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Prospects To Watch At The Traverse City Tournament

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild



The NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, Mich. gives young players a chance to impress their team's brass and make a statement before training camp opens. 


The Wild will be one of eight teams playing in the tournament, which begins Sept. 11 and ends on Sept. 15. 


It's a tournament that, in its 17-year run, has featured many prominent NHL players. Current Wild players to have participated in the tournament include Marco Scandella, Jared Spurgeon, Matt Dumba, and Christian Folin.

The Wild start the tournament on Friday taking on the New York Rangers. Here are some Wild players to pay attention to at the 2015 tournament:


Defensemen


Mike Reilly – One of the premiere prospects on the Wild's roster, this is the beginning of Reilly's audition when it comes to making the opening day NHL roster. A polished, puck-moving defenseman with a ton of offensive skill, Reilly loves to jump into the rush and create havoc up ice. 


A key for Reilly will be his play in the Wild's defensive zone. His offensive game is NHL-ready, but Reilly needs to show he can play at each end of the rink before he's entrusted with NHL minutes. 


Gustav Olofsson – After playing in just one AHL game in 2014-15 due to shoulder surgery, Olofsson is back to skating in game-situations. He is a physical player, and at 6-foot-3, has the size to back it up. 


At 20 years old, Olofsson is still young and developing, especially for a defenseman, and is looking to reestablish himself as a force with a clean bill of health. 


Forwards


Reid Duke – An impressive performance at Development Camp in July not only showed off Duke's exciting puck skills, but also showed displayed how far he's come in the other areas of his game. Duke was much stronger below his own blue line, something that caught the attention of Wild Director of Player Development Brad Bombardir. 


"When it comes to Mike Yeo and the way he coaches, we told [Duke] there’s no negotiation, and there’s a certain way you have to play away from the puck, and through bodies, and through battles,” Bombardir said during Development Camp. “He took it to heart, and I thought he played very well."


Grayson Downing – One of the hottest scorers when the college hockey season ended in 2015, Downing used his senior season at the University of New Hampshire to springboard him as to a free- agent signing.


Downing played in one of the top college conferences in Hockey East, and nearly willed his team into the NCAA Tournament last season. He scored eight goals over his final eight games, and had 13 points in his final 10 games. He turned in this impressive shootout goal during Development Camp, and is a pure scorer.

Sam Warning – A University of Minnesota teammate of Reilly's, Warning was brought into Development Camp on a tryout and likewise will be at Traverse City. 


Warning's biggest asset is his skating ability, and he's hard to catch once he gets a full head of steam. With 81 points in 107 games over the last three seasons of his college career, Warning is no stranger to the score sheet, and will be asked to play that role on this Traverse City team.

Goalies

Brody Hoffman – Finishing his collegiate career with two seasons with a .922 save percentage or higher, Hoffman was stellar for the University Vermont despite a difficult Hockey East schedule.


At 6-foot-4, Hoffman has good size and can cover much of the lower parts of the net. It allows him to take advantage of angles and take away real estate for shooters.

Stephen Michalek – The battle for Iowa's starting goalie job kicks off with Michalek and Hoffman at Traverse City. Michalek was a workhorse in his senior season at Harvard, breaking a school record by starting 37 games, and also setting a program record with 1,029 saves. Of those, 63 came in a record-breaking performance against Boston University in the Beanpot tournament. 


Michalek is no stranger to seeing a lot of shots, and handled the workload very well in his final season for the Crimson with a .924 save percentage. 


Check back tomorrow for more information on the tournament, including prospects to watch from other teams.

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