TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- St. Louis Blues assistant general manager Martin Brodeur was front and center this week, catching up on the top young players in the pipeline participating in the 18th Traverse City Prospects Tournament at Centre Ice Arena.
Brodeur was not joined this year by Blues general manager Doug Armstrong, who is in Toronto working as GM for Team Canada at the World Cup of Hockey 2016. He witnessed plenty of good hockey, however, and was even present to watch his son Jeremy make 27 saves for the Columbus Blue Jackets in a 4-1 victory against the Blues on Saturday.
"My sons [Jeremy and Anthony] are conscious about how it's going to be hard to make it as a pro, but they have fun, want to play and are part of a team," Brodeur told NHL.com. "They are making friends and moving on in their own lives."
Martin Brodeur retired after 21 seasons and was hired by the Blues as assistant GM on May 20, 2015. He's still adjusting to life after hockey and was approached by countless fans during every game of the tournament with requests for photographs with him. He never denied a request and smiled for every picture.
Brodeur is the NHL's all-time regular season leader in wins (691), shutouts (125), games played (1,266) and minutes played (74,439). In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he ranks first in starts (204) and shutouts (24), and second in wins (113). He won the Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils in 1995, 2000 and 2003.
He took part in a question and answer with NHL.com during a break in the tournament:
How would you describe your first season as an assistant general manager?
"It's been great. The St. Louis management really helped me out along the way on what to do and they give me little errands to do. If we need to hire a strength coach or someone in another capacity, they'll ask me to look up individuals and reach out. It's brand new to me, but I'm just now getting comfortable going into my second season on the job. I think the networking is important. Coming to events like the Traverse City Prospects Tournament is important, seeing the scouts and managers and get to know people. It's been a big learning curve, but it keeps me out of the house a little bit."
Last year in Traverse City, forward Robby Fabbri and defenseman Colton Parayko were standouts. What do you think of the group of Blues prospects this year?
"We were a little thin on forwards before the 2016 NHL Draft and we drafted seven forwards, so we're happy with what we're seeing in our top forwards. Our top pick, Tage Thompson (No. 26), plays at the University of Connecticut so we couldn't bring him to Traverse City, but we saw them at prospects camp in St. Louis in July. We're happy with the size and skill we got with Nolan Stevens (No. 125) and Jordan Kyrou (No. 35), who is here. Center Adam Musil (2015 draft, No. 94) looks like a man out there. Our top prospect among the goalies is Ville Husso (2014, No. 94), who will play in Chicago in the American Hockey League this year after spending three years in Finland. Our scouts did a tremendous job over the past two drafts since I've been there. [Director of amateur scouting] Bill Armstrong and his staff has done a tremendous job. Connor Bleackley (2016, No. 144) is a player we moved up a few spots in a trade with Chicago to acquire in the draft. Bleackley was originally drafted by Colorado in 2014 but was never signed. He had a great attitude in camp and came into it in great shape."
Is forward Ivan Barbashev (2014 NHL Draft, No. 33) behind schedule in terms of development?
"Ivan is one of our top prospects here at the tournament, but he needs at least another solid half-season in Chicago (AHL). Now that we've hired our own coaching staff down there, it will be easier to move our prospects. Barbashev is a guy we're watching closely. He worked really hard this summer and looked really good. He'll get an opportunity, but we're pretty stacked in the NHL so it's going to be pretty hard to break in. On top of that, Ty Rattie (2011 draft, No. 32) signed a one-year, one-way contract in July. He's been going at it for some time, so we're looking for him to step up and show that he's an NHL player."
The Blues will have a different look without forwards David Backes and Troy Brouwer and goalie Brian Elliott. What do you and Doug Armstrong anticipate happening this year?
"It's a big turnaround letting Backes and Brouwer go, so we're going to rely on Jaden Schwartz and these guys to really be catalysts. Alex Pietrangelo will pick up the leadership role as captain of the team. We might stumble here and there, but I think guys are ready for this. They want it and now they have it. We're excited, looking forward to the season, but our youth and prospects are exactly where we want them to be. We're trying to keep up with everyone else and I feel we're doing that."
What are your thoughts on the World Cup of Hockey 2016 and, in particular, the concept of Team North America?
"I don't know yet. I kind of wish players from the young team played with their own countries. I feel Team Europe makes a lot of sense since other nations that struggle to form a team have a chance to play with great players. I am anxious to see how Team North America finishes and how fast they are against some of these other countries. I would have liked to have seen Connor McDavid pay the price and wait a couple of years before being able to play in a tournament of this magnitude. The U.S. and Canada will be the big benefactors in all this because the experience these young players will gain is invaluable. Sidney Crosby had to wait until 2010 before he could play in the Olympics for his country. But it's pretty incredible because you have your best young best players gaining great experience right now. It's almost like a minor league team for Canada and the United States. You never know what will happen in a short tournament though."