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"Game Time" PROSPECT SUNDAY: 2014 Traverse City Prospect Tournament Preview

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Presenting a closer look at the prospects and tryout players that the Blues will be taking north to the Traverse City Prospect Tournament this weekend.

2014 first-round selection Robby Fabbri will be among the prospects the Blues will take to Traverse City this coming weekend. Photo by
2014 first-round selection Robby Fabbri will be among the prospects the Blues will take to Traverse City this coming weekend. Photo by
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Blues will be in the Gordie Howe Division again this season at Traverse City, with longtime rivals Detroit as well as Minnesota and Columbus. The Ted Lindsay Division will again consist of Buffalo, Carolina, Dallas and the New York Rangers.

The Blues’ game and practice schedule for the tournament is as follows:

DATE TIME VENUE
Sep. 12 1130 - 1215 Practice (David's Rink)
Sep. 12 1930 vs DETROIT (West Rink)
Sep. 13 0930 - 1015 Practice (West Rink)
Sep. 13 1600 vs MINNESOTA (West Rink)
Sep. 14 1045 - 1145 Practice (David's Rink)
Sep. 15 0930 - 1015 Practice (West Rink)
Sep. 15 1530 vs COLUMBUS (West Rink)

If the Blues finish first or second in the Howe Division, they will have a game-day practice on Sep. 16 in the West Rink at either 1000 hours (if they finish second) or 1100 hours (if they finish first). The third- and fourth-place finishers in each division will not have a "final" practice.

The game day schedule for the medal round on Sep. 16 is as follows:

DATE TIME VENUE
Sep. 16 1500 7th place game - 4th Howe vs 4th Lindsay (David’s Rink)
Sep. 16 1530 5th place game - 3rd Howe vs 3rd Lindsay (West Rink)
Sep. 16 1830 Bronze Medal game - 2nd Howe vs 2nd Lindsay (David’s Rink)
Sep. 16 1900 Gold Medal game - 1st Howe vs 1st Lindsay (West Rink)

Last week, we linked you to the Blues' official press release on the Traverse City tournament, which included a team roster. There have since been a couple of changes to that roster, and following is some detail on the list of prospects (that is, players that the Blues hold the NHL playing rights to) the Blues will be taking to Traverse City this year:

FORWARDS
## NAME POS HEIGHT WEIGHT DATE OF BIRTH BIRTHPLACE
49 BARBASHEV, IVAN C 6-00 181 12-14-95 MOSCOW, RUS
64 BLAIS, SAMUEL C 5-09 165 06- 17-96 MONTMAGNY, QC
57 DESCHENEAU, JAEDON C 5-09 185 02-22-95 EDMONTON, AB
76 DOTY, JACOB RW 6-03 223 06-19-93 BILLINGS, MT
15 FABBRI, ROBBY C 5-10 170 01-22-96 MISSISSAUGA, ONT
54 POCHIRO, ZACH LW 6-01 159 03-06-94 ST. LOUIS, MO
18 RATTIE, TY RW 6-00 183 02-05-93 AIRDRIE, AB
70 TESINK, RYAN LW 6-00 161 05-21-93 SAINT JOHN, NB
67 VEILLEUX, YANNICK LW 6-01 187 02-22-93 ST. HIPOLYTTE, QC
52 YAKIMOWICZ, CJ RW 6-03 209 01-26-96 KINGSTON, PA
DEFENSEMEN
## NAME POS HEIGHT WEIGHT DATE OF BIRTH BIRTHPLACE
51 HAKANPÄÄ, JANI D 6-05 218 03-31-92 KIRKKONUMMI, FIN
48 LINDBOHM, PETTERI D 6-03 198 09-23-93 HELSINKI, FIN
59 SAARI, SANTERI D 6-03 209 10-18-94 HELSINKI, FIN
47 VANNELLI, THOMAS D 6-02 165 01-26-95 MINNETONKA, MN
GOALTENDERS
## NAME POS HEIGHT WEIGHT DATE OF BIRTH BIRTHPLACE
30 BINNINGTON, JORDAN G 6-02 160 07-11-93 RICHMOND HILL, ON
60 LUNDSTRÖM, NIKLAS G 6-01 194 01-10-93 VÄRMDÖ, SWE

Some of the best defense prospects in the system (Colton Parayko, Jordan Schmaltz, Jake Walman) are collegiate players, and thus cannot play in Traverse City because of NCAA rules. Likewise, 2012 draftee Mackenzie Maceachern (Michigan State) and 2014 picks Maxim Letunov, Austin Poganski and Dwyer Tschantz are unable to represent the Blues in Traverse City.

Forward Sam Kurker, a collegian for the last two seasons at Boston University, will be playing junior with Sioux City in the USHL this year, and thus would be able to compete at Traverse City. He is not listed on the Blues' Traverse City roster, however, and that's probably because he wants to preserve his college eligibility. Kurker still has two seasons of NCAA eligibility left, and after leaving BU last winter, he chose the USHL rather than the QMJHL (where the Quebec Remparts own his playing rights) with an eye towards keeping the NCAA option open.

Also, since the Rangers won the tournament a few years back by basically taking their entire AHL squad to Traverse City, the tournament placed restrictions on the number of players with AHL experience that a team could take. The Blues are staying within those restrictions by taking only Jani Hakanpää and Yannick Veilleux to northern Michigan, along with second-year pro Jordan Binnington, who played most of 2013-14 in the ECHL with Kalamazoo (as did Veilleux).

Between Barbashev, Descheneau and Fabbri, the Blues' TC squad should have offense aplenty. Tesink and Veilleux should provide plenty of offensive support from the bottom two lines, and Vannelli is a solid offensive force from the blueline.

Hakanpää is the veteran of the squad, and the best guess here is that he will again serve as team captain in Traverse City as he did last year, and will also be a mentor for the two young Finnish blueliners Lindbohm and Saari. The two Helsinki natives came over for their first Development Camp in July, and while both are listed on the rosters of their European clubs for 2014-15 (Lindbohm with Sport Vaasa of the Liiga, and Saari with Jokerit Helsinki in their first KHL season), the likelihood is that Lindbohm -- who signed an ELC with the Blues earlier this summer -- will stay in North America to try his hand at the pro game here. Saari will more than likely return to Europe for one more season.

The Blues will have to fill out their roster with undrafted free agents, and here is a look at the ones they've extended invitations to. Each player's name is a link to his profile at the EliteProspects.com website, a valuable and informative Swedish-based site that your GTPD uses quite a bit:

TRYOUT PLAYERS
## NAME POS HEIGHT WEIGHT DATE OF BIRTH BIRTHPLACE
80 BETZOLD, GREG C 6-02 195 03-11-95 BEL AIR, MD
79 CAISSY, CHRIS C 6-01 185 06-19-93 CAMPBELLTON, NB
65 CHELIOS, JAKE D 6-02 185 03-08-91 BLOOMFIELD HILLS, MI
84 GUTIERREZ, JUSTIN C 6-04 185 12-22-95 ANCHORAGE, AK
71 HART, KEVIN C 6-01 195 08-06-91 CUMBERLAND, ME
83 HELEWKA, ADAM LW 6-01 190 07-21-95 BURNABY, BC
78 MERCER, LUKE D 5-11 180 04-30-94 TORONTO, ONT
63 POLEI, EVAN LW 6-01 228 02-19-96 WETASKIWIN, AB
68 SERGEEV, DMITRII D 6-02 195 03-26-96 CHELYABINSK, RUS

This will be Betzold's second go-round with the Blues in this tournament; he appeared in two games for the 'Note in last year's tourney, with no points or penalty minutes and a minus-1 to show for it. All the other tryout players will be making their first appearance in Traverse City with the Blues.

Sergeev is a Russian import who was a teammate of Ryan Macinnis with Kitchener of the OHL last season. He has good size and mobility, but was passed over in the 2014 Draft, likely due to the "Russian Factor." The Blues are assembling a stable of skilled Russian players, and the presence of Vladimir Tarasenko, along with Barbashev and Letunov, in the organization could be a plus in any future pursuit of Sergeev's services.

Helewka is a left wing with decent size and some offensive upside (33 goals, 77 points in the last two WHL seasons). He was passed over in the last two drafts, but will be eligible one last time in 2015.

Mercer is a smallish, offensive-minded blueliner who has played four seasons in the OHL with the Niagara Ice Dogs (229 GP, 12-75-87, plus-24, 165 PM). A good showing by the 20-year-old Mercer in this tournament could well lead to a contract with the Blues, who seem to be assembling a stable of defensemen with some offensive upside.

The Blues have not announced who will be coaching the prospects in Traverse City, but the assumption here is that it will be Chicago Wolves' head coach John Anderson doing the honors again this year, with a little help from some of the Blues' assistants.