TRAVERSE CITY -- For the Detroit Red Wings prospects, the annual NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City is not the first time that many of them have skated together.
A large group of them worked out together in metro Detroit throughout the summer, getting to know each other better after development camp at the end of June.
When the Wings take on the Chicago Blackhawks in the first game of the tournament, the top line of Taro Hirose-Joe Veleno-Filip Zadina will already have some familiarity with each other.
"They're unbelievable players, so I'm really excited to get out there," Hirose said after Friday's morning skate at Centre Ice Arena. "We're been skating together all summer and we've talked about playing together and what it would be like so it will be fun tonight to see what it'll be like."
The three are also together on one of the power-play units.
"I think it's good for us because we've been practicing together since June or something," Zadina said. "We know each other really well. It can help us during the game, even during the PP when we actually feel pretty good on the ice right now. It's very good."
Veleno is excited to center two creative offensive players.
"I think we got a lot of good skill on this line and I think we can do a lot of good things," Veleno said. "We're all familiar with each other from staying in Detroit this summer so we built up a little bit of chemistry. I think from the looks of it in practices, we skate well together and move the puck around pretty well so it should be fun out there tonight."
Grand Rapids Griffins coach Ben Simon, who is coaching the Wings prospects, is hoping the camaraderie the three have built carries over to the ice.
"I think that'll help a little bit with the chemistry," Simon said. "They know each other well, they've been hanging out a little bit at the rink, in the weight room, but again, these guys haven't played together so it'll take time to jell, a little chemistry and see what they have. It might work and it might not so we'll make adjustments as we go forward and hopefully it clicks and sticks."
Zadina and Veleno played in last year's tournament but it's the first time for Hirose, who signed as a free agent out of Michigan State last March and played 10 games with the Wings.
"Probably a little chaotic, even on our team we're just learning our systems now, so I'm sure guys will be a little bit all over the place tonight. It's kind of like what college is like, guys are flying around all over the place and systems probably don't matter as much as they do at the NHL level. Just looking to go out there and play my game and have fun out there with the guys."
FIRST TIME FOR THREE SWEDES: There are three Swedes who will be playing in the Prospect Tournament for the first time: defenseman Gustav Lindstrom, selected in the second round, 38th overall, in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft; forward Elmer Söderblom, selected in the sixth round, 159th overall, in the 2019 draft; and defenseman Gustav Berglund, selected in the sixth round, 177th overall, in the 2019 draft.
"I expect it to be really fun games," Lindstrom said. "This is my first tournament here so I'm really looking forward to it and it's going to be fun."
Lindstrom will be playing full-time in North America this season after spending the previous seasons in Sweden.
"I'm really looking forward to it," Lindstrom said. "It's going to be something new, both on the ice and off the ice. I think it's a little bit different culture than it is back home in Sweden. So I'm really looking forward to it and it's going to be very fun."
Söderblom and Berglund both will play for Frölunda HC J20 in SuperElit this year and were allowed to come over to play in the tournament, which Lindstrom, who did not have that opportunity, thinks will benefit them.
"It's a good experience to be here and meet all the guys and play on the smaller ice, too," Lindstrom said. "So I think it's good."
Söderblom and Berglund will return to Sweden immediately after the tournament while Lindstrom will participate in Detroit's training camp.
Lindstrom flew into Detroit last Sunday.
"We were in Detroit for three days and then I came here Wednesday," Lindstrom said. "So I practiced twice in Detroit with the guys there and then we went here. I think it's good to be here with the time difference and stuff like that, meet the guys. I think it's good."
IN GOAL: Filip Larsson was on the ice during the morning skate but is nursing a minor injury so Kaden Fulcher will start and free agent invitee Sean Romeo (Ohio State) will serve as backup. "
Fulcher is going to play tonight," Simon said. "He had a great first game here last year and he looks good out here so far so we'll see how he does."
LINEUP: The Wings will feature the following lineup in Game 1 against the Blackhawks:
Givani Smith-Gregor MacLeod-Ryan Kuffner
Troy Loggins-Chase Pearson-Jarid Lukosevicius
Thomas Casey-Elmer Soderblom-Chad Yetman
Alec Regula-Moritz Seider
Marc-Olivier Duquette-Owen Lalonde