– The 2014-15 season is nearly upon us.
And with that comes the annual Traverse City Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, Michigan, one last tune-up for the Carolina Hurricanes' top prospects before training camp gets underway next week in Raleigh.
“It’s a great opportunity to play four games in five days and show what you can bring,” said Jeff Daniels, head coach of the Canes’ prospects team.
“I’ve just been skating and practicing, so to get in that competitive atmosphere, you get back into game-shape,” said defenseman and 2014 seventh overall draft pick Haydn Fleury. “It’s a real good final tune-up.”
A noon practice on Thursday – aside from the morning skate on Friday – was the team’s lone on-ice session preceding tournament game action.
“You want to have a little structure to your game, so we did a little stuff in practice today, and we’ll show a little video before the game, but at the same time, you don’t want to paralyze the guys,” he said. “We’re not worried so much about systems, but we’re looking for guys that can compete. What guys want it? What guys want to be a pro? This is chance to go out and play against your peers, so to speak, and I think it starts with the compete level and showing that you want it.”
The Canes, who won the tournament in 2009, join the Buffalo Sabres, Dallas Stars and New York Rangers in the Ted Lindsay Division, opposite the Columbus Blue Jackets, defending tournament champion Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues in the Gordie Howe Division.
The Hurricanes open their three-game round-robin slate on Friday at 4:00 p.m. against Buffalo. The Canes then face Dallas at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday and New York at 6:30 p.m. on Monday. The tournament will be capped on Tuesday, as the teams cross divisions to play their standings’ equal; the two first-place teams will face off for the championship at 7 p.m.
“This is a good warm-up before training camp to feel the game,” forward Sergey Tolchinsky said.
“I’m really excited to get back on the ice. I really haven’t been in a competitive situation in a while,” Fleury said. “Just to get out here, get the feet moving and be with the guys is really good.”
After missing Prospects Development camp with a broken thumb, goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic, the Canes’ 37th overall draft choice (second round) this year, joins Daniel Altshuller in net.
“I’m pretty excited. This is my first time going to anything NHL-related with NHL talent – guys that have been drafted or invited to camps before,” Nedeljkovic said. “It’s pretty exciting and pretty thrilling.”
Not sharing the luxury that many inside the Canes’ locker room had by familiarizing themselves on and off the ice with their teammates in mid-July, Nedeljkovic has some catching up to do.
“It’s different. I don’t know a lot of the guys,” he said, noting that he plays with forward Carter Sandlak and defenseman Josh Wesley in Plymouth (OHL). “Most of these guys I have no idea who they are, where they come from, how they play and stuff like that. It’s exciting to watch and learn from them.”
With rosters that largely feature players yet to or on the cusp of beginning their professional careers, Brendan Woods and Victor Rask enter as “veterans,” both having skated with the Charlotte Checkers in the 2013-14 season.
Woods is coming off knee injury that caused him to miss the Checkers’ final 25 games; Prospects Development Camp was an important progression in his rehab, and this tournament is another.
This year marks Rask’s third appearance in the Prospects Tournament, and in Thursday’s practice, he centered Tolchinsky and Brock McGinn on what could be a potent scoring line for the Hurricanes.
“We’re trying to put the skill guys with the skill guys and see what they can do. Victor is a guy I had all last year, and I know he can produce offensively. He’s a real smart, aware player on the ice. Defensively, he knows where he needs to be, and offensively he can shoot the puck and make plays. Sergei is an exciting player,” Daniels said. “They need to compete and use that skill in a positive way.”
We’ll be passing along any and all updates from Traverse City as the tournament progresses. For the latest information, you can follow me and the team’s official account on Twitter. We’ll dust off @Canes_Gameday for live game updates beginning with Friday’s tilt against Buffalo.
2014-15 PROSPECTS TOURNAMENT
|DATE ||VISITOR ||HOME ||TIME (ET) |
|FRI SEP 12, 2014 ||HURRICANES ||SABRES ||4:00 PM |
|SAT SEP 13, 2014 ||STARS ||HURRICANES ||3:30 PM |
|MON SEP 15, 2014 ||HURRICANES ||RANGERS ||6:30 PM |
|TUE SEP 16, 2014 ||TBD ||TBD ||TBD |