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2017 Traverse City Prospect Tournament: Blues’ Recap

The Baby Blues won three of four games at Traverse City this year, but only managed a fifth-place finish.

Evan Fitzpatrick got most of the action in the Blues’ goal during the 2017 Traverse City tournament.
Brian Weidler, “St. Louis Game Time”

Klim Kostin, Adam Musil, Tage Thomson, Niko Mikkola, and Jake Walman. Keep those names in your memory banks, folks, because that could very well be the Blues’ starting lineup in about five years. These are the players who have stood out the most at this year’s Traverse City tourney... and they are also players who made a strong impression at the Development Camp back in July.

This year’s Blues squad was led behind the bench by Blues’ development coach Barrett Jackman and Tulsa Oilers’ head coach Rob Murray, and finished with a 3-1-0-0 record at Traverse City, earning eight points (based on a European-style scoring system that awards three points for a regulation win, two for an OT win, and one for an OT loss) to lead the Ted Lindsay Division (STL, CBJ, DAL, MIN). Because of the tournament’s round-robin schedule, however, the Blues were only able to bring home a fifth-place finish at this year’s event.

09-08-17: Minnesota 6, St. Louis 5.

Things got off to a rocky start for the Baby Blues this year in Traverse City, as they held a 5-1 lead over Minnesota with just over 15 minutes to go, and ended up on the wrong end of a 6-5 score. Klim Kostin scored twice for the Blues, Jake Walman added three assists, and Evan Fitzpatrick turned aside 21 of 27 shots from Wild sticks on the loss.

"It was a tough ending. We were up 5-1 and lost the game, but still, we want to see the competitiveness of the kids and want to see them win, but there are still a lot of positives. You see their skill, trying to make plays, and certainly like all young players, there are some things that are going to need to be taught and habits to be learned. I thought (Jake) Walman really stuck out to me and (Robert) Thomas had an exceptional game. We had a number of guys playing well, but those two in particular. It was a good showing." — Mike Yeo

09-09-17: St. Louis 7, Dallas 6.

After a heart-breaking collapse in Friday’s matchup with Minnesota, the Baby Blues got to see how the other half lives vs. Dallas on Saturday. After falling behind 6-3 early in the third period, the Blues reeled off four unanswered goals, capped by Tommy Vannelli’s overtime tally, to pull out a win over the Stars. Tage Thompson and Jordan Kyrou each tallied once and chipped in two assists apiece, and Kostin, Walman, and Adam Musil each put up a goal and an assist.

"I'm happy for him," Blues Head Coach Mike Yeo said of Vannelli. "You go from being a young guy to one of the older guys in a big hurry, and he's wearing an 'A' on his jersey and he's relied on as a leader for the team. He knows it's an important year for him, and it was nice for him to be able to step up there and deliver with the game on the line."

09-11-17: St. Louis 3, Columbus 2.

The Columbus Blue Jackets, built by the former Blues’ leadership team of John Davidson and Jarmo Kekalainen, have owned the Traverse City tournament over the last several years. This year, however, the Blues’ current prospects got a measure of revenge over the former masterminds of the team’s developmental system. Thompson led the scoring parade with a goal and an assist, Walman and Musil also added goals, and tryout goalie Stephen Dhillon turned away 31 of 33 Columbus shots.

"Thompson was the best player on the ice again," said Blues development coach Barret Jackman. "He played strong, made some great plays, and he played the penalty kill today with (Tanner) Kaspick. Those two were a very strong skating and tenacious penalty-kill unit."

Jackman said two players that stood out in Monday's game were Musil and defenseman Niko Mikkola - the team's fifth-round pick in 2015.

"Musil is a very strong, detail-oriented player. He puts everything on the line," Jackman said. "He's shown some attention around the net and scored some dirty goals, too. The fact that he's contributing at the tournament is a pretty good sign that his hard work is paying off with some points."

"Mikkola had an outstanding game," Jackman added. "He was playing heavy and also using his skating to make some great reads."

09-12-17: St. Louis 5, Detroit 1.

The round-robin schedule of the Traverse City tournament meant that the Blues, despite having one of the best records at the tourney, were relegated to the fifth-place game vs. host Detroit. After surrendering the opening goal to the Red Wings, the Blues reeled off five straight tallies to win going away. Thompson led the way with two goals and a helper, 2017 first-round pick (22nd overall) Robert Thomas added a goal and a helper, and Fitzpatrick was strong in the net, allowing just the one goal while making 26 saves.

"The kids you really want to shine and play well had great tournaments," Blues development coach Barret Jackman said. "I thought Thompson showed his elite ability and had two real nice goal-scorers' goals (Tuesday). Thomas was all over the ice making plays and showing his hockey sense and his smarts again. I thought (Niko) Mikkola and Walman both played exactly the way we needed them to - they pushed the pace and played strong."

"We're 3-1, probably have the second-best record in the tournament and finished fifth," Jackman added. "I think the guys put everything on the line and I thought it was a pretty good group that came together."

The Blues finished with the top power play at the tournament, tallying six times in 17 chances for a 35.3% success rate. The penalty kill was sixth of the eight teams in the tourney, successfully killing off 14 of 17 penalties for an 82.4% success rate.

Thompson was the tournament leader in scoring with nine points (4 G, 5 A), and was second in goal-scoring behind Chicago prospect Alex DeBrincat, who tallied five times in four games for the Hawks. Blues’ invitee defenseman Sean Allen led the tournament in penalty minutes with 14.

Link to Blues’ scoring and goaltending stats for the tournament: