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Prospects begin tournament tonight vs. Bolts

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

· Prospects Tournament Preview and Roster

The annual Traverse City Prospects Tournament kicks off tonight at the Detroit Red Wings' training facility in Traverse City, Mich., and the Rangers prospects are set to begin play at 7:30 p.m.

This will mark the first time since 2000 that Rangers prospects have competed in a preseason tournament. Players reported to the Madison Square Garden Training Center on Thursday morning and flew to Traverse City, Mich., late Thursday afternoon. The tournament roster includes 31 players.

The tournament will not be televised locally, but in-depth highlights can be seen nightly on MSG Network's MSG SportsDesk. A listing of broadcast times for MSG SportsDesk is available at

At the Centre ICE Arena in Traverse City tonight, the Rangers hopefuls will go up against counterparts from the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. The Lightning roster's strengths are in goal and on defense, where the team has a trio of first-round draft choices. Here is a scouting report on some of Tampa Bay's five key players:

Riku Helenius -- Tampa Bay's first-round draft choice this past June is no stranger to elite tournmanets. He turned in a spectacular performance at the 2006 Under-18 World Junior Championships, carrying Finland to a silver medal with a 4-1-1 record and one shutout.

Karri Ramo -- Another highly-rated netminder from Finland, Ramo was Tampa Bay's sixth-round draft choice in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. The 20-year-old was superb in his one game for the Lightning in the 2003 Traverse City Tournament. In his only North American appearance, Ramo turned in a spectacular 37 save performance in a 3-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues prospect team.

Vladamir Mihalik -- The Slovakian defenseman is the top blueline prospect in Tampa's system. A hulking 6-foot-7 and 234 pounds, Mihalik was Tampa Bay's first-round selection in 2005, and skates in the Western Hockey League for Red Deer Rebels. A prototypical stay-at-home defenseman, Mihalik recorded three goals and nine assists for twelve points and 86 penalty minutes in his 2005-06 campaign.

Andy Rogers -- The Lightning's first-round draft pick in 2004 stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 218 pounds. A native of Calgary, Rogers also plays in the WHL. Skating for the Prince George Cougars in 2005-06, Rogers appeared in only 21 games, but posted three assists and a whopping 51 penalty minutes.

Radek Smolenak -- Drafted in the third round in 2005, Czech forward Smolenak had a spectacular 2005-06 season with the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL and is the top offensive threat on the Tampa prospects team. In 65 games last season, the winger tallied 42 goals and 42 assists for 84 points. He is also a physical presence at 6-3, 204-pounds, and tallied 109 penalty minutes.
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