The Traverse City Prospects Tournament is always filled with interesting plotlines to follow, no matter which participating team you follow. Of course the host team, the Detroit Red Wings, always aim to put on a good show for the fans while also getting a good look at the future of the franchise. While this year’s tournament was a little less “tournament” and a little more “showcase”, there was still good hockey played, and with that came a lot of information to sift through.
A number of players stood out. Some stood out for the right reasons, while others stood out for…not the right reasons. While it’s not wise to overreact to a tournament with relatively low stakes, there were and are some important things to note, especially as we are now just days away from the beginning of NHL training camps across the league. Here are some of the biggest notes following the Red Wings’ three games in this year’s tournament.
Brattström Impresses on Night One
Heading into the first game of the tournament, a match-up against the Dallas Stars, fans and writers alike were not entirely sure what to expect from 24-year-old Swedish goaltender Victor Brattström. Selected with the 160th pick of the 2018 draft, he spent the first couple of years following being drafted by the Red Wings in his native Sweden before spending last season over in the Finnish league. He came over to North America this season with the intention of playing in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Grand Rapids Griffins. If our first glimpse at him is any indication, there could be some legitimate competition in the crease for the Griffins this season.
While 31 saves on 35 shots is not inspiring when taken at face value, this was one game where the stats did not tell the whole story. Outside of the first goal, which was a harmless, bouncing shot from the blue line that evaded Brattström’s grasp, the Swedish import was one of the biggest reasons for the Red Wings’ victory in this game. He made several key stops, with a handful of them being legitimate highlight reel material. With his teammates coming out flat in the third period, holding onto a 5-1 lead, he was victimized by a desperate Stars team throughout the final 20 minutes.
Make no mistake: while the Red Wings were very efficient in burying the chances they did get, they were outshot and out-chanced, and Brattström is probably the biggest reason why Detroit’s prospects were able to win despite a lackadaisical effort in the final period. Sturdy is a word that comes to mind when trying to describe his performance in this game. If he can carry that momentum into training camp with the Red Wings and, eventually, the Griffins, he could very well lock down the back-up position behind veteran AHL goaltender Calvin Pickard.
Veleno Stands Out, but Not on the Scoreboard
Entering this tournament, Joe Veleno made our list of Red Wings players to watch during this tournament due to his status as one of the Red Wings’ most NHL-ready prospects. The thinking at the time was that he should regularly look like the best player on the ice while going up against players who mostly top out as AHL hopefuls. To his credit, he collected his fair share of points during the three games, but he wasn’t as dominant in that regard as you might have hoped to see.
One area where he did stand out was on the physical side of things. At times, he looked like a man playing against boys as he used his added muscle to dig pucks out of the corners and flip it back to the blue line despite having two defenders pressuring him. He was especially impressive in the second game against the St. Louis Blues when he displayed his puck control skills by taking a lap around the offensive zone with the puck on his stick. He showed the ability to buy time and create space for himself during his time in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) last season, so it was good to see him showcase that ability again, albeit against inferior competition.
All things considered, this was far from a disappointing tournament for Veleno. He was able to produce, and he showed some of the elements in his game that could earn him a spot with the Red Wings to start this season. However, if you’re expecting him to arrive in Detroit and produce consistent offense right off the hop, you might be setting yourself up to be disappointed. This is a player whose tools are undeniable; it’ll be interesting to see if his game enters another level as training camp begins later this week.
Lucas Raymond’s Stock is Up, Sebastian Cossa’s is Down
If you were a little nervous about how the fourth pick of the 2020 draft is progressing, this tournament offered every indication that Lucas Raymond is going to be just fine this season. Despite playing at a North American rink for the first time, it only took the 19-year-old about a period and a half to look comfortable in his new surroundings. In fact, once he buried a shot that came off of a cross-ice feed from Jonatan Berggren, he never really looked back. From that point on, he was noticeably aggressive in the offensive zone, showcasing a much-improved shot that led to three goals in two games (he was held out of the third game for precautionary reasons.)
On the other hand, the Red Wings debut of Sebastian Cossa left a lot to be desired. Drafted 15th overall in this year’s draft, the 6-foot-6 goaltender allowed five goals, including two that you could file in the “yikes” folder. This likely served as a stark reminder to both fans and the player himself that his still just 18 years old, and there is a lot of work to be done before the young goalie is knocking on the door of the NHL. He looked shaky most of the night and seemed like he had trouble keeping up with the speed of play.
If there’s a goaltending prospect that will have the right outlook on a performance like that, it is Cossa. He is a very confident young man, and he likely views his experience at this tournament as a learning moment as well as a challenge to be better at next year’s tournament. He still has all the potential in the world – do not jump ship on this kid just because he had a bad outing against the Blues.
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Conversely, Raymond looks like he might be able to make a real push towards making the Red Wings’ roster out of training camp. While there’s no doubt he’ll face much tougher competition during the preseason, he is oozing confidence right now and he definitely seems to have made some improvements to his game over the summer. It’ll be interesting to see how he performs in the coming weeks.
Wyatt Newpower Formally Introduces Himself
When the Red Wings announced that they signed Wyatt Newpower from the Cleveland Monsters of the AHL, the overall sentiment across the fanbase was “who?” Well, after three games in Traverse City, Red Wings and Griffins fans should be eager to see more from the 23-year-old.
What was interesting to note at the beginning of the tournament was that Newpower joined Veleno and 24-year-old Chase Pearson as one of the team’s alternate captains. Clearly he had made an impression not only on coach Ben Simon, but also on his teammates. It wasn’t immediately obvious as to why, but by the end of the third game, he was one of the more impressive players to wear the winged wheel.
For starters, at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, Newpower is a big boy that knows how to use his body to defend. On top of that, he isn’t afraid to muck it up along the boards, leading to a fight in the third game. He simply does not back down; he is the type of player that will stand up for his teammates, make the big hit at center ice, and has enough defensive prowess to be effective at his position. Honestly, it seems like he has the goods to be a young replacement for AHL defenseman Dylan McIlrath, who spent the last four seasons playing a similar role in Grand Rapids. We’ll see if Newpower can develop into an NHL guy, but it certainly looks like he could develop into a fan-favorite for the Griffins.
Tyutyayev Season is Here
Speaking of players that not many had heard of before this weekend, Kirill Tyutyayev was one of Detroit’s most noticeable players throughout the tournament. He showed the ability to score, extend plays, identify and execute the safe play, and, of course, create plays. He drew a lot of attention in the last two games following two goals against the Stars, with the Columbus Blue Jackets doing their best to disrupt him with physical play in the third game.
Perhaps the biggest development for Tyutyayev is his size, however. Previously listed at 5-foot-9, 146 pounds, the Red Wings had him listed at 5-foot-10, 176 pounds prior to the second game. The skilled, Russian winger has a real shot at being a difference-maker for the Griffins this season based on his physical development; the added strength should help him hold his own in the offensive zone, where his skill should pave the way for goals and highlight reel moments.
The 190th pick of the 2019 draft was not hesitant to go to the net in search of rebounds, dispelling any concerns that he might be a perimeter player. Tyutyayev was the most dangerous player on the ice at times, and that bodes well for those who are excited at the prospect of another late-round Russian draft pick taking the Red Wings by storm. Like Raymond, it will be very interesting to watch him go up against stronger competition in the preseason. It’s too early to call him a late-round steal, but if he isn’t already on your radar, this tournament cemented the fact that he should be.
Other Red Wings of Note
It is important to note that defenseman Jared McIsaac left the first period of the third game in a stretcher after taking a bad hit along the boards. The team announced on social media, however, that the 21-year-old defenseman is alright and was taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure. For a player that absolutely needs a clean bill of health, you have to feel for McIsaac and hope that he is able to return to the ice sooner rather than later.
A few other players of note:
- Donovan Sebrango looked good throughout the tournament. He should be in line for another solid season with the Griffins.
- If Pearson is going to make the Red Wings’ roster, it’ll be by grinding it out on the fourth line and chipping in on offense where he can. He definitely played that style of hockey during this tournament.
- Alex Cotton likes to shoot the puck, but he has some work to do in order to really stand out amongst his peers.
- Berggren left the second game after an apparent injury and did not return for the rest of the tournament, but it doesn’t sound like it is too serious. He’s another guy who needs a clean bill of health after finally staying healthy last season.
- Defenseman Oscar Plandowski looked very promising in terms of moving the puck. He is still a while away, but he showed some good signs early on into his time in the Red Wings’ organization.
With training camp just days away, some of these players will be headed to the junior leagues while others are destined for Grand Rapids. One thing is for certain though: the Traverse City Prospects Tournament gave us plenty of things to ponder in the early days of the 2021-22 season.
I am a Western Michigan University alum whose passion for hockey knows no limits. Dr. Pepper enthusiast. Catch me and my fellow Red Wings writers’ YouTube show “The Hockey Writers Grind Line” which drops every Saturday.