The NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City wrapped up this week with the Carolina Hurricanes finishing off an undefeated tournament with a win over the Detroit Red Wings 6-4 to win the Matthew Wuest Memorial Cup. Carolina trailed just once during the tournament in their first contest against the New York Rangers that was eventually won in overtime.
Tournament Record – 4-0 (First Place)
Carolina brought balanced scoring to the table, with 18 players recording at least one point. The Canes put together an impressive four-game undefeated stretch, scoring 20 goals and recording 128 shots on goal, both of which were tournament highs. Even more impressive is that they did it without three of their top prospects. Haydn Fleury was injured during the Canes first game of the tournament on a freak play, missing the remainder of the tournament, and Sebastian Aho (World Cup – Finland) and Aleksi Saarela (injury) were both unavailable.
Honestly, there weren’t too many Canes who weren’t impressive in Traverse City, but their big guns performed up to their potential. Sergei Tolchinsky, Valentin Zykov, Nicolas Roy, Julien Gauthier and Andrew Poturalski did an impressive job in the Canes possession game, generating shots and finding open teammates. Jake Bean, Roland McKeown and Noah Carroll were rock solid on the back-end.
Steven Lorentz had a great tournament, and will return to Peterborough for his overage season after Canes training camp. Noah Carroll was also a pleasant surprise, showing growth in all three zones.
Detroit Red Wings
Tournament Record – 2-2 (Second Place)
The hometown Red Wings finished in second place, battling back from 5-1 down in the third period of the championship game to keep the score-line close. Detroit’s forwards performed well, scoring 11 of the teams 12 goals.
Tyler Bertuzzi was one of the tournaments best players, finishing in the top-five in goals (4), points (5) and shots (17). Filip Hronek paced the Wings from the back-end with three points in four games. The 53rd overall pick in this years entry draft will spend the 2016-17 season in North America for the first time, after the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit took him with the 14th overall pick in the 2016 CHL Import Draft.
I personally expected Joe Hicketts to dominate this tournament, but he finished with just one assist and a minus-3 rating in four games. Former Harvard captain Kyle Criscuolo was impressive, with four scoring points and 13 shots over the duration of the tournament. He was signed by the Red Wings to an entry-level contract following his senior season with the Crimson, and played four games for Grand Rapids (AHL) at the end of last year.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Tournament Record – 3-1 (Third Place)
The second highest scoring team in the tournament put together a strong showing over four games, with a 6-4 loss to Detroit in the tournaments first game as their only hiccup. After their game one loss, they outscored their opponents 13-7 over the teams final three games.
2013 fourth-round selection Nick Moutrey finished tied with Jimmy Vesey for the tournament lead in points, and former Barrie Colt Justin Scott added four goals. As far as the Jackets top prospects were concerned, they played well. Both Sonny Milano and Pierre-Luc Dubois averaged over a point-per-game with five points in four contests.
Jeremy Brodeur was terrific in the two games he played, giving up just three goals and winning both of his starts. He had a 28 save performance against the St. Louis Blues in a 4-1 victory, helping to get the team back on track after their opening loss to Detroit.
New York Rangers
Tournament Record – 2-1-1 (Fourth Place)
The Rangers started strong in Traverse City, nearly defeating eventual tournament winners Carolina in the first game of the tournament before falling in overtime. New York relied on their strong forward group and goaltending to keep games close, as only one of the Rangers contests was decided by more than one goal.
Jimmy Vesey and Pavel Buchnevich were two of the best players in Traverse City, with Vesey leading the tournament in goals (5), points (7) and shots (20) and Buchnevich showcasing his electric offensive ability. I was impressed by Swedish-born forward Robin Kovacs, a 2015 third round pick who will play for Hartford (AHL) this season. He was constantly on the puck, and showcased NHL-level speed and release.
I expected the Rangers defense to be better in this tournament. They struggled at times with pace, and were inconsistent at best. You can see flashes from Sean Day, but whether or not he can put everything together will be the big question moving forward. He was absolutely torched on Tolchinsky’s game winner in game one. On the positive side, I liked what I saw from Ty Ronning, Boo Nieves and Malte Stromwall. Given their ages, it was to be expected from Nieves and Stromwall, but Ronning impressed as an 18 year-old selected in the seventh round of this past years draft.
Tournament Record – 2-1-1 (Fifth Place)
Despite having just 12 drafted players on their Traverse City roster, the Stars finished a respectable fifth in the NHL Prospects Tournament. The Stars were in each game they played, and finished the tournament with an even goal differential.
To be expected, the Stars were led offensively by Devin Shore and Denis Gurianov as each posted four points in four games. Shore, now 22, has spent time at the NHL level and will be a player that will get a long look for a bottom-six role at training camp. Gurianov showed some of the skill the Stars saw when drafting him 12th overall in 2015.
Dallas used three goaltenders in four games, with undrafted Landon Bow getting the start versus St. Louis in the fifth place game. Personally, I was hoping that Philippe Desrosiers would take a step forward in Traverse City. Cole Ully found the net three times in four games, and was not shy to shoot the puck averaging over three shots per game.
St. Louis Blues
Tournament Record – 1-3 (Sixth Place)
As expected, the Blues struggled to score in Traverse City, and were instead paced by their defense and goaltending. St. Louis scored the fewest goals (8) and took the fewest shots (101) of any of the eight teams in their four tournament games.
Second rounder Ivan Barbashev (2014) and fourth rounder Adam Musil (2015) scored half of the teams goals, tallying two each in four games. Jordan Schmaltz was an impressive veteran presence for the Blues, and will likely be an option for the Blues in the near future.
Not too much of a surprise given his draft position, but Jordan Kyrou did not look out of place as one of the youngest players in the tournament. He took care of his own end, and recorded a goal and an assist in four games. He is a breakout candidate for Sarnia (OHL) this year.
Tournament Record – 1-3 (Seventh Place)
Despite bringing their best team in years to the tournament, Minnesota struggled within the Ted Lindsay division, losing all three of their divisional games before defeating the Chicago Blackhawks on the tournaments final day. Losing Gustav Olofsson and Sam Anas to injury during the tournament did not help their cause.
Alex Tuch looked the part, as the power-forward was a handful to play against. Despite only scoring two goals, he finished second in tournament with 18 shots. Tuch still needs some seasoning, but should provide the kind of play down the road that the Wild were looking for when selecting him in the first round of the 2014 draft.
Unfortunately, Minnesota had more negatives then positives in this area. Joel Eriksson Ek and Mario Lucia failed to impress, and losing two of their top prospects in Olofsson and Anas hurt the team. Positively, sixth-round pick Christoph Bertschy who had 35 points in 72 games for Iowa (AHL) last season continued his strong offensive play. He tied Tuch for the team lead with three points.
Tournament Record – 1-3 (Eighth Place)
Comprised of a good amount of middle and late round draft picks, its not surprising to see the Blackhawks further down in the tournament standings. However, there were some positives. Chicago allowed a tournament low nine goals against, holding opponents to three goals or less in all four games they played.
Gustav Forsling put in a solid effort from the blueline, with a goal and an assist in three games, while recording a team high plus-4 and taking 11 shots on goal. Under the radar forward Luke Johnson also impressed, scoring once and matching Forsling with a team high 11 shots on goal.
Big things were expected from a first line of Nick Schmaltz, Alex DeBrincat and Tyler Motte, but the trio only scored twice. DeBrincat and Motte tallied a goal each, and Schmaltz sat out the duration of the tournament after picking up a knock in the team’s first game vs. St. Louis.
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