Thursday, September 16, 2010

2010 All-Prospects Tournament Team

Every year, there are always players people look forward to seeing at the NHL Prospects Tournament, and this year was no exception.  A total of 15 first round draft choices appeared in the 2010 edition of the tournament, yet so many more players brought their best game to display for the eyes of the hockey world to see (including TSN's Bob MacKenzie).

My selections for the best players overall were influenced by the games I saw, and unfortunately not every team received equal viewing time due to my schedule of games I was due to work.  As a result, Carolina may be a bit under-represented (since I didn't get to see a single full game featuring the Canes, only brief snippets between periods of the games I did work).  Columbus and Tampa Bay were only seen once for a full game, but I got to watch every other team in the tourney at least twice.  But as previously mentioned, I made it a point to head next door to catch brief look-ins of the games I was not working, in the hopes of being impressed. 

For those of you looking for some additional info on the tournament's statistics, standings, and box scores, feel free to visit Pointstreak.

So, without further ado, here are my picks.... 

1st TEAM
C - Derek Stepan, New York Rangers (co-tourney leader with 7 points)
W - Casey Wellman, Minnesota Wild
W - Tomas Tatar, Detroit Red Wings
D - Marco Scandella, Minnesota Wild (tourney leader in plus/minus at +6)
D - Brendan Smith, Detroit Red Wings
G - Matt Hackett, Minnesota Wild

2nd TEAM
C - James Wright, Tampa Bay Lightning
W - Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes (tied with Stepan in points with 2-5-7)
W - Evgeny Grachev, New York Rangers (a tourney leading 4 goals)
D - Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues
D - Nate Prosser, Minnesota Wild
G - Jake Allen, St. Louis Blues and Mike Murphy, Carolina Hurricanes (tie)

Carolina - Matt Kennedy, Zac Dalpe
Columbus - Tomas Kubalik
Dallas - Tomas Vincour, Jack Campbell
Detroit - Willie Coetzee, Brent Raedeke, Mitchell Callahan, Travis Ehrhardt, Jordan Pearce
Minnesota - Cody Almond, Joel Broda, Jarod Palmer, Jared Spurgeon
New York - Ryan Bourque, Brandon Manning, Ryan McDonagh
St. Louis - Brett Sonne, Stefan Della Rovere
Tampa Bay - Brett Connolly, Carter Ashton, Mark Barberio, Brock Beukeboom, Jaroslav Janus

2010 NHL Prospects Tournament: Championship Game - Detroit vs. Minnesota

In the 13-year history of the NHL Prospects Tournament, one somewhat surprising fact seemed to loom on a lot of people’s minds. The Detroit Red Wings, hosts of the tourney since its inception in 1998, have never won the championship. 8 other NHL teams have claimed the crown in that timeframe (led by St. Louis’ 4 trophies – 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2004). In fact, the Wings have been very gracious hosts, only reaching the title match in the inaugural year, losing to Nashville. But the buzz around Centre ICE was palpable as the home crowd anticipated victory heading into the 2010 NHL Prospects Tournament championship game versus the undefeated Minnesota Wild.

Detroit stormed the net early, making Wild netminder Matt Hackett (Plymouth – OHL) work early with a handful of chances in close. But Hackett stood his ground and the Wild worked hard to regain momentum, with captain Cody Almond (Houston – AHL) forechecking along the boards behind the net of Detroit goaltender Thomas McCollum (Grand Rapids – AHL). Defenseman Jared Spurgeon (Spokane – WHL) and stud forward Casey Wellman (UMass-Amherst – Hockey East) played dump-and-chase, and Jarod Palmer (Miami – CCHA) showed some speedy wheels as he deftly maneuvered into the Detroit zone. The Wild had a golden opportunity when Chad Rau (Houston –AHL) pick-pocketed a Detroit player to set up what would’ve been a 2-on-1 chance, but Red Wing FA tryout Trevor Parkes (Montreal – QMJHL) showed great hustle by backchecking to thwart the would-be scoring opportunity. Despite the back-and-forth tempo, only a handful of shots landed on net (Detroit finished the first a 9-6 edge) as both teams headed to the lockerroom in a scoreless tie.

Minnesota showed more of its defensive tendencies, as Joel Broda (Calgary – WHL) was able to force a turnover early in the second, especially showing his hard work in the neutral zone throughout the game. Almond tried to set up shop in front of McCollum to screen blasts from the point from the smooth puck-handling blueline pair of Nate Prosser (Colorado College – WCHA) and Tyler Cuma (Ottawa – OHL). Detroit looked to regain their edge by trying to draw penalties (as they were uncharacteristically called for 4 minors in the middle period), but Brent Raedeke (Edmonton/Brandon – WHL) as not convincing enough to the officials after taking an errant Minnesota elbow to the chops.

The pace of the contest picked up towards the middle of the second, as the teams exchanged a handful of frantic end-to-end rushes. The Wings’ persistence paid off as Sebastien Piche (Toledo – ECHL) unwound a one-timer from Landon Ferraro (Red Deer – WHL, but bound for Everett this year) that beat Hackett to crack the scoreless tie. But Minnesota came close to tying the contest soon after when Kris Foucault (Calgary – WHL) dangled a nifty backhander that McCollum was able to swat away. Minnesota had the edge in shots at 9-7 in the second, but trailed 1-0 heading into the third.

The Wild attacked the Detroit zone in search of an equalizing marker. Winger Brandon Buck (Florida – ECHL/Houston – AHL) showed great speed circling around the net, forechecking tenaciously to keep the puck deep in the Detroit zone. Finally, with 9 minutes to play, Almond took an entry feed from big blueliner Marco Scandella (Val D’Or – QMJHL), skated along the left boards, and fired a shot from the faceoff circle to McCollum’s right that tickled the twine to tie the contest. The Wings attempted to counter, but Hackett was up for the challenge, making 15 saves in the final frame and 30 for the game. J.T. Barnett (Vancouver – WHL) notched the game winner with 4:31 to go by potting a loose puck after a big scramble in front of McCollum. Scandella added an insurance goal on cannon of a shot from the left point off a Wellman feed with 1:32 left, leaving the home crowd somewhat deflated, but very appreciative for the phenomenal hockey acumen displayed over the last five days.

FINAL SCORE: Minnesota 3, Detroit 1

With the victory, Minnesota claimed its second NHL Prospects Tournament title (their first was in 2003). Cody Almond accepted the trophy at center ice as the team celebrated to a polite round of applause and “We Are The Champions” in the background.

Meanwhile, in the 3rd place game next door, fans were treated to an equally exciting contest, as Jeff Skinner (Kitchener – OHL) scored 3:36 into the second overtime frame (played with 3 skaters aside) to give the Carolina Hurricanes (last year’s defending champions) a 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Carolina received tallies from Matt Kennedy (Guelph/Barrie – OHL), Justin Shugg (Windsor – OHL, bound for Memorial Cup host Mississauga via an off-season trade), and Jared Staal (Sudbury – OHL), while Tampa’s James Wright (Vancouver – WHL) forced overtime with 7 ½ left in regulation. The Lightning also received a pair of goals from emergency addition Matt Butcher (Northern Michigan – CCHA).


2010 – Minnesota Wild
2009 – Carolina Hurricanes
2008 – Dallas Stars
2007 – New York Rangers
2006 – Columbus Blue Jackets
2005 – Columbus Blue Jackets
2004 – St. Louis Blues
2003 – Minnesota Wild
2002 – Washington Capitals
2001 – St. Louis Blues
2000 – St. Louis Blues
1999 – St. Louis Blues
1998 – Nashville Predators

2010 NHL Prospects Tournament: 5th Place Game - Dallas vs. New York

All the fun of round robin play was done after the first three days of games at the 2010 NHL Prospects Tournament.  Only one day of games remained to determine the final pecking order.  Columbus and St. Louis clashed in the 7th place game, while I got to call the 5th place game between Dallas and New York (the third game I got to see for both of these teams).

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Day 3 at the 2010 NHL Prospects Tournament: Detroit vs. St. Louis

The "Howe Division" was quite congested as we entered the final day of round robin play.  All four teams - Detroit, Tampa Bay, Dallas, and St. Louis - had each won one game and had lost one game.  However, Detroit's defeat came in a shootout vs. the Lightning, which gave them an extra point in the standings.  The formula for the Red Wings was simple:  win and they are in to the championship game against the Minnesota Wild, who had beaten the New York Rangers earlier in the day to earn their chance at the title.

Day 3 at the 2010 NHL Prospects Tournament: Minnesota vs. New York

The Minnesota Wild went into the final day of round robin play of the 2010 NHL Prospects Tournament with the chance to clinch a berth in the championship game as they faced-off against the New York Rangers. The Rangers, who won on a goal with 6.1 seconds left in their opening game to stun Columbus, experienced the same heartbreak as the Blue Jackets in an equally heart-breaking 1-0 loss to Carolina when the Canes broke the scoreless match with under a minute to go.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Quick Hits From Day 3 the 2010 NHL Prospects Tournament

Just a quickie tonight....I'll have a full summary of Rangers-Wild and Blues-Wings (plus snippets from Lightning-Stars and Hurricanes-Blue Jackets) tomorrow morning.  For now, here's today's scores from Centre ICE (all scores final and were completed in regulation, no OT controversies today):

Tampa Bay 3, Dallas 1
Minnesota 5, New York 4
Carolina 8, Columbus 1
Detroit 2, St. Louis 1

So with today's games in the books, here is the game schedule for tomorrow:

7th place game:  Columbus (0-3-0) vs. St. Louis (1-2-0), 2:00 EDT @ David's Rink
5th place game:  New York (1-2-0) vs. Dallas (1-2-0), 2:30 @ Huntington Bank Rink
3rd place game:  Carolina (2-1-0) vs. Tampa Bay, 5:30 @ David's Rink
Championship game:  Minnesota (3-0-0) vs. Detroit (2-0-1), 6:00 @ Huntington Rink

Per my usual schedule, I'll be due to call both games from the Huntington Rink.  I typically end up missing to the chance to see one team play a full game, and as a result of the standings following round robin play, this year's team is the 'Canes (much to my chagrin).  Oh well, them's the breaks.

So Carolina will not get the chance to repeat as tourney champ, and Detroit attempts to capture the crown of its own tourney for the first time in the 13 year history of this event.

More to come....please stay tuned.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Day 2 at the 2010 NHL Prospects Tournament: Tampa Bay vs. Detroit (A Marathon Recap)

OPENING DISCLAIMER: Apologies to all who’ve been patiently waiting for the write-up to last night’s Tampa Bay-Detroit game. Unfortunately, pulling 10 hours at my actual job today loomed on the horizon heading into today. With that, enough with the excuses, and on with the game….

Day 2 at the NHL Prospects Tournament: St. Louis vs. Dallas

Sunday at the 2010 NHL Prospects Tournament started with the Minnesota Wild taking on the Columbus Blue Jackets, and I’ll have a few snippets of commentary from that contest later in this summary. I was scheduled to call the St. Louis Blues versus the Dallas Stars in the second afternoon contest, and here's my summary.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Day 1 at the 2010 NHL Prospects Tournament: Dallas vs. Detroit

The second half of the day in Traverse City featured the team most everyone in the stands were here to see, the Detroit Red Wings. After all, they are the hosts of the tournament, and Wing-nuts everywhere are getting quite excited about Detroit’s training camp here in T.C. next week. The Wings faced off against the Dallas Stars in the evening tilt on the Huntington Bank Rink at Centre ICE.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Day 1 at the 2010 NHL Prospects Tournament: New York vs. Columbus

Day 1 of the NHL Prospects Tournament certainly proven to be a good day to be inside, considering the weather outside here in Traverse City was wet, rainy, and pretty much miserable. Needless to say, the action on the ice did plenty to warm the spirits of all the hockey fans, volunteers, and team personnel in attendance.

Monday, September 6, 2010

10 Players to Watch at the 2010 NHL Prospects Tournament

With less than a week until the start of the 2010 NHL Prospects Tournament (and the unofficial start of the hockey season, as far as I’m concerned), I took the time to sift through the rosters of the eight teams participating in the five-day tournament in Traverse City, Michigan (now that they've all finally been posted). What I came up with was a list of ten prospects at the tourney who will likely be gracing an NHL roster this season, whether it be opening night, a mid-season injury call-up, or a cup of coffee at season's end.  I’ve also added several other players worth keeping an eye on, which you'll find farther down the page.

1. Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis – The Hockey News’ Future Watch top-ranked prospect has experienced brief stints in the NHL (17 total games) over the last two seasons, and will make his case for a full-time position partoling the Blues’ back end. Drafted 4th overall in 2008, Pietrangelo represents the highest drafted played at the tournament this year, so understandably, all eyes will be the former Barrie Colt and Niagara IceDog.

2. Casey Wellman, Minnesota – Wellman made his NHL debut late last season after signing as an undrafted free agent following his sophomore season at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Wellman tallied 34 goals and 44 assists in his two seasons in the NCAA, and stands a good chance at cracking the Wild’s opening night lineup and sticking for the season.

3. James Wright, Tampa Bay – The sizeable Wright – 6’3”, 196 lbs – split his season last year with the Lightning and the WHL’s Vancouver Giants, where he averaged nearly a point per game. Drafted in the 4th round (117th overall) in 2008, “Killer” is hoping to crack the Lightning full-time year.

4. Jeff Skinner, Carolina – Skinner had a breakout season last year in Kitchener, notching 50-40-90 in 64 games (plus an additional 20-13-33 in 20 playoff games). The Rangers’ Memorial Cup chances could hinge on Skinner’s return to the OHL, but a solid camp could earn the 7th overall pick from this June’s draft a spot in Raleigh.

5. Brett Connolly, Tampa Bay – Connolly is looking to bounce back after an injury-plagued year in Prince George (WHL) which limited him to 16 games. The 2009 CHL Rookie of the Year will look to test out his surgically repaired hip in Traverse City and display the scoring prowess that led the Bolts’ brass to pick him 6th overall in June.

6. Brendan Smith, Detroit – The Red Wings opted for a veteran presence for their 6th defenseman when they signed Ruslan Salei this offseason, but the former Wisconsin Badger – chosen 27th overall in 2007 – will likely garner strong consideration as the first blueline injury call-up from Grand Rapids.

7 & 8. Ryan Johansen, Columbus and Dylan McIlrath, NY Rangers – Arguably the two most scrutinized 1st round of the 2010 draft (4th and 10th overall, respectively). Johansen had a breakout season in his WHL debut season with Portland, leading to his ascent up the draft boards. Johansen’s offensive exploits (25-44-69 in 71 games) could greatly help the goal-starved Blue Jackets this year. Meanwhile, McIlrath used his hulking frame (6’5”, 215 lbs) to his advantage in becoming a top shut-down defenseman in Moose Jaw, and proved he wasn’t about to shy away from the rough stuff (169 PIM). His toughness could prove to be a huge asset to the Blueshirts’ blueline.

9. Evgeny Grachev, NY Rangers – The lanky Russian (6’3”, 212 lbs) endured some growing pains in his first professional season last year with the Rangers’ AHL affiliate in Hartford (12-16-28 in 80 games), but hopes to take his game to the next level. Drafted in the 3rd round (75th overall) in 2008, Grachev was the OHL’s Rookie of the Year with Brampton after posting 40-40-80 in 60 games.

10. Jack Campbell, Dallas – While it’s unlikely Campbell will play in the NHL this year, he was the highest selected goaltender in this June’s draft – 11th overall – carrying with that status some lofty expectations down the road for a team with a question mark in goal. Campbell spent the last 2 seasons with the USNTDP, and makes the jump to major junior this year with the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires. And of course, Campbell was a key member of Team USA’s gold medal winning squad at the 2010 World Juniors.

Also registering high on the radar (in no particular order):

Riley Nash (CAR) – Originally picked by Edmonton 21st overall in 2007, Nash was acquired by the ‘Canes for a 2nd round pick in June’s draft. Nash signed an entry-level deal after 3 seasons at Cornell.

Matt Kennedy (CAR) – The former Guelph Storm and Barrie Colt is best known as the recipient of Zack Kassian’s cross-check to the head, which earned Kassian a 20-game suspension. Kennedy was drafted in the 5th round (131st overall) in 2009.

Jason Missiaen (CLB) – A goaltender of alarming size (6’8”, 220 lbs), Missiaen comes to Columbus as a free agent tryout after Montreal chose not to sign the former Peterborough Pete, drafted 116th overall by the Habs in 2008.

John Moore (CLB) – The offensive-minded blueliner had a solid rookie campaign in Kitchener (OHL), notching 10-37-47 in 61 games for the Rangers after being selected 21st overall by the Blue Jackets in 2009.

Scott Glennie (DAL) – Glennie comes into his second Stars’ training camp with the experience of the Memorial Cup under his belt, leading host team Brandon (WHL) to a runner-up finish. The 8th overall pick in 2009 scored 32-57-89 in 66 games last year for the Wheat Kings after an injury-plagued 2008-09 season.

Tomas Tatar (DET)Ranked as Detroit’s top prospect by Red Wings Central, the slick Slovak winger had an inconsistent season in transitioning from the Slovak ExtraLiga to the AHL last year, totaling 16-16-32 in 58 games as a 19-year old in Grand Rapids. Tatar – chosen 60th overall in 2009 – will look to dazzle Red Wings fans in Traverse City for a second straight year.

Bjorn Krupp (MIN), Chris Bourque and Christian Thomas (NYR) – Nepotism alert! The sons of former NHLers Uwe Krupp, Raymond Bourque and Steve “Stumpy” Thomas hope to impress in Northern Michigan. Krupp arrives as one of the Wild’s free agent tryouts after playing the last two seasons in Belleville (OHL). Bourque is eligible for an over-age season with Patrick Roy’s Quebec Remparts (QMJHL). Thomas notched 41 goals in Oshawa (OHL) last year after being part of the John Tavares-to-London blockbuster trade in January 2009.

Ryan McDonagh (NYR) – Originally Montreal’s 1st rounder (12th overall) from 2007, McDonagh arrived on Broadway via the Scott Gomez trade last offseason. McDonagh will be the third Wisconsin Badger blueliner to turned pro this summer (along with Smith and Columbus’ Cody Goloubef).

Ian Cole (STL) – One of three 1st round picks for St. Louis in 2007 (18th overall), Cole turned pro after three seasons at Notre Dame, finishing 2009-10 in Peoria (AHL).

Stefan Della Rovere (STL) – Originally drafted by Washington in the 7th round pick (204th overall) in 2008, the gritty Della Rovere was traded to the Blues for D.J. King this offseason. The 2009 World Junior gold medalist hopes to add some sandpaper to the Blues’ rookie camp.

Jake Allen (STL) – Back for a third tourney in T.C., the 34th overall pick in 2008 split his season between the Montreal Juniors and the Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL) in 2009-10, in addition to minding goal for Team Canada at the World Juniors.

Alex Hutchings (TBL) – Hutchings – chosen 97th overall in 2009 by the Lightning – could either break in with Tampa’s AHL affiliate in Norfolk or return for an overage season in Barrie (OHL), where he was second in scoring for the Colts last year (47-34-81 in 68 games).

Richard Panik (TBL) – The Lightning’s 2nd rounder from 2009 (52nd overall) split his season between Windsor and Belleville (OHL) last year, totaling 21-20-41 in 60 games of major junior before finishing the year in Norfolk.

The tournament kicks off Saturday September 11th, and you can find the schedule of games here.  I'll be blogging with coverage from all the games I'll be calling (I'm currently scheduled to do the P.A. for all the games at the Huntington Bank Rink) of the tournament here at Spittin' Chiclets.