Another year, another Traverse City Prospect Tournament in the books. While there was no official winner of the tournament this time around, the Detroit Red Wings showed well for themselves, finishing with a 2-1 record with 13 goals-for and just eight against. While the team as a whole performed well, there were a number of individuals that stood out on their own merits, some more surprising than others.
The Red Wings, of course, will remain in Traverse City as they officially begin their training camp for the 2022-23 season. Before those festivities begin, let’s empty the notebook and take a look at some of the biggest takeaways from Detroit’s play in the Traverse City Prospect Tournament.
Future of Red Wings Goaltending Looks Bright
Last year’s tournament was filled with standouts, including goaltender Jan Bednář. The Red Wings selected the Czech goaltender 107th overall in the 2020 draft, and since then he’s done nothing but impress. He continued that momentum in this year’s tournament, surrendering just one goal on 25 shots throughout the tournament. There were some particularly athletic saves he made during the Red Wings’ game against the Dallas Stars, and the lone goal he allowed came off of a tip in front during their match against the Toronto Maple Leafs. If he saw the shot, he stopped it – that’s all you can ask of your goaltender.
On the other hand, fellow goaltending prospect Sebastian Cossa was one of the disappointments of last year’s tournament. The 15th pick of the 2021 draft certainly stood tall in the crease, but his fundamentals looked off, and he didn’t really inspire confidence in the defensive zone. In last year’s takeaways piece, I wrote this:
If there’s a goaltending prospect that will have the right outlook on a performance like that, it is Cossa. He is a very confident young man, and he likely views his experience at this tournament as a learning moment as well as a challenge to be better at next year’s tournament.
It seems Cossa did, in fact, use that tournament as an opportunity to learn because he was way more effective this time around. The 6-foot-6 goaltender allowed just one goal on 34 shots and, while he was never heavily-tested during the tournament, he did inspire confidence for the Red Wings in their own zone. He should be feeling good about his play heading into training camp, and that’s a very positive thing for one of the game’s top goalie prospects.
Related: The Top 10 NHL Goalie Prospects
With Cossa and Bednář lingering in the prospect pool and Victor Brattström set to return for his second season in the American Hockey League (AHL), the Red Wings’ future in the crease sure looks bright – and that’s without mentioning Alex Nedeljkovic and Ville Husso, who are both under the age of 28.
Red Wings’ Defense Succeeds as a Unit
The strength of the Red Wings’ lineup at this year’s tournament was their blue line. Headlined by Simon Edvinsson, the Red Wings’ top prospect and first selection of the 2021 draft, the group also featured some of the team’s top defensive prospects in Albert Johansson, Eemil Viro and Donovan Sebrango. Not to be outdone, the supporting cast of Seth Barton, Oscar Plandowski and Jeremie Biakabutuka held their own and allowed the Red Wings to tie with the Columbus Blue Jackets for the fewest goals allowed during the tournament.
What was maybe a little bit surprising was that there weren’t any clear standouts from the group, despite the lofty reputations some of them entered the tournament with. They all worked cohesively and effectively as a group to make life as easy as possible for Detroit’s goaltenders, and they all performed well despite a few minor hiccups along the way. If anything, this should make Grand Rapids Griffins fans excited that the team’s blue line group could be a highly-effective bunch this season.
Edvinsson, specifically, played in all three of the Red Wings’ games and, while he certainly did not look bad on the ice, he did not stand out in the same way that Lucas Raymond did at last year’s tournament. There is something to be said about whether or not Edvinsson was going full-throttle during the tournament given the low stakes at play, but it was somewhat surprising to not see him stand-out as one of the most-talented players at the tournament. It will be interesting to see if he elevates his play once preseason play begins.
Cross Hanas Looks Legit
Cross Hanas, drafted 55th overall in the 2020 draft, definitely put his name on the map for Red Wings fans who weren’t already familiar with him. The winger displayed adept playmaking and scoring skills throughout the tournament. In Detroit’s first game, against the Blue Jackets, he recorded two primary assists that led directly to the goal scored. He showed the ability to identify a passing lane and hit an open man with a tape-to-tape pass – that’s the type of tool that will earn a player time on the power play at the pro level.
Additionally, Hanas impressed with two goals in the tournament, one against the Stars and one against the Maple Leafs. Against Toronto, he received a beautiful pass from Elmer Söderblom (who we’ll talk about in a minute) and buried it off of a slick wrist-shot.
Hanas is coming off of a season where he put up 86 points in 63 with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League. By the looks of his play during this tournament, the Texas-native is ready to go pro and get started in the AHL.
The Riley Piercey Show
You cannot talk about the Red Wings in this tournament without bringing up Riley Piercey, a forward who joined the team as an undrafted free agent looking to make a name for himself. That’s exactly what he did as his five goals in total led the tournament.
Fans of the Flint Firebirds know Piercey well. Last season in the Ontario Hockey League, the 20-year-old winger recorded 58 points in 59 games, and added another 10 points through 18 playoff contests. With the Red Wings, he not only showed the ability to put the puck in the net, but he also showed that he won’t back down from the physical side of the game. He exchanged pleasantries with the opposition in every game he played, and his 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame allowed him to physically impose himself on his opponents. He showed a little bit of everything through the three games at this tournament, and now a lot of hockey fans across the state of Michigan know his name.
That’s exactly what you set out to do when you’re a free agent-invitee at a tournament like this. An AHL contract with the Griffins may be in his future….
Söderblom Is Going to Be a Handful
Aside from Edvinsson and Cossa, the player that fans were perhaps most eager to feast their eyes upon was “Big Elmer”. The 159th pick of the 2019 draft, the towering Swede was hard to miss out on the ice, and not just because of his 6-foot-8, 250-pound frame. The winger made things happen at both ends of the ice, and now he’s got to be feeling confident heading into training camp.
Söderblom displayed good playmaking ability, as shown by the Hanas goal highlighted above. He also showed some early chemistry with fellow prospect Amadeus Lombardi, and the two connected on a two-on-one against the Stars, with Söderblom getting the goal. He also had numerous other opportunities that either went wide or off the post. He wreaked havoc on the power play, and he even showed well for himself on the penalty kill as well. He did a little bit of everything for the Red Wings during the tournament, and he never really looked overwhelmed or out of place.
There is an outside chance that Söderblom makes the Red Wings’ roster out of training camp, but he’ll need an incredible camp and preseason to get it done. If he continues to show well as he did during this year’s prospect tournament, he may very well surprise some people, myself included.
Last Hurdle Out of the Way; It’s Time for Training Camp!
The end of the Traverse City Prospect Tournament is always a bittersweet occasion. Watching these kids play and try to impress the higher-ups of the NHL is a treat we only get to enjoy once a year, but its conclusion also signals the beginning of people tuning back into hockey. Training camp is next and, before you know it, we’ll have preseason games to discuss. If the Red Wings’ play at this year’s tournament is any indication on how they’ll play once the regular season gets started, this is going to be a fun season to follow along with.
The kids have set the tempo. Now it’s time for the Red Wings’ main roster to follow suit and provide an entertaining training camp for observers up in Traverse City and across the state of Michigan.
I am a Western Michigan University alum whose passion for hockey knows no limits. Dr. Pepper enthusiast. Catch me and my fellow Red Wings writers’ YouTube show “The Hockey Writers Grind Line” which drops every Saturday.