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MacInnis sees value in prospects tournament

by Staff

Count Hall of Fame defenseman Al MacInnis as another big-time supporter of the Traverse City Prospects Tournament.

When MacInnis was coming up with the Calgary Flames in the early 1980s, he remembers attending rookie camps and playing the odd game against his peers from the Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers. He would have loved the opportunity to play in an event like the one finishing up Wednesday night in northern Michigan.

"Absolutely I would have," MacInnis said.

Mainly, MacInnis said, because it would have given him first-hand knowledge of how fast the game is when you add players who have already played a year of pro hockey into the mix.

When MacInnis was attending Flames' rookie camps, he was still playing for the Kitchener Rangers. He made his NHL debut in the 1981-82 season, but didn't turn pro on a full-time basis until the 1983-84 season.

"Talking to our players the last couple of days, after you mix some older players, first-year pros into the game, it's amazing how the pace of the game increases," MacInnis said. "That's something the young players coming out of junior have to adjust to. A lot of these guys, the top picks, they're coming from playing 35 minutes a night in junior and pacing themselves. Now, all of a sudden when the pace picks up they have to pick up their pace in the game. That's something they have to adjust to."

Now that he's in a management role as the St. Louis Blues' vice president of hockey operations, MacInnis sees the Traverse City Prospects Tournament as a unique opportunity to not only scout his own players, but the prospects from seven other teams.

You can't do that anywhere else.

"Everybody can skate, everybody can check and most guys can make a play," MacInnis said. "It's amazing how quick the game is getting. It's unbelievable. Now, maybe part of that is we're close to the ice level here, but don't get me wrong, everybody can skate and now everybody has speed going to the puck. It just continues to get faster."
-- Dan Rosen

McCrimmon in Hockeytown – The departure of former Detroit Red Wings assistant coach Todd McLellan, who left to become coach of the San Jose Sharks in June, hasn't left Mike Babcock short on help.

Brad McCrimmon, who spent 18 seasons in the League and three with the Wings (1990-93), will replace McLellan this season. In 2007-08, McCrimmon concluded his fourth season behind the bench as an assistant in Atlanta. He also held similar roles in Calgary and with the New York Islanders.

Not only is the 49-year-old veteran forward looking to helping out, but he's also spending time with his former roommate in Detroit – Nick Lidstrom. The two defenders were roommates during the 1991-92 campaign.

"I think six Norris Trophies kind of speak volumes to the type of player he is," McCrimmon said of Lidstrom. "I still think he should have earned the Calder Trophy (in 1991-92) but Pavel Bure (of Vancouver) won it that year. I didn't think Nick got the recognition and the credit he should have received in his first season in the League because he was sensational. He's been a great player since he got here."

Lidstrom had 11 goals, 60 points and was a plus-36 in his first NHL season.

"I'm looking forward to spending time working with the defense and other areas as well," McCrimmon said.
-- Mike G. Morreale

 Voracek 'feels great' – Prior to Columbus' game Tuesday afternoon against St. Louis, Blue Jackets top prospect Jakub Voracek said he's feeling great and he's excited about the way he is playing in Traverse City.

An hour later, Voracek was in a suit watching the Jackets play.

Columbus fans need not worry. Both Voracek and assistant GM Chris MacFarland said the young Czech right wing is just fine. The team decided to hold him out of Tuesday's game as a precautionary measure.

"He's shown us enough already," MacFarland said of Voracek, who had two assists and was a plus-2 in the first two games. "Plus, he's got the big camp coming up."

Columbus opens training camp Saturday, and Voracek plans to be a big part of it. Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock said he could possibly play on the second line to start the season, so there was no reason to risk his status Tuesday.

Voracek, though, was hoping to play Wednesday afternoon when the Jackets face Tampa Bay at 2 p.m. in the seventh-place game, but he instead rode the bike.
-- Dan Rosen

Risebrough reflects on Traverse – Minnesota General Manager Doug Risebrough is grateful his young players can experience the thrill of playing before passionate fans in such a professional setting at the five-day prospects tournament.

"The tournament is really good and because it's a small community. The kids can come out and watch it and you're always going to play better in front of crowds," Risebrough said. "It kind of gives them a little sense of pride because, in the end, it will mean something to somebody in the crowd who is a fan of one of the team's.

"The real benefit is that, because of this tournament, we've shortened our own training camps and the players are in better shape and need fewer games. It's good to introduce the kids to this format and ultimately, you get their confidence stepping into the NHL camp. I find that the players participating here look much better at the NHL camp, because to get adjusted more quickly. Our camp is short, it gives us another longer look at these players in game situations and if we didn't have a tournament like this we'd be watching them at practice."
-- Mike G. Morreale

No room yet – Detroit Red Wings forward Cory Emmerton has been one of the best players at the Traverse City tournament, but his success here won't change where he'll wind up this season unless something drastic happens at the Wings' main camp.

Red Wings GM Ken Holland said the organization really likes Emmerton, but there is no doubt that he belongs in Grand Rapids this season. Emmerton, who had 5 points through the first 3 games in Traverse City, played seven games with the Griffins at the end of last season and registered an assist.

Prior to going to the AHL, he had 61 points combined between Kingston and Brampton of the OHL. After registering 31 points in 24 games for Kingston, Emmerton was traded for two players and five draft picks. He finished with 30 points in 30 games.

It appears that Darren Helm, who was a contributor in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, as well as Finnish forward Ville Leino, Justin Abdelkader and Mattias Ritola are all currently ahead of Emmerton on the Red Wings depth chart.
-- Dan Rosen

Peter the great – The crowds were bigger and the hockey was better.

Those were the feelings of tournament organizer Peter Correia, the 63-year-old banker from this resort little town. Correia, who thanked the 200-plus volunteers it took to stage the five-day tournament, feels the event was a tremendous success not only to the town's economy, but the League.

"First of all, we had the best crowds we've had in the 11 years we've run the tournament," Correia said. "Each year it has grown so we're very pleased our local community came out to enjoy this good hockey.

"As far as the tournament goes, and this is from a non-professional hockey guy, I think the teams have gotten better and the quality of play has gone up. We've seen a lot of great players over the years but, man for man, I think these are the best teams we've had. I also feel the teams have taken this tournament more seriously than in season's past, even management and coaches."

Correia, a graduate of Michigan State, helped erect Centre I.C.E. Arena where the tournament and pending Red Wings training camp is traditionally held. The arena was completed in the late 1980's with the assistance of Involved Citizens Enterprises (I.C.E.), a non-profit organization committed to providing affordable and accessible skating programs to Grand Traverse area residents.
-- Mike G. Morreale

Check the blog – The puck drops in the championship game of the Traverse City Prospects Tournament Wednesday night at 6:30. A pair of unbeaten squads, the Atlanta Thrashers and Dallas Stars, will vie for the title. will provide live-blogging coverage of the championship game on the 2008 Traverse City Prospect Tournament group page. We will have period-by-period analysis and postgame reaction.

Atlanta knocked off the Detroit Red Wings, 3-2, in a shootout Tuesday night to reach the championship game. Dallas beat Minnesota, 3-2, in regulation to earn its spot in Wednesday night's main event.
-- Dan Rosen


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