Wings prospects set for high-caliber tournament

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Tyler Bertuzzi scored 30 goals his rookie season in Grand Rapids.

Detroit — Most hockey fans are focused on the World Cup of Hockey, which begins this weekend in Toronto.

But there’s another tournament that could be interesting — the eight-team prospects tournament that begins Friday in Traverse City.

“In terms of the competition, it’s of the highest caliber these young players will face,” said Ryan Martin, assistant general manager for the Red Wings.

How good could this tournament be?

More than 500 participants who have played in the tournament have gone on to play at least one game in the NHL, including 24 who skated for the Red Wings in the 2015-16 NHL season.

The Red Wings roster is highlighted by five recent first- or second-round picks — forwards Evgeny Svechnikov (2015, first), Tyler Bertuzzi (2013, second), Zach Nastasiuk (2013, second), Givani Smith (2016, second) and defenseman Filip Hronek (2016, second).

The Red Wings could contend for the tournament title with a roster that also has defensemen Robbie Russo and Joe Hicketts (undrafted free agent), forward Dylan Sadowy (acquired via trade) and goaltender Jake Paterson (2012, third).

“The summer development camp is a development camp, educating players and giving them the resources and tools to succeed,” Martin said. “This camp is an evaluation camp. These players are at different points of their careers, and we’re evaluating where they are.”

Bertuzzi, a scrappy winger, had 30 points and 133 penalty minutes last season in Grand Rapids, and already posted two impressive playoff runs (14 career goals in 23 games).

“The way he finished last year, he’s a guy who is going to challenge for an opportunity in Detroit at some point this season, and Robbie Russo is the same,” Martin said.

Russo, 23, was a 2011 fourth-round pick by the Islanders who then played four years at Notre Dame. He signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Red Wings in 2015.

Last season, Russo led the AHL with a plus-40 rating and was named to the all-rookie second team.

Grand Rapids coach Todd Nelson and his staff will coach the Red Wings’ tournament team.

2016 NHL Prospects Tournament

When: Friday-Tuesday, Centre Ice Arena, Traverse City

Teams: Blackhawks, Blue Jackets, Blues, Hurricanes, Stars, Rangers, Red Wings, Wild

Format: Teams will be split into two divisions, with the first-place teams playing for the title

Red Wings schedule: Friday vs. Blue Jackets, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday vs. Blackhawks, 4 p.m.; Monday vs. Blues, 7 p.m.; Tuesday crossover game to be determined

Tickets: $10

Twitter: @tkulfan