TRAVERSE CITY -- Patrik Berglund is one of a handful of prospects participating in the Traverse City Prospects Tournament for the second straight September, and this time his goal is simple.
"I want to win the tournament," Berglund said. "That's the main reason we are here."
Berglund can have narrow focus because he's already impressed in this type of setting. He led the tournament in scoring last year with 10 points in five games. Where he really needs to shine is at the Blues’ main training camp, which begins Friday.
"I want to be fair to our other players, but on our depth chart we have him pretty high," St. Louis coach Andy Murray said.
Berglund knows there is talk of him making the team and fantasy hockey players already are thinking of him as a late round pick, but he isn't consumed by the talk.
"I haven't read anything and I think that's kind of good," he said. "I want to focus on my game and practice for my goal of winning the games. I want to be a leader, but otherwise I don't think about what they're saying about me, or if I'm going to make the team or not. I just focus on myself and we'll see how far I go."
-- Dan Rosen
Barny is back, too – Mike Barnett, the former player agent and Phoenix Coyotes GM, was back at the rink Saturday night to catch the four games, but most importantly the Rangers-Red Wings clash.
Barnett, who most famously represented Wayne Gretzky, has taken on a new dual role for the Rangers as the Senior Advisor to President and General Manager Glen Sather as well as the Director of U.S. Amateur Scouting.
He looked as happy as a rookie to be at the rink with NHL personnel Saturday. Barnett, who was relieved of his duties as Coyotes GM following the 2006-07 season, spent most of last season watching games via the satellite dish he has at his Phoenix home. Now his job is to be out at the rinks, watching the Rangers AHL players in Hartford as well as their prospects in the NCAA and junior ranks.
"Watching as many games as I did last year on the dish I was still able to keep a pretty good handle on the talent in the NHL level," Barnett said, "but the American League and the entry-level players are areas where I need to get caught up on."
-- Dan Rosen
Eye-opener – Jake Allen didn't even get to attend the St. Louis Blues’ development camp this summer because he was in Toronto accepting his ring for winning the World Under-18 Championship with Canada.
So, like teammate and fellow 2008 draft pick Alex Pietrangelo, Allen's first on-ice experience with the Blues is ongoing right now in Traverse City, and it's been quite a learning experience for the 18-year-old.
"I said it to our goaltending coach, 'I feel small,' " Allen said. "A lot of the guys here are bigger and older, and I just turned 18. I feel small out there, but I feel big in my league (QMJHL). It's a huge step and it shows me I have a long ways to go."
-- Dan Rosen
Partners again – When the coaching staff of the Atlanta Thrashers sat down to consider the line combinations for their team competing here at the Prospects Tournament at Centre I.C.E. Arena, they needed all but two seconds to pencil in the sidekick for defenseman Zach Bogosian.
After all, Latvian defender Arturs Kulda, the Thrashers’ seventh-round steal (No. 200) in the 2006 draft, had partnered up with Bogosian most of last season with the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League.
It has taken the 20-year-old lefty just two seasons to become acclimated to the North American game. He was actually second to Bogosian (61 points) among Peterborough defensemen with 34 points (27 assists) last season. He even led the team with a plus-9 rating through 55 games. Bogosian finished second on the club with a plus-8 in 60 contests.
"When (Arturs) came to this tournament two years ago, he was getting run over and injured every game and we were afraid to play him in the last game because we didn't want to hurt his chances to play junior in Peterborough," said Dan Marr, Atlanta's director of amateur scouting and player development.
"But he's one of the hardest working kids and every year he's improved a great deal and has given us 100 percent. Every opportunity he's gotten, he's earned and he prides himself on solid play and is very coachable. You never have to tell him something twice."
Kulda is excited to have the opportunity.
"It's my third year here and I think it's a great tournament and a great place to show what you could do on the ice," he said. "It's great to be paired up with Zach because he's a great player. We felt very good (in his team's game-opening 1-0 victory over Tampa Bay on Saturday) when we were on the ice. We have a good sense of where the other person is."
-- Mike G. Morreale
J.D. loves T.C. – John Davidson, the president of hockey operations in St. Louis, was certainly one happy camper taking in all the action of the Traverse City Tournament within the neighboring rinks at Centre I.C.E. Arena.
For Davidson and his crew, the tournament is an outstanding opportunity to evaluate the organization's top young players in a laid-back resort community.
"This is awesome and this city does a great job, everything is arranged properly and Ken Holland, who I call the commissioner of this tourney, is fabulous," Davidson said. "When we flew in on Friday night, some 20 volunteers met us at the airport to help our trainers remove the bags and equipment off the aircraft. It's a real plus for the community and the area. Once Labor Day weekend is over it's quiet, but when this comes to town, it provides a lot of excitement and revenue for the area. The hockey is good, the people love it and it's very well run. It's a heck of a tournament."
-- Mike G. Morreale
The 6-foot, 180-pound Russian, drafted 27th by the Stars in 2006, is determined to make the club's roster because "the NHL is the best League in the world."
In 2007-08, his third season playing for Rounyn-Noranda of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Vishnevskiy posted 17 goals and 45 points in 45 games. In 2006-07, he had 14 goals, 51 points and a career-high 90 penalty minutes.
"The beginning (in the QMJHL) was tough because it was a very physical game and it was small ice," Vishnevskiy said. "I played on National Teams against Canada and the U.S., but I wasn't used to playing 70 games. I'm a lot more accustomed to it now and this prospects tournament is a big help."
Vishnevskiy is well aware that the Kontinental Hockey League is looking to establish itself in its first year, but he's quick to note that the best players, including fellow countrymen Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk, reside in the NHL.
"Some of the guys go to the Russian league because of money," he said. "There is no tax in Russia and guys like Alex Radulov feel they can make millions in a short period of time. But I don't know, I'm here because I want to play in the best league and I hope to get my chance and make an impression."
-- Mike G. Morreale