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Blues Return To Traverse City Prospect Tourney

By Brian Weidler

First, here's a link to the PhotoBucket site where I dropped a bunch of pictures from the Blues' Prospect Camp in mid-July:

http://s92.photobucket.com/albums/l17/Reality_Czech/

To your left, you'll see a sample of my work, as Konstantin Zakharov waits for an opportunity to pick up a puck and skate in on Marek Schwarz.

Also, on the subject of prospect camps, the Blues will be making a return to the Traverse City Prospect Tournament this season, after a two-year absence. The Blues' prospects won the tournament three years in a row from 2002 to 2004, and look to have a team this year that can contend for all the marbles again.

The tournament is a part of the Detroit training camp, and the Red Wings have a prospect team there, of course. Also making return appearances are the prospects from Tampa Bay, Columbus, Atlanta and Minnesota. New to the tournament this year are the prospects from the NY Rangers and Dallas.

Following is the Blues' tournament roster, as posted by the tournament site at:

http://www.redwingscentral.com/camps/2006-07/

##. PS. PLAYER.............. 2005-06 TEAM... LEA.. HT.. WT. DOB.....
==. ==. ==================== =============== ===== ==== === ========
41. .C. Alexei Shkotov...... Khimik......... RUS.. 5-11 161 06-22-84

.... 32 GP, .6-10-16, .34 PM
42. RW. David Backes........ Minnesota State WCHA. 6-03 210 05-01-84

.... 38 GP, 13-29-42, .91 PM
46. LW. Evgeny Skachkov..... CSKA Moscow.... RUS.. 6-00 194 07-14-84

.... .2 GP, .0-.0-.0, ..6 PM
47. .C. Nicholas Drazenovic. Prince George.. WHL.. 6-00 172 01-14-87

.... 71 GP, 30-33-63, .51 PM
49. .D. Zack Fitzgerald..... Peoria......... AHL.. 6-02 209 06-16-85

.... 13 GP, .1-.1-.2, .47 PM
51. .D. Alexander Hellström. Bjorklöven..... SWE-2 6-02 207 04-17-87

.... 31 GP, .1-.0-.1, .45 PM
52. .C. Tomas Kana.......... Vitkovice...... CZE.. 6-00 202 11-29-87

.... 42 GP, .5-.9-14, .50 PM
53. RW. Jordan Clendenning * Acadie-Bathurst QMJHL 5-11 188 02-04-87

.... 67 GP, 23-35-58, 134 PM
54. LW. David Fredriksson... HV-71.......... SWE.. 6-02 214 10-04-85

.... 37 GP, .5-.4-.9, .34 PM
56. LW. Michal Birner....... Saginaw........ OHL.. 6-00 183 03-02-86

.... 60 GP, 31-54-85, .91 PM
59. .D. Scott Jackson....... Seattle........ WHL.. 6-03 200 02-05-87

.... 60 GP, .3-23-26, .50 PM
61. RW. Ryan Reaves......... Brandon........ WHL.. 6-01 193 01-20-87

.... 68 GP, 14-14-28, .91 PM
62. .D. Roman Polak......... Vitkovice...... CZE.. 6-01 198 04-28-86

.... 37 GP, .0-.1-.1, .16 PM
63. LW. Konstantin Zakharov. Minsk.......... BEL.. 6-01 200 05-02-85

.... 36 GP, 14-15-29, .78 PM
64. .D. Ryan Wilson *....... Toronto........ OHL.. 6-01 205 02-03-87

.... 64 GP, 12-49-61, 145 PM
65. .C. Carl Söderberg...... Malmö.......... SWE-2 6-03 198 10-12-85

.... 39 GP, 15-24-39, .45 PM
67. .D. Mike Gauthier....... Prince Albert.. WHL.. 6-03 185 03-26-87

.... 69 GP, .4-.8-12, 169 PM
68. .C. Casey Lee *......... Kootenay....... WHL.. 6-01 190 03-07-85

.... 68 GP, 20-30-50, 117 PM
72. RW. Ryan MacMurchy *.... Wisconsin...... WCHA. 6-02 207 04-27-83

.... 40 GP, .8-17-25, .90 PM
... RW. Kevin Croxton *..... Rensselaer..... ECAC. 6-03 175 09-08-82

.... 31 GP, 14-25-39, .28 PM

##. PS. PLAYER.............. 2005-06 TEAM... LEA.. HT.. WT. DOB.....
==. ==. ==================== =============== ===== ==== === ========
45. .G. Reto Berra.......... GCK............ SUI.. 6-04 189 01-03-87

.... 19 GP, 504 MIN, 26 GA, 2-7-0, 3.10, N/A
40. .G. Marek Schwarz....... Sparta Praha... CZE.. 6-00 180 04-01-86

.... 15 GP, 746 MIN, 32 GA, 7-8-0, 2.57, 0.920

* Free Agent on tryout

Of these 22 players, 14 took part in the Prospect Camp at St. Louis Mills in July (the players not at the camp, in alphabetical order, were Croxton, Fredriksson, Lee, MacMurchy, Reaves, Shkotov, Skachkov, and Söderberg). Three players -- Berra, Hellström, and Kana -- were selected by the Blues in June's NHL Entry Draft, and all of the players on the tournament roster are past Blues' draft picks except for Clendenning, Croxton, Lee and Wilson.

This lineup seems to have some scoring potential in players like Söderberg, Shkotov, Zakharov, Backes and Drazenovic. There is also potential for good two-way play from players like Birner, Kana and MacMurchy, and toughness up front from Backes and Reaves.

Clendenning and Lee may also provide scoring and toughness, and Croxton appears to have some potential as a scorer, but as they are tryout players, not much is known about them at this point.

On defense, Polak was impressive at the recent Prospect Camp in St. Louis. Fitzgerald and Gauthier were and are steady, stay-at-home types with plenty o' grit, as is Hellström. Jackson, the Blues' second pick in 2005 (37th overall) after TJ Oshie, didn't stand out at the Prospect Camp, but will look to re-establish himself as a top-notch defense prospect at this tourament.

Wilson, a three-year veteran of the Ontario League, is the wild card on defense. He has good NHL size at 6-01, 206 pounds, and managed 28 goals and 123 points in those three OHL seasons. He also showed some toughness over his 190-game OHL career, amassing 382 minutes in the sin bin.

Both Schwarz and Berra showed at the Prospect Camp why they have good futures with the Blues, and Schwarz will be making his North American pro debut this season, probably in Alaska as the number one goalie. Berra is slated to return for one more year in Switzerland, where he has established himself as the top Swiss goaltender in his age group.

The Prospect Tournament looks to be a good opportunity for the Blues to see how far they've come as an organization in terms of player development. The Blues' prospects will test themselves against their peers, such as Lauri Korpikoski and Al Montoya (NYR), AJ Thelen and former Blues' first-rounder Shawn Belle (MIN), Evan McGrath and Jim Howard (DET), Vojtech Polak and Aaron Snow (DAL), Derick Brassard and Petr Pohl (CBS), Alex Bourret and Ondrej Pavelec (ATL), and Matt Smaby and Riku Helenius (TMP), all high draft picks and top-notch prospects.

The Blues counter with their own high picks and top prospects in Schwarz, Söderberg, Backes and Jackson. Will they show themselves on a par with the other high-end prospects at this tournament? Check back here for updates as the tournament unfolds over the weekend of September 8-12.

Until next time, remember... "if we do not prepare for ourselves the role of the hammer, there will be nothing left but that of the anvil." Auf wiedersehen.