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Traverse City: 7 Players to Watch

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues

ST. LOUIS - It may not be very ceremonial, but hockey season unofficially begins Friday night when the puck drops on the annual Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, Michigan.

Twenty-five Blues prospects will participate in the tournament, which features eight NHL teams that will compete in a three-game round robin. Each division winner will battle for the tournament championship on Tuesday, Sept. 16. Other teams represented at the tournament are the Detroit Red Wings, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild and the New York Rangers.

The Blues begin tournament play Friday against Detroit (6:30 p.m. CT).

Below is a list of players we’ll be watching closely:

         
1. Ty Rattie - Forward - No. 18
Ty Rattie caught the eye of Blues scouts with his dynamic offensive ability and great instincts back in 2011. Two seasons ago, Rattie snagged playoff MVP honors with the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL by producing 36 points (20 goals and 16 assists) in 21 playoff appearances. The Calgary, Alberta native followed up that season by leading the Chicago Wolves of the AHL in goals (31) and points (48) last year. This will be Rattie’s second appearance at Traverse City. Last season, he led all Blues prospects in goals (3) and points (4) in four games.
      
   
2. Robby Fabbri - Forward - No. 15
Speaking of talented offensive players, Fabbri fits that mold, too. The 2014 first-round pick impressed at the Blues Development Camp in July and was named the MVP of the OHL playoffs last season. The 18-year-old Mississauga, ON native had 28 points in 16 playoff appearances, including a 13-game point streak that included eight multi-point games. He had three assists in a championship-clinching Game 5 victory for the Guelph Storm. “He’s a hybrid - almost like a (Jaden) Schwartz and (T.J.) Oshie with his competitiveness,” said Blues Director of Amateur Scouting Bill Armstrong at the 2014 NHL Draft. “He’s a fun player to watch. He’ll pull you out of your seat with his effort and skill.”
    
       
3. Ivan Barbashev - Forward - No. 49
 Ivan Barbashev was projected to be a first-round pick in 2014, but somehow was still available when the Blues’ second-round pick (No. 33 overall) came around. “His determination and effort and who he is, we were a little bit surprised (to get him),” Armstrong said. “We love him, so we’re really excited about getting him where we did.” Barbashev scored 68 points (including a team-high 43 assists) last season with the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL. He’s also represented Russia at the 2013 U-18 World Juniors and the 2014 World Junior Championships, where he earned a bronze medal. This will Barbashev’s first appearance in Traverse City
       
           
4. Thomas Vannelli - Defense - No. 47
The Blues selected a 6-foot-2 defenseman in Thomas Vannelli with their first pick in 2013 (second round, No. 47 overall). The Minnetonka, MN native possesses good mobility and is an excellent stickhandler. Last season with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL, Vannelli had 14 goals and 27 assists (41 points) in 60 games played. He also had two goals and six assists in 18 playoff appearances.
      
        
5. Jani Hakanpaa - Defense - No. 51
The first thing you’ll notice about Jani Hakanpaa is his size. The 6-foot-6, 227-pound defenseman played 54 games with the Chicago Wolves last season, tallying four goals and four assists to go along with a plus-20 rating. Last year at Traverse City, Hakanpaa registered a plus-2 rating in four games. Bottom line: this guy is a big, steady defenseman with plenty of upside.
         
       
6. Jordan Binnington - Goaltender - No. 30
The Blues’ third-round pick in 2011 was used on goaltender Jordan Binnington (No. 88 overall), a goaltender who was playing with the Owen Sound Attack of the OHL. In 2013, Binnington was named the OHL Goaltender of the Year after going 32-12-6 with a 2.17 goals-against average, a .932 save-percentage and seven shutouts. With Kalamazoo last season in the ECHL, Binnington was 23-13-3 with a 2.35 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage.
       
            
7. Niklas Lundstrom - Goaltender - No. 60
In addition to Binnington, the Blues also selected another goaltender later in the 2011 Draft (fifth round, No. 132 overall) in Niklas Lundstrom. The Varmdo, Sweden native spent the last season between Sodertalje SK and AIK of the SweHL. A butterfly goaltender, Lundstrom posted a tournament-best 2.14 goals-against average at the 2011 U-18 World Juniors, helping Sweden to a silver medal.
         
         
For daily stats and standings updates, visit stlouisblues.com/traversecity
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