Late summer prospect tournaments have become an annual tradition throughout the NHL recently. There are quite a few different competitions out there, and perhaps the one with the most recognizable name is the Traverse City Prospect Tournament that takes place in Traverse City, Michigan.
The Blackhawks organization has become one of the mainstays of the tournament along with the New York Rangers, Carolina Hurricanes, Detroit Red Wings, Dallas Stars, Columbus Blue Jackets, Minnesota Wild, and St. Louis Blues.
The teams have been deciding on and releasing each of their respective rosters to the public over the course of the last few weeks. As you might guess, there’s a fair amount of star power from the teams like Columbus and Carolina who pick near the top of the draft board on a somewhat regular basis. However, over a short tournament like this, depth is crucial. It’s truly anybody’s guess as to who will come out on top when all is said and done next week.
Here’s a quick breakdown at what Chicago’s group will look like heading into Friday’s first contest against Dallas.
The standouts in this group include former first round pick Ryan Hartman, this year’s second round pick Graham Knott, and 2012 sixth rounder Vince Hinostroza. The top level talent is a bit lacking in Chicago’s group of forwards, but that doesn’t mean that the pieces for them to be successful aren’t there.
Maxim Lazarev and Hayden McCool will both be looking to make good impressions on the club, and they both possess intriguing skill sets. As far as experience goes, there are four forwards who are at least 22 years of age. Kyle Baun, Ryan Haggerty, Daniel Ciampini, and Tanner Kero all represent players who while they may never be huge contributors at the NHL level, are far enough along in their development curves to where they could be well above average players in this tournament on that fact alone.
The team’s defensive unit will be anchored by 23-year-old former Edmonton Oilers draft pick Erik Gustafsson. Not to be confused with the former Flyer, Gustafsson spent last season playing with Frolunda of the Swedish Hockey League. He put up 29 points in 55 games over there, and he clearly represents the most experienced and reliable player on this defensive unit.
He’s surrounded by a lot of youth, inexperience, but also some promise. Of the other seven defenders on the roster, three most recently played in the NCAA while three saw their last game action in the CHL. Only one, Dillon Fournier, has played a professional game before.
Given the defensive units assembled by a couple other teams, particularly Dallas and Carolina, this group certainly does appear to be a bit on the weaker side. However, as I alluded to earlier, it’s a short tournament. All it would take for this group to be very stout would be some unforeseen chemistry and a few guys playing at their very best.
Rounding out this squad in between the pipes will be 21-year-old Brandon Hope and 20-year-old Austin Lotz. Hope plays for Niagara of the OHL, while Lotz represents Everett of the WHL. Neither of the two has a clear statistical advantage over the other one, so expect them to each get plenty of looks in the crease throughout the tournament.
Neither goalie gets mentioned often in terms of having NHL upside, but you truly never know with goaltending. It should be interesting to see if either player uses this tournament as a launching pad to establishing themselves at least a little bit more firmly into Chicago’s long-term plans.