From Host to Champion? Wings Look to End 13 Year Losing Streak
For thirteen years the Detroit Red Wings have been the gracious host of the NHL Prospects tournament. While winning the tournament doesn’t really mean anything other than a group of prospects was able to find chemistry quickly, don’t think that the Detroit brass isn’t taking this year’s tournament seriously. While Red Wings teams of years past have been heavily dominated by free agent tryouts, this years team boasts two of their top three prospects in Gustav Nyquist and Brendan Smith as well as the likes of Tomas Jurco, Landon Ferraro, Petr Mrazek, and Brian Lashoff among others. Detroit’s roster also has a good mix of older and younger prospects while also featuring several players who have played together in the past.
Many of the prospects from the 2010 team were well aware of the Wings dismal record at their own tournament and the team used it as extra motivation only to fall to the Minnesota Wild in the championship game. The Wings also finished second in 2000 with a team comprised mostly of tryouts that included Jason Williams and Dustin Kuk.
With one of the deepest teams on record, the Red Wings will be making a strong push to finally get their name on the tournament cup this year. Below is a preview of Detroit’s path to the championship.
September 10 Vs. Columbus
The Blue Jackets team features a strong defense unit that includes former 2010 first round selection John Moore. The teams best forwards include Ryan Johansen, Tomas Kubalik and Boone Jenner. The Red Wings will need to contain Johansen in particular while also using some of thier speedier skaters to beat the Blue Jackets defenders. If the Wings can establish themselves early and consistently, they could kick off their 2011 tournament chances on a high note.
September 11 Vs. Minnesota
Hopefully the Red Wings will use this championship rematch as added incentive when they face the Wild. Minnesota’s team is heavily comprised of free agent tryouts. The goaltending tandem of Matt Hackett and Darcy Kuemper will be formidable and at least on paper they are one of the strongest in the tournament. Offense may be hard to come by for the Wild with 2011 first rounder Zack Phillips leading the way as the top forward. Detroit will need to find a way to defeat the Wild’s likely defense first strategy to gain the offensive zone and drive the goaltenders.
September 13 Vs. Buffalo
The Red Wings could face their toughest challenge of the opening rounds against a loaded Buffalo Sabres team. The Sabres, who replaced the Tampa Bay Lightning at this years tournament, feature physical players in Mary Pysyk and Zack Kassian. Buffalo’s forward will be lead by Luke Adam who played 19 games in the NHL last season and also averaged a point per game production in the AHL. Like their parent team, the Sabres prospect team will be a grinding, gritty team to play against. Red Wings tough guys Richard Nedomlel and Mitch Callahan will need to make their presence felt against the bigger tougher Sabres.