Prospect development is crucial for NHL teams to have success. Whether it comes from first-round picks or unsigned junior players, the best way to build a contender is by developing players rather than banking on high-priced free agents. One way teams have found gems lately is through a prospect tournament that starts right before training camp.
By participating in prospect tournaments against other teams, not only does an organization get to evaluate their own pool, they also get to see how their prospects match up against other teams. The Seattle Kraken are one of the few Western Conference teams that do not participate in any prospect tournament, which needs to change next year. Not only is it beneficial to the organization, but it allows fans to see the next crop of young stars before they hit the NHL.
Value of Prospect Tournaments
As mentioned, these tournaments are a great way for organizations to assess the talent pool they have within their organization. Using the Kraken as an example, this would have been a great opportunity to see prospects like Peetro Seppälä, Ty Nelson and Ryan Winterton play against some of the best prospects in the NHL. As mentioned earlier, it also gives teams a chance to get a second look at underrated junior prospects like Cole Cormier, Josh Lawrence and Logan Morrison. If these prospects have a strong tournament, it could lead to a future contract like Pius Suter got, who was invited on a tryout by the Ottawa Senators back in 2017 and went on the sign with the Chicago Blackhawks just three years later.
The other advantage involves team marketing. These tournaments are a great opportunity for organizations to produce content and get fans excited for the upcoming season. While most teams are posting clips of their top prospects scoring goals or joking around in practice, the Kraken’s social media is focused on more off-ice stuff or flashbacks to last season. While these clips have value, showing the future of your franchise on the ice creates a lot more buzz within the fanbase.
Kraken Miss Opportunity for Later Picks to Shine
Outside of the top prospects that fans already know about, these tournaments are a perfect opportunity to get to know some of the players who were picked later in the draft. One example is Jacob Melanson of the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, who play in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). Last year, he put up 56 points in 54 games while scoring 35 goals. Fans do not get an opportunity to watch him often unless they subscribe to the Canadian Hockey League’s (CHL) broadcasting service. This tournament allows not just fans, but the organization to see how dynamic of a player he really is.
Another player that could benefit from the additional exposure is Ville Petman. The 22-year-old undrafted forward came over from Finland and should see action with the Coachella Valley Firebirds this season. Seattle has no idea how he matches up compared to the top prospects from North America but would have had they participated in a tournament. A missed opportunity that could have helped him adjust to the North American ice surface faster.
Kraken Had Tournament Options
This season, every Pacific Division team except Seattle is participating in a tournament. Vancouver is hosting Calgary and Edmonton in Penticton, British Columbia, while Los Angeles, San Jose, Anaheim and Vegas are at a tournament hosted by the San Jose Sharks. While they could go to a tournament not within their division like how the Traverse City Prospect Tournament is run, staying close to home may be the best option.
The logical conclusion would be to join the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton hosted by the Vancouver Canucks. It is less than a six-hour drive and is the closest tournament for the organization. As the distance is not too far, it would also allow fans to make the trip up to see the likes of Shane Wright, Jagger Firkus, and Ryker Evans take on top prospects Linus Karlsson, Dustin Wolf, Philip Broberg and Cole Perfetti.
Kraken Can’t Miss Golden Opportunity
To be fair to the organization, this is only their second season, so joining a prospect camp could take time. They have only drafted a total of 18 players in their history, which isn’t even enough to field a full team. As they start to add prospects to their system over the next few seasons, attending a prospect tournament should be at the top of their priority list. Development camps are great, but these tournaments add valuable experience to an organization’s prospect pool that is hard to replicate in scrimmages against teammates.
Adam is excited to be joining The Hockey Writers as part of the Seattle Kraken and Vancouver Canucks team. His work can also be found at area51sportsnet.com where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.