2014 Traverse City Tournament Preview: Host Red Wings look to defend 2013 prospects title

By Ken McKenna
2014 Traverse City Prospects Tournament - Sam Reinhart, Robby Fabbri, Sonny Milano

Photo: Among the players competing at the 2014 Traverse City Prospects Tournament are 2014 first round picks Sam Reinhart (L), Robby Fabbri (C), and Sonny Milano (R) (courtesy of Marissa Baecker/Getty Images – Terry Wilson/OHL Images – Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)


A selection of prospects from eight NHL teams have descended on Traverse City, MI for the 2014 edition of that city’s annual prospects tournament. Futures from the Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues will battle it out for prospect supremacy at the biggest of the NHL prospects tournaments.


The host team for this tournament, the Detroit Red Wings, will be defending their first-ever tournament win after defeating the Sabres’ prospects, 4-2, in the 2013 championship game. The Sabres, meanwhile, will be looking to reach the championship game for a third consecutive tournament (the tournament wasn’t held in 2012 due to the NHL lockout), and will do so with a lineup studded with many first and second round picks.


Below is a brief rundown of some of the more prominent prospects taking part for each team at the 2014 Traverse City Prospects Tournament, plus links to further roster and schedule information for each club.


Buffalo Sabres


The Sabres enter the 2014 tournament boasting arguably the most talented group of prospects, on paper at least. This year’s squad will be led by the Sabres’ top pick at the 2014 NHL Draft, Sam Reinhart, but he isn’t the only first round selection competing for that club in Traverse City. 2011 top pick Joel Armia will be on the ice, as will 2012 first round defensive duo, Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov. Andrey Makarov is likely to handle the bulk of the goaltending duties with camp invitee Francois Brassard backing up Makaraov. One intriguing free agent taking part is forward Jordan Samuels-Thomas, who starred at Quinnipiac University but went unsigned by the Winnipeg Jets.


The Sabres will be a part of the Ted Lindsay Division at this tournament, along with the Hurricanes, Stars and Rangers.


More information on the Sabres roster and tournament schedule can be found at this link.


Carolina Hurricanes


The Hurricanes currently sport one of the more sparse groups of prospects in the NHL, although there is certainly some talent there. The strength of the Traverse City squad should be in goal, with 2014 second round pick Alex Nedeljkovic and 2012 third round selection Daniel Altshuller guarding the net for the Hurricanes. Other prospects of note include 2014 first rounder Haydn Fleury plus 2013 free agent signee Sergei Tolchinsky. Forward Brock McGinn, who was an important cog in the Guelph Storm’s run to the Memorial Cup final, should help power the Hurricanes’s offense at this tournament.


You can view more information about the Hurricanes’ roster and tournament schedule at this link.


Columbus Blue Jackets


When it comes to first round picks taking part in this tournament, the Blue Jackets aren’t taking a back seat to the Sabres as their roster will also be sporting four first round selections from the last two NHL Drafts. Forwards Alexander Wennberg, Kerby Rychel, and Marko Dano (2013), along with 2014 top pick pick and newly-signed Sonny Milano, will give the Blue Jackets some firepower up front. Former Notre Dame forward T.J. Tynan and Portland Winterhawks’ scoring star Oliver Bjorkstrand add to what should be an impressive collection of forward talent for the Blue Jackets in Traverse City. Defender Dillon Heatherington, who took part in Canada’s WJC camp last month, heads a solid but unheralded group of defenders for the Blue Jackets. Goaltender Oscar Dansk is likely to see most of the action in Traverse City.


The Blue Jackets will be included in the Gordie Howe Division, along with the Red Wings, Wild, and Blues.


The tournament roster and schedule information for the Blue Jackets can be viewed at this link.


Dallas Stars


The Stars enter the 2014 tournament with three first round selections in tow. Forwards Radek Faksa (2012) and Jason Dickinson (2013), along with defenseman Julius Honka (2014) will compete for what should be a balanced Stars’ squad that presents good talent at forward, defense, and in goal. Philippe Desrosiers will lead a trio of goaltenders that also includes 2014 fourth round pick, Brent Moran. 2014 second round pick Brett Pollock, fresh off a Memorial Cup win with the Edmonton Oil Kings, will make his informal debut with the Stars. Defense appears to be a strength with the Stars in this tournament as, along with Honka, this squad will also include solid defensive talents such as Ludwig Bystrom, Alex Peters, and Jyrki Jokipakka.


More information on the Stars’ tournament roster and schedule can be viewed at this link.


Detroit Red Wings


The host and defending champion Red Wings will bring a talented and varied group of prospects to Traverse City. Heading the list of futures is forward Anthony Mantha, who scored two goals in last year’s championship game. Mantha capped off a superb, final seaon in the QMJHL in 2013-14 and is now taking the next step, one that could land him directly in the Red Wings’ lineup. Along with Mantha, defenseman Ryan Sproul and goaltender Jake Paterson form a trio of prospects that should help the Red Wings in their Traverse City title defense. Andreas Athanasiou, who seemed to have a breakout season in 2013-14, and 2014 second rounder Dominic Turgeon will also be a part of what should be a solid forward unit for the Wings at this tournament.


The Red Wings’ roster and tournament schedule can be accessed at this link.


Minnesota Wild


The Wild come to Traverse City with just one first rounder in tow, 2012 top pick Matt Dumba. The forward group is a fairly unheralded group, but does feature a couple of intriguing WHL players in 2014 sixth rounder Reid Duke and free agent signee Brady Brassert. The strength of the Wild squad appears to be at defense where, along with Dumba, the Wild will also bring 2014 fourth round pick Dylan Labbe, 2013 second rounder Gustav Olofsson, and free agent signings Christian Folin and Guillaume Gelinas. Johan Gustafsson heads a trio of Wild goaltenders at this tournament.


The tournament roster and schedule information for the Wild can be found at this link.


New York Rangers


Not unlike the Wild, the Rangers head into this tournament with less pedigree than is flaunted by the Sabres or Blue Jackets. Leading the way at forward is Anthony Duclair, who starred for the Quebec Remparts in 2013-14 and could be a key part of Canada’s World Junior squad. Two more offensive threats up front for the Rangers are Adam Tambellini and Michael St. Croix, whose contributions will have to offset the absence of the talented Pavel Buchnevich who stayed in Russia to compete in the KHL. Two 2014 selections, big defender Ryan Mantha and late bloomer Daniel Walcott, highlight a workmanlike group at defense. 2014 second round pick Brandon Halverson will split the goaltending duties with Mackenzie Skapski.


The Rangers’ tournament roster and schedule can be viewed at this link.


St. Louis Blues


The Blues bring a squad to Traverse City that includes a trio of forwards that should give opposing defensemen and goaltenders fits. 2014 draft picks Robby Fabbri and Ivan Barbashev bring a high-tempo game and some offensive chops while 2011 selection Ty Rattie should be a scoring threat on most shifts. The defense includes talented 2013 second round pick Tommy Vannelli plus a trio of Finnish defenseman that includes Jani Hakanpaa (2010), Petteri Lindbohm (2012), and Santeri Saari (2013). Goaltending should be a strength for the Blues with Jordan Binnington and Niklas Lundstrom splitting the duties in net. One hockey name of note is that of defenseman Jake Chelios, a camp invitee who is the son of Hockey Hall of Fame defender Chris Chelios.


The tournament roster and schedule for the Blues can be found at this link.


Hockey’s Future writer Leslie Treff will be in Traverse City covering the tournament for HF. You can follow her on Twitter via @HFNYRangers