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Prospects set to compete in Michigan tourney

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers


In the week before training camp opens next month, a group of young players with sights set on the NHL will represent the New York Rangers at a prestigious tournament in Traverse City, Mich.

For the first time since it began in 1999, the annual Traverse City Prospects Tournament will include the Blueshirts in its eight-team field. For the Rangers organization, it's the first participation in a preseason prospects tournament since a similar tournament in Kitchener, Ontario, six years ago.

Don Maloney, the Rangers' Vice-President of Player Personnel and Assistant General Manager, said the organization has wanted to play in rookie tournaments over the past few years, but the team's developmental system included a large number of U.S. college players, who are ineligible to play in such events under NCAA rules. This year, however, there are several prospects eligible for the tournament, as the assembled roster of 31 players includes 27 whose NHL rights are currently held by the Rangers organization.

"With all the picks we've had over the last few seasons, we thought it was time to get back to playing in a tournament like this one," Maloney said. "The main purpose for us is to have these prospects practice together and get to know each other before starting their pro careers."

Joining the Rangers in Traverse City will be prospect teams from the tournament host Detroit Red Wings as well as Atlanta, Columbus, Dallas, Minnesota, St. Louis and Tampa Bay. Historically, this tournament has been a launching pad for future NHL stars, including the Thrashers' Ilya Kovalchuk, who began his rookie season with a stellar performance in Traverse City.

Under tournament rules, each NHL team can bring four players with up to one year of professional experience. The Rangers have filled two of these slots with goaltenders, including 2004 first-round draft pick Al Montoya and 2003 sixth-rounder Chris Holt. Both played for the Hartford Wolf Pack and Charlotte Checkers last season, with Holt also playing 20 minutes for the Rangers in a game at Washington.

The other two slots for experienced pros are being filled by right wing Rick Kozak and center Bruce Graham. Both players spent time with Hartford and Charlotte last season.

These four professional players are not the only prospects with AHL experience. Late season Hartford call-ups Dane Byers, Brandon Dubinsky, Lauri Korpikoski, Greg Moore and defenseman Marc Staal all played for the Wolf Pack last spring and will be reunited in Traverse City.

Six of the seven players drafted by the Rangers on June 24 in Vancouver are also scheduled to participate in the prospects tournament. Bobby Sanguinetti, Ryan Hillier, David Kveton, Tomas Zaborsky, Eric Hunter and Lukas Zeliska would all be wearing the Rangers uniform in competition for the first time.

Maloney said Rangers assistant coach Perry Pearn will be behind the bench for tournament games along with Hartford Wolf Pack assistants Ken Gernander and J.J. Daigneault. Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather, Maloney, Head Coach Tom Renney, assistant coaches Mike Pelino and Benoit Allaire and Wolf Pack General Manager and Head Coach Jim Schoenfeld will also be evaluating players in Traverse City.

"From the time you draft a player to the time you sign him, there's a continuing evaluation that takes place," said Maloney. "For guys like Ryan Callahan and Korpikoski, a tournament like this is a great start heading into camp because it helps them to get more comfortable with the pro style. It's really a great introduction to pro hockey against players in your own age group. It's a great way for a player to get his feet wet."

Prospect teams are also allowed to include players under AHL contracts for 2006-07 as well as those signed to tryout deals. In Traverse City, the Rangers will have four AHL players in defensemen Marvin Degon and Corey Potter and forwards Jakub Petruzalek and Zdenek Bahensky -- all with the Hartford Wolf Pack. The Rangers are also bringing two tryout players -- defenseman Josh Godfrey, an 18-year-old who played in the OHL last season, and John Murray, a 19-year-old goalie from Sioux Falls of the USHL.

While some of these prospecdts are expected to remain with the Blueshirts for training camp, others recognize that a strong performance in this tournament could increase their chances of being invited to the main camp. Maloney said this is certainly the case for any players who would otherwise be returned to their junior teams once the tournament ends.

Players will arrive in New York for pre-tournament training on Sept. 6 and travel to Traverse City the following day. From Sept. 8-11, the prospects will play a total of three games, as the tournament field divides into two round-robin groups of four teams. Final placement games, including the championship game between the two group winners, will be played on Sept. 12. Two days later, the Rangers' main training camp is set to open.

The Rangers' round-robin opponents will be Tampa Bay, Atlanta and Detroit. All games will be played at Center Ice Arena in Traverse City, Mich.

"This is going to help us get a better read on players by seeing them in a more competitive environment," said Maloney. "Between this tournament and the development camps we've had over the past number of years, these players are becoming very familiar with each other."

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 MSGNetwork.com

RANGERS' TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE

Sept. 8 - Rangers vs. Tampa Bay, 7:30 p.m. ET
Sept. 9 - Rangers vs. Atlanta, 4 p.m. ET
Sept. 11 - Rangers vs. Detroit, 6:30 p.m. ET
Sept. 12 - Final placement game against other group, 2 or 6 p.m. ET

NEW YORK RANGERS 2006 PROSPECT TOURNAMENT ROSTER
FORWARDS
No. Player POS. HT WT 2005-06 Team (League)
71 Zdenek Bahensky LW 6-2 195 Saskatoon (WHL)
72 Dane Byers LW 6-3 194 Prince Albert/Hartford (WHL/AHL)
46 Ryan Callahan RW 5-11 185 Guelph (OHL)
43 Marc-Andre Cliche C 6-1 190 Lewiston (QMJHL)
54 Brandon Dubinsky C 6-1 224 Portland/Hartford (WHL/AHL)
53 Brodie Dupont LW 6-2 2-6 Calgary (WHL)
42 Bruce Graham C 6-6 224 Hartford/Charlotte (AHL/ECHL)
73 Ryan Hillier LW 6-0 197 Halifax (QMJHL)
84 Eric Hunter LW 6-1 188 Prince George (WHL)
60 Lauri Korpikoski LW 6-1 194 TPS Turku/Hartford (Finland/AHL)
45 Rick Kozak RW 6-2 215 Hartford/Charlotte (AHL/ECHL)
85 David Kveton RW 5-11 180 Ostrava/Vsetin (Czech Republic)
87 Greg Moore RW 6-1 230 Maine/Hartford (HE/AHL)
52 Jakub Petruzalek RW 5-9 172 Litvinov/Barrie (Czech/OHL)
70 Tom Pyatt C 5-11 182 Saginaw (OHL)
62 Ryan Russell C 5-10 165 Kootenay (WHL)
64 Tomas Zaborsky F 5-11 180 Trencin Jr. (Slovakia)
97 Lukas Zeliska C 5-11 176 Trinec Jr. (Czech Republic)
DEFENSE
No. Player POS. HT WT 2005-06 Team (League)
49 Marvin Degon D 5-11 175 UMass/Hartford (HE/AHL)
48 Josh Godfrey D 6-1 197 Guelph/Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
76 Dalyn Flatt D 6-3 215 Saskatoon/Kootenay (WHL)
51 Philippe Furrer D 6-1 204 Bern (Switzerland)
50 Trevor Koverko D 6-3 203 Owen Sound (OHL)
65 Hannu Pikkarainen D 6-1 190 Helsinki IFK (Finland)
47 Corey Potter D 6-2 200 Michigan State (CCHA)
59 Bobby Sanguinetti D 6-1 178 Owen Sound (OHL)
56 Michael Sauer D 6-3 206 Portland (WHL)
67 Marc Staal D 6-4 204 Sudbury (OHL)
GOALTENDERS
No. Player POS. HT WT 2005-06 Team (League)
81 Chris Holt G 6-3 229 Hart./Char./NYR (AHL/ECHL/NHL)
31 Al Montoya G 6-2 201 Hartford/Charlotte (AHL/ECHL)
78 John Murray G 6-0 197 Sioux Falls (USHL)
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