The five-day Traverse City prospects tournament is hosted by the Detroit Red Wings and precedes their training camp at the same location, beginning Sept. 18. The event, which began in 1998 with four teams and expanded to eight teams in 2006, has become an annual preseason staple for coaches, general managers and scouts to evaluate their prospects against their peers.
The addition of the Blackhawks is certain to create a lot of intrigue and excitement.
"There's a following for the Detroit Red Wings at this tournament, but there are also a lot of Blackhawks fans around the area," Red Wings assistant general manager Ryan Martin said. "It's a rivalry we miss during the regular season since we don't see them as many times [at Joe Louis Arena] since we're in the Eastern Conference now.
"[The Blackhawks] are a really well-run organization with some top prospects, so to have those players come into our tournament is going to be outstanding. They're one of the blueprint franchises now which other teams are trying to model themselves after. I'm excited to have them in the tournament and I think they'll have a really good following."
The Red Wings and Blackhawks will compete in the Gordie Howe Division with the Carolina Hurricanes and Dallas Stars. The Ted Lindsay Division will feature the Columbus Blue Jackets, Minnesota Wild, St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers. The Blue Jackets won the 2014 tournament trophy by defeating the Dallas Stars 3-2 in overtime in the final.
The Blue Jackets had six players on the roster who were selected in either the first or second round of the NHL Draft. They lost forward Sonny Milano, a 2014 first-round pick (No. 16), to a fractured cheek and orbital bone in the first game of the tournament. Milano is expected to return and play for the Blue Jackets this year.
"Last year, I didn't really get an opportunity to prove myself since I only played a period, so I'm looking forward to getting there and playing; it looked like a lot of fun from the stands," Milano said.
The tournament has more than 475 alumni who have played or are currently playing in the NHL, totaling more than 80,000 NHL games. The highest-scoring alumni include Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk, Dany Heatley, Henrik Zetterberg, David Legwand, Scott Hartnell, Martin Erat, Alexander Semin and James Neal.
"The level of play coming through this tournament has been so high," Stars general manager Jim Nill said. "You get to watch other teams, so you're not only evaluating your players but other teams. Most of these kids are 4-5 years down the road, but at least you kind of see where teams will be at in 4-5 years."
Twenty-two players who participated in the tournament last year skated in at least one NHL game in 2014-15, including Rangers forward Kevin Hayes. He went on to have a productive rookie season for New York, scoring 17 goals and 45 points in 79 regular-season games.
The Red Wings will have three first-round draft picks on their prospect roster: Anthony Mantha (2013, No. 20), Dylan Larkin (2014, No. 15) and Evgeny Svechnikov (2015, No. 19). Dominic Turgeon (2014, No. 63) is excited to be returning to Traverse City.
"They make it an unbelievable experience," Turgeon said. "First of all, it's a great place, but the skill level and pace is so high. You learn so much from the coaches there, which is great for us, and we get to take that home and work on that, so it's great."
Teams will play each opponent in their division during the round robin before a crossover on the final day of the tournament, capped with the first-place finishers in each division meeting for the championship on Sept. 15 at 7 p.m. ET. All games will take place at David's Rink and West Rink at Centre Ice Arena.
The winning team will receive the Matthew Wuest Memorial Cup. Wuest, who died of cancer in March, developed capgeek.com, which tracked salary-cap data for all 30 NHL teams in real time. Additionally, Wuest developed and maintained redwingscentral.com before it ceased operation in 2014.
TOP PICKS TO GRACE TRAVERSE CITY
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- It shouldn't come as a surprise that each of the eight teams headed to the Traverse City Prospects Tournament beginning Friday will be fielding impressive lineups.
The Dallas Stars will showcase eight players selected in either the first or second round during the past four years, and the defending Stanley Cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks will feature one first-rounder and two second-round picks.
Here's a list of first- and second-round draft picks scheduled to participate in Traverse City:
Gordie Howe Division
Detroit Red Wings: Forwards Anthony Mantha (2013, No. 20), Evgeny Svechnikov (2015, No. 19), Tyler Bertuzzi (2013, No. 58), Zach Nastasiuk (2013, No. 48), Dylan Larkin (2014, No. 15)
Chicago Blackhawks: Forwards Ryan Hartman (2013, No. 30), Graham Knott (2015, No. 54); defenseman Dillon Fournier (2012, No. 48).
Carolina Hurricanes: Forwards Phil DiGiuseppe (2012, No. 38), Brock McGinn (2012, No. 47); defensemen Haydn Fleury (2014, No. 7), Brett Pesce (2013, No. 66)
Dallas Stars: Forwards Radek Faksa (2012, No. 13), Jason Dickinson (2013, No. 29), Brett Pollock (2014, No. 45), Remi Elie (2013, No. 40), Devin Shore (2012, No. 61); defensemen Julius Honka (2014, No. 14), Ludwig Bystrom (2012, No. 43); goaltender Philippe Desrosiers (2013, No. 54)
Ted Lindsay Division
Columbus Blue Jackets: Forwards Sonny Milano (2014, No. 16), Kerby Rychel (2013, No. 19), Paul Bittner (2015, No. 38); defenseman Dillon Heatherington (2013, No. 50)
Minnesota Wild: Defenseman Gustav Olofsson (2013, No. 46)
St. Louis Blues: Forwards Robby Fabbri (2014, No. 21), Ivan Barbashev (2014, No. 33); defensemen Tommy Vannelli (2013, No. 47), Vince Dunn (2015, No. 56), Jordan Schmaltz (2012, No. 25)
New York Rangers: Forward Ryan Gropp (2015, No. 41); defenseman Brady Skjei (2012, No. 28); goaltender Brandon Halverson (2014, No. 59)