Red Wings prospects will give it their best shot at tournament

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit – The Red Wings are ready to defend their championship.

Not the Stanley Cup -- not this year anyway. But the Red Wings are ready to defend their championship in the annual eight-team prospects tournament that begins Friday at Traverse City’s Centre Ice Arena.

Last September’s victory was the first time in 15 years of this tournament the Red Wings came away with the title.

“We have a little more pressure on us,” said forward Anthony Mantha, the 2013 first-round pick who was on last year’s winning team and is one of 11 returnees who are on this week’s roster. “It’s all about going out there and impressing the organization, and if we win, it’s a plus.”

More than 440 players have gone from playing in the Traverse City tournament to the NHL over the 15-year span.

“Before the tournament last year, someone told us this tournament is better than the world junior (tournament),” Mantha said. “I went to the world junior last winter and I could say the same thing.

“Everyone wants to show themselves, so it’s a high-paced game and everyone wants to impress.”

Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, Rick Nash and Derek Stepan (Rangers), Alex Pietrangelo (Blues) and Jeff Skinner (Hurricanes) are just some of the stars around the NHL who’ve played in the tournament.

With numerous front-office executives and scouts in attendance, the games have the feel of an in-season elite tournament.

“It’s a great tournament,” said general manager Ken Holland said. “You look at all the NHL players who’ve gone through the tournament, started their careers there. It’s real good hockey.”

Holland said the opportunity to compete against players their own age, rather than have to compete against the likes of Datsyuk and Zetterberg in training camp immediately, lets young players settle in.

For a player like Mantha, the prospects tournament could be a good opportunity to take the first step toward possibly landing a spot on the NHL roster next month.

Mantha felt the experience last year gave him confidence and helped him adjust to an NHL training camp the next week.

“It prepared me,” Mantha said. “It’s a great tournament and if you do good there, you just have to continue to the main camp.”

Prospects tournament

When: Friday through Tuesday.

Where: Centre Ice Arena, 1600 Chartwell Drive, Traverse City.

Schedule: Four games daily beginning at 3:30 p.m. The championship game is Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Tickets: $10, available at the door, good for the entire day.

Teams competing: Detroit, Buffalo, Carolina, Columbus, Dallas, Minnesota, New York Rangers and St. Louis.

Red Wings roster: D Mattias Backman, G Jared Coreau, G Jake Paterson, RW Anthony Mantha, RW Martin Frk, RW Colin Campbell, D Ty Stanton, D Ryan Sproul, D Joe Hicketts, RW Hayden Hodgson, LW Tyler Bertuzzi, LW Marek Tvrdon, C Zach Nastasiuk, RW Jerome Verrier, C Brandon Robinson, G Lucas Peressini, D Mitchell Wheaton, C Andreas Athanasiou, D Marc McNulty, LW Darby Llewellyn, D Richard Nedomiel, C Dominic Turgeon, C Tomas Nosek, LW Blake Clarke.