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Other Prospects To Watch At Traverse City

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild



The NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, Mich. guarantees each of the eight teams in attendance four games.

Grouped into two divisions, a four-team round robin takes place from Friday to Monday, and on Tuesday, there are crossover games between the first, second, third, and fourth place teams from the respective divisions playing a final game.

The Wild are grouped in the Ted Lindsay Division with the New York Rangers, the St. Louis Blues, and the 2014 Traverse City champion Columbus Blue Jackets.

Here are some players to watch on each of those teams as Minnesota opens play:

New York Rangers

Brady Skjei (defenseman) – A former Golden Gopher teammate of Mike Reilly, Skjei finds himself in a similar situation this offseason of trying to push into New York's top-six defensemen. Skjei is very sound defensively in his own zone, and excels at winning the puck back and making a quick, precise first pass to springboard the rush.

Brandon Halverson (goalie) – The 19-year-old might be the odds-on favorite to start for the United States at the 2016 World Junior Championship. With Henrik Lundqvist firmly in the Rangers crease, Halverson has plenty of time to continue to develop. Halverson led the Ontario Hockey League last season in wins, and was third in goals-against average.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Oliver Bjorkstrand – One of the most dynamic prospects at the tournament, Bjorkstrand is simply fun to watch. He's creative and elusive on the puck, and has scored 113 goals and recorded 227 points in his past 128 Western Hockey League games.

Sonny Milano – Like Bjorkstrand, Milano is very inventive with the puck on his stick. Milano was injured during last year's Traverse City tournament, but ended the 2015 season in the American Hockey League and could challenge for an NHL spot on a deep Columbus team.

St. Louis Blues

Robby Fabbri – Taken 21st by the Blues in the 2014 Draft, Fabbri spent last season in the OHL where he scored 25 goals and recorded 51 points in 30 games. Fabbri is another player looking to earn his way onto an NHL roster.

Ivan Barbashev – No stranger to scoring goals, Barbashev has 70 of them over his past 105 games in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Besides his scoring touch, Barbashev is a solid playmaker and is also effective defensively.

Prospects Tournament's Trophy Gets New Name

Matthew Wuest's passion for hockey was always evident. Wuest, who developed the popular NHL salary cap website CapGeek.com, devoted much of his time to making unique information available online, and adding to the conversation about hockey.

Wuest also helped gather statistics for the NHL Prospects Tournament when it got a new director and was in need of former results, who had played in the tournament, and the history of the tournament.

Wuest died in March 2015 at the age of 35 after a two-year battle with colon cancer. To honor Wuest, and the work he did, the NHL Prospects Tournament trophy has been renamed the Matthew Wuest Memorial Cup.

According to a release announcing the name change on the Detroit Red Wings website: "The Matthew Wuest Memorial Cup recognizes his significant behind-the-scenes contributions to the growth and development of the NHL Prospect Tournament, along with his overall impact on the hockey community."

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