Cruising the competition

With action at the 2013 NHL Prospects Tournament about to kick off in Traverse City, MI, let's take a quick cruise through the other seven teams who will be in attendance. One thing is certain. The Sabres have their work cut out for them if they are to retain the title captured at the 2011 event.

For a snapshot of some Sabres storylines entering play, click here.

Lindsay Division

Columbus: Four Big Buckeyes

With high-level talent at every position, the Blue Jackets could present the Sabres' greatest challenge in the Ted Lindsay Division. Up front, hard-nosed OHL products Boone Jenner and Kerby Rychel will set a tone with their blend of edginess and opportunistic offense to form two-thirds of the Jackets’ top forward unit. The duo will be backed by Ryan Murray, a skilled and mobile defender chosen second overall at the 2012 draft, and Erie Otters backstop Oscar Dansk, who will likely be the starter for Team Sweden at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Carolina: Not going 'Holm

Perhaps the most intriguing prospect at the tourney, the 18-year old Lindholm is a do-it-all type of player who’ll immediately press for time on the Canes NHL roster. His speed, quickness, and two-way polish saw him earn high praise as the second European taken at the 2013 draft, and the Sabres’ skaters will need to keep him in check when the two clubs square off on Sunday. Lindholm suffered a minor shoulder ding at their July development camp, and as of now it is unclear if (or how much) he will participate.

New York: Cooking with Kristo?

The last to announce their roster, the Rangers feature three forwards who have an opportunity to make the top club out of camp. Danny Kristo, who scored 68 goals over his four-year career at the University of North Dakota, arrived on Broadway in July following a trade out of Montreal. He could have something to prove in front of his new employer. Perhaps inspired after Carl Hagelin used the 2011 tourney to vault into NHL duty, fellow Swedes Oscar Lindberg (C) and Jesper Fast (RW) could each make a push if they expand on the developmental leaps witnessed last season.

Howe Division

Detroit: Home Ice Advantage

The Red Wings are loaded at forward heading into Traverse City with Euro playmakers Calle Jarnkrok and Teemu Pulkkinen, Quebec league products Anthony Mantha, Martin Frk, and Thomas Jurco, and hard-working Riley Sheahan representing a very impressive projected top six. While checking the forward talent, opposing teams will also need to tabs on rearguard Ryan Sproul. Named the 2012-13 Ontario Hockey League Defenseman of the Year, Sproul's excellent skating and shooting could see him jump up and post impressive numbers this week and beyond.

Dallas: Big O in Big D

The Stars’ projected top-line of Valeri Nichushkin – Radek Faksa – Brett Ritchie/Alex Chiasson could prove to be a lot to handle. A trio of north/south power wings, Nichushkin (6’4”, 202 lbs.), Ritchie (6’3”, 209 lbs.), and Chiasson (6’4”, 187 lbs.) are all bulls on the puck. With the power and creativity of Faksa (6’3”, 200 lbs.) between them, this grouping is expected to get the play deep and create chaos in front of opposing goalies. Add in hulking defenders Jamie Oleksiak (6'7") and Troy Vance (6'6"), and it doesn't get any easier at the other end of the ice. If the Sabres meet the young Ruff riders, it won’t be until Monday.

Minnesota: Wild on Invites

With a dozen free agent invites in tow, the Wild will arrive in Michigan with plenty of unknowns. Among the more lauded commodities, though, are skilled defender Matthew Dumba and bulky Swedish netminder Johan Gustafsson. The former shredded the WHL last two seasons, collecting 99 points (36+63) and launching himself in several highlight reel hits, while the latter was among the top-five SHL goaltenders a year ago in goals against average and save percentage. Also lurking about will be University of Minnesota product Erik Haula, a big time playmaker who grew up in the same hometown as Joel Armia (Pori, Finland).

St. Louis: Rats, Mits & Binner

The Blues enter the tourney with two raw talents down the right side and a solid professional prospect in net. Scouts have seen Ty Rattie dazzle with his raw skill to the tune of 231 points over the past two seasons with Portland (WHL), setting the stage for a leading AHL role. Perhaps ahead of him on the depth chart is fellow right winger Dmitry Jaskin, a prototypical power forward who popped in 46 goals last season in Moncton (QMJHL). A former teammate of Dan Catenacci in Owen Sound, goaltender Jordan Binnington is a solid technical stopper who has enjoyed a steady ramp-up over the past two seasons, topped off by being named the OHL Goaltender of the Year in 2012-13.


The Lindsay Division could come down the Sabres and Jackets, so there is a good amount on the line when the two clubs begin play on Thursday. The Sabres will have every shot at advancing to Monday's title game if the goaltending holds up their end of the bargain.

The Howe Division may very well be a dogfight between host Detroit and the emerging group of Dallas prospects. Either would be a worthy challenge in Monday's final.

Do you like the Sabres chances at a repeat?

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