Sizing up the Traverse City competition

The 2014 NHL Prospects Tournament takes place Sept. 12-16.
With the Sabres releasing their official roster for the 2014 NHL Prospects Tournament beginning
Friday in Traverse City, Mich., it's time to take a look at the other seven clubs who will be battling for the coveted title.

CAROLINA

High-end defenseman Haydn Fleury (2014, 7th overall) headlines the Hurricanes' squad coming to Traverse City. The second rearguard off the board this past June, Fleury was named Best Defenseman at the 2014 IIHF Under-18 World Championship and could use the tournament as a springboard into NHL duty come October.

Up front, Sergey Tolchinsky is back for more a year after leading the entire tournament with five goals and eight points as a free agent invite. He was signed to a contract following the electrifying performance, and promptly headed back to Sault Ste. Marie to post 31 goals and 91 points in 66 OHL tilts.

The Hurricanes round out the forward ranks with second-round picks Phil Di Giuseppe (2012, 38th overall), Brock McGinn (2012, 47th overall) and Victor Rask (2011, 42nd overall). The trio will play for the AHL's Charlotte Checkers this season.

In goal, Alex Nedeljkovic (2014, 37th overall) has done nothing but prove himself as a quality workhorse with the OHL's Plymouth Whalers. The Parma, OH native looked excellent for Team USA at April's U18 Worlds, and could continue his coming out party with a solid Traverse City showing before heading back to junior. He'll likely split time with fellow Oshawa Generals product Daniel Altshuller, who is making his second Traverse City appearance.

CAR full roster


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DALLAS

An NHL team on the cusp of big things, the Stars will bring a well-balanced group of prospects into Traverse City.

Radek Faksa, the player chosen between Mikhail Grigorenko and Zemgus Girgensons at the 2012 draft and a center who spent time with both Justin Bailey (Kitchener) and Nick Baptiste (Sudbury) last season, will likely man their top offensive unit. Among his potential wingers is Brett Ritchie, a bull forward who collected 22 goals in 2013-14 as an AHL rookie, and 2013 first round pick Jason Dickinson. Dickinson piled up 78 points last season for the OHL champion Guelph Storm.

Other forward notables include 2014 Memorial Cup champion Brett Pollock of the Edmonton Oil Kings, and Ludwig Karlsson, the player who arrived with Jason Spezza in the big summer deal with Ottawa.

On the back end, 2014 first-rounder Julius Honka will look at to set the offensive pace with his puck moving skill. Experienced Europeans Ludvig Bystrom (2012, 43rd overall) and Esa Lindell (2012, 74th overall) are also expected to log big minutes for the Stars.

Properties of the Niagara IceDogs, goaltender Brent Moran and defenseman Aaron Haydon are also listed by the Stars. The pair will play in Buffalo on Oct. 22 when their club squares off with the Erie Otters.

DAL full roster


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NEW YORK RANGERS

The Rangers released their 24-man roster in mid-August, headlined by free agent acquisition Kevin Hayes, a skilled 6-foot-5 scorer out of Boston College, and QMJHL goal-scoring machine Anthony Duclair. The duo combined for 77 marks last season, with Duclair hitting the 50 milestone in 59 games with the Quebec Remparts.

After Hayes and Duclair, one of the more intriguing Rangers prospects could be Adam Tambellini (2013, 65th overall). The 19-year old forward jumped ship from the University of North Dakota last season to become a member of the WHL's Calgary Hitmen. Tambellini, the son of former Oilers GM Steve, could very well earn himself an NHL contract with a strong fall performance.

Also of note are 2014 draft picks Keegan Iverson and Brandon Halverson, who earlier this summer attended the U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp. For the goaltender Halverson, a Traverse City native, the tournament serves as a nice homecoming of sorts. He'll likely share minutes with MacKenzie Skapski (2013, 170th overall), who a few years back served as backup to Nathan Lieuwen in Kootenay.

After a good showing at their summer development camp, former Sabres prospect Logan Nelson will skate for the Rangers. Nelson logged a goal and an assist in four games with the Sabres at the 2013 event.

NYR full roster


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COLUMBUS

A talented group of forwards will lead the Blue Jackets into Traverse City with their sights set on challenging Detroit for the top spot in the Gordie Howe Division.

The offensive pace will be set by first round picks Sonny Milano (2014, 16th overall), Alexander Wennberg (2013, 14th overall), Kerby Rychel (2013, 19th overall) and Marko Dano (2013, 27th overall), while plenty of artillery will be provided by Oliver Bjorkstrand, a 2013 third-rounder who lit 50 lamps in 69 games last season with the WHL's Portland Winterhawks.

A teammate of Brycen Martin in Swift Current, Dillon Heatherington (2013, 50th overall) headlines Columbus' list of defenders. Heatherington recently competed at Canada's National Junior Team Summer Development Camp and has a good shot to play for host Canada at the 2015 World Junior tourney.

A pair of Swedish goaltenders, Oskar Dansk and Anton Forsberg, will share time holding down the Columbus fort. Last season, Dansk played ahead of current Sabres prospect Jonas Johansson at the 2014 World Junior tourney while Forsberg ended the year as the backup to Linus Ullmark with MODO.

Eden, NY native Kevin Ryan will be one six invitees making the trip. Last season, the 24-year old defenseman finished off a four-year career at Niagara University with five goals and 12 points in 39 contests.

CBJ full roster


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DETROIT

Traverse City Dead Wings no more, the storied Detroit Red Wings broke through last September for their first championship in their 15-year history of hosting the NHL Prospects Tournament. With a repeat in mind, the club will bring 11 players from last year's entry to play in front of the home fans at Centre Ice Arena.

Leading the way for the Red Wings will be Anthony Mantha, a prolific junior scorer who racked up 81 goals in 81 combined regular-season and playoff games last season, Ryan Sproul, a defenseman named to the 2013-14 AHL All-Rookie team, and Martin Frk, the team’s top pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Mantha is the only first round pick on the Wings' roster, however all three played a key role in the Red Wings' run to the 2013 tourney title.

Other players of note include Zach Nastasiuk (2013, 48th overall), Dominic Turgeon, son of former Sabres first overall pick Pierre, and the pesky Tyler Bertuzzi, who played last season with the OHL Champion Guelph Storm.

The defending champs have also listed seven free agent invites, including once regarded 2014 draft prospects Blake Clarke and Brandon Robinson.

The song remains the same in goal for the Red Wings, with Jared Coreau and Jake Patterson returning for the second-straight year. Coreau made 23 saves versus the Sabres in the 2013 championship game.

DET full roster


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MINNESOTA

Defensemen Matthew Dumba (2012, 7th overall) and Gustav Olofsson (2013, 46th overall), and lanky winger Tyler Graovac (2011, 196th overall) lead a group of Wild rookie campers that includes a tournament-high nine free agent invitees and four others that were signed to free agent contracts in 2013-14. Just 12 of the 25 players on the Minnesota roster were actually drafted by Chuck Fletcher's staff.

While they are light on drafted players, teams shouldn't sleep on the Wild's four free agent signings. Brady Brassart (Calgary - WHL) and Zack Mitchell (Guelph - OHL) combined for 168 points last season with their respective junior teams. Guillaume Gelinas emerged as one of the CHL's most dangerous offensive rearguards in Val-d'Or's run to the Memorial Cup final, while Swedish project Christian Folin was one of the most sought-after college free agents before making his NHL debut last April.

One of the more interesting players to watch will be Pavel Jenys. Taken in the seventh round in June, the slick Czech has arrived in Sudbury to play this season alongside Nick Baptiste. The Wolves are expecting big things, so a strong Traverse City experience can only help him get into a groove (and help Baptiste along the way).

Also among the Wild hopefuls is former Owen Sound Attack forward Kurtis Gabriel, whose "Sledgehammer" nickname ranks as a favorite in recent junior hockey happenings.

Johan Gustafsson, who backstopped Sweden to a gold medal at the 2012 World Junior Championship, is one of three netminders set to appear for the Wild.

MIN full roster


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ST. LOUIS

Blues prospects participating in the tournament include talented 2014 draft picks Robby Fabbri (21st overall) and Ivan Barbashev (33rd overall). Both stood out among their peers at Canada's National Junior Team Summer Development Camp, and both should be expected to supply plenty of offense despite being two of the younger players on the St. Louis roster.

Sam Reinhart's linemate last season in Kootenay, Jaedon Descheneau (2014, 124th overall), will also suit up for the Blues.

Defensively, Minnesota-born Tommy Vannelli (2013, 47th overall) and hard-hitting Finn Jani Hakanpaa (2010, 104th overall) will lead the Blues' fleet of seven. A spectator at last year's event, former NHL great Chris Chelios will get to watch his son Jake skate on the St. Louis blue line.

Former Owen Sound standout Jordan Binnington (2011, 88th overall) and Niklas Lundstrom (2011, 132nd overall) will man the crease for the Blues before being dispatched to the AHL affiliate in Chicago.

Full roster
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4 comments

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Anonymous
admin
Monday, September 08, 2014 ×

Where can we watch these games if possible?

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Kris Baker
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Monday, September 08, 2014 ×

Not sure. Perhaps DRW will stream some of them, but not really a marquee event that NHL-N will carry. Other prospect tourneys happening at same time.

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Anonymous
admin
Monday, September 08, 2014 ×

Hi Kris,
What is your take on the tournament eligibility rules? Grigorenko kicked off the roster the day before the tournament last year for playing 25 NHL games. Ristolainen on this year's roster after playing 34 NHL games plus AHL.
Todd

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Kris Baker
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Tuesday, September 09, 2014 ×

Rules relative to games they were on roster (not played). Guessing it's a % of total since Grigo was scratched a bunch while Sabres played a 48-game schedule. Only explanation I can think of.

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