Crawford's Corner: Friday Start for Traverse City TourneySep 10, 2014
The first sniff of 2014-15 game action for the Ranger organization comes Friday, when the Ranger prospect team, guided by Wolf Pack coaches Ken Gernander, Jeff Beukeboom and Pat Boller, takes the ice at 7:00 PM in Traverse City, Michigan, battling the Dallas Stars Stars' prospects in the annual Traverse City NHL Prospects Tournament.
The 23-man prospect team convenes for a practice Thursday morning at the Rangers' MSG Training Center practice facility in Greenburgh, NY, then jets off to Traverse City, marking the Blueshirts' eighth straight year of participation in the yearly pre-training camp showcase. This year's Ranger prospect team also has games scheduled Saturday at 7:00 vs. the Buffalo Sabres' prospects and Monday at 6:30 against the Carolina team, plus a "placement" game that will take place Tuesday at a time still TBD.
In last September's tournament, a large part of what would become the core of last year's Wolf Pack roster was on display. Oscar Lindberg and Danny Kristo would preview what would turn out to be strong AHL contributions by leading the prospect team in scoring, with seven points apiece, before Kristo went on to pace the Pack in goals (25) and Lindberg to finish second on the club in points (44). Jesper Fast also had a strong start in Traverse City, on the way to making the Rangers' opening-night roster. On the blue line, Conor Allen played in all four of the prospect team's games and Tommy Hughes saw action in three of the four.
This year's prospect roster shows fewer guys who figure to be counted on as much at the start, but prized rookie free-agent signee Kevin Hayes, out of Boston College, will be on hand, and he is a guy who is expected at least to challenge for a job in New York, as is former RPI stalwart Ryan Haggerty. If those two don't make the Rangers, they should certainly be big parts of the mix in Hartford, and several others on the Traverse City roster should be as well. That group includes guys like Chris McCarthy, Michael Kantor, Mat Bodie and goaltender Mackenzie Skapski, who should have a pretty good shot at one of the Wolf Pack netminding spots.
Last September, forward J.T. Barnett was the only free-agent invitee to Traverse City who ended up in Wolf Pack training camp, but fellow forward Klarc Wilson, along with defensemen Ben Fanelli and Jimmy Oligny, all earned invites to Ranger training camp from Traverse City. Among the tryouts who will be looking to duplicate that feat this year are forwards Paxton Leroux, who also played for the Ranger prospect team in last fall's tournament, Nick Latta, who showed well in an 11-game audition with the Wolf Pack at the end of last season, Bryan Moore and Logan Nelson, as well as defenseman Dallas Valentine.
For the latest up-to-date coverage of the Rangers' Traverse City action, keep an eye on BlueshirtsUnited.com.