I thought I would write briefly again this year about a few observations from the Traverse City tournament this year even though many were fortunate to be able to see at least the Rangers game on TV and Mark Stepneski is providing great information as well. Most of my opinions are based on the Carolina game which most readers here were likely unable to observe.
First, as many probably noticed during the game broadcast against the Rangers, Brenden Dillon was, in my estimation, by far the most impressive of all our prospects. Quite amazing considering we were able to sign him as a free agent so recently. In the game against Carolina he was solid defensively and often led the offense rush up the ice all the way to the opposing goal line only to swing back and be in defensive position again when possession shifted. He was also appropriately physical in front of the net and especially along the boards. In one particular instance, he utterly eliminated one of the Cane's players coming across our blue line in front of the bench with a devastatingly clean hit. As Mark Stepneski pointed out, he is also serving as the captain of this young team so leadership potential is also there. Quite a bright spot for our future indeed.
Tyler Beskorowany was smooth and efficient in his motions against Carolina in much the same style as Kari plays taking away large portions of the net with size and positioning. The two goals allowed were definitely not a result of poor plays by him. He is not as great a puck handler as Jack Campbell however but the defense was especially great at breakouts in the game against Carolina.
One player that stood out in the game against Carolina which caught my attention was Jace Coyle. He was a great catalyst for the breakout all game skating out from our zone under pressure repeatedly while maintaining great puck possession. Obviously not a giant like many of our other defensive prospects, his play with the puck was impressive none the less, even if he does ascribe to the Pat Kane school of mouthguard chewing while moving the puck under pressure.
Big Jamie Oleksiak had a mixed game against Carolina I would say. On one hand, his size and reach provided great benefits in breaking up a few plays but on the other he completely whiffed on about four breakout passes from the defensive zone leading to turnovers or puck battles over the course of the game, perhaps due to nerves. Obviously by the Rangers game he had calmed some because his passing seemed much more deliberate in that game. As many have commented, like Dillon, he is not afraid to join the rush using those long legs to skate around players at times with ease. The only other thing I noticed was that he sometimes was able to be knocked off pucks in battles easier than I would imagine for someone his size but I'm sure with continued bulking up as he matures, this will not be an issue.
Matt Fraser, what can I say? You can see the results on the box score. He was all over the ice, along with his whole line of Scott Glennie (center) and Brett Ritchie. He just has a knack for ending up in scoring areas around the goal and he is definitely not afraid to fire from anywhere in the offensive zone. Additionally, the hands are nice as demonstrated on his first goal of the game in the video posted by ESPN Dallas. I think this continued on to the game against the Rangers as well.
Scott Glennie actually was much more visible this year that last for positive reasons. He set up a few good plays and was solid usually on the back check as well. I know some have lofty expectations for him with his first round drafting but continued patience will hopefully bring us another nice young player.
Ondrej Roman was also as solid as one would expect due to having more experience than some of the other prospects at the professional level assisting his performance.
Lastly, I wanted to close on a humorous note. If anyone is ever considering attending this tournament, you really should try to go at least once. Traverse City is a beautiful town and summer home to celebrity chef Mario Batalli. Tickets are only 10 dollars a day for all games and it is really surreal to be sitting in bleachers enjoying a game next to scouts and coaches of all 8 NHL teams present. In fact, Stu Barnes enjoyed my wearing my Zubov player t-shirt from the last year I lived in Dallas making sure to point out to Jere, Glen Gulutzan, and others sitting in the section before the Rangers game that "Zubie was even here". They all had a great laugh of that.