2009 Traverse City Prospects Tournament: Day Four

Tristan King has been impressive so far in Traverse City.

What: Dallas Stars (0-2) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (2-0)
When: 2 p.m. CDT
Where: Traverse City, Michigan; NHL Prospects Tournament

After an off day yesterday, the Stars prospects will take the ice this afternoon at 2 p.m. CDT to take on the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Blue Jackets beat the Blues on Monday, who are thought to be the top team at the tournament. It will be another good test for the Stars who are still working to adjust to playing with one another and to a new offensive system.

As far as that new system goes, a lot of fans were alarmed after the Stars allowed nine goals in the loss to the Blues on Sunday yet were intrigued by the offense's explosive potential. The next day the Stars dialed it down a bit and played a much tighter and aggressive game in a close 2-1 loss to the Wild. The Stars proved that despite what will be a more wide-open offensive system, the Stars will still have the ability to lock down and focus on defense.

Mike Heika has a good take on what we've seen so far:

Jamie Benn is showing he's more than just a scorer. He has been great on a couple of penalty kills and he has dished out some big hits. Ivan Vishnevskiy looks like he's trying too hard at times, and he needs to find a way to create space when he's on the power play. His shots have been blocked at the point a few times.

Tyler Beskorowany looks very big in net (he looks even taller than 6-4 when you stand next to him) and he looked very confident and calm on Monday. I'll be interested to see how Richard Bachman responds. He wasn't that bad in the 9-6 loss.

Tristan King is a name that keeps coming up in conversation among those in attendance, with most singing his praises as a player that has impressed thus far in two games. More on King after the jump, along with notes from Mark Stepneski on the tournament so far and an NHL.com feature on everyone's favorite defenseman Ivan Vishnevskiy.

Tristan King played last year for the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL, starting what should have been a promising season on his way to the NHL draft. Touted by scouts as nifty scorer with good vision and creativity, King saw his season cut short with a groin injury and lingering issues from a concussion. Despite putting up 36 points in 47 games, King went undrafted in June after concerns about his health led to teams to pass on the skilled center.

Yet King was declared fully healthy over the summer by doctors and secured a tryout with the Stars for what was supposed to be rookie camp. But he's in Traverse City now, and is making the most of this big chance.

"I missed so much of the season, they didn't know if they should draft me," said King, noting  that he was ranked highly by NHL scouting before being sidelined first for a groin injury and later for a concussion.

"This is a really good opportunity for me even though I did not get drafted. My agent said what they are looking for is what I have."

Talking with Mark Stepneski, who was in Traverse City this past week and watched the Stars prospects play in their first two games, King has been one of the more impressive players on the ice. He's displayed great skating ability and good intelligence on the ice, with a good feel for creating chances and getting the puck to his wingers to maximize scoring opportunities. If King continues to impress chances are he could receive a contract from the Stars and enter into the team's system. If that happens, he could get the chance to play this season in Austin, but most likely would return to the juniors for experience.

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Ivan Vishnenskiy received some attention from the national press this week, with a feature on the defenseman presented on NHL.com:

Ivan Vishnevskiy laughs at the irony of the prospects of wearing the Stars' colors for good in a couple of weeks when he attends Dallas' training camp with a great opportunity to win a full-time job on defense.

"I couldn't be more excited," Vishnevskiy said Tuesday after a practice at Centre I.C.E. in Traverse City during the eight-team prospects tournament. "I'm looking at this as an opportunity to be more ready for the big camp."

[...]

"He's a new NHL type of player -- small, quick and skilled," said Les Jackson, Stars director of scouting and player development. "When we picked him in the first round his instincts with the puck were beyond lots of players. We particularly liked the fact he could skate and create opportunities for others."

No one on Dallas' prospects team could be considered good defensively in their first game here Sunday, a 9-6 loss to St. Louis. But Vishnevskiy wound up with one assist and was only a minus-1 in the game. And there was one particular play that had scouts nodding in amazement at his defense.

It happened when Aaron Palushaj, a solid-skating forward from the University of Michigan who already had two goals for the Blues in the game, had two steps on Vishnevskiy -- and Ivan played the angle perfectly and totally neutralized what looked like a great scoring opportunity.

There will be plenty written on Vishnevskiy in the weeks to come, including our own profile here at Defending Big D coming soon, but there's no doubt that this will be an exciting time for the skilled defenseman as he prepares for the full time jump to the Stars system this season. After spending last year buried under the Blues' prospects in Peoria, Vishnevskiy will receive the chance to shine this season starting in Austin and eventually in Dallas.

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We've talked about Jamie Benn and his "struggles" so far in the tournament, but one name that hasn't shown up on the box score is first round draft pick Scott Glennie. Somewhat of a controversial pick, he was chosen for his potential to develop into a special and skilled forward. During his introduction to a higher level of hockey, Glennie has been thinking and reacting to the faster, more physical style of play:

"Definitely it's a lot faster pace here than junior and it's been a good experience so far," Glennie said after the Stars' practice in Traverse City Tuesday morning. "It's good to play against guys with that talent. You hope to be there one day and just playing with these guys is going to make you a better player. The experience right now has been unbelievable. Playing with some pro hockey players has been great."

Glennie, who can play either right wing or center, will be making the shift primarily to center this season, and he's been playing in the middle at Traverse City.

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