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Wings' prospects seek tourney defense

by Craig Peterson / Detroit Red Wings
Anthony Mantha

DETROIT Anthony Mantha and Ryan Sproul are just a few of the Red Wings prospects heading to northern Michigan this weekend to defend their NHL Prospects Tournament as champions against what promises to be talent-filled games.

“Before the tournament last year, they told us that it’s even better than World Juniors,” Mantha said. “Last winter I went to World Juniors and I could say the same thing. I think everyone wants to show themselves so it’s high-paced games and everyone wants to impress.”

This year is the 16th year that the Red Wings have hosted the prospects tournament. Teams competing this month are the Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues.

Defenseman Ryan Sproul will appear in his fourth Prospects Tournament for the Wings, an opportunity he said helps prepare him for the team’s main training camp.

“It’s a great experience to go up there,” Sproul said. “Even for me, who’s going to be one of the vets, to go up there just to show the young guys what they need to be doing up there. It’s just nice to get that game experience going into camp.”

Ryan Sproul

Notable 2014 first-round draft picks participating in the tournament consist of Sam Reinhart (Buffalo, No. 2 overall), Haydn Fleury (Carolina, No. 7 overall), Sonny Milano (Columbus, No. 16 overall) and Robby Fabbri (St. Louis, No. 21 overall). The Red Wings’ top draft pick, center Dylan Larkin (No. 15) is preparing for his freshman season at the University of Michigan and is ineligible to participate in the NHL tourney.

“Everyone puts their best prospects in that tournament,” Sproul said, “and if you win it, you obviously have some pretty good prospects.”

More than 400 athletes who have played in the tournament have gone on to skate in at least one NHL game. Last season, Tomas Jurco, Alexey Marchenko, Xavier Ouellet, Teemu Pulkkinen and Riley Sheahan made their NHL debuts after leading the Red Wings’ organization to the 2013 tourney win.

Other notable names from around the league that have skated in the Traverse City tournament are Artem Anisimov, David Backes, Jamie Benn and Jordie Benn, Ryan Callahan, Erik Johnson, Ilya Kovalchuk, Ryan McDonagh and T.J. Oshie.

The 2014 NHL Prospects Tournament begins this Friday, and culminates with the championship Sept. 16 at Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City.

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