The 2015 Prospect Tournament starts tomorrow and I'm as giddy as a schoolgirl. Now that we've already dug into the Red Wings roster, let's get to know the rosters for the other 7 participating teams.
As is tradition, I'll be living at the rink during the tournament and providing live updates as well as player and coach interviews, game highlights, and all sorts of wonderful tidbits. I'll post here on WiiM of course and much of the live updates will be posted on my twitter. I also have a Periscope account that I'm excited to try out. Like last year, I'll be posting highlights from each Wings game and providing as much content and analysis as possible.
This is an incredible tournament filled with future NHL'ers, so if you're able to attend I 100% recommend it. Tickets are only $10 per person per day and information can be found at the Centre Ice web site. Come watch practices and games all day long, it's what I imagine heaven would be like.
Now, let's meet the teams the Wings will need to beat in order to win the Matthew Wuest Memorial Trophy and reclaim the title of NHL Prospect Tournament Champions.
Meet The Rosters
The Blackhawks return to the Traverse City tournament from a 14 year hiatus after participating from 1998-2000. On their roster is 8 of their own draft picks, 1 draftee acquired via trade, 5 players signed via free agency, and 10 free agent invites.
The Hawks have some dangerous players on their roster, including Kyle Baun and Ryan Hartman who both played with the Rockford IceHogs in the AHL last season. Baun played 3 games for the Blackhawks and Hartman played 5 games and both players are at the top of the Hawk's list of players to potentially make the big club this year. Vincent Hinostroza, Tanner Kero, Roy Radke, Erik Gustafsson, Sam Jardine, and Nolan Valleau are a few other players to keep an eye on.
Our own Joseph weighs in on the Hawks' roster.
The Blackhawks' roster is really threatening up top. Daniel Ciampini, Vincent Hinostroza, and Tanner Kero led their respective college teams in scoring, and Ciampini and Hinostrosa were incredibly productive players for underwhelming teams. NCAA free agent signing Kyle Baun is a guy with scoring touch as well, finishing second on the Colgate Raiders' scoring list. I was honestly miffed when Baun picked Chicago over us, so I hope he does poorly, but his ability along the boards and in open space means he'll probably have some success in this tournament.
Ryan Haggerty was a man among boys in his junior year at RPI during the 2013-14 season, and while he's had an OK start to his pro career, his college years show he's definitely capable of developing and improving on a year-by-year basis. Ciampini, Kero, and Baun are older players from the standpoint of being "prospects," but all five of these players can do some major damage in this tournament
The Blues come to the tournament with 13 of their own draft picks, and 9 free agent invites.
Highlighting the Blues roster is 1st round pick Robby Fabbri, former linemate of Tyler Bertuzzi in Guelph. The center nearly made the St. Louis Blues team last year as an 18 year old, but ended up returning to the OHL. Fabbri was a force for the Storm as long as he was healthy but because of injuries was limited to just 30 games, in which he still had 51 points (25G, 26A). At 5'10" 170 pounds, Fabbri may not look like an imposing player, but he loves to play a physical game. He's feisty, has a top notch work ethic, incredible speed, mobility, and agility, and also has highly skilled hands, creativity on the ice, and a quick shot release. He has a ton of skills and assets and he's going to be a fantastic NHL'er , definitely keep an eye on this kid.
Defenseman Jordan Schmaltz is the other 1st round pick on the Blues roster. He's an offensive defenseman who handles the puck well and projects to be a power play quarterback. He still needs to improve the defensive side of his game but he's got time to do it. He's 6'2" 194 pounds, but doesn't play a notably physical game. He reminds me a lot of Ryan Sproul, an offensive D man whose defensive skills are lacking, and the Blues hope his offensive skills are enough to get him to the NHL and make up for his defensive shortcomings.
Ivan Barbashev is a Russian sniper the Blues drafted in the 2nd round of the 2014 draft who will be joining the Blues AHL affiliate the Chicago Wolves this season.
Barbashev is a skilled playmaking winger with impressive vision and passing ability. He thrives in a high-paced offense. Has a good, hard shot and isn't transparent about making a pass or firing it on net. Has dynamic talent but inconsistent in his efforts. (August 2013)
Joseph gives us the scoop on former NCAA players on the Blues roster to keep an eye on
Jordan Schmaltz and Colton Parayko join the Blues after leading their respective NCAA team defenses in scoring. Parayko is an interesting case for me, as the Alaska Nanooks were barred from postseason play for the 2014-15 season because of sanctions from the NCAA stemming from eligibility infractions. Despite having nothing to play for but pride, Parayko led the Alaska blue line in scoring and helped the Nanooks be a pretty decent team.
St. Louis Game Time has more information on their camp invites here.
The Jackets come to the tournament with 17 of their own draft picks, 2 draftees acquired via trade, 3 players acquired via free agent signings, and 3 free agent invites.
Mike McLean from The Cannon gives us the scoop on the Blue Jackets roster.
The Jackets are the defending champs of the Traverse City Prospect Tournament, and this year they'll be sending another strong squad, looking for the repeat.
This year's group is led by two former first-round picks in Sonny Milano and Kerby Rychel. While Rychel plays a traditional power forward style, Milano's game is tailored around his wizardry with the puck. With so few spots available on the Columbus roster, it's expected that these two players will be competing fiercely for an NHL job, using the Traverse City tournament as a starting point.
Joining them as go-to offensive producers are Oliver Bjorkstrand, Paul Bittner and Daniel Zaar. Bjorkstrand and Bittner were linemates with the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL, with the former making the jump to the AHL this season after a sensational junior career. It will be interesting to see if they remain linemates in TC. Zaar is a Swedish sniper making the jump to North America full-time this year, with a lot to prove. Kole Sherwood was signed this summer after being passed over in the NHL draft. He's the first Columbus-born and trained player to sign an NHL contract, and will be playing for the London Knights this season. Many CBJ fans will be tracking his development with keen interest.
Defensively the Jackets will be led by Michael Paliotta and Dillon Heatherington. Paliotta was acquired from Chicago in the Brandon Saad trade, and there's a chance he could win a spot on the Jackets' blueline out of camp. Heatherington is turning pro after a junior career with the Swift Current Broncos, including a spot on Team Canada at the World Juniors. Olivier LeBlanc and Blake Siebenaler are two players heading back to junior this season, but are serious offensive threats. Look for Oleg Yevenko, a player signed to an AHL-only contract, to scare the shit out of the opposition.
In net, the Jackets will have the Lake Erie Monsters tandem of Anton Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo. Having Forsberg in net alone makes the Jackets a favorite to repeat.
The Jackets don't have the star power that they had last season, but have many returning players and a rock in net. If there was one player to focus on, it would be Oliver Bjorkstrand. The organization and fans are beyond excited to see what he can bring after lighting up the WHL.
Thank you, Mike! More information on the Blue Jackets tournament invites can be found at The Cannon.
Our own Joseph weighs in on the BJ's roster as well.
Oliver Bjorkstrand had an Anthony-Mantha-like progression through his three seasons of junior hockey with the Portland Winterhawks, capping it off with 63 goals(!!!) in only 59 games. Unlike Anthony Mantha, Bjorkstrand is a bit of a lightweight, instead utilizing speed and a heavy shot to create chances.
Sonny Milano is another interesting case. He became the center of another NCAA vs. CHL debate when he decommitted from Notre Dame to go to Boston College, then opted for junior hockey instead of NCAA. His one year of junior hockey with the Plymouth Whalers didn't feature the typical explosive numbers you might expect from top prospects, but he does possess some high quality skating and hands. Hindsight is always 20/20, so everything he does from this point will likely be viewed in light of his decision to play Canadian junior hockey instead of NCAA
The Hurricanes have 15 of their own draft picks, 1 draftee acquired via trade, 3 players acquired via free agency, and 3 free agent invites.
The Canes had a disappointing last minute roster change when it was announced that their 2015 5th overall pick Noah Hanifin sustained an injury in the USA World Juniors Evaluation Camp and won't be attending the TC Tournament. In his place will be the Canes 2013 6th round pick Tyler Ganly, a drastic downgrade for the Canes team.
Highlighting the Hurricanes tournament roster is Brock McGinn, another teammate of Tyler Bertuzzi in Guelph. McGinn is a hard nosed, tough player who put up big offensive numbers his final year of Juniors, but who's at his best when using his physicality and hitting to shut down opposing forwards. And of course there's Sergei Tolchinsky, the 5'8" 170 pound gifted scorer who the Canes sighed in 2013 as a free agent.
Joseph provides his take on the roster for our edification.
Thanks for that insight, Joseph.
You can read more about the Hurricanes roster at Canes Country
New York Rangers
The Rangers are bringing along 10 of their own draft picks and 13 tournament invites. My favorite player on the team is Brandon Halverson, largely because he's a local boy from Traverse City and I love seeing my city on the Hometown column of the roster.
University of Minnesota defenseman Brady Skjei, former Calgary Hitmen Adam Tambellini, and the aforementioned Brandon Halverson headline this year's Rangers roster.
Skjei is a two- way defenseman with good skating skills and a fantastic first pass; after 3 seasons at the Univ. of Minnesota he'll join the Hartford Wolf Pack of the AHL this upcoming season.
Winger Adam Tambellini left the University of North Dakota after just 16 games to go join the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL where last year he led the team in scoring as a 20 year old. He had 86 points (47G, 39A) was a +43 and had 30 penalty minutes in 71 regular season games. In 16 playoff games he scored 26 points (13G, 13A), was a +1, and had 10 penalty minutes.
Brandon Halverson is a mobile goalie with good reflexes who tracks the puck very well through traffic. He loves to play the puck like a 3rd defenseman and last year with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds he had the 3rd best GAA in the league with a 2.63 and the 7th best SV% with a .913 and a stunning 40-5-0-2 record.
The Stars brought a stacked roster last year and were an early pick to win the tournament. This year they're going heavy on organizational talent by bringing 18 of their own picks, 2 draftees acquired via trade including Red Wings pick and former prospect Mattias Janmark, and only 2 tournament invites. They're once again icing a very strong team and could be an early pick to go all the way. And we have an obligatory Tyler Bertuzzi teammate in Guelph reference for Jason Dickinson.
Derek Neumeier from Defending Big D gives us the scoop on the Stars roster.
For the Dallas Stars at the 2015 Traverse City Prospects Tournament, the organization's keys to success will be based on a healthy mix between old and new.
The old is obvious. A slew of high picks from the past few years, such as Radek Faksa, Julius Honka, Jason Dickinson, Philippe Desrosiers and Brett Pollock, all played in the tournament last year and will likely play plenty of minutes in important roles this time around.
The new, on the flip side, is a little less conventional this year. Only one of the team's picks from the 2015 NHL Entry Draft (defenseman Chris Martenet, selected 103rd overall) will be in attendance, but a very close watch will be kept on another trio of new faces. Stephen Johns, acquired as part of the Patrick Sharp trade, and Mattias Janmark, acquired as one of the pieces in the deal for Erik Cole, are both new to the organization and will be the two oldest players on the roster. Devin Shore, who didn't take part last year due to NCAA obligations, is a 2012 2nd round pick and will be turning pro this season. All three will be impact players.
Overall, the Stars roster will be balanced and deep in terms of offense, defense and goaltending, but size will be the one element that, quite literally, stands out. Only four players on the roster will be under 6'0", and a whopping eight of them are 6'3" or larger. Opposing teams will definitely have their hands full.
The Stars finished 2nd in Traverse City last year, falling to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the championship game, but they will be determined and well-equipped to win it all this time around.
Thanks, Derek! You can check out more on the Stars roster over at Defending Big D.
And of course Joseph has some players to keep an eye on.
Devin Shore led a lackluster Maine team in scoring, posting 14 goals and 21 assists in 39 games. He was their primary offensive threat, leading the team in goals and in shots on goal. After Maine's season ended, the Stars signed Shore to a contract, and he posted six points in 19 AHL games. Overall, his best assets are as a playmaker, and as a player, he's been likened to Riley Sheahan.
Much has been made of the Stars acquiring defenseman Stephen Johns from Chicago, but my eye would be on the 19-year-old Julius Honka. At 5-foot-10, 181 pounds, he's the kind of defenseman we hope Joe Hicketts and Vili Saarijarvi develop into (but obviously better than Honka). Honka put up 31 points in 68 games with the Texas Stars last season, using his elusive skating and good offensive instincts.
The Wild roster will have 10 of their own draft picks, 1 draftee acquired via trade, 7 players acquired via free agency signings, and 7 tournament invites.
The wild have 5 players on the tournament roster who played for the Iowa Wild in the AHL last year with forwards Zack Mitchell, Brady Brassart, Kurtis Gabriel, as well as defensemen Guillaume Gelinas and Alex Gudbranson; who was a 2013 Red Wings development camp invite.
Guillaume Gelinas is an undersized offensive defenseman who put up impressive offensive numbers in juniors but struggled to translate that in his first AHL season. He played alongside Anthony Mantha for the Val-D'Or Foreurs in the QMJHL for his overage season in 2013-2014. He played for Minnesota in this tournament last year and it will be interesting to see how he's adjusted to the pro level after a year in the AHL.
Mike Reilly is a puck moving defenseman with good vision and a strong shot. He was a point per game player in 13-14 for the University of Minnesota and was top 10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, given to college hockey's top player. He was Blue Jackets draft pick but chose not to sign an entry level contract with them this spring before signing as a free agent with the Wild.