Pretty country up there in Traverse City. via www.visittraversecity.com
In September of last year, the Carolina Hurricanes participated in a pre-season prospects tournament for the first time since winning the Stanley Cup in 2006, with the belief that the club once again had enough young talent to really compete. Playing in Traverse City, on the scenic shores of Lake Michigan, this list of 2009 prospects, was headlined by now familiar NHL names like Brandon Sutter, Jamie McBain, and Zach Boychuk. The roster earned the entire Hurricanes organization a new level of respect around the league as they brought home the first place trophy. This year's Young Canes are headed to Traverse City again today, prepared to defend the title.
Winning this event was not only good for bragging rights and the privilege of the best and newest team locker room this year, but the opportunity to play on this stage changed the careers of a few of the young players who contributed most. One example was try-out player, defenseman Elgin Reid, who earned a pro contract (ECHL/AHL) with the organization, maybe thanks to his game winning goal in the final minutes of the first game against the Rangers (with an assist from McBain). Several more players were subsequently invited to the Hurricanes' NHL Training Camp here in Raleigh. Or not: the Canes 2009 first round pick, Philippe Paradis, did not make the cut and returned promptly to his QMJHL team, which in hindsight may have been the first indication that something was amiss.
It's almost an entirely new group of hopefuls who are set to faceoff against the prospects from the Minnesota Wild on Saturday, at 3pm. I thought we might scout the competition a bit, and seeing that there will be no video streaming, look at alternative news sources that will keep you informed on how the kids are doing.
The Hurricanes are sending the following roster of 21 players. Many of the names will be familiar to you, but for a refresher your best source would be the write-up Cory did at Hockeys Future last month, indicating Centermen Jeff Skinner, Zac Dalpe and Riley Nash are the top prospects of those listed below.
|Carolina Hurricanes Traverse City Roster 2010|
|Matt Kennedy (C)||Michal Jordan|
|Matt Pistilli||Rasmus Rissanen|
|Mike McKenzie||Kyle Lawson|
|Cedric McNicoll||Austin Levi|
|Riley Nash||Tyler Stahl|
|Justin Shugg||Derek Claffey|
|Jeff Skinner||Jordan Hill|
|Michael MacDonald||Mike Murphy|
|Matt Caria||Troy Passingham|
Defending his title, Goalie Mike Murphy is returning for his second tournament, but there are other netminders this year who arrive with some high expectations too. Dallas Stars' 2010 first round pick Jack Campbell, of Team USA U-20 fame, is clearly at the top of the heap.
I've highlighted the five players returning from last year's championship team in the pink fields, above. Rissanen was injured and did not play, though he was there. Those unfamiliar names in gray are the "free agent try-outs". Finally, I checked with Mike Sundheim, and because Finn prospect 09 pick Tommi Kivisto is playing in the starting line-up of the SM-liiga Jokerit team in Helsinki, he is not going to attend again this year. No word if they have invited any last minute replacement.
Last year, Nick Dodge, the oldest player in the room, was selected as the team captain. (yep - not Brandon Sutter? Nothing against Dodge but that would be proof positive that veteran leadership was a theme up-and-down the organization last year.) Will one of the returning vets get the C, or will they go with a new guy like Jeff Skinner (among the youngest) or perhaps Zac Dalpe, who knows many of these players better after a stint in Albany in the spring and 3 weeks skating here in Raleigh?
***UPDATE: Matt Kennedy, from the Barrie Colts (OHL) and a 2009 draft pick, has been named Captain of the Hurricanes team for the tournament.
Game Format and schedule
The format of the tournament divides the eight teams into two groups of four, within which they will play a round-robin series, giving each team three preliminary games. The Hurricanes are in the "Gretzky Division" with teams from the New York Rangers, the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Minnesota Wild. The other group of four, the "Howe Division" is made up of the Detroit Red Wings, the Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues, and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
After the round-robin portion, the top team in each divison will play Wednesday for the first place trophy. The two second place teams will play for 3rd and 4th place, and so on. Last year the Canes won their division and beat the Wild's prospects in the finals.
The schedule of games for all eight teams is available at an independent Red Wings site, Red Wings Central. (The Red Wings training camp is held in Traverse City annually and begins immediately following the tournament.). Pointstreak.com is another good one focusing on just stats. Here is the schedule of play for Skinner and company :
|Saturday, Sept 11||3:00pm||vs Minnesota Wild|
|Sunday, Sept 12||5:30pm||vs New York Rangers|
|Tuesday, Sept 14||6:30pm||vs Columbus Blue Jackets|
Note the opening game is a rematch of last year's championship game as the Canes face the Wild. Also a nifty parallel to the NHL Premiere game set for Helsinki in 26 days.
Scouting the Hurricanes three divisional opponents
I've linked the rosters and highlighted the best players for each team, based on the rankings provided by HockeysFuture.com. Then I've noted teammates (or familiar league rivals) with any of the Canes prospects. If I could find a roster story/analysis from their team, I've linked it below too, along with the team page from Hockey's Future. Finally, Canes Country prospects uber-guru Cory Lavalette provides us with his scouting report.
Minnesota's roster, GAME #1: Saturday, 3pm
Top prospects: D Marco Scandella, F Tyler Cuma, G Matt Hackett. Matt Hackett is ranked 17th by the Goalie Guild's prospects ratings published this month. Compare Hackett to the Canes Mike Murphy at 22nd, and Dallas' Jack Campbell, from Team USA U-20 championships, at a lofty 6th.
Connections: Goalie Matt Hackett is from the OHL's Plymouth Whalers (teammate to Canes Dmen Levi, Jordan); F Dylan McKinlay (2010, 7th-189) is a teammate to Canes D Tyler Stahl at Chilliwack, WHL.
Prospects Booked For Traverse City - Minnesota Wild says that "the Wild's roster features nine draft picks", (which suggests the other 13 are undrafted free agents?)
Looking at this information, it would seem this is the weakest team in the Canes division. Guessing they'll need Hackett in top form to keep them in it, suggesting that having fellow Whalers Jordan and Levi on the Canes bench is a good thing.
The Hurricanes should get an up-close look at Matt Hackett, a goalie who plays for the Peter Karmanos-owned Plymouth Whalers and was a third-round pick of the Wild last year. There's not a lot of top-end talent on the Minnesota roster with 2010 fist-rounder Michael Granlund not participating. The lone first-round pick is defenseman Tyler Cuma (23rd in 2008), with wing Brett Bulmer (39th overall this year) and defenseman Marco Scandella (55th in 2008) the other top selections. Watch for Scandella, who has gotten better of late. German Bjorn Krupp is the son of long-time NHLer Uwe Krupp.
NEW YORK RANGERS
NY Rangers roster, GAME #2: Sunday, 5:30pm
Top prospects: Defensemen Dylan McIlrath and Ryan McDonagh were both first round picks. Also of note are F Evgeny Grachev, F Derek Stepan. G Cam Talbot is that undrafted goalie from the University of Alabama-Huntsville that made it to the NCAA tourney last spring. Great story.
Connections: Dan Maggio should know Jared Staal (Sudbury - OHL). Roman Horak will know Stahl from Chilliwack. You may recall that McIlrath and Stahl have history too:
Blueshirts' roster set for Traverse City - Blueshirt Banter Nineteen of the 22 members of the 2010 roster are players whose NHL rights are currently owned by the Rangers. Eleven players are Rangers draftees from the past two years, while eight others have already signed their first NHL contracts with the team.
Rangers junior prospects 2009-10 review - Hockey's Future Note that this hasn't been updated since the 2010 draft. (nearly 3 months ago - sheez!)
The Rangers bring the most veteran players within the "Gretzky Division" this year.
Keep an eye on Derek Stepan - captain for Team's USA's gold-winning entry at the World Junior Championships, and also the tournament's top scorer - he's a great leader and can will teams to victory. There's also some good blueliners here, with rough-and-tumble Dylan McIlrath participating and trade acquisition Ryan McDonagh, a former teammate of Stepan and Jamie McBain at Wisconsin, filling out the D corps. Russian Evgeny Grachev is a talent, having scored 40 goals for Brampton two seasons ago, but he was mediocre in the AHL last year. Forward Ryan Bourque is the son of Hall of Famer Ray Bourque.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Columbus Blue Jackets roster, GAME #3: Tuesday, 6:30pm
Top prospects: Newly-inked Ryan Johansen (this year's 4th pick overall), John Moore D, was drafted in 2009, 1st round, 21st overall. Also D Cody Goloubef, F Matt Calvert, D David Savard, and F Petr Straka.
Connections: Johansen will know Rissanen and Stahl from WHL play. Moore is from Kitchener and will be familiar with Skinner. Dalton Pout (Barrie, OHL with Matt Kennedy), Ted Ruth (Notre Dame, NCAA with Kyle Lawson).
Traverse City Tournament Roster Released - The Cannon A look at the roster the Jackets will send to the Traverse City Prospect Tournament
The Jackets appear to be strong defensively (not that this would be out of character). Like Jeff Skinner, Johansen certainly stands out among forwards for the entire tournament.
The Blue Jackets' entry could prove to be formidable and that starts with 2010 fourth overall pick Ryan Johansen, who has been compared to Eric Staal. Dalton Smith, Matt Calvert and Petr Straka are all talented wingers, while the defense features former No. 1 John Moore. Also on D are Cody Goloubef, another former running mate of McBain's with the Badgers, and Ted Ruth, who played alongside Canes prospect and Traverse City Tournament selection Kyle Lawson at Notre Dame. The biggest question mark is in net, where there is no dominant presence.
Media covering the event
The Red Wings site that seems to be covering this most closely is at Red Wings Central, and they will focus heavily on the wings' entry. The arena hosting the event has this NHL Prospect Tournament Page but is less than detailed at the moment.
I found a unique viewpoint in the blog of one of the PA announcers for the tournament, who lives in Traverse City Here's Super Dave's well-considered take on "who to watch": Spittin' Chiclets: 10 Players to Watch at the 2010 NHL Prospects Tournament. Very helpful, though he missed Dalpe.
I've linked previously the NHL.com site that will have posts from Mike Morreale. Here it is again: Latest Stories and Headlines - Traverse City Prospects Tournament
I'm keeping track of a few others and will link posts and pictures as they come up.
If you're out-and-about this weekend and want some Twitter accounts to keep up via your phone, I've got a few to follow:
Professional Media: Kyle Hanlin from the Hurricanes @KyleHanlin, Mike Morreale of NHL.com @mike_morreale, Bob McKenzie is with TSN and also the father of the Canes' newly signed at AHL/ECHL forward Mike, is @TSNBobMcKenzie, Darren Pang, retired NHL goalie and St Louis Blues commentator @Panger40.
Fans: I'm aware of one keen fan in attendance who's promised to keep an eye on the Canes for us; s/he (?) is a fan of both the Plymouth Whalers and the Windsor Spitfires too. Goes by OHLSuperfan, a native of Grand Rapids, MI, s/he can be found at @OHLSuperfan
I've created a twitter list at @HMof2/Traverse City, which you can follow with one click. I've added additional (less interesting?) twitter names there. I'll RT myself as best I can - my kids have hockey and baseball events overlapping the Canes games this weekend, so regretfully I make no promises for timeliness.
This is your first taste of Hurricanes hockey for the 2010-11 season. Enjoy and Let's Go Canes!