The NHL's future stars will make their presence felt at the 15th Traverse City Prospects Tournament at the Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City, Mich., from Sept. 5-9.
In fact, there's a good chance fans in attendance might catch a glimpse of a future Calder Trophy winner as the NHL's rookie of the year. It happened in 2010 when Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner, the No. 7 pick in that year's NHL Draft, scored two goals and finished with seven points in four tournament games before scoring 31 goals and 63 points in 82 games with the Hurricanes en route to winning the Calder.
It's hard to believe that 11 years ago a 22-year-old Swede named Henrik Zetterberg, the Detroit Red Wings' seventh-round draft pick in 1999, participated in the developmental tournament. Zetterberg has gone on to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs after the Red Wings defeated Pittsburgh in the 2008 Final and now serves as Detroit's captain.
The five-day tournament, which precedes Detroit's training camp at the same location starting Sept. 12, expanded to eight teams in 2006 and has become an annual staple for coaches and general managers to evaluate their prospects against their peers. The work stoppage last fall forced the cancellation of the event.
Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba is one of two first-round draft picks competing for his team at the tournament. The 19-year-old didn't play a game with the Wild last season but was called up twice and got to experience the professional lifestyle. He had 16 goals, 42 points and a plus-10 rating in 62 games for the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League in 2012-13.
He's eager for his first taste of game action in a Wild uniform.
"Whenever you put on that Wild jersey and represent the team that put all this trust and this faith in you, you want to excel and be the best you can, so it'll be like a regular game situation in my eyes," Dumba told NHL.com. "You want to win and want to do whatever it takes to work with your teammates. By doing that, I think I'll be able to show my best.
"The Wild coaching staff has told me to relax and play my game and to just control what I can control," Dumba continued. "That's basically the same stuff that [Red Deer coach] Brent Sutter reiterated to me. Just believe in the process and myself that I've been doing the things I need to do every day to help get me to my final goal. I feel as if I've been doing that, and I just have to trust in that and do what I can do. Relax and let the game come to me."
In 2009, the tournament featured 10 players who would play as least one NHL game that season, including forward Brandon Sutter and defenseman Jamie McBain of the tournament champion Hurricanes, and defenseman Michael Del Zotto of the New York Rangers.
Defenseman Zach Bogosian of the Atlanta Thrashers (now the Winnipeg Jets), and forwards Jakub Voracek of the Columbus Blue Jackets, James Neal of the Dallas Stars, Cal Clutterbuck of the Minnesota Wild, and Patrik Berglund and T.J. Oshie of the St. Louis Blues highlighted the 2008 tournament.
The host Red Wings will compete in the Gordie Howe Division with the Wild, Blues and Stars. The Ted Lindsay Division will feature the Hurricanes, Blue Jackets, Rangers and Buffalo Sabres, who won the event in 2011.
"Here, we get to evaluate our kids against their own age group," Stars general manager Jim Nill told NHL.com. "The thing we didn't realize was how high a level of play it would become and, looking at the alumni of players who have come out of this tournament … Zetterberg, [Dany] Heatley, [Pavel] Datsyuk, Skinner … the level of play at this tourney is so high for this time of year. When you think about putting a bunch of kids together, who never played together on the ice, you think, 'Oh boy, this isn't going to be that crisp of hockey,' but the hockey is unbelievable."
The teams will play a round-robin format beginning Sept. 5 with games against each divisional foe. The tournament will conclude Sept. 9 with six crossover games, including the championship match between the Howe and Lindsay division survivors at 7:30 p.m. ET. All games will take place at David's Rink and Huntington Rink at the Centre Ice Arena, the training camp home of the Red Wings.
"It's not training camp with all the big guys, but it's a first step for guys just coming into the League and trying to make an impression," Oshie, a 2005 first-round pick (No. 24) of the Blues, told NHL.com. "I think just the confidence you gain there by meeting new guys gives you a sense of the pro life, and it makes you a little more comfortable for training camp."
Follow Mike Morreale at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL
It should come as no surprise that each of the eight teams headed to the Traverse City Prospects Tournament will be fielding an impressive lineup.
The Dallas Stars will showcase 10 players chosen in either the first or second round over the past five years, and the host Detroit Red Wings, who are still seeking that elusive championship plaque, will feature nine over the past four. The Buffalo Sabres will have six first-round picks on the ice, including both of this year's first-rounders: Rasmus Ristolainen (No. 8) and Nikita Zadorov (No. 16).
The ultimate goal is to be presented the first-place plaque to take home and have a permanent trophy displayed year-round at the Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City, Mich., as tournament champion.
In 2011, Marcus Foligno scored a pair of goals when the Sabres became the fifth team to win the prospect tournament in five years by beating the New York Rangers 5-2 in the championship game. Foligno finished the tournament with two goals and four points in four games.
The tournament in 2010 featured 19 players who would play at least one NHL game during the following season, including centers Jeff Skinner of the Carolina Hurricanes and Derek Stepan of the New York Rangers, and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo of the St. Louis Blues.
Skinner and Stepan finished tied for the tournament lead with seven points apiece.
Here's a list of first- and second-round draft picks scheduled to participate in Traverse City:
Gordie Howe Division
Detroit Red Wings: Forwards Tyler Bertuzzi (2013, No. 58), Martin Frk (2012, No. 49), Calle Jamkrok (2010, No. 51), Tomas Jurco (2011, No. 35), Anthony Mantha (2013, No. 20), Zach Nastasiuk (2013, No. 48), Riley Sheahan (2010, No. 21); defensemen Xavier Ouellet (2011, No. 48), Ryan Sproul (2011, No. 55).
Dallas Stars: Forwards Alex Chiasson (2009, No. 38), Jason Dickinson (2013, No. 29), Remi Elie (2013, No. 40), Radek Faksa (2012, No. 13), Valeri Nichushkin (2013, No. 10), Brett Ritchie (2011, No. 44), Mike Winther (2012, No. 54); defensemen Patrik Nemeth (2010, No. 41), Jamie Oleksiak (2011, No. 14); goalie Jack Campbell (2010, No. 11).
Ted Lindsay Division
Buffalo Sabres: Forwards Joel Armia (2011, No. 16), Zemgus Girgensons (2012, No. 14), Justin Bailey (2013, No. 52); defensemen Rasmus Ristolainen (2013, No. 8), Nikita Zadorov (2013, No. 16), Mark Pysyk (2010, No. 23).
Columbus Blue Jackets: Forwards Kerby Rychel (2013, No. 19), Boone Jenner (2011, No. 37), Dalton Smith (2010, No. 34); defensemen Ryan Murray (2012, No. 2), Dillon Heatherington (2013, No. 50); goalie Oscar Dansk (2012, No. 31).
--Mike G. Morreale
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