We're less than two weeks away from the start of the 2009 Traverse City Prospects Tournament, and it's time to familiarize ourselves with the lay of the land. Typically the team who wins is the one who brings the most experienced roster -- that is to say the most guys who have played some pro hockey. That team this year is the Detroit Red Wings, the host team. They have five players who spent all of last year in the AHL. Put that together with good goaltending tandem in the form of Thomas McCollum and Jordan Pearce, and you have a winner. Note that it is important to have two good goaltenders for this tournament rather than one, as they usually take turns -- there's no reason to overuse a goaltender and pull a groin so early in the season.
At the other end of the spectrum you have the Columbus Blue Jackets, who were barely able to scrape together a roster. Only eight of their players are owned by the organization, and that's after flying in two Europeans! The rest were invitees, including both goaltenders. The only big name on the roster is John Moore.
Minnesota, similarly, has only nine players it owns. But, they are spread out a bit better among the positions and both goaltenders, Matt Hackett and Darcy Kuemper, are Minnesota property. They should be in slightly better shape.
The best roster from a pure prospects perspective is probably Carolina's. Between Zach Boychuk, Jamie McBain, and Mike Murphy, there's a lot of future NHLers there. And even one current one -- Brandon Sutter, who played 50 NHL games last year. He's one of five players with pro experience. That plus the talent level make Carolina a favorite as a new entrant, taking over Tampa's spot.
The St. Louis Blues also have some well-regarded prospects on their roster, including probably the highest of them all, Alex Pietrangelo. With Jake Allen, Brett Sonne, and new second rounder Brett Ponich, this will be a team to check out. They have three players who spent most of the season in the pros, although just one of them was in the AHL. Overall this is a young team.
The Thrashers entry is also very young, with six players having been drafted in 2009. Only five defensemen are listed so far, and there are pro spots still available, since only two have been filled with invitees out of the IHL and CHL. Another strong pro addition to the blue line would tip this entry strongly in one direction.
Defending tournament champion Dallas boasts a good goaltending tandem with Richard Backman and Tyler Beskorowany, and some bigger names in Scott Glennie and Ivan Vishnevskiy. It's apparent how far the pendulum has swung away from Europeans in that organization, as not one player drafted out of Europe appears on the roster (though three are originally from there). Three of the players were in the ECHL last season, and one -- Vishnevskiy -- played in the AHL.
Last but not least is the NY Rangers. They have compentent goaltending in Scott Stajcer and Chad Johnson. Two of their forwards and no defensemen played pro last year. This is probably not going to be their year again though.