The annual rookie showdown in Michigan is finished, but how did everyone look? Our expert runs down the big names from Detroit, Carolina, Dallas and the champs from Columbus.
The championship game of the Traverse City prospects tournament in Michigan pitted Columbus against Dallas, with the Blue Jacket kids skating off to victory on an overtime goal scored by Josh Anderson during 3-on-3 play. Here’s part two of my filing on how the big games did, this time concentrating on Columbus, Dallas, Carolina and Detroit. I am not including Anthony Mantha of the Red Wings since he missed the last game with knee soreness and I only saw part of his prior game.
Alexander Wennberg, C – He battled through a head cold and was one of the top forwards on a loaded squad. Wennberg plays a smart, two-way game and he doesn’t mind mixing it up on the backcheck. Kerby Rychel was another forward who brought a nice variety of attributes to the table.
Oliver Bjorkstrand, RW – A slender kid, but man can he put up offense. Bjorkstrand has a great release to his shot and was a consistent threat all tourney long. Markus Soberg was a nice speedy weapon on the wing, too.
Marko Dano, LW – At least internationally, I always felt Dano took too many penalties. I liked his aggressiveness, but he didn’t seem to harness it properly. Fortunately, Dano stayed out of the box in Traverse City and what is left is a goal-scorer with good size.
Dillon Heatherington, D – There’s a lot to like about Heatherington’s 6-foot-3, 204-pound frame and his ability to log a lot of minutes, but he made some poor decisions with the puck. If he irons that part out, it will help his trajectory quite a bit.
Blake Siebenaler, D – I really liked Siebenaler. He was adept at getting the puck out of his zone and hitting his man with the pass. He looked calm back there and showed some nice physical force on the backcheck, as well.
Julius Honka, D – An excellent offensive defenseman, Honka is great with the puck and can really start a rush the right way. He’s never going to plow guys under with his frame, but Honka is good at using his stick to defend.
Jason Dickinson, C – Like Columbus, the Stars had a stacked top-six and Dickinson roved the ice with great intent. His combination of size, speed and skill is difficult to contain.
Gemel Smith, RW – He and liney Brendan Ranford have to go together, since their chemistry was amazing. Smith was usually the set-up man, with Ranford pulling the trigger. Ranford also scored on a sweet penalty-shot move against Columbus.
Matej Stransky, RW – A big shark on the wing, Stransky was a dominating offensive player and he potted more than his share for Dallas. I did notice that he struggled against players who weren’t overpowered by his 6-foot-3, 200-pound body, though.
Ludwig Bystrom, D – This kid can straight-up wheel from the blueline. On top of his skating, Bystrom looked very confident and poised out there and contributed to the offense nicely.
Philippe Desrosiers, G – Desrosiers’ most obvious attribute is his puckhandling. He goes at it Marty Brodeur-style and though the quicker pace of the tourney sometimes made for close calls, it was still a strength. The big netminder also tracks the puck pretty well in traffic.
Andreas Athanasiou, C – Pure scoring machine. Athanasiou has some serious jets and he can burn you as either the playmaker or the goal-scorer. He put up big numbers for the home team.
Ryan Sproul, D – Another excellent skater, Sproul can really lug the puck up the ice with authority and his big 6-foot-4 frame is intimidating when he’s going as fast he does. Brings a nice offensive dimension, too.
Zach Nastasiuk, C – Real heart-and-soul player. Nastasiuk gives maximum effort and always hustles when there’s an unglamorous job to do. He’s also quite adept at protecting the puck, using his sturdy build to fend off opponents.
Joe Hicketts, D – I’ve gone on about Hicketts before, but I still like him as a prospect, even though he was here on a tryout. Undrafted but undaunted, the undersized blueliner threw a huge open-ice hit against Carolina and snuck in for a beauty goal against Minnesota.
Haydn Fleury, D – I always knew Fleury had great size and mobility, but it was great to see the bite he brings to the ice as well. For his first tournament, he looked pretty solid.
Josh Wesley, D – Glen’s son may very well be made of brick, as one unfortunate Rangers prospect found out. Otherwise, Josh moves very well and his size is a great asset. He actually played forward for most of his youth, so there’s a lot of upside left to be discovered.
Sergey Tolchinsky, RW – Tolchinsky unleashed an absolute laser against Detroit, maintaining his reputation as one player you don’t want to lose track of on the ice. Undersized but dangerous, he was a great free agent signing.