Several rookie tournaments set to begin throughout North America this week are a further indication the start of the 2013-14 NHL season is right around the corner.
In addition to the Traverse City Prospects Tournament in Michigan, which includes eight teams, there are three rookie events taking place.
The Tampa Bay Lightning, Nashville Predators, Florida Panthers and Boston Bruins will participate in the Florida Rookie Tournament, which is set to begin Friday. Many eyes will be squarely on a trio of highly regarded first-round picks from the 2013 NHL Draft: center Aleksander Barkov (No. 2) of the Panthers, left wing Jonathan Drouin (No. 3) of the Lightning, and defenseman Seth Jones (No. 4) of the Predators.
"The one thing I've been most impressed with in Seth Jones is his maturity at such a young age," Nashville coach Barry Trotz told NHL.com. "He's really thinks in terms of what he wants to do, how he wants to do it and how he's going to get it done. He's a highly motivated, talented player, which is pretty good. That's why you go top four in the draft."
Drouin was dealing with a bruised left foot last week but is doing much better, according to reports.
"When I met him at the draft, he seemed a little bit mature for his age but still had that kid in him, and I really liked that," Lightning coach Jon Cooper told NHL.com. "In development camp [in July], we put him in those skill situations and some of [what he did] was jaw-dropping. Our advice to Jon in training camp is not to try and play to everyone else's expectations, but just be yourself and everything will take care of itself."
Here's a closer look at tournaments being held this week:
Toronto Rookie Tournament: The four-day event will take place at Budweiser Gardens in London, Ontario, beginning Thursday and will feature prospects from the Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins and the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.
The host Maple Leafs, who will be coached by newly appointed Toronto Marlies coach and former Kitchener Rangers coach Steve Spott, will have defensemen Morgan Rielly (2012, No. 5) and Stuart Percy (2011, No. 25), and forward Tyler Biggs (2011, No. 22) in the lineup. Additionally, four of Toronto's 2013 draft picks will participate, including two-way forward Frederik Gauthier (No. 21).
Chicago's roster is highlighted by former first-round draft choices Dylan Olsen (2009, No. 28), Mark McNeill (2011, No. 18) and Phillip Danault (2011, No. 26). Drew LeBlanc, the undrafted free-agent signee who played two games for the Blackhawks in 2012-13, will also participate. The 24-year-old center won the 2013 Hobey Baker Award as the nation's top collegiate men's hockey player while starring for St. Cloud State.
Pittsburgh's roster includes the Penguins' 2013 second-round pick, goalie Tristan Jarry (No. 44), and previous first-round selections Derrick Pouliot (2012, No. 8) and Olli Maatta (2012, No. 22). The Senators' lineup will include three recent first-round picks: Curtis Lazar (2013, No. 17), Cody Ceci (2012, No. 15) and Matt Puempel (2011, No. 24).
Young Stars Tournament: The five-day tournament in Penticton, British Columbia's South Okanagan Events Centre opens Thursday and will feature 2013 first-round selections from the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, San Jose Sharks and Winnipeg Jets.
The Canucks roster will have forwards Bo Horvat (No. 9) and Hunter Shinkaruk (No. 24). The Flames have Sean Monahan (No. 6), Emile Poirier (No. 22) and Morgan Klimchuk (No. 28) in their lineup, and highly touted defenseman Darnell Nurse (No. 7) will showcase his skills for the Oilers. The Sharks will dress Mirco Mueller (No. 18), and the Jets will give offensive-defenseman Josh Morrissey (No. 13) an opportunity to shine.
Florida Rookie Tournament: The Predators, Lightning, Panthers and Bruins will be looking to have some fun in the sun at the Saveology.com Iceplex in Coral Springs, Fla.
The Predators possess three first-round picks, including defenseman Jones (2013, No. 4), and forwards Filip Forsberg (2012, No. 9) and Austin Watson (2010, No. 18). Bruins prospect Malcolm Subban, the second goalie taken in the 2012 first-round (No. 24), will be in the spotlight for Boston, and Tampa Bay will have first-round selections Drouin (2013), Vladislav Namestnikov (2011, No. 27) and Slater Koekkoek (2012, No. 10).
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL
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