The annual Red Wings Prospect Tournament is right around the corner and it’s time to get excited. From Sept. 15-19, a handful of prospects will be taking the ice in Traverse City to show hockey fans and scouts what they’re made of. The Red Wings prospects will be facing off against those from the Toronto Maple Leafs, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Dallas Stars organizations.
Breaking Down the Roster
There are several familiar Red Wings prospects listed on the roster as well as a number of free agent invitees. Out of 24 players on the roster, 16 are within the Red Wings system and the other eight are outsiders, making for a mix of new and old names to watch on the ice.
Having strong centers in a prospect pool is extremely valuable and the Red Wings definitely have an interesting mix. This year, Pasquale Zito, Amadeus Lombardi, Marcus Limpar-Lantz, Jacob Mathieu, and Ivan Ivan make up the center portion of the prospect tournament lineup.
So, the Red Wings are now notorious for having prospects with wickedly cool names and one more has joined the list for the Prospects Tournament. Ivan, the Czech center, will be a free agent invitee in Traverse City. Between him and Lombardi, there is no way for the competition to have better named prospects.
Lombardi is one of the newest Red Wings prospects on the block as he was just drafted in the 2022 NHL Draft and was surely fun to watch at development camp. He is one of two prospects from the most recent draft class with the other being Tnias Mathurin, who was a fifth-round pick. He will be back with the Flint Firebirds for his sophomore season in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and will be bringing his confidence, speed, and skill once again.
On the wings there will be Riley Piercey, Trenton Bliss, Cross Hanas, Kirill Tyutyayev, Julien Anctil, Elmer Soderblom, and Mitchell Martin. Soderblom stands out the most in a literal sense from his fellow wingers as he is a whopping 6-foot-8, but the other name of major interest is Hanas. He has a lot to prove during this tournament as he is heading into his first season with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League (AHL). His 2021-22 season with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League (WHL) was nothing short of impressive as he tallied 26 goals and 60 assists through 63 games, but will this translate to the AHL level? Only time will tell but he’s one of the headlining names to watch this upcoming weekend.
Tyutyayev is another interesting prospect to look out for as this is his first real shot back on the ice since he suffered a season-ending injury last November. He was only able to play nine games with the Griffins before his injury but wooed the head office enough to renew his contract for another season after having barely shown what he is capable of. Puck handling is his most notable skill and seemingly makes up for him being rather undersized as he was only 5-foot-8 when drafted back in 2019. Personally, I’m excited to see what he can do both at this tournament and in the upcoming AHL season now that he’s back to full health.
Seven defensemen will be hitting the ice in Traverse City with Simon Edvinsson leading the list. Alongside him will be fellow Swede Albert Johansson, Donovan Sebrango, Seth Barton, Eemil Viro, Oscar Plandowski, and Tnias Mathurin. As the start of the NHL season rapidly approaches, there is a huge question mark surrounding Edvinsson and if he will be able to make the Red Wings’ roster right away. Well, his play in this tournament and then at Red Wings training camp in the coming weeks will be the determinants of that, so this is a big time to keep an eye on him.
Johannson is another name that has been brought up in the Red Wings’ roster conversation although slightly less often than Edvinsson. He’s another defenseman from the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) who has been a star as of late. Throughout the 2021-22 season, he played 52 games for Färjestad BK and had five goals and 20 assists. Färjestad won the SHL championship and he had played 19 postseason games with two goals and six assists.
Sebrango and Viro both competed in the World Junior Championships (WJC) last month and just so happened to face each other in the final. Canada brought home the gold and Sebrango had two assists and a plus-7 rating through the seven games played in the tournament. Viro was a pleasant surprise to many throughout the WJC as he was a solid and consistent presence on the blue line. He is not flashy in any sense but rather he strives to be reliable and that stood ot throughout the WJC. The way he covers the defensive zone is more strategic rather than assertive and he is very mobile, allowing him to get in the way of the opponent and drive play the other direction. This being said, his consistency will be greatly valued on the defensive side throughout this tournament.
There will be three goalies suiting up for the tournament including Jan Bednar, Sebastian Cossa, and Andrew Oke. These goalies all just wrapped up their runs in the WJC for their respective teams and are ready to keep their offseason momentum going.
Cossa is the best goalie prospect in the Red Wings organization but is still a ways away from being NHL ready. In his WJC appearance against Latvia, he took a wild dive to stop a loose puck at the end of the second period, which was a choice that thankfully didn’t go terribly wrong. His performance in the tournament was not necessarily impressive but that does not mean that he is a flop or anything of the sort — bad stretches are typical for all goaltenders. This being said, hopefully fans will see his A-game in the upcoming tournament.
Oke is the youngest of the three and is the only free agent goalie invitee. He had been invited to the Red Wings development camp earlier this summer and must have stood out enough to earn an invite to this tournament. He is heading into his second season with the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL after having a 4.63 goals-against average and a .848 save percentage in 2021-22. He’s a goaltender who is both skilled in his technique but also his natural reactions, which paired with his athleticism means he can follow the puck around his crease and make those crucial saves.
What to Expect
The Red Wings prospects will be playing in three games over the course of the tournament. The first game will be against the Blue Jackets on Friday, then the Stars on Saturday, and concluding with the Maple Leafs on Monday. Although they will not be competing for the Matthew Wuest Memorial Cup, the annual trophy for the tournament winner, these prospects will still have a competitive environment to play in.
Notable Blue Jackets Prospects
Kent Johnson is one of the headlining prospects for the Blue Jackets heading into this tournament. He was drafted fifth overall in the 2021 NHL Draft and joined the Blue Jackets after a successful sophomore season with the University of Michigan. He’s a skilled forward with silky mitts that can pull off nearly magical moves. Johnson is a serious threat to his opponent with his speed, agility, and pure talent. His ability to anticipate the game around him and his overall hockey IQ make him dangerous on both ends of the ice, but especially in the offensive zone.
David Jiricek is the most recent first-round pick for the Blue Jackets and was picked sixth overall in the 2022 NHL Draft. This 6-foot-3 Czech defenseman was one of the top-ranked defensemen in his draft class as well as one of the top-ranked European skaters. Along with his size comes his physicality and ability to command the defensive zone as well as a strong offensive presence. He skates well and has a powerful slap shot in addition to being able to work the puck through a crowded offensive zone. A big two-way defenseman like Jiricek will be a tough matchup for the Red Wings prospects going into this tournament.
Standout Stars Prospects
Wyatt Johnston, a 2021 first-round pick for the Stars, is currently with the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL and, boy, is he interesting. It isn’t necessarily every day that you see a 100-point player roll into a prospect tournament, but here we are. Through 68 regular-season games, he tallied 46 goals and 78 assists for a total of 124 points, but he wasn’t done yet. He played 25 playoff games with the Spitfires and had 14 goals and 27 assists in addition to a plus-24 rating. Johnston was recently awarded the Red Tilson Trophy, which named him the OHL’s Most Outstanding Player for the 2021-22 season as he led the entirety of the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) in points. His hockey IQ helps him find the smartest spots on the ice to set up for shots and passes and he plays a very strategic and strong game. Seeing him go against the Red Wings prospects will definitely be a sight to see.
Christian Kyrou is one of the most recent additions to the Dallas Stars organization from the second round of the 2022 NHL Draft. With the Erie Otters of the OHL, he scored 18 goals and 42 assists through 68 games this past season and will be back with them in the fall. He is not necessarily a defensive defenseman but he brings a strong offensive upside to the blue line. You could describe his style of play as tricky or manipulative and he regularly trusts himself to beat the opposing defense in the offensive zone. He is more of a playmaker than the average defenseman may be and understands how to create chances down the ice. The Red Wings prospects taking him on have to be more worried about him getting the puck out of the zone rather than shutting them down on their way to the net.
Speculating on Maple Leafs Prospects
With the other three teams having their rosters finalized, the Maple Leafs are the only team that has yet to make their announcement. Here, I am speculating on two of their prospects that might be likely to make an appearance at the tournament.
Fraser Minten, a 2022 second-round pick for the Maple Leafs, could be a name to look for in this tournament. The biggest and most impressive aspect of his game is his hockey IQ and as a center with a strong two-way game, he’s no easy task for his opponents. Offensively, he is more of a playmaker than a goalscorer but still has the confidence and skill to tally points for himself while being a consistent presence on the ice. His defensive game has made him a big asset on the penalty kill and would be a challenge for the Red Wings prospects to work around.
Nick Moldenhauer is another Maple Leafs prospect that I think could be likely to make an appearance next weekend in Traverse City. He had a bit of a rough go over the 2021-22 season with sickness and taking a nasty skate to the face but still put up 61 points (18 goals, 43 assists) through 41 games. Aside from the recent hardships, he’s a strong right-shot winger with strong skating and playmaking abilities. He can put up points and work his way around the offensive zone nicely due to his skating. This tournament would provide him an opportunity to truly showcase his skills and it would be interesting to see him up against all of the Red Wings prospects.
All in all, it is not fully set in stone as to who these Red Wings prospects will be facing in Traverse City but it’ll be great to watch regardless. With training camp right around the corner, there will be a lot of focus on Edvinsson, Johansson, and Soderblom specifically since they are on the fringes of making the Red Wings roster this upcoming season. The free agent invitees will add a new dynamic to the cast of prospects that fans may already be familiar with, so who knows what hidden gems could be unearthed. Action will be officially underway Friday, Sept. 16 as the Red Wings face off against the Blue Jackets, which will be their first of three games.