notes:

Video: NHL alumni goals


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