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Traverse City Tournament 2019: Meet the Prospects

by Michael Obernauer

Rangers Hockey is back, and it's the rookies getting it all started at the annual Traverse City Tournament, beginning on Friday afternoon. Twenty-four players will wear the Blueshirt in three weekend games, and potentially a fourth, nearly all of them for the very first time. They'll be guided by new Hartford Head Coach Kris Knoblauch and his staff, and these 24 will be representing a pool of Rangers prospects that on Thursday was named by The Athletic as the "No. 1 farm system" in the NHL.

The round-robin stage gets started when the Rangers and Blue Jackets prospects face off at 3:30 p.m. Friday. The Blueshirts will compete in the Ted Lindsay Division, consisting of Columbus, Dallas and Minnesota. The Gordie Howe Division has tournament host Detroit, Chicago, Toronto and St. Louis; the division winners meet on Monday.

The Rangers' full schedule:
Friday 3:30 p.m. ET vs. Blue Jackets
Saturday 7 p.m. ET vs. Stars
Sunday 2:30 p.m. ET vs. Wild
Monday Time TBD, Placement Game

Five of the prospects who played in the 2018 Traverse City Tournament went on to play in NHL games for the Rangers in 2018-19 (three of them topped 40 games). NYRangers.com offers a look at the 24 players who will represent the Rangers in the 2019 Traverse City Tournament beginning with the players up front.

THE FORWARDS

KAAPO KAKKO
Age: 18
6-2, 194 lbs.
Drafted: 2019 -- 1st Round, 2nd overall
2018-19: TPS (Liiga)

You may have heard of him. Kakko's first strides as a Ranger on Garden ice remain on the horizon, but his first shifts competing in the Blueshirt arrive on Friday afternoon. When the Rangers' Development Camp broke back in June, Kakko was at the whirlwind finish to a whirlwind season that saw him take home Liiga Rookie of the Year honors while also leading Finland to the World Junior Championship and four months later the World Championship, then handle all that comes with being the No. 2 pick in the Draft. He spoke in June of how he was looking forward to a summer of both training and of well-deserved rest; 10 weeks later, it's time to hit the ice.

VITALI KRAVTSOV
Age: 19
6-3, 183 lbs.
Drafted: 2018 -- 1st Round, 9th overall
2018-19: Traktor Chelyabinsk (KHL)

If all eyes were on Kaapo Kakko at June's Development Camp, Kravtsov made more than a few heads turn with show of pure natural ability. The Rangers' top pick in the 2018 Draft signed with the club in May, and the 19-year-old spent the entirety of this past summer in North America, saying on Thursday that he feels good about the strength he was able to add in the offseason. A key member of Russia's bronze-winning team at the 2019 World Juniors, the 19-year-old Kravtsov played 50 games for Traktor Chelyabinsk in Russia's top league, and put up 21 points - the same total Artemi Panarin posted as a 19-year-old in 2010-11, ninth-most in KHL history by a player younger than 20.

Kravtsov at Thursday's practice: "A lot of players told me at Traverse City there's strong hockey, a lot of kids, a lot of fight. So it will be great to try it. … I've been waiting all summer for this. We've worked hard and now I need to show something in Traverse City."

KARL HENRIKSSON
Age: 18
5-9, 176 lbs
Drafted: 2019, 2nd Round, 58th overall
2018-19: Frolunda J20 (SuperElit)

A swift and skilled centerman who led Frolunda's Under-20 team last season with 49 points (13-36-49) and a team-best plus-35 in 45 games while earning himself a couple looks with Frolunda's senior squad. He was a point-per-game player in 22 international games, too, including nine points in seven games to help Sweden to the U18 World Junior gold medal, less than two months before the Rangers scooped him up in the second round of the draft.

NICK JONES
Age: 23
5-11, 190 lbs.
AHL contract with Hartford
2018-19: University of North Dakota (NCAA)

Jones played the last two seasons at North Dakota, where he put up a combined 50 points in 60 games and was UND's second-leading scorer last season despite missing a third of it with injuries. Used in all situations, Jones won nearly 60 percent of his faceoffs through his North Dakota career. He finished out 2018-19 with the Wolf Pack after signing in March, scoring twice with an assist in 10 games.

RYAN DMOWSKI
Age: 22
6-0, 218 lbs.
AHL contract with Hartford
2018-19: UMass-Lowell (NCAA)

Dmowski was a member of the Hartford Junior Wolf Pack as a kid growing up in East Lyme, Conn.; this past spring he returned to Hartford as a pro, getting into 10 games for the Wolf Pack after the conclusion of his four-year career at UMass-Lowell. Dmowski's 14 goals paced the River Hawks in 2018-19.

SHAWN McBRIDE
Age: 24
6-2, 200 lbs.
AHL contract with Hartford
2018-19: American International College (NCAA)

The intelligent two-way centerman signed with the Wolf Pack after completing his college career with American International, where he played in a school-record 151 games over his four years and displayed what his head coach, Evan Lang, described as an "elite brain." McBride scored 23 points in 41 games and captained AIC to its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance in 2019 - where the Yellow Jackets knocked off national No. 1 seed St. Cloud State in their tournament debut.

JAKE ELMER
Age: 21
6-1, 190 lbs.
Signed by NYR on March 15
2018-19: Lethbridge (WHL)

Lighting up the Western League with 39 goals and 81 points in 68 games for Lethbridge last season earned Elmer an entry-level deal with the Rangers in March, and after the Hurricanes' season ended disappointingly early in the WHL playoffs, Elmer got a taste of pro hockey with five games in Hartford, and the confidence boost that came along with scoring a pair of goals. Elmer's 13-game goal-scoring streak was the longest in the WHL in more than two decades, and among his 39 goals on the season, more came shorthanded (seven) than on power plays (four).

PATRICK NEWELL
Age: 23
5-10, 170 lbs.
Signed by NYR on March 30
2018-19: St. Cloud State University (NCAA)

A top 10 finalist (along with Adam Fox) for the 2019 Hobey Baker Award, Newell signed with the Rangers the day after concluding a breakout senior season at St. Cloud State, in which he scored 21 goals (up from six the year before) and 47 points, tied for fifth in the nation. Newell's plus-35 rating was the NCAA's best, and he was named the NCHC conference Forward of the Year, among his numerous conference and national accolades as the Huskies entered the NCAA tournament as the nation's No. 1 team.

St. Cloud State head coach Brett Larson on Newell: "(The Rangers) signed a very cerebral player who can make plays all over the ice. He's got a great stick, he's very good on the power play, and I think he can play a lot of different situations too because of how smart he is. Classic late-bloomer, late developer that the Rangers did a great job of picking up."

LEWIS ZERTER-GOSSAGE
Age: 24
6-2, 195 lbs.
AHL contract with Hartford
2018-19: Harvard University (NCAA)

Zerter-Gossage has been through NHL development camps before, but has declined in the past to sign a contract so that he could complete his studies at Harvard, where he served as captain last season on a team that included Adam Fox and earned a berth in the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in five years. The Montreal native majored in Economics while leading the Crimson with 18 goals in 33 games - ninth in the nation in goals per game, at .55. Of his 18 goals, exactly half of them came with an assist from Fox.

KEITH GETSON
Age: 21
5-11, 195 lbs.
Free Agent invite
2018-19: Charlottetown/Halifax (QMJHL)

Getson scored 29 goals and 56 points in 68 games splitting time between Charlottetown and Halifax in the Quebec Major Junior League. His midseason trade to Halifax, and the team he grew up rooting for in Bridgewater, NS, was "a dream come true" for Getson, and his acquisition helped the Mooseheads reach both the QMJHL and Memorial Cup finals.

ANTHONY SALINITRI
Age: 21
5-11, 171 lbs.
Free Agent invite
2018-19: Sarnia/Oshawa (OHL)

Originally a draft pick of the Flyers, Salinitri joins the Rangers on an invite coming off a career year in his final OHL season, finishing seventh in the league with 48 goals and totaling 88 points in 68 games between Sarnia and Oshawa, where he moved readily between all three forward positions.

JOSH MASER
Age: 20
6-2, 207 lbs.
Free Agent invite
2018-19: Prince George (WHL)

Maser was named MVP of WHL Prince George in 2018-19, after leading the Cougars with 30 goals, to go along with 69 penalty minutes in 61 games. Ten of his goals came in his last 13 games

BRETT KEMP
Age: 19
6-1, 171 lbs.
Free Agent invite
2018-19: Edmonton/Medicine Hat (WHL)

Kemp earned his invite after pouring in 33 goals in 64 Western League games split between Edmonton (where he was teammates with fellow Rangers prospect Matthew Robertson) and Medicine Hat last season. The righty-shot center finished 2018-19 on a tear, with points in the each of the final seven games - six goals and six assists.

CODY MILAN
Age: 23
6-1, 188 lbs.
Free Agent invite
2018-19: Michigan State University (NCAA)

Milan received Michigan State's Outstanding Senior Award at the end of last season, in which the native of White Lake, Mich. -- whose twin sister Devin played rugby at Michigan State -- posted 20 points (7-13--20) for the Spartans.

THE DEFENSEMEN

ADAM FOX
Age: 21
5-11, 180 lbs.
Acquired from Carolina on April 30 Signed by NYR on May 2
2018-19: Harvard University (NCAA)

While many young players hope to come away from a tournament like Traverse City having had a taste of their fellow NHL prospects' level of play, Fox, like Kaapo Kakko, finished up last season at the World Championships, where NHL players abound. Fox represented the United States in that May tournament in Slovakia, which followed a season in which Fox led his Harvard team in scoring, led the nation in points per game (1.45), and was one of three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award. Fox said Thursday that this offseason felt long to him, because normally he would be back in school by now; instead, the righty blueliner from Long Island is setting his sights on opening this season as a Ranger.

Fox at Thursday's practice: "I have expectations for myself to do well, so it's good that other people expect the same out of me. I don't think it changes my mindset. I think I've got to go into every game and try to play the best I can, and let the rest take care of itself. … It's good to get some games in before camp starts, and guys are going to be playing hard. It's time to make an impression for some people."

YEGOR RYKOV
Age: 22
6-2, 225 lbs.
Acquired from New Jersey on Feb. 22, 2018 Signed by NYR on May 20
2018-19: HC Sochi (KHL)

Rykov, acquired from the Devils in a deadline deal two seasons ago, signed his entry-level contract with the Rangers on May 20 following a strong finish to his KHL season with HC Sochi. The big defenseman, in his 21-year-old season, averaged 19½ minutes over 47 games for the Sergei Zubov-coached Sochi club, a figure that went up by more than two minutes once the KHL playoffs rolled around. He finished the regular year with nine points from the blue line, seven of them coming during the final 20 games.

MATTHEW ROBERTSON
Age: 18
6-4, 202 lbs.
Drafted: 2019 -- 2nd Round, 49th overall
2018-19: Edmonton (WHL)

After Kaapo Kakko, Robertson was the next man to hear the Rangers call his name at June's Draft in Vancouver, a big, steady and mobile blueliner still on the board at No. 49. Days later at the Rangers' Development Camp in Connecticut, he began showing some flashes of why he was the No. 5-ranked North American defenseman by NHL Central Scouting heading into the Draft, and why the Rangers pounced on him. The 18-year-old posted 33 points in 52 games for WHL Edmonton last season.

Robertson at Thursday's practice: "It's my first rookie camp, so I'm just trying to find myself and just play my best. That was a good, fast-paced practice out there today. I mean, good compete, and I'm looking forward to the weekend. … I thought I did prove myself a little bit (at Development Camp), but there's still a lot more to show and to prove."

JOEY KEANE
Age: 20
6-0, 181 lbs.
Drafted 2018 -- 3rd Round, 88th overall
2018-19: Barrie/London (OHL)

Among a group of young prospects, Keane says he feels like one of the veterans here, having played at this tournament before - Keane, just turned 20, and Nico Gross are the players on the Rangers' roster who are returning to Traverse City from a year ago. After a 2018 Training Camp in which he earned a look in a Rangers preseason game, and a 2018-19 season in which he was acquired by OHL London to round out a powerhouse defense corps, Keane signed an entry-level deal with the Blueshirts in the spring and will make the jump to the pro ranks in 2019-20.

Keane at Thursday's practice: "I think it'll be a good week. I know everyone's just kind of getting to know each other, so you know, first game maybe getting the jitters out, but from there I think we'll be good. … For me, build on last year, and try to come into camp and even have a better camp and then take it from there."

TARMO REUNANEN
Age: 21
6-0, 188 lbs.
Drafted 2016 -- 4th Round, 98th overall
2018-19: Lukko (Liiga)

Reunanen's first full season in Finland's Liiga was a coming-out party for the attacking blueliner, to the tune of 25 points in 58 games of his under-21 season, a feat achieved by only four others over the last decade, among them Sami Vatanen and Esa Lindell. "I feel I've taken big steps since last year," Reunanen told NYRangers.com back around Christmastime. "I've gained confidence and I play with more poise now. My skating has improved, and that give me more opportunities with and without the puck."

NICO GROSS
Age: 19
6-0, 188 lbs.
Drafted 2018 -- 4th Round, 101st overall

2018-19: Oshawa (OHL) Gross, a fourth-round pick of the Rangers in 2018, returns for his second turn at Traverse City following his second full North American season with OHL Oshawa, in which he upped his career-high totals to 20 points and a plus-19 from the blue line. The 19-year-old took on massive responsibilities for the Swiss team at the World Junior Championships, shouldering the matchups against the best of the best in his age group.

HUNTER SKINNER
Age: 18
6-2, 187 lbs.
Drafted 2019 -- 4th Round, 112th overall

2018-19: Lincoln (USHL) Skinner plays a physical game but saw an uptick in his offensive production during a season in which he moved from Muskegon to Lincoln midway through. He finished with 11 points for each (five goals, 17 assists in total), along with a combined 81 penalty minutes. He could land with OHL London next season.

KADE LANDRY
Age: 20
6-1, 198 lbs.
Free Agent invite
2018-19: Hamilton (OHL)

The free-agent invite out of the Ontario League accounted for more than half the scoring the Hamilton Bulldogs received from their blue line last season, with six goals and 45 assists - that last number good for sixth place among OHL defensemen.

THE GOALTENDERS

IGOR SHESTERKIN
Age: 23
6-2, 192 lbs.
Drafted 2014 -- 4th Round, 118th overall
2018-19: SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)

Sheshterkin and Vitali Kravtsov both signed their Rangers contracts on the same day back in May, and now embark together on transitioning their career to North America. Since being drafted by the Blueshirts in the fourth round back in 2014, the 23-year-old has done nothing but improve upon his mind-boggling numbers since joining Russia's top-flight league as a 17-year-old - this past season, a 1.11 goals-against average with a .953 save percentage for SKA St. Petersburg. Unlike Kravtsov, Shesterkin's adjustment process to the leagues and the rink dimensions could present its own particular challenges unique to his position, but the young goalie says he's taken every opportunity he has had to chat with and seek advice from Henrik Lundqvist. What kind of advice? "It's a secret and I'm not going to tell you," Shesterkin said on Thursday.

ADAM HUSKA
Age: 22
6-4, 220 lbs.
Drafted 2015 -- 7th Round, 184th overall
2018-19: University of Connecticut (NCAA)

Huska beat Shesterkin to his entry-level deal with the Rangers by just a shade under two months this past spring, but the Slovakia native has been tending the nets in North America for the last five seasons. Drafted by the Rangers in the seventh round in 2015, the big netminder dominated the USHL in his lone full season with Green Bay, earning the league's Goaltender of the Year honors before moving on to UConn, where he posted a 2.90 GAA over 69 games for the Huskies in the gauntlet of Hockey East.

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