Over the weekend, eight teams gathered in northern Michigan for the 20th annual Traverse City Prospect Tournament, hosted by the Detroit Red Wings. Among the players present were ten of the top fifty NHL prospects, as identified by NHL.com. But it wasn’t just the top prospects that stood out for their respective teams. Several players made a name for themselves over the weekend. Let’s take a look at one from each team.
Carolina Hurricanes: Andrei Svechnikov
In the case of the Carolina Hurricanes, their top prospect arguably was their standout player. For many, Traverse City was the first opportunity to see the second overall pick from this year’s draft, Andrei Svechnikov. He didn’t disappoint, leaving the tournament with two goals and two assists as the Hurricanes’ top scorer.
Svechnikov showed some of the skills that made him the second pick in the draft: size, speed, hockey IQ, and a tremendous shot. The Hurricanes struggled throughout the tournament, and finished with just one victory, but the results won’t matter much for Hurricanes fans. They are doubtlessly excited to see more of Svechnikov, who is certainly a favorite for the Calder Memorial Trophy heading into the season.
Chicago Blackhawks: Dylan Sikura
The Blackhawks only had one player ranked in NHL Network’s top-50: defenseman Adam Boqvist. Behind him in their system is Dylan Sikura, who is their top offensive prospect. Sikura was drafted in the sixth round in 2014, and has played at Northeastern University ever since. In 2017-18, he was on perhaps the best line in the NCAA, with Canucks’ prospect Adam Gaudette and Blues’ prospect Nolan Stevens. After finishing at Northeastern, Sikura signed with Chicago and played five games, tallying three assists.
In Traverse City, Sikura’s age, experience, and league-readiness showed. Though he didn’t finish as a top scorer in the tournament, Sikura did score the overtime goal that sealed the Blackhawks’ only victory. He is well positioned to have the same kind of impact this year that Alex DeBrincat, a standout in Traverse City in 2017, had with the Blackhawks in 2017-18.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Kevin Stenlund
The Columbus Blue Jackets were far and away the shocking team of the tournament, going undefeated and winning first place despite entering with probably the weakest farm system. One player that stood out above the rest was Kevin Stenlund, a Swedish forward whom the Blue Jackets drafted in the second round in 2015. Stenlund finished in a tie for second for the lead in scoring with five goals and two assists. While Stenlund is not widely regarded as a high NHL prospect, he has good size at 6-foot-4, and has decent offensive upside. It may be that the tournament this weekend helped him find another level in his game.
Dallas Stars: Miro Heiskanen
Another top prospect that shone bright on the Traverse City ice was 2017 third overall draft pick Miro Heiskanen. He is now generally ranked among the top ten prospects in the NHL, and he showed why at the tournament this weekend. He has high hockey IQ and is the kind of puck-moving defenseman that makes headlines in today’s NHL.
Heiskanen showed the all-around game to earn a spot on this list, but we can’t ignore Jason Robertson, who led the entire tournament in scoring with two goals and seven assists. Robertson has proven to be a legitimate scoring threat in the OHL, with consecutive 40-goal seasons, and he had a terrific tournament. But Heiskanen was equally extraordinary, and is poised to step right into big NHL minutes this coming season.
Detroit Red Wings: Joe Veleno
The tournament’s hosts finished in second place, due in no small part to perhaps the most potent line in the tournament. Featuring three former first-round picks, Detroit’s top line of Joe Veleno, center Filip Zadina, and Michael Rasmussen collected fifteen points in four games.
Veleno, who was one of just five players to be granted “exceptional status,” allowing him to be drafted into the CHL at just fifteen, fell to the Red Wings with their second pick in the first round. After watching him collect seven points and show the poise and maturity that come from having received “exceptional status,” Red Wings fans are probably happier than ever that the QMJHL stud found his way to their system.
Minnesota Wild: Jordan Greenway
Jordan Greenway is a giant. Among the hockey players that roamed the halls at Centre Ice Arena, he stood a head and shoulders above the rest. But it was his play on the ice that really stood out this weekend. Greenway used his size and physicality to differentiate himself from opponents and make plays that smaller skaters could not.
With higher rated prospects like Kirill Kaprizov and Luke Kunin not at Traverse City, Greenway was the top star from the Minnesota farm system, and when he played, he could not be ignored. You can’t teach size, and Greenway has it in spades. He’ll be making an NHL impact sooner rather than later.
New York Rangers: Lias Andersson
In Traverse City, Lias Andersson showed the skills that made him the seventh overall pick in the 2017 draft. He is determined on the puck, skilled in the offensive zone, and creative in both passing and positioning. Though he didn’t top the scoreboard in the tournament, no one could watch the Rangers in action and not notice Andersson.
What really stood out about Andersson was his effort level. He was unrelenting on the forecheck and self-sacrificial in blocking shots. He’s the kind of player that gets his teammates excited, because he wears his passion on his sleeve. The Rangers are publicly rebuilding for the first time in quite a while, and it’s players like Andersson who will carry their brand into a brighter future.
St. Louis Blues: Jordan Kyrou
The Blues headed into the tournament with a lot to prove, and one of the strongest groups of prospects in Traverse City. While the results weren’t what any Blues fan had hoped for, there were still some reasons for excitement — none bigger than Jordan Kyrou. Kyrou, who ranks second behind Robert Thomas in most appraisals of the Blues’ farm system, stole the show in Michigan, getting better every game of the tournament, scoring several highlight reel goals, and finishing in a tie for fourth in scoring.
This kid is good.
— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) September 11, 2018
Kyrou’s electric speed was on display throughout the weekend, and he scored on multiple breakaway attempts, making goalies, and sometimes several defenders, look silly. Kyrou may be the second best pure goal scorer in the Blues’ system behind Vladimir Tarasenko, and that’s saying a lot. The Blues’ forward group is stacked headed into 2017-18, and it’s tough to see an obvious place for Kyrou to play, but if he performs in camp like he did in Traverse City, the front office may have to find a spot for him.
Stephen Ground is an author with The Hockey Writers and is co-host of the Two Guys No Cup Podcast. He enjoys studying the numbers and providing fresh looks at various stories.