TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - In seven days, the Detroit Red Wings begin training camp in preparation of the Farewell Season at Joe Louis Arena.
But before the Red Wings hit the ice, aspiring Wings players get the action started Friday in Traverse City as the 18th annual NHL Prospect Tournament gets underway at Centre Ice Arena.
The annual preseason tournament features prospects from eight NHL teams including the Red Wings, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues.
This tournament has proved to be an impactful tool for young players' futures as 522 participants have gone on to play in at least one NHL game over the tourney's history, including 24 players who skated for Detroit in 2015-16.
The field is divided into two four-team divisions with a round-robin format before the final day of competition. The first-place finishers in each division will meet for the Matthew Wuest Memorial Cup on Sept. 20.
This year's tournament is expected to the highest-coveted competition since its inception in 1998, with 183 scouts registered to attend, representing nearly every NHL team, including newly awarded expansion franchise, Las Vegas.
The Red Wings are in the Gordie Howe Division this year, along with Columbus, Chicago and St. Louis. The Wings open tournament play Friday night against the back-to-back defending champion Blue Jackets, followed by a matchup with the Blackhawks on Saturday afternoon.
After an off day on Sunday, the Red Wings face the Blues on Monday night to wrap up division play before a to-be-determined matchup to close the tournament on Tuesday.
The Red Wings' prospects will look for revenge in their opening contest after losing to the Blue Jackets, 5-2, in the 2015 championship game. The Wings won their first-ever Prospect Tournament championship in 2013 and will look to bring home another title this year.
There are 24 players on the 2016 Prospect Tournament roster, including eight returning players from last year's tourney. The Wings' roster is highlighted by 2015 first-round pick Evgeny Svechnikov and 2013 second-round picks Tyler Bertuzzi and Zach Nastasiuk, as well as 2016 draft picks Givani Smith and Filip Hronek (second round) and Jordan Sambrook (fifth round).
Goaltender Jake Paterson, who the Wings selected in the third round of the 2012 draft, returns between the pipes for the Red Wings prospects after leading Detroit to the championship game in 2015.
Notable prospects missing from the tournament roster include 2015 third-round draft pick Vili Saarijarvi, who underwent wrist surgery in August following an injury in July's development camp, and 2016 first-round pick Dennis Cholowski, who is forgoing the tournament to keep his college eligibility intact.
Todd Nelson, who coaches the Red Wings' minor league affiliate in Grand Rapids, will coach the Red Wings' prospect team for the second consecutive year.
An impressive performance in this tournament could give someone a leg up on a chance to make the Wings roster this season. Just ask the four participants in last year's Prospect Tournament that made the Wings' roster in 2015-16 including Anthony Mantha and Tomas Nosek, as well as Dylan Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou, who earned full-time NHL roles last season.
In addition to the fierce competition on the ice, the Prospect Tournament has commonly been a place for the NHL to test prospective new rules.
Last year, the tournament tried out the new 3-on-3 overtime rules prior to them being used in the regular season, and this weekend, the American Hockey League Rule No. 82-- in regards to icing-will be put in place as a trial run for the NHL
With the new rule, the offending team on an icing call will no longer be able to use a team timeout. Previously, offending teams couldn't make substitutions on an icing call, but they could call a timeout to discuss how it would set up in the defensive zone on and following the faceoff. Should this rule reach the NHL, that would no longer be possible.
Tickets, which are good for all four games per day, are still available for $10, and can be purchased at Centre Ice Arena or online. For more information or to purchase daily tickets, visit www.centreice.org.
All games of the 2016 NHL Prospect Tournament will also stream live on FOX Sports Go and DetroitRedWings.com. Users in the United States can download the FOX Sports Go app and stream every game of the tournament for free, regardless of cable or satellite provider.
All Red Wings games will feature the play-by-play commentary of Red Wings radio broadcaster Ken Kal.