We're less than 24 hours away from the start of the 2014 NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City. If you're able to make it up (or down, or over) to watch any of the games, you won't be disappointed. If you're unable to be here in person, as I mentioned in my roster and coverage post, I'll be recording the Wings games and posting them here just as soon as I can get them uploaded to Youtube. You may want to keep this full 8 team roster handy, as well as the schedule.
If you're the type of personage who's interested in live practice and game updates, I'll be tweet tweeting updates throughout the tournament.
There's a really cool new piece of technology that every team except the St. Louis Blues will be using at the tournament. The staff of Quantum Pro Hockey spent Wednesday installing sensors for RFID (Radio Freequency Identification) technology into the boards at Centre Ice. Some European and a few AHL teams are already using this technology to track ice time, number of shifts, average shift time, and other such metrics in an automated fashion. The RFID sensors can send the time and shift data to laptops real time, allowing someone to monitor the data in game, and make adjustments. Each player (except the Blues players) will wear a band-aid sized sticker on their shin pad that gives them a unique identifier to track. According to this article, Ken Holland was the first of the tournament teams to confirm interest in testing this technology, which is something I'm proud of and also surprising. Hey, maybe Holland will try some new things this season with the Wings too.
Aside from the convenience of having the shift data automated and updated real time, there are some other very intriguing possibilities for this technology.
"This week's test could be the tip of the iceberg for Quantum Pro Hockey, which has been granted patents for physiology metrics that could be revolutionary, measuring things like impacts of hits, where hits are taken on the body, acceleration and deceleration of players delivering and absorbing hits, and potentially, concussion monitoring.If a player is skating upthe ice with the puck, and he gets hit, we're going to be able to tell how hard the skater who hit him skated, how far he skated, where the impact was, if it crossed his baseline as far as traumatic brain injury or concussion, whiplash. Right now we're working on the design of the chip,"
I'm incredible interested to see how the testing goes during the tournament, and if any of the 7 NHL teams participating, decide to use it with their AHL teams. The potential data they could collect and analyze could one day have an impact on NHL teams, and it would be a lot of fun to look through and analyze as a fan as well.
None of the Wings tournament games went to overtime last year, but if they had, you'd have got a sneak peak at what will be the new overtime format in the AHL this year. The following AHL rule changes will, at least mostly, be applied in the tournament.
Rule 85 ("Overtime")
- During the regular season, the sudden-death overtime period will be seven minutes (7:00) in length, preceded by a "dry scrape" of the entire ice surface.
- Teams will change ends at the start of overtime.
- Full playing strength will be 4-on-4 until the first whistle following three minutes of play (4:00 remaining), at which time full strength will be reduced to 3-on-3 for the duration of the overtime period.
- If the game is still tied following overtime, a winner will be determined by a three-player shootout.
Rule 20.4 ("Major Penalties")
- An automatic game misconduct will be applied to any player who has been assessed two major penalties for fighting or three major penalties for any infraction in the same game.
Rule 9.6 ("Helmets")
A player on the ice whose helmet comes off during play will be assessed a minor penalty unless he immediately (a) exits the playing surface or (b) puts the helmet back on with the chin strap properly fastened.
Enforcing the rules and keeping order, will be ECHL referees and linesmen. Joe Ernst, the ECHL Director of Officiating, said they'll be using at least some of the new AHL rules in the tournament.
We play the NHL rulebook. We're going to do AHL overtime [4-on-4 for four minutes, then 3-on-3 for three minutes before going to a shootout], if we have overtime. They're not here to fight at the tournament, so if you get in two fights in a game, you're done. Obviously, we'll use hybrid icing. In the NHL preseason, they're going to move the [faceoff] hash marks further apart. I'm not sure if the rink will be set up [for us to use that change]. Any of the other new rules that have been adopted by the NHL, we'll use there
I'm guessing they won't switch ends in OT, and they'll have set time limits for the 4 on 4 and 3 on 3, instead of the first whistle after 3 minutes of 4 on 4. There was one game last year that went to 3 on 3 OT, and it's quite an interesting experience. There's an abnormal amount of open ice, and no one wants to make even the smallest mistake. I overheard a Dallas Stars prospect talking to his family after the game, and he said he was absolutely exhausted, not only because of the length of the game, but because there's so much skating at 3 on 3, even if it's just in big circles maintaining possession, or trying not to give the other team any change to score.
Who's turning heads?
- Everyone's going to be focused on Anthony Mantha, to see how he looks in the tournament and speculate if he'll impress the Wings brass in Training Camp. The Wings also have several other players to keep a sharp eye on as well.
- Andreas Athanasiou turns pro this year and he's already gaining a lot of attention because of his speed, skating ability, and offensive creativity.
- Tomas Nosek has impressive offensive abilities, and while he'll start his North American career in Grand Rapids, I think he's going to be a quick learner and he'll quickly be on our radar.
- After a forgettable rookie season, Martin Frk has a lot to prove this year, and this tournament will be the first step in proving that last year was only a speed bump. This is his second tournament, and to keep younger guys from passing him on the depth chart, he needs to bring his A+ game.
- Mattias Backman played 12 games with the Griffins last year, had 6 points, and made the transition from European hockey look seamless. He plays a smart, calculating style, can quarterback a power play very nicely, and was always calm, cool, and composed. He could very well be in the mix for a Wings roster spot, especially if Alexey Marchenko isn't 100% after his ankle injury.
- Ryan Sproul will make up the other half of the "Experienced" defensemen at the tournament. Sproul improved greatly last season with the Griffins, and with his offensive skills, booming shot, and power play skills, you can bet that most eyes will be on him to see if he's got what it takes to take the next step in his career and make the jump to the NHL.
- Jake Paterson is turning pro this year and with the goaltending depth the Wings have,he'll have to be at the top of his game if he's hopes to make it above the ECHL this year. He'll be splitting goalie duties in Toledo with Jared Coreau this year, and Coreau should probably just flush last year down the toilet, light a match, and start again. Shoulder surgery last summer hindered him in his first pro season, combine that with an abysmal Walley team, and a slow learning curve, and you get a 4.03 GAA and .879 SV% in 20 games with the Walleye. Coreau was loads better in development camp and I hope he continues that in the tournament.
What's it's all about.
I love this tournament because the skill level and competition are so high. I've described it as AHL level hockey, and Joe Ernst, the ECHL Director of Officiating described it in a similar manner.
It's probably a mid-season AHL level of hockey. We're talking about that in the beginning of September. Some of these guys we have going, as far as referees and linesmen, probably haven't worked this pace of hockey. Though it's not as physical as playoff hockey would be, the pace of play and skill level definitely is close. There's first-round NHL draft picks playing along with guys looking to get an invite to NHL training camps, so there's all kinds of different skill levels.
Traverse City is an unbelievable tournament. It's well-run. I think this is the cream of the crop by the way it's run [by the Detroit Red Wings] and how [Wings GM] Ken Holland handles the tournament. They've opened their arms and welcomed us to do what we need to do.
What can you do?
Throughout the tournament, let me know if there are specific things you'd like to see, questions you'd like me to ask the guys, or suggestions for improved coverage. That's what I'm here for!