The NHL Prospect Tournament is underway! If you're not able able to attend and watch these amazing young prospects in person, we've got you covered. I have the pleasure of attending the festivities at the rink, and will be passing on as much information to you as I can. To get things started, how about video of the Wings' first game? You need not do more than scroll down, click the play button, and watch. Hope you enjoy.
The starting lineup was
Tomas Jurco - Riley Sheahan- Teemu Pulkkinen
Anthony Mantha - Calle Jarnkrok - Martin Frk
Marek Tvrdon - Andreas Athanasiou - Zach Nastasiuk
Tyler Bertuzzi - Barclay Goodrow - Rasmus Bodin
Xavier Ouellet - Ryan Sproul
Richard Nedomlel - Max Nicastro
Marc McNulty - Alexei Marchenko
Max Nicastro, Riley Sheahan, and Tomas Jurco all wore "A" s
I apologize for the focus issue, those responsible have been sacked.
- Xavier Ouellet was the best defenseman last night. Yes, better than Sproul. He's smart, he thinks quick on his feet, he's good with the puck, he's good without the puck, he can skate very well, he's smooth, and doesn't make many mistakes. There's something about him and his game that impresses me, because he plays at a higher level than I would have expected, since he's never played at this level before. Do you remember that feeling you had when Danny DeKeyser played his first game with the Wings, and you weren't sure what to expect, and then he made the jump to the NHL appear so seamless and smooth? That's the same feeling I get watching Ouellet, and it's a very real possibility that his transition to the AHL from the QMJHL will be turning heads and impressing his coaches. He's not flashy, but he's efficient and get the job done well.
- Alexei Marchenko had a rough time adjusting to the size and speed of the game at development camp, and based on that small performance, I wasn't sure what to expect from him when he joins the Griffins this season. He looked much, much better last night and I saw a glimpse of why he's been so highly touted. He's smart, solid, can handle the puck, and his outlet pass is kind of beautiful. There's going to be a glut of defense in Grand Rapids this season, and I think Marchenko will earn his spot in the regular lineup.
- Andreas Athanasiou scored two goals last night, created quality scoring chances, and was quite the conversation topic. He was the best forward on the ice, and maybe the best player period. He's an incredibly talented player and he knows it. He also knows that he has to work his butt off and earn his way to the NHL. He's fast, and not only top speed. If he were a cartoon character, when he takes off he'd leave all his clothes behind him still hanging in the air. He may not have the hands of Tomas Jurco, but Athanasiou has fantastically skilled hands to go along with those talented feet. There were times during the game when it seemed like he was everywhere on the ice. Remember his name because I'm sure you're going to be hearing much more of it.
- Tomas Jurco was Tomas Jurco, and my god those hands.
- Anthony Mantha looked like a young kid who hasn't played against this level of competition before. I wouldn't say he looked bad, but he was outmatched and has a lot of learning to do. Given that he's a young kid who hasn't played against his level of competition before and was just drafted a few months ago, that's not really all that surprising. I look forward to seeing how he progresses throughout the tournament.
- Tyler Bertuzzi needs to be locked in a room with lots of weight training equipment and Aaron Downey. His heart is willing but I saw him get knocked around way too much. After Downey is done with him, he needs his uncle to teach him how to fight. Little Tuzzi got in a fight last night, but it wasn't all that impressive. The good news is that he has some time to get bigger, stronger, and more skilled, so a good measuring stick for him will be to see how much he's improved next year.
- Teemu Pulkkinen's nickname is "Angus". Josh Howard and I so named him the first time we watched him in Grand Rapids because he's so beefy. He's thick and muscular, solid on his feet, smart on the ice, tenacious in traffic, and what a wicked Holy Slapper. He generously rips slapshots, and the goalie must cringe every time he does. His time in Grand Rapids went a long way to helping him be as adjusted to the North American game as he is, and I very much look forward to watching him this season. He's much closer to being physically ready for the North American Pro game than a lot of the prospects I've seen and he seems to have a knack for not being phased by hits from opposing players. Physical attributes, ie size and strength, seem to often be the biggest obstacle for the young prospect, and particularly those coming over from Europe. Angus is probably one of the most physically ready prospects I've got to see so far.
- Calle Jarnkrok had a tough time adjusting in the 9 games he played in Grand Rapids last season, the skill was there, but he just couldn't keep up with the game. He's been intensely working out in Sweden this summer and it's made a significant difference already. With the Griffins, he was hesitant to physically engage (probably because he knew he wasn't a match for the bigger players). He wasn't afraid in this first game of the tournament. In his short stint in Grand Rapids he spent most of the time skating without the puck because he was a couple steps behind for most of the time. Last night was much better; he had the puck and he knows what to do with it.
- Riley Sheahan had a great game, and seemed to step up to the challenge of being one of the older, more experienced guys on the team. I think he and Athanasiou were the most complete, overall impressive forwards in the game. I'm impressed with how far he's come since the start of last season with the Griffins.
- Jake Paterson shut out the Wild for 58 minutes before his team had an "oops" moment that resulted in Minnesota's only goal of the night. He stopped 20 of 21 shots and was fantastic in net. He likes to move the puck more than most goalies, but I'm ok with that because he's good at it. He's also very proficient at tracking the puck, getting to loose ones, and covering them. At 6'2" 183, he's not a small goalie but he moves very efficiently, quickly, and smoothly.
Tonight the Wings prospects take on the Dallas prospects. Dallas looks to be the toughest competition at this tournament, so our boys will have their work cut out for them. It'll be a good test for them but I believe they're up to the task.