Danny Kristo photo by Getty Images
By Tony Lynch (@TonyLynchSaid)
Blueshirt Off My Back is a series of NY Rangers related thoughts, musings and reflections by Tony Lynch.
Labor Day may mean that Summer is over, but it also signals the return of hockey. The NHL preseason kicks off in just nine days, but first the kids hit the ice in the annual Traverse City Prospect Tournament which kicks off tonight in Traverse City, Michigan. This years tournament, which runs from September 5-9, will include prospect teams from eight NHL organizations: Rangers, Blue Jackets, Hurricanes, Sabres, Wild, Blues, Red Wings and Stars. The tournament has recently showcased up-and-coming talents such as Jeff Skinner, James Neal and Alex Pietrangelo, and the Rangers hope that one of their prospects can follow in the footsteps of those current stars. This years Rangers roster for the tournament is below (courtesy of BlueshirtsUnited.com):
J.T. Barnett, Anthony Duclair, Jesper Fast, Josh Graves, Kyle Jean, Michael Kantor, Danny Kristo (pictured above), Paxton Leroux, Oscar Lindberg, Josh Nicholls, Thomas Spelling, Michael St. Croix, Klarc Wilson, Andrew Yogan
Conor Allen, Charlie Dodero, Troy Donnay, Ben Fanelli, Ryan Graves, Tommy Hughes, Samuel Noreau, Jimmy Oligny
Jeff Malcolm, MacKenzie Skapski
Of particular interest to Rangers fans should be Jesper Fast, Oscar Lindberg and Danny Kristo. Lindberg and Fast each took giant leaps forward this season while playing in the Swedish Elitserien (sadly now called the Swedish Hockey League), scoring 42 and 35 points respectively, and finishing 8th and 18th in overall league scoring (EuroHockey.com). Lindberg's well-rounded two-way game has scouts suggesting that he could transition well to the NHL game. Kristo was acquired from Montreal in a July 2nd prospect swap with Christian Thomas going the other way. Kristo wrapped up his college career at University of North Dakota this year, finishing with 68 goals and 161 points in 157 games over four years (HockeyDB.com). He joins the Rangers with only nine AHL games under his belt, but an abundance of skill and a strong desire to prove he can perform at the next level.
Coming off of a strike-shortened mess of a season that ended with a throttling by the Stanley Cup runner-up Bruins, the New York Rangers enter the 2013/2014 campaign with a largely unchanged core. New Head Coach Alain Vigneault brings a different philosophy to the organization with the hopes of tapping more goal-scoring from a roster that remains impressive on paper, but has not provided the offensive spark of a true Cup-contender. The Vigneault-led Canucks finished 2nd, 1st and 5th in the NHL in goal-scoring from 2010-2012 (NHL.com), and the Rangers front office hopes that he will be able to revitalize a star-power laden roster that boasts proven stars such as Rick Nash, Brad Richards, Derek Stepan and Ryan Callahan, as well as talented youngsters Carl Hagelin, Chris Kreider, Michael Del Zotto and Derek Brassard.
With so little change to the Rangers roster, and the off-season additions of Benoit Pouliot, Dominic Moore and Justin Falk, there will not be many, if any, roster spots for young players looking to break-in with the big club. None-the-less, the prospects competing in Traverse City will look to make their names known and force the Rangers brass to have to make some tough decisions as they head towards the upcoming NHL season. The Rangers prospects play 9/5 at 3:30 p.m. vs Hurricanes, 9/6 at 4:00 p.m. vs Sabres, and 9/8 at 6:30 p.m. vs Blue Jackets. The tournament will wrap up on 9/9 with the championship game.