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NHL prospect tournaments set to begin

Hughes of Devils, Kakko of Rangers, Poehling of Canadiens among those to watch

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

Many potential future stars will play this weekend in NHL prospect tournaments across North America.

Each tournament will enable players selected in the NHL Draft, signed as free agents, or earning tryouts to make an impression prior to the start of NHL training camps next week.

The NHL Prospects Tournament features eight teams at Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City, Michigan, from Sept. 6-10: the Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues and Toronto Maple Leafs, who are participating for the first time.

The Anaheim Ducks will host the Anaheim Rookie Faceoff, which includes the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Vegas Golden Knights, Arizona Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche at Great Park Ice & FivePoint Arena in Irvine, California, from Sept. 7-10.

The NHL Prospects Showcase, with players from the Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Nashville Predators, will be held at Ford Ice Center in Antioch, Tennessee, from Sept. 7-10.

The Buffalo Sabres will host the Prospects Challenge with players from the New Jersey Devils, Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins at HarborCenter in Buffalo from Sept. 6-9. Dylan Cozens, who was selected by the Sabres with the No. 7 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, has been cleared to play after having surgery on his left thumb in early July.

The Belleville Rookie Showcase will include the Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets at CAA Arena in Belleville, Ontario, from Sept. 6-9.

Here are three top prospects to watch in each of the five tournaments:


NHL Prospects Tournament

Kaapo Kakko, RW, New York Rangers: Selected with the No. 2 in the 2019 NHL Draft, Kakko (6-foot-3, 195 pounds) is expected to compete for a spot in the Rangers' top six after he had 38 points (22 goals, 16 assists) in 45 games last season for TPS in Liiga, Finland's top professional league. The 18-year-old left-handed shot had five points (two goals, three assists) in seven games to help Finland finish first at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship, and seven points (six goals, one assist) in 10 games to help his country finish first at the 2019 IIHF World Championship. He missed the Rangers' first game at Traverse City on Friday and is listed as day to day because of illness. 

Video: Kaapo Kakko ranks No. 2 on the Top Prospects List

Alexandre Texier, C, Columbus Blue Jackets: Texier (6-0, 187), who will turn 20 on Sept. 13, had one goal in two regular-season games and three points (two goals, one assist) in eight Stanley Cup Playoff games last season, and will get a chance to play on the second or third line for the Blue Jackets this season. Selected in the second round (No. 45) of the 2017 NHL Draft, Texier scored twice in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference First Round, when the Blue Jackets completed a sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning with a 7-3 win. He had 41 points (14 goals, 27 assists) in 55 games for KalPa in Liiga and had three points (one goal, two assists) in seven games for France at the 2019 IIHF World Championship.

Filip Zadina, RW, Detroit Red Wings: Selected with the No. 6 pick in the 2018 Draft, Zadina had 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists) in 59 games with Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League last season. The 19-year-old is strong on his skates and offers a hard and accurate slap shot, wrist shot and one-timer. Zadina (6-foot, 195), who had three points (one goal, two assists) in nine games with Detroit late last season, saw limited ice time at Red Wings development camp in June because of a sore hamstring sustained during offseason training.


Anaheim Rookie Faceoff

Barrett Hayton, C, Arizona Coyotes: Selected with the No. 5 pick in the 2018 Draft, the 19-year-old had 66 points (26 goals, 40 assists), including five shorthanded goals, and won 55.5 percent of his face-offs (398-for-717) in 39 games for Sault Ste. Marie of the Ontario Hockey League last season. Hayton (6-1, 190) should push for a top-nine spot in training camp and possibly make his NHL debut on the wing.

Cody Glass, C, Vegas Golden Knights: The 20-year-old, who was selected with the No. 6 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, had 69 points (15 goals, 54 assists) in 38 games as captain of Portland of the Western Hockey League last season. Glass (6-2, 178), a right-handed shot, has great vision and skill, and had five points (three goals, two assists) in six regular-season games for Chicago of the AHL and 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in 22 playoff games.

Video: Glass joins the show to discuss his prospect ranking

Troy Terry, RW, Anaheim Ducks: Terry (6-1, 178) had 13 points (four goals, nine assists) and a plus-8 rating in 32 games as a rookie with the Ducks last season. Selected in the fifth round (No. 148) of the 2015 NHL Draft, Terry, who will turn 22 on Sept. 10, also had 41 points (16 goals, 25 assists) in 41 games for San Diego of the AHL. He had 93 points (36 goals, 57 assists) in 74 games at the University of Denver before signing a three-year entry-level contract on March 26, 2018.


Nashville Prospects Showcase

Dante Fabbro, D, Nashville Predators: The 21-year-old, who was selected with the No. 17 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, should earn a spot with the Predators during training camp and could have a top-four role paired with Mattias Ekholm or Roman Josi. Fabbro (6-foot, 189) had one goal in four regular-season games and one assist in six playoff games for Nashville last season, and 33 points (seven goals, 26 assists) in 38 games as a junior at Boston University.

Callan Foote, D, Tampa Bay Lightning: Selected with No. 14 pick of the 2017 Draft, Foote had 31 points (10 goals, 21 assists) in 76 games for Syracuse of the AHL last season. Foote (6-4, 221) has the skill, hockey smarts, and toughness to succeed at the next level, but the 20-year-old right-handed shot likely will begin the season in the AHL after the Lightning signed defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk on Aug. 5. 

Ilya Samsonov, G, Washington Capitals: Samsonov (6-3, 200), who was stellar at Capitals development camp in June, enters his second season with Hershey of the AHL after four seasons with Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the Kontinental Hockey League. The 22-year-old, who was selected with the No. 22 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, went 20-14-2 with a 2.70 goals-against average, .898 save percentage and three shutouts in 37 AHL games last season, including 15-3-2 with a 1.78 GAA and .930 save percentage in his final 20 starts.


Buffalo Prospects Challenge

Jack Hughes, C, New Jersey Devils: The No. 1 pick in the 2019 Draft, Hughes (5-10, 170) led the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 team with 112 points (34 goals, 78 assists) in 50 games last season. The 18-year-old, who is the brother of Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes, likely will become the first NTDP player to go directly from the draft to playing in the NHL.

Video: Jack Hughes stands atop the Top Prospects List

Henri Jokiharju, D, Buffalo Sabres: The 20-year-old right-handed shot, who was acquired in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks for forward Alexander Nylander on July 9, had 12 assists playing alongside Duncan Keith in 38 games with the Blackhawks last season. Jokiharju (6-foot, 193), who was selected in the first round (No. 29) of the 2017 draft, also had 17 points (two goals, 15 assists) in 30 games with Rockford of the AHL and could earn an NHL spot with a strong showing at the prospect tournament and training camp.

Ty Smith, D, New Jersey Devils: The 19-year-old, who was selected with the No. 17 pick in the 2018 draft, has a good shot at earning an NHL roster spot with a solid training camp. He's smart, makes a good first pass and is capable of producing on offense, as evidenced by his 69 points (seven goals, 62 assists) in 57 games for Spokane of the Western Hockey League last season, when he was named Canadian Hockey League defenseman of the year.


Belleville Rookie Showcase

Drake Batherson, RW, Ottawa Senators: Batherson (6-3, 187) made the AHL All-Rookie team after finishing third among AHL rookies in goals (22) and assists (40) in 59 regular-season games for Belleville last season. The 21-year-old also made his NHL debut last season and had nine points (three goals, six assists) in 20 games for the Senators. Batherson, who was a fourth-round pick (No. 121) in the 2017 Draft, possesses speed, a quick release and a heavy shot, and could find himself starting the season as the right wing on the second line.

Ryan Poehling, C, Montreal Canadiens: Selected in the first round (No. 25) in the 2017 Draft, Poehling (6-2, 183) was voted MVP and best forward at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship after he had eight points (five goals, three assists) in seven games for the United States, which finished second to Finland. The 20-year-old will make a strong push to remain in the NHL after he had a hat trick and scored the deciding goal in the shootout in his NHL debut, a 6-5 win against Toronto in Montreal's season finale April 6.

Video: TOR@MTL: Poehling nets hatty, SO winner in NHL debut

Kristian Vesalainen, LW, Winnipeg Jets: The 20-year-old is expected to make the Jets this season and likely play on the third or fourth line. Vesalainen (6-3, 207), selected with the No. 24 pick in the 2017 draft, brings size and grit to the lineup. He had 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) in 31 games last season for Jokerit in the KHL, 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in 22 games with Manitoba in the AHL, and one assist in five games with the Jets.

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