Traverse City Record-Eagle

Sports

September 10, 2010

Prospects take ice Saturday

Eight teams are in tournament

TRAVERSE CITY — Five of the top 11 picks in June's National Hockey League draft will be competing in the eight-team Prospects Tournament that starts Saturday at Centre ICE.

Columbus center Ryan Johansen, Tampa Bay winger Brett Connolly, Carolina center Jeff Skinner, New York Rangers defenseman Dylan McIlrath and Dallas goalie Jack Campbell will be among the marquee players looking to showcase their skills in this tournament, which culminates with the championship game Wednesday evening.

"It's a great tournament," Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland said. "I would venture to say there's 70 to 100 players in the NHL who played in this tournament. (Pavel) Datsyuk was here, (Henrik) Zetterberg was here, (Jiri) Fischer was here. (Niklas) Kronwall was here. (Valtteri) Filppula was here. It goes on and on and on. I think (San Jose's) Dany Heatley was here. We've had some dynamic players come through this tournament. Every year seven 7 to 10 players are playing in the NHL by the end of that year. I would say to you, the same is going to happen again this year."

One prospect Holland will be keeping tabs on is defenseman Brendan Smith, Detroit's No. 1 pick in 2007. He just turned pro after a stellar career at the University of Wisconsin.

"He did everything he could in college hockey," Holland said. "He was a dominant player. He was the leading scorer among defensemen in all of college hockey. He was one of the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker. He was a juniior, he could have gone back for one more year, but i think it's time. Once you've accomplished everything at one level, it's time to go to the next level. There was nothing more for him to accomplish (in college). We think he's a tremendous prospect. I think we're going to see him in a Red Wings uniform at some point.

"We're excited about him. He's dynamic offensively. I want to see where his defensive game is at, though. He's been so good offensively he hasn't had to spend a lot of time in his own zone. You're going to spend more time in your own zone in pro hockey than you do in college or juniors."

Detroit's prospects roster also includes 19-year-old Tomas Tatar, who already has a year in the American Hockey League under his belt.

Detroit will be without three of its top selections from June's draft, including No. 1 pick Riley Sheahan, who cannot participate since he's still in college (Notre Dame). The Wings do have six free agents on tryouts.

"This will be an opportunity for us to evaluate some tryout kids," Holland said. "It will also be an opportunity to see where our young players are at in relation to the other organizations."

Holland started the Prospects Tournament with four teams in 1997. He said he would like to see it expand again, especially now that Centre ICE has added more locker space.

"That's been my vision," he said. "In the meantime, though, there's now a prospects tournament in western Canada that has Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, San Jose and Anaheim. So that's five more NHL teams that have their own tournament. There's also a prospects tiournament in Kitchener with four teams. I would love to see 10 or 12 teams here. It's a great way to scout. One of the major hurdles was locker room space. We've certainly addressed that issue, but you still have to get commitments."

Four games will be played on four different days. Tickets are $8 and are good for the entire day.

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